Light ’em Up: A Dozen MTB Trail Lamps to Illuminate Night Rides [Roundup]

In the northern half of our home-sphere daylight is fleeting faster as the calendar ticks on toward winter solstice. Folks who leave school and work for a forest spin after 17:00 hours are sure to find the darker corners of the woods before returning home. To extend the season, some nocturnal pedalers like a single helmet torch for laser focus, while others want to reverse the night with as wide a beam as possible.

If your trusty trail lamp could use a brighter buddy, this roundup is a good place to start the search. We have amassed quite a collection of lights to consider, grouped according to whether they feature an integrated or external battery. Each of the lights we tested had its own strengths and elements worth considering that are all outlined below. Each model is rechargeable via USB or its own proprietary cable, and lumen measurements are abbreviated as Lm throughout the review.

Brand and modelPriceWeightMax LumensRun times
Lezyne Lite Drive 1000 XL$79.99153g10001000lm = 1.5hrs, 500lm = 3hrs, 250lm = 5.5hrs
Giant Recon HL 1800$157.50200g18001800lm 1.5hrs, 900lm = 3.5hrs, 450lm = 7hrs, Flash 100lm = 65hrs
Nite Rider Lumina OLED 1200 Boost$149.99172g12001200Lm = 1hr, 1000Lm = 1.5hrs, 550Lm = 3hrs, 275Lm = 6hrs
Specialized Flux 800$90183g800800Lm = 1.75hrs, 300Lm = 3hrs, Flash = 20hrs
Bontrager Ion Comp R$79.99135700700Lm = 1.5hrs, 500Lm = 3hrs, 300Lm + 6hrs, 300Lm day flash = 19hrs, 200Lm night flash = 9hrs
Giant HL 800$99.95135g800800Lm 1.5hrs, 400Lm = 3.5hrs, 200Lm = 7hrs, Smart 100Lm = 38hrs
Light & Motion Seca Comp 2000$229.99216g20002000Lm = 1.5hrs, 1000Lm = 3hrs, 500Lm = 6hrs, Pulse = 9hrs
Hope R2i€215.00
($254.05)
252g13001-30hrs
Knog Bilby Headlamp$5990g4005 hours at max
Magic Shine Monteer 8000s Galaxy$399.99144g (Light only)80008000Lm = 1.5hrs, 4400Lm = 3.4hrs, 2400Lm = 6.5hrs, 1000Lm 12hrs, too many other options to list
Gloworm Alpha$14969g12002hrs at max
Light & Motion Seca Enduro$399.99114g25002500Lm = 2.5hrs, 1250Lm = 5hrs, 625Lm = 10hrs, pulse = 60hrs

Bike Lights with integrated batteries

Bontrager Ion Comp R | Best solo commuter bike light

An Ion Comp R is a true commuter’s light. While it does also work well on the trail, the concentrated light beam and daylight functionality make it the ideal option for daily commuters. It has a low 300Lm flash mode that Bontrager says can be seen from up to two kilometers away. This should help cut down on the number of close calls riders experience on city streets throughout the year, particularly on cloudy days where being seen is crucial.

The Ion Comp R has a sleek and lightweight design, making it easy to pack in a bag as a backup trail light, or a primary helmet lamp. The handlebar and helmet mounts can be removed easily, making bike swaps a cinch. The focused beam remains steady at long distances, so adding a wider light on the handlebar will definitely help this little light out on the trail.

Like many of the lights in this test, the Ion Comp R requires a double tap to turn it on so that you don’t mount it before heading home to find that it was on all day long. Any of these lights will work well for commuting through the city, but the added daylight feature makes this one a ringer for getting to work or school safely.

  • 700Lm max brightness
  • $79.99 MSRP, available at REI | Compare
  • Weight: 135g
  • Runtimes: 700Lm = 1.5hrs, 500Lm = 3hrs, 300Lm + 6hrs, 300Lm day flash = 19hrs, 200Lm night flash = 9hrs
  • Mounts: Handlebar included, helmet sold separately

Giant Recon HL 1800 Bike Light | Best trail and commuter combo

The Recon HL 1800 from Giant is a bright beam at a reasonable price that spreads its light to the sides well, making it an ideal handlebar floodlight. On the brightest setting, a main column of light shines brightly, blasting detail in the forest and at 200g it just barely slides under the maximum helmet weight mark. The beam is decidedly narrow on the lower settings, and will likely work better mounted to a helmet if riders need to get the maximum run time with fewer lumens.

