7 of the Best Mountain Bike Lights Ridden & Rated
Just because the days are short and the nights are long doesn't mean that mountain bike season needs to end - there are more light options on the market than ever, many of them with impressive run times and low overall weights. Choices in how to illuminate the trail range from bare-bones, minimalist set-ups to over-the-top light packs that mimic train lights in brightness. There are helmet mounts, handlebar mounts, and while a lot of lights do double duty, some are better suited for one or the other. I selected seven different set-ups that are versatile, and which cover a wide range of quality levels that are available. There are a range of pricepoints and styles of lights. Each light in this review has something that makes it stand out from the rest, whether it's versatility, power, size, or ease of use.
About This ReviewBecause lights function differently in varying conditions and a good looking light doesn't always mean it functions well long term, I consulted and collaborated with my friend Tom 'Danger' Place, who has years of light and LED experience. Specifically, for seven years, he ran an R+D department at Cree - the manufacturer of LEDs used for nearly every bike light on the market, including all of the ones in this test. He has multiple LED chip design patents to his name, is also a mountain biker, and rides at night as much as in the day. He has torn apart and analyzed nearly every bike light available so there's no better person to help pick apart a few lights than him.We did our best to make this easy to understand, but I'm going to guess that a number of people don't know what "Thermal Rollback" is. Thermal Rollback is when a device, in this case, lights, gets hot and then lowers its output in order to decrease the operating temperature, thus preventing damage to the light, causing burns or worse.The lights are reviewed together for each brand, when applicable. There's a Gloworm option that couples the helmet with the bar mounted unit, one with Niterider, and so-on. By no means do you need to stick with the same brand on the helmet and bars, that's just how I grouped things together.
Gloworm X2 Adventure and XS
|An excellent choice for a versatile light set-up that works on both handlebars and the helmet.|
Niterider Pro 2200 Race and Lumina 1200 BoostThe Pro 2200 Race has a good beam pattern and uses the same design Nightrider have used for years. The size of the light itself and the button on the light is very easy to push when it's on your helmet, even with winter gloves on. The plastic on the light doesn't get too hot to hold either, even at full power. 2,200 lumens seems like a lot, but these days, you can get that from much nicer, sleeker, and more user-friendly lights. The battery pack for the Pro 2200 is bulky, and you're relegated to wearing a pack or putting it on your handlebars as strapping it to your helmet puts far too much weight on your head.
|Niterider have been in the game of night riding as long as just about anyone. They essentially paved the way in the industry with a great product that was the best out there two decades ago. Unfortunately, aside from the inclusion of LEDs and lithium batteries, they have not advanced their technology or altered their aesthetic enough to really keep up with the new players in the game.|
Light & Motion Trail 1000 FC and SECA 2000 Raceand toggle between modes. Like the Trail 1000, the construction is on the cheap side of things so it's not overly robust, but I'll take that since it's easy to use and has a good beam spread.
|If you want a simple light set-up that works with no frills, Light & Motion is hard to beat.|
Lupine Wilma R14 and Alphaand put out so much light that you may need to wear sunglasses at night while looking down the trail.The built-in heat management system will reduce the output of the light when it gets too hot. The head size of the Alpha means that it can't dump that much heat, so unless you're averaging a high speed in cool temperatures, the output is going to drop quickly. On a ride in Western NC, with temperatures well below freezing, the light was still unable to push full power except towards the end of sustained descents after a half hour climb.The Wilma is the more practical but still costly of the two. It's well-made and the head is lightweight for the power it puts off. The large 8-cell battery we tested with is a little much for head use, but the four or two cell batteries would be a good way to make it a bit more functional unless you needed an ultra-long run time. Both the Alpha and Wilma are programmable via a Bluetooth app on the phone and there are included remotes that easily attach to the handlebars for turning the lights off and on and controlling modes.
