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9 BEST MTB LIGHTS

I hate to break this to our USA readers, but Daylight Savings Time is coming to an end on Sunday morning (November 6, 2016). Fortunately, several companies are aware of this and they have spent literally decades perfecting the design of lights that make riding mountain bikes at night not only possible, but nearly as enjoyable as riding during the day. Ok, so I’m being a little facetious here, but in our annual survey asking mountain bikers about their favorite bike lights, one of the responses was literally “lights on MTB??? come on guys.” Come on, indeed: Get yourself a light and let’s ride after dark!

Click here for the updated list for 2017.

Because so many light brands recycling the same low-cost design keep popping up and quickly disappearing, many of our readers simply responded their lights were no name, Amazon or eBay specials from China. In fact, if we combine all the survey responses that refer to these types of lights, it would come in third place!

Many readers also report building their own lights or finding ways to use standard flashlights and headlamps for night riding. Combining these responses rockets the DiY solution to #6 on our survey list.

And yet, there’s an even cheaper solution to riding at night. At least three readers claim they use moonlight to ride at night, though it’s unclear whether this was meant in jest. Full moon rides are a thing, but clearly they’re not for everyone.

One of the more interesting light set-ups I learned about through our survey is from an Australian company called Ay Up. The Ay Up MTB kit ($380 AUD or about $290 USD) comes with two lights–one for the handlebar and another for the helmet. Both lights are 700 lumens, but the helmet lamp is set up with a narrower beam than the handlebar lamp. Each light uses its own battery, and naturally the kit comes with all the necessary mounting hardware.

Within the top 9 lights on our list, there are two main styles of lights: all-in-one packages that typically produce 1,100 lumens or less, and light systems consisting of a separate lamp and battery pack. For all-in-one systems, we found the average price to be around $86 with an average weight of 174g and a 1:17 run time. For top-rated lights pumping out more than 1,100 lumens, the average price is $254 with 2:00 of run time and an average weight of 420g.

Some mountain bikers seem to think more lumens are automatically more better, but keep in mind that the average lumen output among the top 9 is just 1,167 lumens. Sure, there are lights out there that blast 3,000 lumens or more onto the trail, but none of them made our readers’ list.

#9: Light & Motion Seca 1800 Race

seca_1800

At $360 USD, the Light & Motion Seca 1800 Race is the least expensive light in the company’s Seca series, a two-piece lighting system designed for riding fast in the dark. At just 355g, it’s the lightest two-piece system on our list, offering 1.5 hours of illumination on the highest 1800-lumen setting. Light & Motion includes not only helmet and bar mounts in the box, but also a unique GoPro mount for maximum flexibility.

Light and Motion Seca 1800 Long Cable Light Head
$199.99    Moosejaw   AD 

#8: Magicshine MJ-900

36p-out-q-5-1024x730

The Magicshine MJ-900 has been updated since the original, not-so-original version hit the scene a few years ago. The newer MJ-900 with a unique design claims to produce up to 1200 lumens with a single-LED design. The lamp itself is compact and mounts to a set of handlebars using a simple silicon band (helmet mount not included). Despite its small size, the Magicshine claims up to 2.6 hours of battery life on high. Suggested retail price: $66 USD.

Magicshine MJ 900, 1200 Lumens Front Bike Light, CREE LED Waterproof Bike Light, Perfect LED Bike Light for Mountain Biking Road Biking Bike Helmet Light, Li-ion Battery Pack Rechargeable Bike Lights
$59.99    Amazon   AD 

#7: Cygolite Expilion 850

cygolite

The Cygolite Expilion 850 is the first all-in-one light to make an appearance on our list, and at 850 lumens, it’s also one of the most powerful. The compact design does limit battery life to 1:15 on high, but with eight different light modes to choose from it’s possible to find just the right brightness-to-life ratio. Not only that, Cygolite sells separate, swappable battery sticks to keep the party going all night. At 140g, the Expilion 850 is the lightest light on our list, is USB-rechargeable, and sells for around $89.95 USD.

Cygolite Metro 850 USB Rechargeable Bike Light, Black
$64.99    Amazon   AD 

Click below to see numbers 1-6!

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# Comments

  • Slee_Stack

    Love my GloWorm X1 and X2. Shame they didn’t make it into the comparison. They are superbright, tiny, have solid construction, and the heads themselves aren’t too expensive. Admittedly, their battery packs are overpriced, but you can pick up quality panasonic cell packs for cheap to run them.

