Updated: 7th September 2021
Mountain bike night riding is a lot of fun and great way to make the best of the dark winter evenings. With obstacles coming at you out of the dark it feels like you are riding faster and there is something special about being out in the woods at night. Here we look at all the key features of an MTB light to help you choose the one that’s best for you.
As well as being lightweight, bright and weather resistant the best MTB lights offer an optimal beam pattern. You want a beam that lights up the edge of the trial and penetrates far into the distance to show the trail ahead. All of the best MTB front lights use LED’s with lenses to focus the beam. A bright light with a focused beam pattern is key as you want to see as far up the trail as you can. This is where premium MTB lights excel as they offer an even spread of light focused where you need it.
Batteries can either be contained within the light unit itself or in a separate pack that connects to it. The advantage of a self-contained unit is that it is easier to fit the light and you don’t need to worry about cables snagging or coming loose.
Run time is important to consider as you don’t want to be out in the woods when the battery runs flat. All the best mountain bike lights for night riding should be able to run for a couple of hours on their maximum settings and much longer on lower settings.
When you’re moving fast on technical terrain you’ll want as much light as you can get to see far enough ahead. But when you’re moving slowly, on the climbs for example, you don’t need to see as far, so don’t need as much light. You can burn through the battery quickly on the brightest light settings.
The best MTB lights can automatically adjust the light output to give you maximum illumination when you’re riding hard and fast then dimming it when you’re moving slowly.
Most mountain bikers use a combination of lights for night riding: a bar mounted light to provide the main illumination with a helmet light to pick out details off the main line.
A bar mounted light offers steady, consistent light that is easy to see by. The best mountain bike lights are easy to secure to your handlebars with a mount that keeps the beam steady even when riding over rough terrain.
You want the handlebar light to be as bright as possible but anything over 1,500 lumen is good (Lumen is the measure of light output, the higher the better). A larger battery pack (for longer run times) adds weight, but this isn’t much of a problem with bike mounted lights. The downside is that bar mounted lights only light up the trail in the direction that your front wheel is facing.
A mountain bike helmet light doesn’t offer such a steady light pattern, but you can direct the light where you want it by moving your head. Very useful on technical trails, helmet lights are essential for riding corners at speed, spotting landings of jumps and even for looking down at your gears.
As MTB helmet lights sit on your head lightweight is important. A helmet light doesn’t need to be as bright as the bar light, 700 – 1,000 lumen is fine, but you will want the beam pattern to be concentrated, so you can clearly see the spot you are looking at. The best MTB helmet light will be lightweight and powerful enough to light up key parts of the trail that the main light misses.
Best MTB Lights
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