Don’t put your mountain bike up for the season. Head out in the dark with an awesome mountain bike light attached to your handlebars and go have an adventure!
The greatest thing we’ve found about night riding is that all the trails feel new again. No matter how many times I have done a trail in the dark, it always surprises me how different and adventurous it feels. As professional adventure racers (you might remember Team Bend Racing from the World’s Toughest Race), we’ve spent countless hours riding at night. And we’ve learned firsthand the importance of a good light.
For this test, we put over 25 lights through countless night rides. Additionally, we performed runtime tests, charging tests, and even durability and waterproofness tests by way of river crossings and crashing into mud puddles (accidentally).
While testing, we considered beam quality, form factor, ease of use, battery life, price, and durability. Whether night riding is a novel thing or already in your arsenal for tackling the seasonal darkness, we have found a light for you!
We do want to be clear that these lights are the best technical mountain bike lights — and most have a price tag to match. They’re overkill for anyone needing a light for the daily commute or road riders looking to occasionally light up the road and be seen. But they’re totally worth it if you plan to hit up the trails after the sun sets.
Below, we’ve broken the list into categories to help you find the best light for your needs. And if you need more help choosing, be sure to read the buyers guide at the end of the article.
Best Mountain Bike Lights of 2020-2021
Best Overall: Light & Motion Seca Comp 2000
While we certainly appreciate all the amazing technology that is present in some of the premier brands we tested, unboxing the Light & Motion Seca Comp 2000 ($225) was a welcome throwback to simpler times. It’s just a light, a handlebar mount, and a charging cord.
The self-contained unit is intuitive to use and boasts plenty of power and burn time. It charges completely in four hours with any standard micro USB cable, is waterproof to one meter, and is about as idiot-proof as it gets.
It was the overall favorite for anyone who loves night riding but hates the tech complexity of many of the other brighter lights. We’d heartily recommend this as a beginner light to everyone exploring night riding for the first time.
Its brightness and decent flood/spot combo beam let you ride trails with confidence. And it’s equally at home in a commuting setting with great daytime visibility modes and optional side lighting.
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Best Budget Light: Fenix BC30 Bike Light V2.0
The only sub-$100 light to make our list, the Fenix BC30 ($89) has a lot going for it. It is also the only light on this list to use replaceable (2×18650 or 4xCR123) batteries. Our adventure race team has been using some variation of this light for the past 5 years. And it is still our go-to for many expedition races.
The V2.0 has a wireless switch that is welcome on any hair-raising technical terrain. Its burst mode activates a 2,200-lumen blast for 30 seconds — a great feature that comes in handy on descents and doesn’t impact the burn time bottom line by too much.
For big trips, we love that we can stock up on readily available and relatively cheap rechargeable batteries, and still have enough power for nights upon nights of riding. But that comes with one catch — the unit’s waterproofness. Its robust IP67 rating only applies when it is sealed. Changing batteries in the middle of a midnight rainstorm is a delicate procedure that could lead to a shorted light if water gets into the battery compartment.
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Best Bikepacking Light: Light & Motion Vis Pro 1000 Trail
The Vis Pro 1000 Trail’s 1,000 max lumens is on the absolute minimal end of what we consider a viable light for serious night riding. However, we love it for bikepacking where light weight, durability, budget, and functionality reign supreme.
The Vis Pro 1000 ($135) has myriad features that make it our favorite for this discipline. At 120 g and waterproof to 1 m, the light is barely noticeable and bombproof. This self-contained unit also switches easily from bars to helmet so it can be used as a primary headlight in camp at night.
It charges completely via USB in 2.5 hours. And it can even maintain its 150-lumen output while charging, which is just enough light to grind gravel for as long as it takes to make that perfect camp. We were not huge fans of the beam pattern for high-speed singletrack. And the simple rubber mounting system was not 100% stable on extremely rough terrain.
