Just so you know, as an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases made via bold green links, buttons or images.
Do you like to ride at night?
If it’s hot where you live, you might find mountain biking at night more comfortable than doing it in the heat of the day.
And in more northern climates, the longer nights of winter sometimes mean you can’t get all your riding in while it’s still light out. There’s a higher chance that you’ll get caught out after sunset while out for an easy ride in the woods.
You should get the best mountain bike light you can for night riding. A low-quality set of lights might leave you stranded in the dark or fiddling with cheaply made gear. Meanwhile, a decent set of lights helps you get around faster, spot obstacles in the dark, and stay safely visible during a night ride.
So, which mountain bike lights are the best for your style of night riding? Below are our top three choices, but we’ll take you through all the things you need to think about before making your purchase, and offer 12 good suggestions.
Top 3 mountain bike lights for night riding
|Light & Motion|
What to look for when buying mountain bike lights
Sure, you can get a bike light from a dirt-cheap online marketplace for a couple of bucks. When it comes to this kind of equipment, you get what you pay for. A well-performing, reliable light may run you around a hundred dollars. The newest lights with every possible feature require a budget of $300 or more. You can often find them a bit cheaper if you scout around for sales or make yourself content with last year’s premium option.
Bike lights are usually either helmet mounted or handlebar mounted. A helmet-mounted light attaches to the top of your helmet and aims the beam of light wherever your head is pointing.
A handlebar light attaches to the middle of your handlebars and points forward at the ground in front of the wheel.
Which one is best for you depends on personal preference. Some people can’t tolerate the extra weight on their head and others can’t tolerate the lower angle of light from the handlebars.
You’ll get the best illumination with a combination of both, but that gets pricey.
What about a rear mounted light? These attach to the back of the bike and tend to be smaller, less expensive, and have less light output. They’re a must for commuters and city riders. All those passing cars, lit storefronts, and blinking intersection lights can drown out you and your bicycle. A rear light keeps you visible and safe.
On the other hand, if you participate in group night rides in the mountains, you may be able to get away with just a reflector.
The weight of your bike light will depend on the build style and how it’s mounted. Lights with integrated batteries are bigger and weigh more than those with an external battery pack. Handlebar-mounted lights may be a little heavier than helmet-mounted varieties. Those extra ounces on the bike frame are rarely noticeable for city commuters and casual riders.
Helmet lights tend to be lighter. A heavier model here can be uncomfortable for the rider.
A fancy, bright light with multiple modes won’t do you any good without power. Make sure you find a model with the battery type, life, recharging capabilities and power gauge that works for you.
You’ll certainly want a light that outlasts the duration of your ride. When you’re estimating this, remember that people tend to go slower in the dark. Winter riding also means colder conditions, and batteries function worse in intense cold—so much worse, in fact, that some riders wrap their battery packs in insulation during winter.
With all that in mind, try to get a model that exceeds your average ride time by at least 25 per cent, with 50 per cent being a safer margin.
Battery and charging type
Most lights use rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. The size varies depending on the light. Sometimes there’s a separate battery pack that you’ll need to mount. Other times the battery pops into the light itself. The self-contained versions tend to be bigger and heavier, while the separate battery pack may be fiddly with its extra cables.
How will you know when your battery’s getting low? Many lights have a way to indicate this. They may show an estimated time remaining, a percent of the battery, or use green, yellow and red lights. Whatever the system, is it something that you can easily check on? Is it visible in bright and dark conditions?
The brightness of a light is measured in lumens. You may be more familiar with watts, which are typically used to measure a light bulb’s brightness. However, bike lamps don’t run electricity through a filament like in older-style light bulbs. Instead, they use inexpensive and highly efficient LEDs to create a clear, brighter light for much less power.
How bright of a light do you need? Most experts recommend a bar-mounted light of at least 800-1000 lumens. The brightest lights are in the 2500+ range, but you need to be careful with those and check local regulations.
Meanwhile, helmet-mounted lights can get away with a less powerful light starting in the 500-600 lumen range.
Basic lights come with a simple on/off system. Mid- to higher-end models will give you three or more power settings. Full power is a good choice for uneven trails and very dark areas. However, it may blind incoming riders and vehicle drivers, so use it with caution in the city. Lower settings work well in bright light conditions on the streets and on less technical trail sections. Switching to a lower setting can also stretch out your battery life if you’re concerned about running out of juice.
Note that riding at night in hot conditions can actually damage bike lights. Because of this, many models will automatically switch to a low-power, dimmer setting when overheated.
The two light modes available in these lights are floodlights and spotlights. Many lights also offer a flash mode.
