The days may be getting shorter and darker as we head into fall (aka autumn) and winter, but that 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. Late 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 also put a whole new spin on your local trails, as 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, the best mountain bike 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 for 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, front and rear, 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
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If you’re looking for a super-versatile 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 3,600 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 bar-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.(opens in new tab)
Magicshine makes some of the best budget mountain bike lights, it's not just a high lumen output for a low cash input that makes them shine either. Things like the full metal body, side ribs and laser-etched logos mean the RN3000 feels far more premium than it actually is. It's packed with neat features too – the IPX6 waterproof rating keeps the rain out, while opting for a neat quarter-turn mount makes things simple and secure. USB-C charges the device as well as functioning as a power bank if you can spare some juice from the 10,000 mAh battery. Run times are decent as well, and we found the RN3000 can pump out the 3,000 max lumen output for around 2 hours 19 minutes.
The bright, broad beam output is enough to ride without compromise even in complex situations. We opted to set it in the middle power setting which still pushes plenty of lumens for nighttime riding without needing to worry about battery life. Our only gripe is that there is very limited low battery communication, but considering the price and battery life on offer, we still think this is a great light.
For more details, check out our full Magicshine RN3000 review.
New for 2023 comes the Mk2 version of the Exposure Zenith – which with it's improved light beam knocked the original version off our best helmet light top spot.
While the dimensions of the ultra robust stainless steel body remain the same as the original Zenith, the Mk2 version boosts maximum light output to 2,100 lumens increasing the beam length and width.
Both models feature Exposure's Tap technology which enables you to cycle through three light modes by tapping on body of the light and accelerometers which vary light output depending on the speed that you're traveling, giving you more light the faster you go and less when traveling slowly. Eight different light settings give you lots of control and you also have the option to turn the tap function on or off.
For more information, see our full Exposure Zenith Mk2 review.
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 (for $99.95and $64.95, respectively) 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.
Read our AMPP 1100 / AMPP 800 combo review if you are looking for a new twin light setup.
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 1,200 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 3,600-lumen max. That’s overkill for most trail conditions, though, so we generally ran it in the 2,500- and 1,600-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.
The two-piece design of the Gloworm Alpha won’t suit everyone, but the lightweight performance, versatility, reliability, tuneability and included accessories bundle make it an awesome night riding investment for most applications.
We've rarely struggled for illumination and detail on the trail when using the Alpha, thanks to its well-balanced default optics with an appropriately long-reach and mid-spread beam. You also get a spare spot and wide optics in the box to focus or widen the beam as needed.
The Gloworm Alpha also features the brand's proven hard case 3.4mAh battery cell, which means you still get over two hours of full power run-time even in the cold. Alternatively, the Alpha Plus (opens in new tab) model ships with a 6.8mAh battery for double the range, and all lights get a country-configured smart charger. Gloworm batteries are also compatible with Magicshine/Bikeray/Gemini lights in an emergency.
The only small niggle is that the small lens ‘hood’ added to the topside of the light – while it stops glare into your eyes when using it on the bar ‘the right way up’, it also slightly limits downward spread and ground context when inverted on a combination ‘out front’ bracket. Even so, this is a usefully bright light with super-comprehensive hardware and software tuneability – an awesome, affordable entry point into the super-reliable and versatile Gloworm range.
Best mountain bike rear lights
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 waterproofing 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.
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.
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.
Bontrager has been an advocate of daytime lights for several years and has developed specific light-focussing optics and flash patterns for daytime visibility. Its rear Flare model has been updated and the Flare RT 2 returns with a claimed 36 percent weight reduction and 40 percent 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 saving 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 percent battery is reached. The Flare RT 2 can be recharged back to full in around two hours from a USB mains supply.
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.
What to look for in the best mountain bike lights
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 but 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 – that is, 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.
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.
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 percentage 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 is 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 a dropper seatpost or are looking to mount your light to seat stays, helmet or saddlebag.