This light stands out from the crowd with its ability to sense ambient light and automatically brighten accordingly. Left in Smart Mode, it will keep the power output lower and save battery until full power is needed, and if you want a particular setting you can easily switch modes. This feature is exceptionally cool when heading out on longer night rides, where the max lumen setting isn’t necessary at the beginning. In Smart Mode, you can just ride without paying attention to the mode or when it’s time to turn the light up for added clarity.

With roughly 65hrs of run time on the lowest flash setting, the Recon HL 1800 will work well for urban commuting, where the goal is to be seen more so than to see. The long battery life should allow riders to roll back and forth to work on a single weekly charge.

Some of the lights in this test use permanent mounting hardware that stays with the light, and if it breaks in a crash the light has to be attached to things with duct tape or zip ties. The Recon HL 1800 uses a removable mount that stays on the bars or helmet and can be replaced if it breaks. You can also purchase several mounts and leave them on the bars or helmet so the light can quickly be clicked into place at any time.

  • 1800Lm max brightness
  • $157.50 MSRP
  • Weight: 200g
  • Runtimes: 1800Lm 1.5hrs, 900Lm = 3.5hrs, 450Lm = 7hrs, Flash 100Lmm = 65hrs
  • Mounts: Various handlebar diameters and a GoPro clip included, helmet available

Giant Recon HL 800 | Lightest multi-mount option

The side cutouts let drivers see you from more angles.

The featherweight companion to the Giant dual-beam model, a Recon HL 800 makes the ideal helmet-mounted complement to the broader HL 1800. The two share all of the same mounting hardware and Smart Mode battery-saving technology, while this little unit won’t strain the rider’s neck as much as the HL 1800.

Prior to reviewing these lights the brightest beam I had ever ridden with was a 500Lm helmet-mounted beam from Nite Rider. While I can now see that a little more light improves the ride, I still prefer to ride with a single focused beam that’s pointed exactly where my head is. With 3.5hrs run time in the 400Lm setting, this light will shine bright through most winter night rides, clicking into the 800Lm mode for the fast nits.

If you only have the budget for one light, and want something durable, either of the options from Giant feel well made and should last through several seasons.

  • 800Lm. max brightness
  • $99.95 MSRP
  • Weight: 120g
  • Run times: Runtime: 800Lm 1.5hrs, 400Lm = 3.5hrs, 200Lm = 7hrs, Smart 100Lm = 38hrs
  • Mounts: Various handlebar diameters and a GoPro clip included, helmet available

Hope R2i LED Bike Light | Most rugged build

Like the Hope R2 light, the R2i LED is built to tank standards. I tested this light on my handlebars and helmet, as it comes with both mounts, but it is over the helmet weight limit for my liking. At 252g, it pulls the helmet around from side to side and causes a lot of distracting bouncing where it’s not wanted. However, mounted securely on the handlebar it makes a stellar flood lamp.

When the bars are pointed the same direction as the trail this light shines further than my eyes can see, brightly blasting details in the forest. The handlebar mount is as sturdy as everything else Hope makes, keeping the light right where you put it. The modes can grow quite wide or narrow as you prefer, with enough power that one of my riding buddies said that this light was too bright for his taste.

There’s a test button on the back side of the light to indicate runtime in a given mode, which should help cut the guess work. The R2i does use a proprietary charging cord, which may not fit well with everyone’s needs. I prefer Mini or Micro USB chargers so that if I forget the cord I can easily borrow or buy one from any local electronics story.

If you’re on the hunt for a light that’s as tough as your hubs, and might last longer, the R2i is what you’ve been looking for.

  • 1300Lm max brightness
  • €215 ($254.05 at the current rate) MSRP
  • Weight: 252g
  • Runtimes: 1-30hrs depending on mode
  • Mounts: Handlebar and helmet included

Knog Bilby Headlamp | Best multi-sport light

The Knog Bilby Headlamp isn’t like any other light in this test, or any other light on the market for that matter. It’s a headlamp in the truest sense, designed to be strapped to a head or in the case of mountain biking, to a helmet.