- Floodlights, more commonly found on bar-mounted devices, illuminate a wider circle in front of you. However, that wider circle tends to be dimmer. They’re a good choice for twisty or hilly areas.
- Spotlight patterns have a narrower, concentrated beam of light. These are often used on helmet-mounted lights. They offer intense illumination, but may be best used with a second light on the handlebars. That’s because every bounce in the road can send that narrow helmet light bouncing around, reducing your sight of the road.
- Flash mode is a good option for riding on well-illuminated streets and pedestrian pathways. They consume a minimal amount of battery, but keep you and your bike visible.
“Winter” is basically a synonym for “wet weather.” It’s ideal to get a bike light with at least some degree of waterproofing. Lights rated IP6X7, meaning they can be submerged in three feet of water for half an hour, may be a little overkill. However, they will give you peace of mind. Lamps rated at IPX4 are useful for commuters. They handle casual water contact like spray and splashes.
Can you see the button controls in typical night conditions? If not, are they raised to the touch? Do they have different shapes or tactile symbols that make it easy to tell the buttons apart without seeing them? If you’re using a helmet-mounted light, ask yourself these questions about any included remotes.
These aren’t must-have features, as you can always turn the light on before leaving your well-lit front door or parking garage. However, intuitive and clear operation will make your life easier on the trail.
12 best mountain bike lights for night riding
The list below highlights exceptional bike lights at the budget, midrange, and high-end price points. It includes helmet-mounted lights, handlebar mounts, and versatile units that can be mounted both ways. We’ll mention the raw stats of lumen counts and runtime, and then branch out into standout features that won each light a place on the list.
This standout in Bontrager’s Ion range offers quite a few features at a budget-friendly price. The handlebar mounted light has a maximum 1300 lumen output with a warmer color temperature. This yellow-toned light was developed to react well in glaring conditions and on wet roads. The Ion Pro RT has multiple settings and can run for about three hours in medium power mode. It also includes a night flash and a slightly brighter day flash.
One feature here that you don’t see often in the budget range is Bluetooth syncing. It can connect with Garmin and Bontrager’s line of ANT+ devices, keeping you updated on battery status and offering remote control. This device can also be upgraded via a helmet mount or GoPro adapters.
This New Zealand brand has created a premium light with a balance of high-end features and high performance. The X2 Adventure comes with the hardware you’ll need for either a handlebar mount or helmet mount with both GoPro and strap mounting styles. It’s light enough to perform well on the head without inducing strain.
The unit offers a max 1700 lumen light with a 90-minute battery life. You can extend that by dropping to one of the commuter modes, which offer two brightness levels. The X2 Adventure includes flash mode and trail mode with a further four light levels. Not enough customization for you? It’s programmable, letting you tweak brightness levels and battery life. You can also swap out the lenses, switching the beam patterns.
Light & Motion’s mid-range, handlebar-mounted Seca 2000 light isn’t the most feature-rich or customizable on the list. However, it earns a spot for good all-around performance at a moderate price. It has a manufacturer-backed 90-minute battery life at its max output of 2000 lumens, but some users mention getting multiple hours of performance from it.
The Seca 2000 has four modes and is generally easy to operate. It also installs on the handlebars with a thick rubbery strap. No fiddling with hardware required. This light is compatible with USB fast charging.
NiteRider created a somewhat polarizing budget bike light in the Lumina 1200 Boost. Although it has a 1200 lumen light, the single LED and lens create a tightly focused beam. The trail directly ahead of the rider is clearly lit, with deeper shadows around the edges. Some riders prefer it that way, while others want a wider spread.
If this riding experience works for you, this compact and ruggedly built little light is a solid, budget-friendly option. It has a universal mount and seven modes, including a flash mode. That will help you make the most of a relatively small battery capacity. Finally, the Lumina 1200 Boost has a boosted light function that’s just a quick button click away, bringing in a lot more brightness on the fly.
The Garmin Varia UT800 is another light at the lower end of the budget, and its performance is average for the class…unless you have a Garmin Edge cycling computer. When paired together, the UT800 suddenly offers you a very interesting feature: automatic lighting adjustments. It can detect your ambient lighting levels and shifts output to match, up to 800 lumens. This means an extended battery life and hands-free operation.
If you don’t have the Edge head unit, you can still tweak the UT800’s output through five different lighting modes. These include a choice of beam style. Depending on which package you get, the light can be either helmet or bar mounted.
The Wilma R7 is one of the flagship lights in Lupine’s catalog. This brand, well known for premium German engineering, has created a four-LED light with plenty of battery power backing it up. You’ll enjoy a rich suite of features, customization, and sturdy quality. All of this comes in an undoubtedly expensive light.
