Just because it's winter and the days are shorter doesn't mean it's time to hang up your riding shoes. With the best mountain bike lights, you can keep pedaling for hours after the sun has said goodnight. Summertime night rides can also offer up an adventure through the darkness at more palatable temperatures. Plus, the best mountain bike lights are essential for any bikepacking trip where you plan on venturing into the unknown.
A night-time mountain bike ride will put a whole new spin on boring local trails. You might know them like the back of your hand in daylight but once lit up, features cast unnerving shadows on the trail.
Speeding between trees in the dark is demanding on a light setup and like everything else in the bike industry, lights are improving faster than the speed of… well, you get the idea. Manufacturers are pushing out higher lumens, batteries are getting smaller and the burn times ever longer. After all, the last thing you want is the lights to go out mid-ride.
So don't let the darkness prevent you from getting out onto the trails - scroll down for our list of the best mountain bike lights or skip to the bottom to find out everything you need to know when choosing the best mountain bike lights.
Best mountain bike front lights
If you’re looking for a super versatile and detailed yet very durable light for serious mountain bike use then New Zealand brand Gloworm is awesome.
The XSV is the most powerful light in the range with three LEDs giving up to 3600 lumens of output. The new Generation 2.0 XSV (eXceSsiVe) has been upped by 200 lumens and has three different power settings as standard. However, a neat feature allows riders to customize their own power percentage settings. Plus, it comes with a barm-mounted Bluetooth remote that can operate two different lights at the same time.
The default setup uses a central honeycomb lens which gives tons of punch and reasonable peripheral vision. You can unbolt the faceplate (hex key provided) to swap these lenses for either another spot or honeycomb lens or a wide-ribbed diffuser lens to suit trail conditions.
Read more about the Gloworm G2.0 X2 and XSV lights in our review.
While most lights we test are slightly disappointing compared to their claimed numbers the Lumina consistently had our reviewers asking “are you sure this is only 1200 Lumens?” A lot of that is due to the fact that the single LED beam is tightly focused so projects its light a long way down the trail, literally throwing serious shade on allegedly similar power lights during testing. Unsurprisingly, that does mean more of a tunnel vision effect as the light drops off dramatically outside the main beam. That’s fine if you’re into speed on trails you know well and it makes a great helmet light if you buy the appropriate mount separately. However, if you’re wandering around on twisty tech stuff or wondering what just that made that noise in the bushes over there the limited spread might freak you out.
There are seven modes including flash for traffic to help eke out battery life. Wherever you are in the menu a double click of the button gets you straight back to ‘Boost’ too, which is a lifesaver if things suddenly get sketchy.
View our full Nightrider Lumina 1200 Boost review to find out why this simple light is seriously punchy for its price.
Canopus is the latest big power light from Moon and it’s a heavily armored setup in terms of battery and head unit, too. That adds some bulk and potential frame mount issues but if you want Enduro power lighting with the toughness to match then it’s well worth a look.
The four LED body sits in the center of a large alloy heat sink case which reduces the risk of overheating (causing an automatic power drop) or burnt fingers when running at the 3600-lumen max. That’s overkill for most trail conditions though so we generally ran it in the 2500 and 1600 lumen modes. These give impressive three and four-hour run times from the long alloy body battery pack. This gets twin straps and guide loops to keep it stable but the sheer length may cause fit issues on some curvy frames. It also adds a lot of weight to the system but it’s also very crash-proof. The connectors and leads are all heavy-duty too, as is the ‘out front’ style handlebar mount. It also comes with an extension cable and a helmet mount.
The fact it’s USB charged rather than needing a separate specific charger adds convenience and reduces cost. Having long run times to play with partially offsets the fact it only gives basic charge and run-time information, too, but we’d definitely prefer a more communicative setup. If you're looking for the most lumens possible, the Moon Canopus may be an ideal solution.
Cateye has been pushing bike light performance since it introduced the first Stadium Metal Halide lamp in the early 90s, but its latest light twin set is all about practicality.
The AMPP range has rolled in as a more all-around option with bigger side windows that make for a much broader beam and better side recognition. Unsurprisingly, maximum reach suffers so they’re not as good for flat-out riding but for more general riding off-road and on it’ll be a win for most people.
Communication of battery life is improved too, with a three-stage traffic light color change on the power button. You can double click straight to high power from anywhere in the five-mode menu and then single click back again which is great for surprise sketchy situations.