    • Jeff Barber

      The GloWorm X2 received several mentions, though it wasn’t enough for top 10 inclusion. 🙁

    • Jeff Barber

      Sorry about that, there was a formatting issue with the article that has now been fixed. #3 is the Bontrager Ion 700 and #2 is the Nite Rider Pro 1400.

  • Joel DH

    How well do these lights actually illuminate the trail? How far can you see with them? Can you see all the roots and rocks and things?
    Just pick a given model and tell me about it.

  • gunny50

    I currently run a Cateye volt 6000 on my helmet and a MyTiny Sun 2700 on the bike. Also have a Nite Rider 3600 that I run on the bike some times. The Cateye 6000 makes most all other lites obsolete. Super wide beam lights up everything. Very light weight for helmet use. Battery is big but you have to feed those lumens (over7000 actual). Have been night riding for 20 years.

  • habakak

    MTBR does a pretty decent review of most lights available every year. They compare beam patterns, test the actual lumen output, run times and some value for money metrics (lumens per $, gram per lumen, etc.). And it covers most of the lights you would WANT to use. Stay away from the $25 garbage on Amazon because they will leave you in stranded in the dark. Magicshine has improved a lot over the years, but their battery packs are garbage too. Within a year or two you will lose 50% or more of your charge capacity.

    Lights have improved so much in the last 5 years due to LED technology, and batteries are drastically more energy dense than just 7 years ago too. ITUO is a relatively new brand too and great value for money. Cateye has really stepped up too and are making some fantastic lights. Lupine has always been tops, but you also pay top dollar. Many honorable mentions. I personally run a Gloworm XS. Very good value for money with solid battery life and good beam patterns (options to exchange your lenses from spot to flood). What I really like about them is the (wired) remote. Changing light output modes on the fly on a helmet mounted light is really dangerous and hard, especially when riding with thicker gloves. The remote button makes this a non-issue. Lupine has wireless remotes now too.

    Candlepower Tech makes some ugly lights, but great value for money, good quality and very powerful. Exposure makes some of the most powerful self-contained lights but are on the expensive side. TrailLED also makes some powerful albeit funky looking lights. Lezyne is also a great brand to consider. I just find the actuation of the buttons to be way too hard. You need too much pressure to change between modes. Dinotte is another fantastic American brand that offers affordable prices. Very high on the value for money scale with one of the best beam patterns in the business (I rate Lupine, Light and Motion, then Night Rider and then Dinotte as the best when it comes to beam patterns). However their modes are limited (25% low, 50% med and 100% high). Running at high limits the run time a bit too much for my liking and at medium it does not provide enough power for most situations.

    Look at things like programmability or output levels and the run time per level. No use in having a 5 hour run time at med with only 500 lumens, or 3000 lumens at high but only 45 minutes of run time. A few manufacturers offer programmable levels. That and the wired remote on the Gloworm lights is what sealed the deal for me. The beam pattern is good (not as good as the 4 above IMO) and the lumen rating is real for each model and the value for money although not the best, is good.

    • mongwolf

      Wow, great response Habakak. Thanks for all the details. Are you like an illegal dealer in mtb bike lights? =)

  • C-Lo

    I would probably stick with the NiteRider 1400 pro. I have the older model that was a double head lamp. I have cars flashing their bright lights at me when I come off of the trail and head home. Battery has lasted for a long time and never died on me. Perfect set up for bike or helmet mount.

  • ironhead700

    All great lights! For me, a helmet mounted Expelion 800 and a handlebar mounted Trion 600. BTW: it’s very rare that I run these lights on high mode.

    How about battery life in cold temps? Living here in Canada I could easily knock off 30-40% of power time during the winter.

  • k9

    I suggest you do a full test on the Ay-Up lights you mention in the story. These are superb quality and have been used by racers and riders in Australia, New Zealandd and the UK for many years. There are two very small, lightweight lights for the handlebar (wider beam) and two for the helmet (narrow beam). Each pod of two lights can be rotated separately to vary the beam if necessary and comes with it’s own small battery.. These lights have been consistent winners of many comparison tests. Details can be found here: http://ayup-lights.com/lighting-kits?product_id=3

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