The Bilby pumps out up to 400Lm on high which is generally around medium brightness for most of the all-in-one lights in this test. The surprising thing is that Knog claims five hours of battery life on high, far more than any of the others we tested. It’s also waterproof to 1m.

For such a small and seemingly simple light, the Knog packs a pretty wild feature set. A long button press tilts the beam up or down to get the light exactly where it needs to shine. If you’re on a trail run, you might want the light to point closer to your feet while on a fast moving bike, throwing the beam further down the trail makes sense. The LED emitters and reflectors on the Bilby are smaller than those found on traditional bike lights, so the beam pattern is comparatively compact without a lot of light along the periphery.

There are literally more than a dozen light modes and settings (14 to be exact) to choose from, including a reading light that’s said to glow for 75 hours on a single charge. Buyers can further customize the way the light operates with a free app called Modemaker. To recharge the light, remove the lamp from the stretchy, silicone headband and plug it right into a USB outlet. There’s no need for a cable to juice this truly all-in-one light.

One downside to having so many light modes and settings is the darn thing can be confusing to operate. Short, long, and double presses on each of the two buttons are used to cycle through modes, brightnesses, and beam angles. There’s definitely a learning curve involved, but overall this is an incredibly versatile light.

  • 400Lm max brightness
  • $59.99 MSRP at Amazon
  • Weight: 90g
  • Runtimes: 400Lm – 5 hours, 240Lm – 9 hours, 200Lm – 14 hours.
  • Mounts: Head only

Lezyne Lite Drive 1000 XL Neo Metallic Light | Most lumens per dollar

For helmet-mounted light lovers, the Lite Drive 1000 XL is a featherweight beam of clarity in the shadows. It clicks through eight different settings to broaden its usability to all forms of cloudy commuting, while the three main trail settings offer up 250, 500, or 1,000 lumens depending on the amount of time you need it to torch and how many other lights you have.

I primarily use this light on my helmet, as the dual LED glow blasts a clear beam when set at either 500 or 1,000 lumens, leaving just enough of a ring glow to show what’s in the periphery without illuminating distractions. I find the 500Lm setting more than enough for most rides, with the light cranked to 1,000Lm for fast descents when it’s best to look further ahead. It also works well as a handlebar flood-light while using another lamp, though the light beam may be too narrow for some riders.

With the highest lumen-per-dollar ratio in this collection and a low helmet-ready weight, the Lite Drive 1000 XL is well worth its price tag. Both the mount and light body feel sturdy enough to fight the shadows through several seasons. The light comes with a soft handlebar clamp that fits any handlebar diameter, and Lezyne has helmet mounts available separately for $10.

  • 1000Lm max brightness
  • $79.99 ($69.99 for other colors) MSRP at Backcountry | Compare
  • Weight: 153g
  • Runtimes: 1000Lm – 1.5hrs, 500Lm = 3hrs, 250Lm = 5.5hrs
  • Mounts: Handlebar included, helmet available

Light & Motion Seca Comp 2000 Bike Light | Highest lumens per gram

With the highest lumens per gram in this test, the Seca Comp 2000 from Light & Motion should stand out for riders who need a helmet-mounted torch that really cranks out the fake sunshine. With a three-hour runtime at 1000Lm, the Seca Comp 2000 offers all of the light I could ever need at roughly my maximum amount of after-work trail time. At 216g, this is the heaviest light I want to strap to my head, and the weight of it is noticeable while riding. Fortunately, the performance is worth the heft.

This tough, waterproof light has a pair of amber side lights for commuting that can be turned off once you hit the trail and a handy toggle switch that allows for fast mode swaps between high and medium. The mounting strap is long enough to wrap between helmet vents on the right lid, or you can purchase a separate helmet strap to make the fit more universal.

The long-distance beam of the Seca Comp 2000 reaches deep into the forest to illuminate details while the close-up light spreads out further to show all the technical goodness. This will be a fantastic light for anyone racing at night, as it throws light far down the trail where you need to look when riding at full speed. Riders who need more light than this will likely want to switch to an external battery model.