The FlexTight brackets have been slightly refined and the simple ‘worm drive’ strap system gives a secure mount on all bar sizes as long as you don’t lose the loose thumbwheel while it’s undone.
While you can buy each light separately ($99.95and $64.95) this AMPP 1100 / AMPP 800 combo comes with a (slightly tall but useable) helmet mount as well as a GoPro style shoe to create a relatively affordable do it all double act.
Bontrager has been evolving its Ion range for a while and the current Pro RT gives plenty of eye-friendly power in a compact format with bonus Bluetooth remote and Garmin syncing features.
By taking maximum power up to 1300 Lumens and still returning an hour and a half of run time at max power the Ion Pro RT definitely ranks as a useful off-road light now. While it doesn’t look as dazzlingly bright as more bluey/white colored beams the more yellowy/warmer color temperature of the Bontrager is easier on the eyes over time, particularly in wet, glaring or complex terrain situations. The well-shaped beam keeps light low and wide with reasonable reach but no upward/traffic blinding wastage.
While the run time information through the power button is basic you can Bluetooth or ANT+ sync it to a Garmin head unit to get full mode and battery life data. It can also be matched to Bontrager’s own ‘Transmitr’ remote bar switch for controlling rear lights and a helmet light, too. That’s an extra outlay but it also makes it easier to scroll through the four other modes to get back to high power in a hurry as there’s no double click shortcut like other lights.
The mount is secure on both 31.8mm and 35mm bars though and you can buy ‘Blendr’ helmet mounts and GoPro adaptors as accessories. If you’re not as impressed with its overall performance as we were it’s covered by a 30-day unconditional return guarantee, too
Best mountain bike rear lights
At the top of Lezyne’s rear light range, the Strip Drive Pro features five LEDs that offer 11 modes, including a 300-lumen day-flash mode. These modes should cater to all riding conditions and consist of three constant modes, six flashing modes and two modes for daytime riding. A memory function remembers the last mode that you used allowing a quick start-up to your preferred setting. To change settings, the single button on the top is used to cycle through the modes.
An elastic strap is used for mounting and is designed to fit a range of seat post sizes and shapes. Charging only takes two hours using a handy built-in USB plug, although it won't work with all charging devices due to its position on the light.
Knog's goal is obvious from the design of the Cobber Mid, with a wrap-around LED output Knog has maximized the field of view offering 330-degrees of light to keep you as safe as possible. Lumen output is impressive as well and the Cobber Mid is capable of 170 lumens. The small unit size makes it easy to mount in a variety of places and an IP67 rating means it won't be drowned in your wheel-spray.
There is a low battery indicator to prompt charging which takes a claimed four hours from empty to full charge. You don't need a cable as the charger is built-in although depending on your available USB charging source it may be awkward due to the placement of the charger.
If you want to pair it with a front light, we've also reviewed the Knog PWR Mountain light.
Exposure’s Blaze Mk3 brings some clever ideas to the market with their ReAKT and Peloton technology. Introduced on the Mk2, ReAKT adapts to ambient light levels to assure you are always visible in changeable light conditions. ReAKT also uses Ambient Kinetic Technology to detect braking forces which flares the light to 150 lumens, dramatically increasing visibility. Peloton mode is a new feature that adapts the ReAKT technology for group riding. The Blaze Mk3 will dim if a drafting rider’s front light is detected to avoid dazzling, it will also automatically increase light output when at the back of a group.
The Blaze Mk3 is robustly built from aluminum and water resistance rated to IPX6. Charging takes four hours and uses a proprietary Exposure cable that charges from a USB port.
Whether or not the Sentry Aero 260’s odd shape actually offers any aero benefits may be up for debate, but it certainly offers a wide 260-degrees field of visibility. The elongated length, dual-LED strips and internal reflectors give the Sentry Aero 260 a very competitive performance in this regard. Lighting options are spread over six modes (two constant, three flashing, one daylight-visible flash), however, NiteRider does not provide a breakdown regarding the lumen outputs of these settings.
Burn times are stated as between a claimed four and a half hours and 30 hours. A battery indicator flashes upon powering down to indicate when charging is required and charging is a quick two and a half hours via a USB cable.
