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Best mountain bike rear lights: cycling lights for any budget

Bontrager Flare RT 2
(Image credit: Bontrager)

This round-up of the best mountain bike rear lights will help you find a tail light solution that suits your bike, your style of riding and your budget. The winter is drawing in bringing gloomier weather and shorter days, so it’s becoming more important to make yourself seen while on your bike. Rear lights are a necessity when cycling at night but studies have shown that riding with a flashing light during the day is the most effective method of attracting attention and avoiding accidents. 

Scroll down to discover top tips for choosing the best MTB rear lights and our picks of the best rear bike lights to buy this year.

How to choose MTB rear lights

While the number of lumens plays an important part in being visible while riding, there are other factors which are important to consider when choosing a rear light. Keeping in mind the conditions in which you usually cycle, consider the following six points to help you make the best decision.

1. How to choose MTB rear lights: Lumens

A lumen is the measurement of visible light and a higher lumen rating will denote a brighter light. For a rear light, it is recommended to have at least 20 lumens for city riding. Many lights will offer far higher outputs for better visibility both at night and during the day. 

2. How to choose MTB rear lights: Light modes

All lights will have at least a constant and flashing mode these days. Different brands will offer various power modes and flashing patterns which are designed to increase visibility. Daylight modes differ from standard night modes as they rely on disruptive flash patterns to attract attention.  

3. How to choose MTB rear lights: Angle of visibility

Not all vehicles will approach directly from behind so side-on visibility is important. As front lights are tasked with focusing light forwards to improve a rider’s vision the rear light is better suited to attracting attention from the side. Side visibility is especially important when riding in urban areas.

4. How to choose MTB rear lights: Batteries and Charging

High-end lights exclusively use built-in, rechargeable batteries. These have more capacity than replaceable battery models and they also help to reduce the size and improve weather-proofing. Most lights use a mini USB cable for convenient charging from USB ports. Some lights such as Lezyne or Knog come with built-in USB chargers which offer convenient cable-free charging.

5. How to choose MTB rear lights: Fitting

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 an aero seatpost or are looking to mount your light to seat stays, helmet or saddlebag.

6. How to choose MTB rear lights: Smart features

Lights are becoming more innovative and these features offer some significant benefits. Ambient light sensors assure that the light output is optimal for the conditions, pushing out more light when it's bright while conserving battery life when less power is required. Some lights will also dim automatically if it detects a rider behind, making you more popular in group ride scenarios. Lights that use movement sensors can detect braking forces and increase brightness to make you more obvious to other road users, as well as being used for crash notification services.

Lezyne Strip Drive Pro 300L

(Image credit: Lezyne)

1. Lezyne Strip Drive Pro 300L: Best overall

Verdict: A simple but powerful rear light that is sure to keep you visible day or night

Price: £50.00 / $49.99 / AU$74.99 | Lumens: 300 | Battery Life: 53 Hours (claimed) **Modes:** 11

Very bright 
Memory mode
New rubber charging cover integrated into unit
Can be awkward to charge

At the top of Lezyne’s rear light range, the Strip Drive Pro features five LED’s which offer 11 modes including a 300 lumen day-flash mode.These modes should cater for 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 on 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.

Lezyne KTV Pro Drive 75L

(Image credit: Lezyne)

2. Lezyne KTV Pro Drive 75L: Best for wet weather riding

Verdict: A decent performing light for most conditions at a reasonable price

Price: £25.00 / $29.99 / AU$45.00 | Lumens: 75 | Battery life: 19.5 hours (claimed) | Modes: 5

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-moulded 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.  

Knog Cobber Mid

(Image credit: Knog)

3. Knog Cobber Mid: Best for visibility

Verdict: Superior field of view assures you’re seen at all angles

Price: £59.99 / $69.95 / AU$99.95 | Lumens: 170 | Battery Life: 100 hours (claimed) | Modes: 8

Small and durable
Easy to use
Awkward to charge

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-moulded 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.  

Exposure Blaze Mk3

(Image credit: Exposure Lights)

4. Exposure Blaze Mk3 With ReAKT And Peloton: Best for smart features

Verdict: The Blaze Mk3 offers some standout features that justify its premium price tag

Price: £59.99 / $69.95 / AU$99.95 | Lumens: 170 | Battery Life: 100 hours (claimed) | Modes: 8

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 aluminium and water resistance rated to IPX6. Charging takes 4 hours and uses a proprietary Exposure cable that charges from a USB port. 

Exposure TraceR Mk1 DayBright

(Image credit: Exposure Lights)

5. Exposure TraceR Mk1 DayBright: Best entry-level

Verdict: A simple and well made little light from Exposure

Price: £45.00 / $61.66 / AU$99.99 | Lumens: 75 | Modes: 6

Small and lightweight
Waterproof
Complicated menu system

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 aluminium 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 optimised daylight visibility and despite only putting out 75 lumens, Exposure claim that their DayBright mode is visible over a kilometre away in daylight conditions.

NightRider Sentry Aero 260

(Image credit: Night Rider)

6. NightRider Sentry Aero 260: Best all-round visibilty

Verdict: Unique approach to all-round visibility

Price: £40.00 / $39.99 / AU$59.00 | Lumens: 260 | Battery life: 30 hours (claimed) | Modes: 6

260-degrees of visibility
Powerful day time mode
Quick charge time
Bulky design

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 NightRider 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 Flare RT 2

(Image credit: Bontrager)

7. Bontrager Flare RT 2: Best for daytime visibility

Verdict: A smart lens and intelligent design punches higher than its 90 lumen output would suggest

Price: £44.99 / $59.99 / AU$79.99 | Lumens: 200 | Battery life: 30 hours (claimed) | Modes: 5

Ambient light sensor
Lightweight
ANT+ connectivity
ANT+ connectivity restricted to Garmin Edge devices

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 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 optimising 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 per cent battery is reached. The Flare RT 2 can be recharged back to full in around two hours from a USB mains supply.

See.Sense Ace

(Image credit: See.Sense)

8. See.Sense Ace: Best for innovative tech

Verdict: As smart as they come, the See.Sense Ace offers safety features for the individual as well as the greater cycling community

Price: £44.99 / $62.99 / AU$89.99 | Lumens: 125 | Battery life: 10 hours (claimed) **Modes:** 3

Braking sensor
Smart connectivity
Data collection for improved city cycling
Some features significantly drain the battery

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 customisation is available when connected to the smartphone app, along 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.

Graham Cottingham has mountain biking at his core. He can mostly be found bikepacking around Scotland or exploring the steep trails around the Tweed Valley. Not afraid of a challenge, Graham has gained a reputation for riding fixed gear bikes both too far and often in inappropriate places. Rides: Canyon Strive, Surly Karate Monkey, Surly Steamroller, Dolan Seta