  • 2000Lm max brightness
  • $229.99 MSRP at JensonUSA | Compare
  • Weight: 216g
  • Runtimes: 2000Lm – 1.5hrs, 1000Lm – 3hrs, 500Lm – 6hrs, Pulse – 9hrs
  • Mounts: Handlebar included, helmet sold separately

Nite Rider Lumina OLED 1200 Boost Bike Light | Best light dispersal for a single LED

In addition to being a bright trail light, the Nite Rider Lumina OLED 1200 Boost has some unique features. It can be locked off to avoid the light turning on and draining the battery while traveling, which just might save your after work shred. The lens spreads a wider beam than some of the other single LED lights in this test, making it another fantastic single-bulb option. There’s also a low battery indicator to let you know when it’s time to switch into the low mode to conserve energy, and the small screen reads a fairly accurate runtime for the mode that’s being used.

The lens in this light spreads a wider and more rectangular beam than some of the other single-LED lights in this test, making it another fantastic single-light option. The beam doesn’t have a defined light space like most single-bulb lamps; instead the light spreads further and trails off at the edges like a classic rock ballad. The result is a natural-feeling light source that illuminates the trail well without being overly focused. This light works equally well on a handlebar or helmet mount. There’s even a walking mode that shines 75Lm for a reported 18 hours of runtime. In the 1200Lm setting, this light only lasts 1hr, and riders who need to use that setting might want to consider using two lights on lower power settings or look at some different lights with longer runtimes.

The Lumina OLED 1200 Boost comes with an adjustable handlebar mount that fits up to 35mm handlebars. The mount can be left on the bike or removed quite easily. Helmet mounts are also available on the Nite Rider site.

  • 1200Lm max brightness
  • $149.99 MSRP at Amazon | Compare
  • Weight: 172g
  • Runtimes: 1200Lm – 1hr, 1000Lm – 1.5hrs, 550Lm – 3hrs, 275Lm – 6hrs
  • Mounts: Handlebar included, helmet available

Specialized Flux 800 Bike Light | Wide and ample beam spread

The Flux 800 (now, Flux 850) from Specialized is a goto light. It sprays a wide, rectangular beam that covers more than enough trail. While the max power setting runs for less than two hours, the middle settings provide all the light I need with double the runtime. With just 300Lm in the two narrow or wide mid-settings, I have enjoyed multiple fall night rides with this light alone. The “narrow” beam is plenty broad to see the edges of the trail while looking far enough ahead, and as long as the descents aren’t too long you can click it into high mode to go fast.

The primary reason I have enjoyed the Flux 800 so much is that it comes with a helmet mount right out of the box. There’s no need to remember to purchase one, and I don’t have to keep track of the handlebar mount that I’ll never use. The foot of the mount is padded to keep it from scratching the helmet shell, and the accompanying velcro strap is long enough to fit on almost any half-shell helmet. The angle of the light is easily adjusted just like an action camera mount, so you can find the precise angle that works for your helmet.

Like several of the lights in this review, the Flux 800 is powerful and inexpensive enough that folks could purchase two of them, and keep one fully charged in a pack or on the bars in case the battery runs low. With its simple attachment, fantastic luminance, and reasonable price, the Flux is among the favorites in this test.

  • 800Lm max brightness
  • $90 MSRP at JensonUSA
  • Weight: 183g
  • Runtimes: 800Lm – 1.75hrs, 300Lm – 3hrs, Flash – 20hrs
  • Mounts: Helmet included, handlebar sold separately

Mountain Bike Lights with external battery backs

Magicshine Monteer 8000s Galaxy Light | Most overall light

R2D2?

The Monteer 8000s from Magic Shine is what you will want mounted to the front of a tractor for night farming, or strapped to the hood of your car if the headlights go out. This thing is about 8x as powerful as most mountain bikers need, though anyone who needs it can dump 8000Lm into the forest for a full 90 minutes. When you add the weight of the battery, the whole system weighs about the same as two lights with integrated batteries but puts out far more light than the pair. The point of creating this light might have been to have the most powerful MTB light on the market, which the brand claims this is.

With five LED’s at the ready, the runtimes and power settings for this light are many and varied. Riders can choose between using just the lower two bulbs, just the upper three, or all five at once, and all of those options have four brightness settings and a flash mode. You might not want to flash the maximum lumens. I think that’s a health hazard.