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Best for Mountain or Road: RAVEMEN PR1600
If you’re looking for one light to accommodate multiple disciplines — say, if your hardtail doubles as a commuter — the RAVEMEN PR1600 ($125) does a lot well on the trail or the road. For MTB use, it offers both a remote switch, so you can amp up the lumens without stopping or taking your hands off the grips. And an external power pack allows you to extend the stated 1.4- to 4-hour runtime.
RAVEMEN’s design leverages a DuaLens approach. For sheer lumens and visibility while riding singletrack, the right-side lens boasts an automotive headlight-quality beam. This bright flood casts bright white light far ahead — up to nearly 500 feet — providing the visibility necessary to navigate challenging terrain.
In MTB mode, the lumens range from 400 up to the namesake 1600. Plus, passthrough power allows you to extend runtime by connecting an external battery pack.
And when you hit the commuter bike path, the left lens has a dipped-beam design so the ground ahead is visible. Also, oncoming cyclists, pedestrians, or motorists won’t be dazzled by your light. In this mode, the light toggles between 100 to 800 lumens (plus a flashing option) and an eco-mode runtime of up to 20 hours.
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Best Combo System: Outbound Lighting Downhill Package
Together, the Outbound Trail Edition handlebar light and Hangover helmet mount light are a super beautiful combo ($318) that gives one of the most pleasant beam patterns we’ve experienced. One of our testers swears it is the best light on the planet.
And when the lights were working as designed, they do seem magical — not so much turning night into day like some of the overpowered behemoths in this test, but more turning night trails into ribbons of beautiful vivid contrasts that beg to be ridden fast.
The Hangover’s simple slick GoPro mount and 100g lighthead weight make it disappear on the helmet. The Trail’s handlebar mounting is secure, but nothing special. It is not a center mount, but this is hardly noticeable due to the amazing beam pattern.
The beam — wow — is designed more akin to a car headlight, with the philosophy that brightness matters less than the actual pattern of the light. In practice, this translates to the Trail performing far beyond its 1,800 lumens. But we still wouldn’t call it a downhill-specific light.
Our only reservation with this system is that we didn’t get near the advertised burn times in either light. The lights’ adaptive mode (which starts on high and slowly, unnoticeably dims as your eyes adapt to the dark) is great in theory, but we found it, well, noticeable.
From what we can tell, the company is a one-man show so customer service is great, but not always timely. We did have a great experience when one of our lightheads had a faulty cord connection. All of our testers loved this light the best for any short duration (sub-90-minute) cross-country rides!
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Best User Experience: Lupine Lights Wilma R 7 Helmet Light System
If Apple and Tesla collaborated on a mountain bike light, the result would be something like the 3,200-lumen Wilma R 7 Light System ($615). Sleek, powerful, amazing form factor, expensive — and named after a Flintstone?
On the upside, all the batteries work with all the lightheads. And most of the seemingly infinite accessories are highly cross-compatible. Still, we found the process of building a light system and setting it up a bit daunting. For example, the lighthead bar mounts only fit a precise bar diameter, which will render your light unusable if you choose wrong. Basically, this light is the total opposite of the Seca Comp. Once set up, this light felt and looked like it belonged on my custom-built dream bike.
We could spend an entire article on all the options and configurations available with Lupine. But instead, we’ll just say the possibilities feel endless compared to every other brand on this list. Want the light on your head, helmet, bar, boat? No problem. Need a huge battery for a mega race, or a tiny emergency battery for your huge light? Gotcha covered. Monitor your battery life and adapt the brightness settings via smartphone? OK.
Lupine is best thought of as a lifetime investment in a lighting system that can grow or adapt as your desires do.
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Best Value Light: Gloworm X2 Adventure
Designed in New Zealand (but readily available through U.S. distributors), the X2 Adventure ($212) was not a standout in any specific category. But it is certainly one of the best values out there for the money.
