Here's our pick of the best mountain bike lights. Bombing around in the dark may seem like a mad thing to do, but night riding is great.
Everyone will tell you different but we reckon the best set up is to combine a bar light and a helmet light. A fixed handlebar light is your work horse light, it lights up the trail so you can see where to go. The helmet light is a bit more dynamic and it used for picking out the detail or for looking round corners, over obstacles likes and logs and drops, and even down at your gears or front wheel when there’s a technical section.
Power wise you want the bar light to be around 1500 to 2000 Lumen (Lumen is the measure of light output, the higher the better). On the helmet you can get away with 700-900 Lumen but this light needs to a little bit more focused or concentrated.
These requirements will vary if you ride with a group of mates because following a rider allows you to use their light as a guide and if you end up riding in front the lights of the riders behind do shine past you to illuminate the trail ahead of you. However, if you ride on your own you will need to increase the amount of Lumen and that means a bigger, more power and a more expensive set up. It’s really crucial that the run time of both lights is the same because you don’t want one of them fading half way round a ride.
In terms of price, what light you put where and ultimate Lumen count you have a ton of options. We’ve picked bar lights and helmet lights in various price categories but you can easily mount half of the handlebar lights on a helmet, there’s a lot of versatility and choice available for the night rider.
Best mountain bike lights
- Lupine Wilma R 7 – WINNER BAR LIGHT
- Light And Motion Seca 250 bar light
- Exposure Maxx-D bar light
- Exposure Diablo MK12 – WINNER HELMET LIGHT
- Exposure Joystick MK12 helmet light
- Lifeline Pavo Motion 900 helmet light
How we test
The six helmet lights on test are all designed to provide additional light when mated to a bar light, which means we tested all the helmet lights with the same bar light and did multiple laps round a short 20min test loop. We also ran the bar lights round the same loop the same number of times and toggled to the lower powered settings on the climbs and flatter sections. We did some basic burn times tests and obviously we did shots of the beam patterns to see how well each illuminated a fixed scene.
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You will notice that beneath each mountain bike lights product summary are ‘View Deal’ links. If you click on one of these links then mbr may receive a small amount of money from the retailer should you go to purchase the product from them. Don’t worry, this does not affect the amount you pay.
Best mountain bike handlebar lights
Lupine Wilma R7
Attention to detail, build quality and programmability really set the Wilma R7 apart
Price: £438.00 | Weight: 383g | Lumens: 3200
On paper the 3,200 Lumen Wilma R7 isn’t the absolute most powerful out there, but it doesn’t look like it – it literally turns night into day. We could see the furthest with this light (and ride the fastest), but still see everything close in. Superb attention to detail, a ton of really useable features, full customisable, a remote and any mount you like, combined with excellent quality makes the Wilma R7 easily the best light on test. And while it’s the most expensive light here, we think the price is justified if you really want the ultimate system.
Light and Motion Seca Enduro
Serial test winner due to its simple design and excellent beam quality
Price: £249.99 | Weight: 222g | Lumens: 2500
Seca Race has a dinky 3-cell lithium ion battery. This is housed in a rubberised case and mounts to a frame tube using a heavy-duty Velcro strap. The head unit attaches to the handlebar with a bigger rubber leash and features a handy breakaway bolt. Light and Motion pumped a load of money in the custom engineered reflector and Cree LEDs les on this light and it shows – not only is the light a crisp blue colour, there are no rings, shadows or dark spots. We also could see just as far down the trail with this light as we could with lights that had double the lumen count. Even though the Seca Race has a little bit less burn time than we’re used to, it’s still a superb light with the best beam pattern on test, the lowest weight and it’s also amazing value for money.
Exposure Maxx-D MK13
No cables or external batteries, just a single unit to click on and off
Price: £385 | Weight: 342g | Lumens: 4000
In a world where external battery packs and endless cabling constitute the norm, Exposure Maxx-D all in one approach is a breath of fresh air. Like all Exposure lights, the Maxx D MK13 is self-contained with the LEDs and Li-Ion battery all housed in the machined aluminium body. The good thing is you can easily remove this for charging or when you’re not using it, but it is about the same size (and weight) of a drinks can, so it’s quite prominent on the bar and you can feel this weight when dropping the bike into a turn.