|There's little practicality in these lights but if you want to race DH at night, go on an expedition, piss off your riding buddies, or just have the best lights money can buy, the combination of these two should do the trick.|
Specialized FluxLights are a tricky category, and Specialized have done a few things differently than a lot of their competitors. The Flux is targeted more towards a commuter or road rider, but it does work well in the woods too. It has an even beam spread but the pattern is a little narrow for really aggressive trail riding.There's a low, "get out of the woods" output mode which is a cool concept in that you can't fully drain the battery and it not work at all - there should be a little bit of low power left even if you burn up all of the high. The output, at 1000 watts is also reasonable for a self-contained light. The mount that the light fits into is a little finicky to use at first, but once the light is in it is secure. There's a small bolt on the side of the light that does take an allen key to crank down, otherwise, you'll have a loose light bouncing down the trail.
|The Flux 1200 is more road worthy than anything else but it's equally at home on the trail when your short ride turns long and you find yourself benighted.|
Lezyne Superdrive 1500 XXLLezyne make a variety of products from multi-tools, pumps, and plug kits to lights. All of their lights are self-contained, meaning there's no extra battery and cable, it's all in one unit. The Superdrive 1500 XXL is their most powerful model. It's a fairly simple light with one button operation. The light does have some heft to it, largely due to the size of the unit and the batteries in it coupled with the surface of the unit which helps with heat dissipation.The light has a number of modes accessed from one button on the top of the unit. The button also indicates the level of battery life via a red, yellow, or green light. The high output modes provide more than ample light for trail riding and the FEMTO mode is enough to walk out of the woods, or look at a map, but not nearly enough power to safely ride trails. The interface on the buttons can be tricky and it's easy to get lost in a flashing mode which, when you're just trying to up the power for your descent, can be a bit annoying. The light is ideally placed on the bars due to its weight but does work on the helmet as well, and is easy to manage in that situation since there are no wires to fuss with.
|The Superdrive 1500 XXL is a good option for tossing in the pack if you're fairly certain there's a chance of finishing your ride in the dark and you need an ample amount of power.|
Bontrager Pro RTBontrager is the other big brand with an excellent and comprehensive product line. The Pro RT is a 1300 lumen light and important for a few reasons, the biggest one being its battery. The battery it uses is the 21700 series lithium-ion cell that's going to become more standard in lights in the next few years. It will enable over an hour and a half run time and an output of 1,500 lumens from a single-cell, self-contained light - ideal for helmets.The Pro RT is simple, clean, and just simply works. It seems that Bontrager tried to make something basic and functional... and they succeeded. The light is also only $100, and functions better than many that cost twice that. It's also one of the only lights on test that exceeded its advertised run time. That being said, there are some places it could be improved. The interface can be annoying in cycling from low to high power. You have to go past the strobe settings which is unacceptable, especially when you're in the woods at night. It also doesn't cool incredibly well, but we're splitting hairs here. The handlebar mount is a little bulky, but it adjusts to fit any size handlebars and the helmet mount, when used with Bontrager's "Blendr" interface, is functional and rad. There's nothing easier than dropping it in and riding.
|This is the light I bring along on daytime rides that even have a slight chance of going into the night. The light is small, works well, and is reliable. It's a lot of light for the price.|
What's the best light set-up for you?If you're on an expedition, racing DH at night, or you're simply trying to prove a point and blind your friends, maybe you should roll with two Lupine Alphas. If you're a bit more conservative and are looking for something functional, durable, and somewhat more affordable, the Light & Motion SECA 2000 or Gloworm lights could fit the bill.If you don't do a lot of night riding but your rides end at dusk and getting back from the trail safely is important, the Specialized, Bontrager, or Niterider Lumina could be more what you need. Quick and easy, simple to charge, and small enough to toss in your pocket.Personally, for the trail riding I've been doing that involves longer climbs and fast descents, I have really been liking the Gloworm set-up just as is above. The X2 Adventure is a small enough set-up to put the light and battery both on my helmet and the XS is an ample amount of light thrown from the bars. I have also swapped the X2 for the Lupine Wilma when I'm wearing a pack - if I had the smaller battery pack and could make it self-contained, I would run the Wilma on my helmet more often but as is, with the 8-cell battery, it's too heavy to use without a backpack but for longer rides where the backpack is warranted, it's dialed.For rides where I'm not sure if I'll make it out in time or if I'm just way out to where a mechanical or other issue could warrant an unplanned night under the stars, I've been bringing along the Bontrager Pro RT. It's small, lightweight, and puts out enough light to ride out at a good tempo.