Just because it's winter now and the days getting shorter doesn't mean it's time to hang up your riding shoes. With the right lighting setup, you can keep pedaling for hours after the sun has said goodnight. 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 with one of the best MTB lights 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 favorite 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 lights
With three Cree LEDs, the Gloworm XS light puts out 2500 lumens of light and is powered by an external battery pack.
The lens can be swapped, allowing you to customize the beam shape from a broad flood to a narrow spotlight, meaning it's a great candidate for both bar and helmet duties. Gloworm also includes a wireless remote that can sync to multiple lights for fuss-free changes of brightness.
At full blast, you'll get about two-hours of life out of the Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery, and the light uses a 5mm barrel plug so it will likely work with other battery packs you may have laying around the house.
A top-of-the-range helmet and bar light set can cost you as much as a mid-range hardy hardtail, and just because you can spend thousands on a lighting setup doesn't mean it's necessary.
Priced at £100 / $125 / AU$170, Bontrager's Ion Pro RT offers 1300 lumens, powered by a 21700-series lithium-ion self-contained battery that renders a little over two hours of burn time at full bore. Bontrager includes a quick-release bar mount that's not quite as refined as others on the market, but the light is compatible with the brand's nifty Blendr mounting system, too.
It'll happily perch atop your lid or light the way from your bars, however, when cycling through the light modes get ready for a momentary rave in the woods as you click past the strobe setting. The RT version of the Ion is compatible with a wireless remote available for purchase, and can also be paired to, and controlled from your Garmin head unit.
About the size and weight of a can of coke, Exposure's Six Pack delivers 5000 blinding lumens down the trail from a self-contained cord-free setup. At 386 grams, attaching it to your helmet would probably result in a trip to the chiropractor, but the included bar mount is solid.
A display on the back tells you how much juice you have remaining, and the Reflex+ mode smartly tailors the light's output to the trail ahead based on readings from a built-in accelerometer and inclinometer.
Made of high-quality materials, the Exposure Six Pack can take a beating but if you'd like one for your bars, you'd better start saving.
Light and Motion's Seca 2000 Race light offers one of the most uniformly bright beam shapes on the market, with an angled front end to prevent you from dazzling yourself when you get out of the saddle to push.
With the included three-cell battery, the Seca will help you see for 90 minutes and features a built-in 'Race' mode that allows you to swap between medium- and high settings without cycling through the other light modes. Light and Motion also makes a six-cell battery which doubles its life.
The light only comes with mounts for your bars, with a helmet mount available for purchase including a GoPro style mount.
With an 1800-lumen output, the Diablo MK12 has Cree LEDs, is cable-free and will give you about 1.15 hours at full brightness. With the brand's SYNC technology, you can customise the light outputs from your phone — no more cycling through five brightness settings when you only use two.
The light also gets Exposure's TAP, allowing you to cycle through the different settings by tapping it with your hand, rather than fumbling for the button on the back. That said, low-hanging branches and even the odd rock garden can occasionally hit the dimmer switch.
Like all Exposure products, it's anything but cheap; however, in our experience, they are well worth the cash.
Tipping the scales at 121g, the cable-free Light and Motion Trail 1000 FC with its narrow beam pattern is the perfect helmet light. At the full 1000 lumens, it will help you see for one hour-and-a-half, and the single LED provides an excellent spotlight for illuminating your line.
The unit does suffer from a bit of thermal rollback, meaning you may not get the whole 1000-lumens, but it does help the battery last a bit longer. Light and Motion have divided the modes into two groups; press the button on top to turn the light on have access to high, medium, low, and flash, or hold the button to restrict it to just high or medium so you don't have to cycle through all five on the trail.
The NiteRider Lumina is a stalwart light that's been around for some time in various evolutions. There are actually two versions, one with an OLED screen to display which mode you're in and the remaining run time, and one without. In our experience, the OLED interface is clunky, and the version with a single button is cheaper and more user friendly
The quick-release mount is secure but takes up a heap of bar real estate, however, K-edge makes a metal GoPro mount which is far superior and perfect for helmet mounting.
Weighing 175g, the NiteRider Lumina has a crisp oval spotlight beam pattern and will burn for about two hours at full brightness.
Magicshine's MJ-906 demonstrates the best value for money option on this list. At £110, with a claimed 5000 lumens on offer, it includes a wireless remote and even a tail light.
The light head only weighs a hair over 100g, and the cord is long enough to chuck the battery in your pack if you attach it to your helmet. Although the light is claimed at 5000 lumens, the five Cree LEDs seem to align closer with lights around the 3000-lumen market — still doubling other lights in this price range.
Magicshine offers a smartphone companion app where you can ditch the flash modes and customize the outputs to what you actually want on the trail.
Best mountain bike rear lights
At the top of Lezyne’s rear light range, the Strip Drive Pro features five LEDs which 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.
Although the KTV Pro Drive lacks the power of the premium Strip Drive Pro it still outputs a generous 75 lumens and features a built-in charger, a memory function and single-button ease-of-use. The five modes offer a sensible range of options between battery economy and day-flash power.
The build uses a durable co-molded construction and has an IPX7 waterproof rating to keep the winter elements at bay. A battery indicator is built into the mode button so you know when it needs to be charged. Charge time is three hours to back to full and Lezyne claims the KTV will achieve a healthy 10 hours of run time in the 75 lumen day flash mode.
The Knog 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 4 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.
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 4 hours and uses a proprietary Exposure cable that charges from a USB port.
Without the ReAKT technology, Exposure's small TraceR Mk1 is available at a much lower price. Although not exactly qualifying as cheap, the TraceR Mk1 sports the high-quality finish that is expected from Exposure. Built around a CNC aluminum body the TraceR Mk1 is both lightweight at 35g and has an IXP6 water resistance rating. The 700mAh battery uses a supplied micro USB charging cable and takes four hours to fully charge.
A bespoke pulse pattern offers optimized daylight visibility and despite only putting out 75 lumens, Exposure claim that their DayBright mode is visible over a kilometer away in daylight conditions.
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 (2 constant, 3 flashing, 1 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% 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 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 5 percent battery is reached. The Flare RT 2 can be recharged back to full in around two hours from a USB mains supply.
See.Sense found success through several Kickstarter campaigns in which its innovative thinking attracted 4,000 backers.
The Ace gives out 125 lumens via 2 LED’s and has a claimed battery life of 10 hours. An eco, constant and high mode is selected using the top button and more flash patterns/brightness customization is available when connected to the smartphone app, along with ambient and braking settings.
More than a simple light, the Ace is packed with sensors that record 800 sensor recordings a second as well as GPS. These are used to increase brightness in potential riskier road situations as well as adjust the brightness based on ambient light. When connected with the app using Bluetooth you can fully control the light, setup theft and crash alerts and anonymously contribute riding data to city planners to help improve infrastructure and cycling safety.
Best mountain bike lights: everything you need to know
1. Bar or helmet-mounted
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.
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 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.
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.
4. Beam Shape
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.
5. Battery life
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.
You probably don't need 5000-lumens crawling up a climb, but you'll be thankful for it on that tricky descent. Some lights have a remote that allows you to cycle through the power modes without taking your hands off the bars. This isn’t necessarily a standard feature so expect to pay extra for it.
7. Don't forget 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.
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 a dropper seatpost or are looking to mount your light to seat stays, helmet or saddlebag.