Lupine’s light attaches to the handlebars via an aluminum clamp, although you can get other attachment systems like Velcro and neoprene helmet straps, a Go-Pro adapter, and even a stick-on mount. The remote with Bluetooth capability lets you adjust the light up to 3200 lumens, turn on SOS blink functions, and try out the supplementary power saving mode.
NiteRider’s Lumina Dual 1800 emits a wide beam pattern of smooth, not glaring light. You’ll hit 1800 lumens in its boost mode, which is activated by double pressing the power button. It includes four other light levels and two-day flash modes. There’s also side lighting to make your bike more visible at all hours.
The Lumina Dual 1800 has a nylon body reinforced with fiberglass. It’s more resistant to heat than some models here thanks to an aluminum heat sink. The mount is easy to put on the handlebars or take off and transfer to another bike. However, the Dual 1800 has a few weak points in the design to be aware of. Some users have reported that its easy-off mount can shift if you knock into the light. This unit also doesn’t have a helmet attachment option.
Looking for a helmet mounted bike light that’s as bright as a standard bar light? What about one that won’t weigh your head down like a rock?
Exposure developed the Diablo MK12 to cater to your end of the market. The Diablo MK12 weighs 109 grams. It caps out at an impressive 1850 lumens at high power, while medium is still a completely useable 1000 lumens. There are seven programmable modes, letting you play around with light output and run time. Tired of accidentally hitting Tap Mode? That can be disabled.
This light is usually worn as a helmet vent mount. In that respect, it’s adjustable and has a low profile. The kit also includes a bar mount option. Finally, this mid-range unit comes with a dedicated charger, not just a USB cable.
This Flex MTB is a feature-rich high-end handle mount with a separate battery, which some riders prefer. The company has put a lot of effort into creating a cable connection that can hold up to rougher use. This light utilizes gel-filled connectors to create a fairly waterproof seal and reduce shock and vibrations through the system.
The unit has a max lumens of 3200. It only includes two modes, high and low beam, which is a good fit for commuters who don’t want to fuss with complicated settings. This light also includes a power-saving feature, dimming somewhat when it detects that the rider has stopped.
10. Ravemen PR1600
Ravemen’s PR1600 is a multipurpose light that’s well suited for city commuters who like to hit the trails on the weekends. The light utilizes dual lenses and you switch between them depending on your surroundings. On commuter bike paths, one lens has a dipped beam to keep the light on the ground ahead of you and out of the eyes of incoming pedestrians, riders, and traffic. This light can toggle between 800 and 100 lumen options and includes a flash setting.
The second lens has a lumen output ranging from 300 to 1600. It’s angled to cast pure white light ahead, illuminating up to 500 feet of incoming pathway. According to the manufacturer, these lights can run from 1.4 to four hours in most modes. You can extend that with an external battery pack.
11. Moon Canopus
Moon’s Canopus is another mountain bike light with an external battery, which is probably necessary for this light. It can run for about an hour and a half at its full boost of 3600 lumens. Be warned that despite the large alloy heat sink, this light can get finger-scorching hot if you run it a while at top output. If 3600 lumens sounds excessive to you, the light also includes two more reasonable modes of 2500 and 1600 lumens, for a maximum four-hour runtime. There are three flash modes and an SOS setting for emergencies.
The light has one fairly unusual feature: You can switch between a cool blue-white LED and two softer, warmer white emitters. This isn’t just a matter of preference or visual comfort. Warm lights also create less glare in wet and foggy conditions.
Outbound Lighting is a small manufacturer bringing automobile-quality bike lights to the less expensive end of the market. The Hangover attaches toward the front of your helmet, Go-Pro style. Its just 100 grams, which minimizes weight on the head. The three LEDs are arranged on a horizontal bar to offer a wider field of light than the narrow spotlight of many other helmet-mounted units. They put out a maximum of 1000 lumens with a runtime of a little over an hour on high mode. This is respectable for a self-contained helmet light, but may not be enough for longer night commutes.
The Hangover has daytime flash and four modes, one of them being adaptive lighting. This quirky feature gradually reduces brightness until your eyes have adapted to dimmer lights. It works best on nature trails and is of limited use in city settings. The whole system is managed with an easy, one-button control scheme.
Have you seen the light?
There are no cheap lights on our list, but trust us—you don’t want one of those. You don’t have to go for the super high-end stuff on this list if it seems excessive, but as long as you’re willing to spend in the ballpark of $100, you can get a mountain bike light of high quality that will serve you well. Happy trails!