Best mountain bike helmet lights
Exposure Diablo MK12
Puts out nearly as much as bar light but it weighs 50% less
Price: £215.00 | Weight: 109g | Lumens: 1850, 1000, 500 | Run time: 1, 1.5, 3hrs
The light output is superb – it’s produces an incredibly bright white light that really picks up detail and it never got overpowered, not matter what bar light we used it with. On full power, you get 1850 lumens but there seven different programmable modes using the high, medium and low settings, so you can really vary the output and run time. Turning off the Tap Mode is an option too, which we did a couple of times when riding through dense undergrowth because that can catch the light and tap it off. Exposure makes a neat and lightweight vent mount for the Diablo that’s fully adjustable and low profile. Also included in the box is a bar mount box and a proper charger, not just a USB cable.
Exposure Joystick MK12
Low profile, lightweight and has near perfect beam and focus
Price: £159.95 | Weight: 104g | Lumens: 1000
At 104g the aluminium Joystick is a good 40g lighter than its nearest competition and, while that may not sound like a lot, every gram counts when you are wearing it on your helmet. The cable free, all-in-one design hammers this advantage home, and it all adds up to a very bright light you barely know is there. Except, of course, you have a buttery smooth pool of 1000 lumens following your every move – just the right blend of focussed centre spot and diffuse peripheral light.
Lifeline Pavo Motion 900
Self-contained design comes with a built-in rechargeable Li-Ion battery
Price: £79.99 | Weight: 166g | Lumens: 900
The big selling point with the Lifeline Pavo Motion 900 though, is the Motion Control technology (the light dims to half power whe it detects that you’ve paused moving, to save battery power). It’s not unique, but to get it in a light at this price is impressive. Dovetail this with one of Lifeline’s 2,000 lumen Pavo front light and you could have a fit-and-forget light system. *however, the helmet mount isn’t included, so that will set you back another £9.99.
What to for in the best mountain bike lights:
The simplest way to mount a light to the bar is using a rubber O-ring. It expands to accommodate different bar diameters but the light has to be mounted to the side of the stem, which might be tricky if you have a lot of other stuff there. Using a clamp-on mount adds weight but you can position the light in front of the stem and free up a bit of bar space.
There are two types of helmet mount – one held in place with Velcro straps that loop through the helmet vents, the other is an expandable wedge style that clamps into one of the vents. Both work but we like the simplicity of the wedge style mounts and they’re also slightly lower profile.
The measure of light power is expressed in lumens. Generally, the more lumens the more expensive the light, but adding LED bulbs increases the size and weight of the lamp unit.
Beam pattern is more important to performance on the trail than ultimate lumens, although the latter doesn’t hurt. Ideally you want a smooth transition between the areas of the beam because hot or dark spots can make it more difficult to see details, especially when riding technical trails.
All the batteries in this test are Li-Ion and that means they don’t require a specific charging regime, you can just top them up when necessary. A fuel gauge on the battery is handy for calculating remaining ride time, but it can be hard to see this when the battery is strapped to a frame tube. We also think a number or percentage figure is better than a row of different coloured LEDs.
If you have a bar mounted light with a modular battery, you can often splice another cable between the two if you need to mount the battery further back on the frame. The best lights have different length cables included in the box.
Over the last few years we’ve seen a lot of lights switch to USB charging, which means you can use any compatible USB cable and even charge your light in the car on the way to a ride. However, it does mean you have to find a plug yourself.
With every light that runs an add-on mounted battery we’d like to see different length Velcro straps included in the box. Frame tubes comes in lots of different sizes and E-bikes in particular have massive down tubes. To stop slipping, the strap should have a silicone back.
A bar-mounted remote allows you to toggle between the settings without having to remove a hand from the handlebar or reach up and fumble about. It can be wired like the Nightrider or wireless like the Lupine.