Twinkle twinkle little star I can’t see where the hell you are! Either winter is around the corner and you want to get in some track time before or after work, or you’re big on 24-hour biking events, you’re going to want to get the best mountain bike lights your budget will allow.
Bike lights can be mounted on your handlebars or on your helmet, the one you choose is pretty much based on your personal preference, but to maybe shine a little light on the subject – we can’t guarantee there won’t be any more bad puns – we can point out the pros and cons of each.
Which MTB Light is Best for You?
Mounted on the helmet
Reasons we like it:
- The light shines wherever you are looking
Reasons we don’t:
- Can be knocked off by low lying branches
- Reduces depth perception by flattening out trail features
Mounted on the bars
Reasons we like it:
- Lights up the operating switches
Reasons we don’t:
- Only lights up areas where your bars are pointing
- Unable to judge obstacles because the light drops features into the shade
On the upside, most bike lights come with the option to attach it to the helmet, as well as the handlebars so you can test which you prefer, and which provides light when and where you need it.
My Pick of the Best Mountain Bike Lights
We have selected three mountain bike lights we consider to be the best at the moment. Of course, new lights are released all the time, so you might feel our list isn’t as up-to-date as it should be. If this is the case we would love to hear your suggestions and will do our best to try them out and update our top 3 bike lights accordingly.
#1. Blitzu Gator 320 USB Rechargeable Bike Light Set
We give the rechargeable Blitzu Gator 320 bike light set a definite thumbs up. The bike light set is rechargeable which means you’re not spending a fortune on batteries every other day. Also, it comes with a mounting bracket that fits most of the well-known brands including Giant, Mongoose, Trek, Diamondback and Cannondale.
It’s made of an aircraft-grade aluminium with an anodized finish and it is able to swivel 360 degrees in its bracket. While some bike lights only have one or two modes, the Blitzn has four: high, medium, low and flashing, with each affecting the battery life differently. The lithium battery takes around two hours to recharge and it has an automatic fully charged cut-off system.
Priced under $25 the Gator 320 is water resistant, easy to install, and when you’re not using it on your bike it doubles up as a flashlight. Also, as part of the set, you get a free tail light.
#2. Blackburn Central Front Smart Light
The Blackburn Central Front Smart light is smart, very smart indeed, and that’s why we decided to include it on our list. A sensor measures the ambient light around and automatically adjusts its brightness. This is clever in the that it saves on battery power and you’re not having to change it manually whenever the light around you changes.
The bike light works well for trail riding as well as urban biking, where being seen by motorists is more important than lighting up your path. The bike light has a rechargeable battery and can run up to 12 hours in ‘smart’ mode.
#3. Light and Motion Seca 2000 Enduro 6-Cell Rechargeable Headlight
The Seca 2000 can be mounted on a helmet or on handlebars, although we prefer the latter. Definitely a high-end bike light, it holds 6 Cree brand LEDS, 3 spots on the top and 3 floods underneath, creating 2000 Lumens of light. It is attached with a rubber strap rather than a bracket, which means it’s quick to set up and the separate battery can be velcroed to the bike’s bars, frame or stem.
The six LEDs and bi-conic reflector provide you with all the light you need, to the sides, in front of you and around the front wheel. It has a burn time of 1.5 hours at its full setting and up to 6 hours at a low 575 Lumens.
It is an awesome light, but we feel it should do more, like pedal for you when you’re too tired, for the asking price.
As is often the case, when there’s too much choice, it can get a little overwhelming when you’re looking to buy a bike light. With all the jargon and specifications it’s easy to be baffled by the BS sales-speak, which is why we’ve put together a mountain bike light buying guide for you.
We’ve kept it fairly simple because it’s not rocket science. You want a light that lights up and isn’t going to die on you mid-ride. You also want to look at the fit, the controls, its power, the type of beam it emits, battery life and last but not least, its reliability.
Regardless of how good a light is, if it doesn’t fit on your bike or helmet then it’s pretty much pointless. It needs to fit securely and not wobble or end up pointing the wrong way. While a loose bracket on your bike could result in your light shaking loose or twisting, a badly fitted helmet-mounted light could drag your lid down or worse.
Make sure you can position your bike light where you want it, and that where it is placed, it does its job. If the light you have your eye on is larger than the rest make sure that it fits on the curve of your handlebar, at the correct angle.
The power of a bike light is measured in lumens and while some boast up to 2000 lumen counts, usually between 700 – 800 is more than sufficient. The advertised lumen count is based on ideal conditions with no issues to affect its efficiency, so keep that in mind. You can expect to get up to 40% more power in controlled conditions so keep that in mind.
It’s one thing having power, it’s another thing if the power is in the wrong place. You need to decide what kind of light you want – a narrow beam for straight, fast riding, a wider beam that will allow you to see more, especially if you’re doing technical riding or if you want a bit of both.
Whether you use your light for commuting through the city or doing night trails, you want a bike light with a battery life to suit your needs. Most lights have different modes, which will extend the battery life, or suck it dry, and certain weather conditions will also determine how long it’ll run. Look for a bike light that has a rechargeable battery, and preferably one that is convenient to charge.
Do you want a bike light that has a remote switch or are you happy with one that needs you to turn it on or off manually? Think about it because in most cases the more convenient a feature is, the more it’s going to cost, and some, while they might cost more, isn’t going to add to the efficacy of the product.
So that’s that. Hopefully, we’ve shed a bit of light* on the subject and you no longer feel left in the dark*. The most expensive doesn’t mean the best, and value for money doesn’t mean that it’s crap.
Have we left a bike light off the list that you think should be featured?