Bontrager has been an advocate of daytime lights for several years and has developed specific light-focusing optics and flash patterns for daytime visibility. Its rear Flare model has been updated and the Flare RT 2 returns with a claimed 36 per cent weight reduction and 40 per cent more lumens. The Flare offers convenience by connecting to compatible Garmin GPS units via ANT+ allowing the rider to control their lights and monitor battery life wirelessly from the handlebars. An ambient light sensor will manage light output optimizing for the surrounding environment and save battery life when possible.
An impressive 12-hour day-flash mode offers 45 lumens for long rides plus a 30-minute low power mode once five per cent battery is reached. The Flare RT 2 can be recharged back to full in around two hours from a USB mains supply.
How to choose the best mountain bike lights
Are bar or helmet-mounted lights better?
In a light system, bar-mounted lights should provide the majority of the lumens, flooding a wide beam down the trail. Mounted below your eye line, this light creates shadows helping you to spot rollers, rocks and roots as well as creating some depth perception.
Helmet-mounted lights shine where you're looking, helping you see around corners, over rocks and anywhere your bars aren't pointing. This light doesn't need to have the power of the sun and should have a tighter beam pattern than your bar lights.
If possible the best option is to have both helmet and handlebar-mounted lights simultaneously to get the advantages of both setups to illuminate as much of the trail as possible.
How many lumens do you need for mountain biking at night?
With advancements in LEDs and batteries, it's possible to buy bike lights that are several times more powerful than car headlights. Lights are rated in lumens, however, it's an imperfect measure because the calculation is based on the LED power and battery charge in ideal conditions. In the real world, lights deal with limitations created by circuitry, and thermal rollback — when a light automatically reduces its output to prevent it from bursting into flames.
Most lights designed for trail riding are rated to a minimum of 1500 lumens, though if you're using a bar and helmet setup, you can get away with closer to 1000 lumens depending on how fast you ride. If you're just running a bar-mounted light, buy the brightest unit you can afford.
Does beam shape matter?
When we talk about lights, lumen count usually grabs the headlines, but the beam shape is equally, if not more important. Ideally, you want something that will have a smooth transition from flood to spotlight with no dark spots or hotspots as this can distract from the trail.
If you're doing lots of high-speed riding and your trails aren't all that curvy, a narrow spotlight beam will suit, but if your local singletrack is twisty and more technical, look for something wide and bright.
What type of battery is best?
Pretty much every light will use a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. Some lights will be completely self-contained, while others will use a separate battery pack.
Self-contained lights eliminate the awkward cables and cumbersome battery packs, however, they are usually bigger and considerably more substantial.
For lights that have a battery pack, consisting of the head and the battery; you'll need to find somewhere to put the powerpack, either on your bike or in a backpack. As batteries degrade over time, external packs can be replaced or upgraded, and some brands offer options with different capacities.
How much battery life do I need?
A light that won't last the entire duration of the ride is about as useful as a puffy jacket in the middle of summer. Take into account how long you're planning to ride for (keeping in mind that you're probably going to be slower in the dark) and factor in some extra time.
Also keep in mind that many batteries are affected by temperature, and the cold can have a severe effect on run time. If you live in an area where nighttime temps go below freezing, consider buying a bigger battery or storing it somewhere that's insulated from the cold.
Knowing how much juice your light has left is also vitally important. Some lights have rudimentary green, orange and red battery indicator lights, while others will show you time or percent remaining.
Do I need a rear light?
Rear lights for mountain biking are less important as you don't need to be visible to traffic while on the trail. However, if you do need to ride on the road, whether as a connection between trails or in case of emergency, you will need a rear light so that cars can see you in the dark. Rear lights are also a nice safety feature for riding on the road in the daytime. A rear light will make you more visible to drivers.
A rear light doesn't need to be as bright as your front and we recommend looking for a 70 lumen rear light for general countryside and city riding. All rear lights will have at least a constant and flashing mode these days although different brands will offer various power modes and flashing patterns that are designed to increase visibility. Daylight modes differ from standard night modes as they rely on disruptive flash patterns to attract attention.
Fitting commonly uses silicon straps to mount lights to a seatpost and are easy to attach or remove quickly. While most lights will accommodate a wide range of seat post sizes it is still worth considering fitting options. Especially important if you have one of the best dropper seatpost or are looking to mount your light to seat stays, helmet or saddlebag.