Just because summer is drawing to a close 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 pedalling for hours after the sun has said goodnight.
Like everything else in the bike industry lights are improving faster than the speed of… well, you get the idea.
So don't let the darkness prevent you from getting out onto the trails - scroll down for our favourite mountain bike lights.
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.
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 night time temps go below freezing, consider buying a bigger battery.
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 per cent 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.
THE BEST MOUNTAIN BIKE LIGHTS YOU CAN BUY
With three Cree LED's the Glowormd XS light puts out 2500 lumens of light and is powered by an external battery pack.
The lens can be swapped, allowing you to customise 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. View Deal
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 IonPro RT offers 1200 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 brands 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 a 1750-lumen output, the Diablo MK11 has Cree LEDs, is cable-free and will give you about one houe 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 four 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 customise the outputs to what you actually want on the trail.View Deal