Bombing around in the dark may seem like a mad thing to do, but night riding is great! Here's our rundown of the best mountain bike lights as rated by our expert panel of testers.
Technology has developed to the point where the best mountain bike lights are now as bright as most car headlights. Which means more speed, more control and more confidence when riding off-road at night.
We’ve picked handlebar lights, best mountain bike helmet lights and e-bike specific in various price categories. If you want to just focus on helmet lights, check out our guide to the best MTB helmet lights. You’ll probably also want to check out our best mountain bike jackets, best riding pants/trousers guides and of course the tried and tested best mud tyres guide for the ultimate winter set-up.
Best mountain bike helmet light
Weight: 161g | Lumens: 510, 975, 2,100 | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: Bright, sturdy, fully programmable
Reasons to avoid: Pricey (but worth it), mounting issues with some helmets
The Zenith MK2 has a nicely machined aluminium body and clips onto a helmet using Exposure’s neat two-piece vent mount. This works with most helmets, but we’ve recently had a few issues with MIPs liners. These are often fixed to the EPS core, and to get the Exposure mount in place, we’ve had to bend the liner, which can crease it.
The Zenith MK2 puts out a maximum 2,100 lumens from its three LEDs and it has a slightly brighter, more focused beam than either the Cateye AMPP 800 or Magicshine RN 1500, and like all Exposure lights, the Zenith MK2 is fully programmable with nine built-in modes, helpfully written on the body of the light.
What makes this our ultimate helmet light is the superb build quality, excellent programmability and the fact we could ride faster using this light than any other.
Weight: 109g | Lumens: 1,850, 1,000, 500 | Run time: 1, 1.5, 3hrs | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: Incredibly bright. Lightweight. Clever helmet mount.
Reasons to avoid: Tap mode not infallible, but you can turn it off.
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 1,850 lumens, but there are 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.
Best value helmet light
Weight: 299g | Lumens: 400, 1,400, 2,000 | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Excellent value, customisable, remote control app
Reasons to avoid: Battery life on full beam is low
The Gloworm X2 Adventure is similar in size and build to the Hope R4+, using a twin LED machined alloy head, but combined with a lighter and smaller two-cell battery. Included with the X2 Adventure is a plastic mount secured with a Velcro strap, but it’s a bit short and the mount is not that stable. In the end we used the GoPro adapter, which simplified set-up and made it more stable, but it does sit quite high.
The light puts out 2,000 lumens on full beam, and by using the new Link app, you can customise the individual settings and even create your own custom mode. So, while it sits a little high, and that helmet mounted battery/cable is not as convenient as the all-in-one designs, for just over £200 the X2 Adventure is cracking value.
Best mountain bike lights: handlebar mount
Packs a mighty punch
Weight: 238g | Max lumens: 3,200 | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: Well made unit that gives out clean light pool.
Reasons to avoid: Bar clamp a tad fiddly to install/adjust.
The Toro is the dinkiest of Exposure’s multi-LED self-contained designs, but it’s still built like the Audi Q-series of the mountain bike light world. As with the MaXx D and Six Pack from Exposure, we find the bar clamp a bit fiddly to install/remove, but there’s no arguing with its solidity once in place.
The programmability on offer is comprehensive and – brilliantly – all the info is etched on the housing itself and the rear display also makes it clear what you’re doing. The Toro only has three LEDs rather than four in the MaXx D, but we could easily complete rides with this as our solitary light – the light is crisp and white, enhancing definition. We also prefer the more compact size of the Toro over the MaXx D, and obviously the cheaper price and lighter weight help too – it’s just about the perfect size.
Best for brightness
Weight: 605g | Max lumens: 3,200, 4,800, 8,000 | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: Mega bright.
Reasons to avoid: Not quite as polished as other premium lights.
With its claimed 8,000 lumens, the new 8000S Galaxy V2.0 really lights up the trail, but side by side with the Exposure Six Pack, it doesn’t seem twice as bright. On the other hand, it is definitely 25% cheaper. For the money you get a machined aluminium lamp unit with five Cree LEDs. This attaches to a Garmin-compatible alloy bracket, which gives it a bit of extra versatility.
There are three light settings – full power, a flood beam and then a spot beam. The battery has a foam backing, but it attaches using two flimsy Velcro straps. If you’re riding in open terrain, like on the moors, and want to see off into the next valley, this is the perfect light. It’s incredibly bright, but also has a really white light. We still have issues with the battery shape and flexy bar mount, but the Magicshine is so powerful and such great value for money that it’s easily worth top marks.