At 1000 or 2400Lm blasting from all five bulbs, this light will shine between 12 or 6.5 hours, making it a fantastic option for 24hr racing or overnight rides. When racing or riding long endurance miles overnight we not only need enough light to see the details, but we need those details to glow a little in return in order to stay awake. That’s what high powered lamps like this one are good for.

The Monteer 8000 comes with a Garmin-style handlebar mount, and if you want to run it at full blast you likely won’t need an additional helmet lamp. The cord is plenty long to reach your helmet with the battery stored in a pocket or backpack. I would love to see Magicshine provide a helmet strap in the box with this light. While the price is reasonable for the powerful light, it would be nice not to have to order extra parts when you new gear arrives.

  • 8000Lm max brightness
  • $399.99 MSRP at Amazon
  • Weight: 144g (lamp only)
  • Runtimes: 8000Lm – 1.5hrs, 4400Lm – 3.4hrs, 2400Lm – 6.5hrs, 1000Lm – 12hrs, too many other options to list
  • Mounts: Handlebar included, helmet sold separately

Gloworm Alpha Bike Light | Lightest two-piece light

The Gloworm Alpha was clearly designed by folks who spend a lot of time riding their mountain bikes in the dark. This new, 69g light (lamp only) is the lightest and most compact in the Gloworm line, yet it still offers almost all of the bells and whistles the brand is known for.

The Alpha includes swappable optics so buyers can create either a tight or wide beam pattern, depending on local conditions and riding style. Not only that, light modes can be customized beyond the stock super dim, low, medium, and high modes.

Because the Alpha lamp and battery are so lightweight, mounting the entire system to a helmet is comfortable enough that there’s no need to carry the battery in a pack or jersey pocket separately. At the maximum, 1200Lm setting the Alpha promises about two hours of battery life; for an extra $40, the Alpha Plus doubles that to four hours.

A remote control is available for purchase separately, and can be used to operate the Alpha alone, or in tandem with another Gloworm light. Gloworm lights utilize a GoPro-compatible mounting system, and everything needed to mount the light and battery to a handlebar or helmet is included in the box. Note that the included handlebar mount fits 31.8mm diameter bars so if you’re running 35s, you’ll need to purchase a larger mount.

  • 1200Lm max brightness
  • $139 MSPR at glowormlites
  • Weight: 69g (Light only) = 17.39Lm per gram
  • Runtime: 2hrs at max
  • Mounts: Handlebar and helmet included

Light & Motion Seca Enduro Light | Most accessories and mounts included

With a 2500Lm max the Seca Enduro steps closer to a reasonable amount of light for night racing and sundown to sunup rides. In the high mode the battery charge lasts for over two hours, and at 1250Lm it will go for a full five hours. If you’re racing a 24hr event with teammates, that might be enough to light up the whole night. For longer rides and races, the low power mode offers 625Lm for 10 consecutive hours, and if that’s not enough you can have backup batteries for $149.99 each.

Like the Hope light, this power pack requires a special cord to charge, but if you’re packing a light this powerful you will likely have time and planning lists to help remember the cord. The Seca Enduro comes with a battery, a sturdy helmet mount, and the same long-strap handlebar mount as the Seca Comp 2000 above, leaving nothing extra to purchase unless you need another battery pack.

The beam of this light is definitely one I’d like to race by, giving some credence to its race-genre name. It broadly opens up the dark forest before you and reaches ahead to the coming lines of a racecourse. Where some high-powered lights operate as a massive battering ram to blast everything with glow, the Seca Enduro has a more refined beam that spreads out just enough to make the trail safe without wasting energy illuminating things that the rider doesn’t need to see. It provides more than enough light for the fastest descents on the 1250Lm setting, saving some extra power for foggy or otherwise low visibility conditions.

  • 2500Lm max brightness
  • $399.99 MSRP at Backcountry | Compare
  • Weight: 114g (Light only) = 21.93Lm per gram
  • Runtimes: 2500Lm = 2.5hrs, 1250Lm = 5hrs, 625Lm = 10hrs, pulse = 60hrs
  • Mounts: Handlebar and helmet included

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