Cygolite Hotshot Review
I’ve used a Cygolite Hotshot tail light for nearly two and a half years. Here, we’ll explore the lineup, discuss my experience, and help you maximize your cycling setup.
About the Cygolite Hotshot Lineup
Advertised as “the most powerful line of single LED tail lights,” the Cygolite Hotshot promises to make your presence known when cycling on the road.
Each model in the lineup—there are a total of five—features a Li-ion battery that’s rechargeable via USB, can last for hundreds of hours and delivers enough power for easy visibility whether riding during the day or night.
They’re also backed by a one-year warranty against manufacturing defects, as long as you purchase from an authorized dealer.
What else do these popular tail lights have in common? And is there a Hotshot that meets your needs? To help you find some answers, let’s start by taking a look at each model. Then, we’ll discuss my long-term experience.
An In-Depth Look at Each Cygolite Hotshot Model
Cygolite Hotshot Similarities
Even casually glancing at the Hotshot lineup, you can see that they share more in common than otherwise.
This includes a compact, water-resistant design for broad daylight and nighttime use, a patent-pending two-button design (except Micro) that allows you to switch between modes and flash tempos, an extra-wide beam, and a low battery indicator.
They also share many of the same technologies, such as:
- Enhanced Cycling Optics™ – Involves a specially treated internal body that scatters light for a wider-angle glow and extra-long beam that, together, “maximizes and expands your presence.”
- SteadyPulse® Mode – Pulses of light help keep motorists alert at night, which overlap a steady beam for improved distance recognition.
- DayLightning® Mode – Cygolite advertises that these “lightning-like” flashes work even during the brightest part of the day.
- Zoom Mode – Delivers subdued brightness changes.
- Light Mode Memory – Automatically remembers your previous setting when you last turned off the light. Not available on Micro.
Each Cygolite Hotshot comes with a micro USB
charging cable, and the 200, 150, and Micro models include a Versatite flexible
mount, which they indicate fits most standard and aero seat posts. Hotshot 100
and 50 models come with a standard seat post/seat stay mount.
With these details in mind, let’s take a look at the differences between each Cygolite Hotshot model.
Hotshot Pro 200 USB
As the name implies, this 54g model delivers intensely powerful 200-lumen flashes that overlay a steady 120-lumen beam, all of which are wrapped in an “aggressive design.”
According to Cygolite, it also features built-in Adaptive Flash™ light sensors that automatically adjust to optimal brightness, depending on the time of day. Battery life runs between two and 210 hours, based on the mode used and the length of time. A full recharge takes five hours.
Cygolite explains the Hotshot 200’s 24/7 Safety Technology® provides access to six different day and night modes:
- Triple Flash
- Random Flash
Third-party pricing at the time of our research typically fell between $35 and $45.
Hotshot Pro 150 USB
This 59g model delivers 150-lumen flashes over a steady 90-lumen beam, a two to 210-hour run time, five-hour recharge time, seat post / stay mounting, and the same six modes as the Hotshot 200.
Third-party pricing at the time of our research typically fell between $25 and $35.
Hotshot 100 USB
While the Hotshot 100 (also 59g) comes with the same six modes and two-button interface as its more powerful brethren, its smaller 100-lumen flashes can deliver up to 270 hours of run time. It takes about three hours to recharge fully.
Third-party pricing at the time of our research typically fell between $25 and $42.
Hotshot SL 50 USB
Compared to the original, Cygolite tells us their Hotshot SL 50 delivers nearly twice the light output (50 lumens), up to 200 hours of run time, three-hour recharging, and six modes.
Weight is 55g, and it attaches to your seat post. Pricing was around $28.
