Testing the Best: All-in-One Mountain Bike Lights for Under $100
Mountain bike lights have come a long way over the years. Sure, there haven’t been any dramatic changes from year to year; after all, we’re talking about light bulbs and batteries, both of which have been around for more than a hundred years. But just 10 years ago it would have been hard to imagine how bright and compact today’s all-in-one mountain bike lights have become.
When it comes to finding a light that is bright enough for biking at night, we think 800 lumens is a good starting point. Although riders will often be able to see just fine with less light, it’s nice to have a light that can go up to 800 lumens for particularly technical or high-speed sections. While bike lights are marketed based on their maximum light output, it’s important to note that few riders will actually use full brightness for sustained periods. Most–if not all–lights have multiple output settings, from low to high, which can be toggled during the ride.
We chose 7 all-in-one mountain bike lights, each priced less than $100, to test and compare. Here’s what we learned about each one.
The Blackburn Central 800 gets the best claimed battery life out of all the lights in our test: 2 hours on high. The actual battery life was not nearly as high, with a total run time of 1:28 on high.
The Central 800 has one of the largest bodies in the test, but don’t confuse its size for heft: at 173g (including the handlebar mount), the Blackburn Central 800 is only the third heaviest in our test. It turns out a decent amount of space inside the light body is open because the battery is swappable. That’s right, a simple turn of the rear hatch reveals a swappable, single 2800 mAh lithium-ion battery. For long night rides, 24-hour races, and multi-day bikepacking trips, a swappable battery is a great option to have. Plus, it means buyers won’t have to trash the whole light once the battery finally stops holding a charge. Replacement/extra batteries are available through the Blackburn website for just $14.99.
Overall, the Blackburn Central 800 has a beam pattern that is fairly diffuse, thanks to the oversized reflector and a frosted ring around the lens. The light offers four brightness modes (low, medium, high, and flash) and features translucent ports on either side of the lens for side visibility at night.
The Blackburn Central 800 offers one of the most elaborate mounts of all the lights in our test. Not only does the mount allow the light to be rotated up and down, but it can also be rotated side-to-side and locked into place fairly securely. This is incredibly helpful when the light is mounted on a swept handlebar, allowing the user to turn the light so it faces straight on, rather than at an angle to the trail. The mount attaches to the handlebars via a stretchy, rubber-like band, and no tools are required for installation.
Like all of the lights in our test, the Blackburn Central 800 is USB rechargeable and includes a USB cable, but it does not include a power plug in the box. A USB connection does limit the amount of power that the charger can draw while charging. We found it took about 5 hours to fully charge the Blackburn Central 800.
The Blackburn Central 800 is tied for the least expensive light in our test, with a suggested retail price of $74.99 USD.