Turns night into day
Weight: 383g | Lumens: 3,200 | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: Portable sunshine. Customisable. Versatile mounting. Excellent quality.
Reasons to avoid: You pay a premium.
On paper the 3,200 Lumen Wilma R7 isn’t the absolute most powerful out there, but on the trail it literally turns night into day. We could see the furthest with this light (and ride the fastest), but still see everything close in.
It boasts superb attention to detail, a ton of really useable features, is full customisable, and gets a remote and any mount you like. Combined with excellent quality makes the Wilma R7 a 10-rated product. And while it’s expensive, we think the price is justified if you really want the ultimate system.
Serial test winner due to its simple design and excellent beam quality
Weight: 424g | Lumens: 625, 1,250, 2,500 | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Punchy, crisp beam. Lightweight.
Reasons to avoid: Cable needs to be shorter, or coiled.
The Light and Motion Seca 2500 Enduro uses a distinctive oval-shaped four-LED lamp unit and a 6-cell Li-ion battery pack. This mounts to the frame using a heavy-duty Velcro strap, which we really like because you can get it super tight. In fact, we wonder why other companies don’t follow suit. Two light modes are offered, which you access via a short or long press of the on/off switch, but you also have to cycle through them to get back to full beam.
Other lights here smash the Seca Enduro in terms of lumens, but the L&M beam is high quality – everything looks sharp and focused, there are no dark spots or weird halos, and it also has a really wide angled beam, so you can pick up a lot more edge detail. It’s bright, easy to fit, and due to its custom reflector, it has one of the smoothest beam patterns out there.
No cables or external batteries, just a single unit to click on and off
Weight: 342g | Lumens: 4,000 | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: All-in-one convenience and simplicity.
Reasons to avoid: Bulky and expensive.
In a world where external battery packs and endless cabling constitute the norm, Exposure’s all in one approach is a breath of fresh air. Like all of the brand’s 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.
The Exposure Maxx-D MK13 is not a cheap light, nor is it compact, but the quality and features are superb.
Best mountain bike lights: e-bike specific
Fantastic value and illumination
Weight: 121g | Max lumens: 4,500 | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: Unbeatable performance for the money.
Reasons to avoid: Construction is a bit plasticky.
Firstly, you need to know that the price doesn’t include the cable for your type of e-bike. That said, the cables are only £11 so it’s still impressive value for money. You can even get a cable that you can wangle on to an external Li-ion battery, so you can run it on a regular bike too.
As with other Magicshine stuff, the construction is a bit plasticky, and just about solid enough, but the illumination on offer is excellent. We wouldn’t say there are genuine 4,500 lumens pooled out of this light, but it’s certainly way brighter than 3,000 lumen units.
Beautifully made and compact
Weight: 100g | Max lumens: 3,200 | Rating: 8/10
Reasons to buy: Fantastically well made product.
Reasons to avoid: Expensive.
Exposure lights has a lot of fans. It’s not hard to see why. Its stuff is exceptionally well made with a design that is matched by a level of fabrication that very few other light brands get anywhere close to.
The Flex MTB is pretty much the front end of an Exposure Diablo with a cable coming out of the back that leads to your e-bike’s battery (as with most e-bike lights, the £12.50 cable is an additional purchase). The illumination quality is great, albeit nothing to write home about considering the £300+ price tag.
How we tested the best mountain bike lights
To put the lights through their paces we mapped out a 20-minute test loop with a long technical climb and long descent with some tech at the top and fast bridleway at the bottom and did repeat loops on a Whyte G-170. This mixed terrain allowed us to play around with the light’s built-in modes, toggling down to dimmer settings when riding slowly and up to full power for the descent and that final sprint.
Managing output in this way extends battery life, but we haven’t printed run times because they don’t always discharge at a constant rate. They’re also affected by things like temperature (and age) – on a cold night, your battery just won’t last as long.
We used the e-bike lights on a Bosch-equipped Whyte E-180 e-bike. For purposes of convenience we routed the lights externally, even though the optimum is to place the cable inside the frame.