Hotshot Micro 30 USB (2W)
A 35g low-profile model (about $26 – $28) that delivers 30-watt flashes from a two-watt LED, up to 100 hours of run time, a three-hour recharge time, a Versatite™ flexible mount, and five modes:
- Single Flash
- Steady Beam
- Group Mode
Here’s a quick-reference table outlining how each Hotshot model compares:
|Output||Modes||Run Time||Charge Time||Mounting||Weight|
|Hotshot 200||200 lm flashes (120 lm beam)||6||2 – 210 hrs||5 hrs||Versatite™ Flexible Fit||54g|
|Hotshot 150||150 lm flashes (90 lm beam)||6||2 – 210 hrs||5 hrs||Seat post / stay||59g|
|Hotshot 100||100 lm flashing||6||2.5 – 270 hrs||3 hrs||Seat post / stay||59g|
|Hotshot SL 50||50 lm flashing||6||2.5 – 270 hrs||3 hrs||Seat post / stay||55g|
|Hotshot Micro SL 30||30 lm f/2-watt LED||5||2.5 – 100 hrs||3 hrs||Versatite™ Flexible Fit||35g|
My Experience With the Cygolite Hotshot
Overall Quick Thoughts
I’ve used the Hotshot SL 50 as my only tail light since October 2016, in combination with the Light & Motion Urban 350 up front (which I also highly recommend, based on its outstanding performance).
And overall, I’m very pleased. While I use it for occasional nighttime rides, I run it on Random Flash mode (personal preference) every time I ride for added visibility during the day as well.
The Hotshot’s Brightness
From a brightness perspective, I’ve found the flashing beam provides wide coverage (about three feet on each side of my bike) at night.
I haven’t had the opportunity to speak with passing cars during the day, for obvious reasons. During the 2018 Denver Century, though, I had more than one cyclist comment about my Hotshot SL 50’s brightness, even from a distance.
Mounting the Hotshot
Cygolite’s seat post mount is super easy to attach and involves only two screws; one that tightens the collar surrounding the seat post, and another that allows you to adjust the light’s angle.
Note: I have to attach the Hotshot below my seat collar on my cyclocross bike since its collar is too big for my 27.2 mm seat post.
Once in place, the Hotshot’s back clip slides into special grooves on the mount. Further down, a curved section on the clip locks over a triangular wedge. To unlock, the clip pulls slightly backward and allows you to slide the light upward and away.
While this seat stay mounting is easy to set up and move between my different bikes, I imagine the Versatite™ system might be faster and more convenient.
Although mine didn’t come with one, the clip on the back of all Hotshot lights can be removed and replaced with the flexible mounting (Part #2017FM $3.95). As of this writing, I haven’t had time to test it firsthand, however.
When I have my SKS S-Blade fender in place, I keep the mount in place but clip the light into the slot on the back of my Topeak Aero Wedge Pack (F25, size medium). Everything fits nicely and doesn’t move around excessively.
Operating the Hotshot
Turning on my Hotshot is as easy as pressing and holding the left button, which has a faint power symbol embossed below. Since the SL 50 features Light Mode Memory, it automatically returns to my previous settings.
If I want to change the flashing pattern, I just press the right button, which scrolls through them in sequence. Their two-button system is super efficient—I can even turn my light on and adjust modes without looking if I forgot to set up before heading out.
When the ride’s complete, I hold the left power button to power down.
Hotshot Battery Life
Cygolite’s USB recharging system is super easy and convenient. The Hotshot’s light will subtly flash red during the recharging process, which turns to a steady beam once the battery’s full.
Based on my experience, the SL 50’s Li-ion battery typically lasts 8-10 hours on a full charge and takes 4+ hours to recharge if fully depleted.
However, I typically forget to recharge in advance, so I’ve found that topping it off for 30-45 minutes while I eat and get everything set up for my ride will often give me a few hours of run time.
Coming to a Conclusion About the Cygolite Hotshot
For the price, it’s my opinion that Cygolite’s Hotshot lineup—and the SL 50 in particular—deliver loads of value for the money.
Mine still works great, even after hundreds of hours across nearly 2.5 years. It’s also easy to set up between bikes (even with the slightly less-easy seat post mount), remains in place during riding, delivers a bright beam, multiple modes, and is widely available from popular third-party online retailers.
And based on most of the online customer feedback I encountered, it seems like most cyclists who purchase a Hotshot tail light are pleased with their experiences.
Together, I’d highly recommend picking up a Cygolite Hotshot—not just for the value it delivers, but also the added safety when you’re on your bike.
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