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!
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.
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 & Motion Seca 1800 Light Head, Grey
$199.99 Amazon AD
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
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!