What to look out for in the best mountain bike lights
As the evenings draw in it might seam like opportunities for a mid-week blast are fading with the light, but night riding is not only a great way to extend your riding season; it’s brilliant fun too. Blasting around the woods at night brings new life to familiar trails, sharpens your skills and hones your fitness. And it’s a good excuse to get warmed up with a pint in the local pub afterwards.
To get the best experience possible, a good set of lights is essential. Fortunately there’s a vast array of options on the market at a range of price points to suit most budgets. Once you’ve decided how much you’re going to spend, the next decision to make is whether to run one big powerful light or spread your output between a helmet light and a bar light.
The latter are going to be more versatile, but it’s important to match the brightness and run times of the two lights, and a lot depends on the type of terrain you’re riding – for example, you can easily use a single bar-mounted light with about 1,500 lumens if you’re riding big wide gravel roads. If you’re ducking off into the trees and riding harder and faster on technical singletrack, we’d advise doubling the output or adding that secondary helmet-mounted light.
Splitting the light between your bar and helmet is always a good idea because the low-mounted bar light creates shadows and texture, allowing you to read the trail, while the high helmet light allows you to scan for obstacles, illuminate around turns and see what you’re doing off the bike.
How the lights are packaged is also important – there are two basic set-ups. Integrated systems, where the battery and lamp are contained in a single unit, and two- piece systems, where you have a lamp unit and a separate battery, connected via a cable.
Either type can be mounted on the bar or helmet but obviously using a two-piece system up top does mean you’ll have a cable running down the back of your helmet.
Lumen is a measurement of light output – the higher the number the brighter the light. Some manufacturers quote measured lumens, which is a truer reflection of the actual light output.
Most lights also have several settings (high, low, medium beam), but also a secondary mode with lower or different options – these are often accessed when you turn the light on. Some lights are also programmable using an app or via sequencing built into the On switch.
Some bar lights can be attached to a helmet mount, which is usually plastic and held in place with two Velcro straps that loop through the vents. There are also dedicated helmet lights using a similar system, and some manufacturers, like Exposure and Knog, employ a clamp that bolts through a single vent.
An O-ring is the easiest attachment because it can be removed quickly, expands to accommodate different diameter bars, including 35mm, and the lamp can be angled up or down easily.
Clamp-on mounts (aluminium or plastic) are better for heavy lights because they’re more secure. Most are 35mm with optional shims for 31.8mm bars, although some are size specific.
A fuel gauge is essential for showing remaining power. The simplest are just flashing LEDs (green for good, red for bad) but some of the best use a read-out or percentage countdown displayed on the back of the light.
With the controls at your fingertips, you don’t have to reach up to toggle the light on or off and you’re also more likely to use the different power levels and preserve battery life.
The most versatile option is to have a short cable to which you can add an extension. Use the short cable when the light is on the bar and battery is on top tube, and then plug in a longer extension when running the light on a helmet/backpack.
We’ve included pictures of all the beam patterns in each of the specific in-depth reviews. to show what the light looks like on the trail. Click through to those if you want to see how they compare. Ideally you want soft transitions and edges and a pool around the front wheel for picking your way through technical terrain. If there are hot spots, or hard edges to the beam, these can be distracting, making it more difficult to use peripheral vision when riding.
E-bike specific lights
If you just ride an e-bike, it makes a lot of sense to buy a dedicated light, because the battery in your e-bike is typically 10 times more powerful than the one used to power a bike light. Also, most motors have a built-in port or extra connector, where you can plug a light straight in.
You may need to activate the software, so the bike recognises the light, but an approved dealer can do that for you in about five minutes.
However, there are a couple of things to bear in mind before taking the plunge. Some lights are not compatible with older e-bikes, and this is because they run on a different voltage. And if they do work, they’re likely to run at a reduced output.
The other thing to be aware of when running a light is that it will reduce the run time of your bike, anywhere between 4% and 10%. This is because e-bike lights are covered by an EU directive that requires the bike to have a certain amount of residual charge for emergencies.
Obviously, we’re not in the EU anymore, but e-bikes may come into the UK configured this way and it may also come with the light functionality turned off. That’s something a manufacturer may choose to do when it’s building the bike, although we’ve been told it can be reactivated for certain brands. Also, if an electrical product is modified beyond a certain level it no longer complies to EMC testing, which has implications for your warranty.
Our advice is to always check with the bike manufacturer before purchasing an e-bike light to see if it’s compatible, and if there are any issues regarding your warranty. We’d also check light compatibility – most light manufacturers have a chart on their website.