It just does everything pretty well and is super customizable. It comes with the hardware to center mount on bars, as well as helmet (GoPro) and headlamp strap mounting configurations. Unlike some lights in this review, the svelte 209g battery and lighthead make it barely noticeable up top.
The max 1,700 lumens is just enough to let you feel confident at speed. And the 1.5-hour burn time (on high) is just enough for most of our casual night outings. The light is preprogrammed with a commuter mode with two brightness levels. Plus, it has a flash (with a much longer burn time) and a trail mode with four lighting levels.
It is also completely programmable, allowing the more particular user to set light levels (and needed burn times). But the features that really clinched its best-value status was the wireless remote switch and the multiple lenses included that allowed us to optimize a beam pattern for each rider’s personal preference.
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Best Smart Race Light: Exposure Six Pack MK 11
The Six Pack ($575) was one of the most unique lights that we tested and a hands-down favorite for a few of the riders. It is a whopping self-contained unit (about the size of a beer can), and its name comes from the cluster of six intense LEDs. With an anodized aluminum body, a robust centered bar mount that adjusts for 31-35mm bars, and a max 5,000-lumen output, the light would be a solid contender for several categories.
Its Reflex+ technology uses four sensors in the light to collect data. It automatically changes the light to maximize burn time and output, depending on the need. It brightens when you are raging downhill or taking corners at speed, and then it dims on those long, arduous climbs. Stop to take a break, and the sensors dim to almost nothing. In short, it does all the things you would normally do if you were riding and trying to conserve power, but with no buttons to push.
For me, this was a game-changer. I am normally the one on the team that drops their bike to get a remote race checkpoint on foot, only to return 30 minutes later to find I’d left it on high beam and don’t have enough power left for the rest of the ride.
With the Reflex+, I know the light will create the best possible adaptive lighting for an all-night ride. The light has several other programmable modes and some simple online tutorials to ease the complexity for a technophobe.
The Six Pack is available in a sync version if you want a wireless remote, but we found this unnecessary due to the reflex mode. The Exposure MK15 Race is nearly identical in features but features half the lumens, half the weight, and half the price ($300).
Editor’s note: The Exposure lights are out of stock at the time of publication, but they are slated to be available again soon.
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Best Downhill Light: NiteRider Pro 4200 Enduro
One tester dubbed this the “portable sun.” The NiteRider Pro 4200 Enduro ($570) is the pinnacle light designed for high-speed, long-duration, intense trail riding. Many lights in this test have better beam patterns, more programmability, nicer form factors, and wireless functionality. However, few can compare with the Pro 4200 Enduro’s ultimate usability when it comes to going fast downhill after sundown.
Most of our testers never even felt the need to switch it to the blazing 4,200 lumens high beam. The Pro 4200 Enduro feels a bit brutish rather than elegant. It has a wired remote switch and a massive eight-cell battery that can give the light a 16.5-hour burn time at 600 lumens. NiteRider’s center bar mount will also fit the new enduro standard 35mm bar.
It comes at a high price tag, but if you want to strap on your armor and ride things at night that make most mountain bikers tremble during the daytime, there is no better light system. And if you are concerned about weight or price, it’s worth checking out the Pro 2200 Race ($360).
The only potential downside is the IP64 water-resistant rating. It will stand up to serious rain, but might not fare as well as some of the other lights we tested if your adventures see you swimming your bike across rivers. (And we actually do this a few times a year.) For this, check out the Lumina Dual 1800 ($160).
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How to Choose the Best MTB Light
There are a few questions you need to ask yourself before you invest in a light.
Where Do You Ride?
If your trails are super technical and steep, you will want to look for a light that won’t bounce around and is super bright.
If you ride on trails that are flowy with lots of turns, it pays dividends to have both a helmet- and bar-mounted light. Most of our testers preferred the lights that center mount directly in front of the stem.
Testing mountain bike lights near Bend, Oregon; photo credit: Darren Steinbach
How Long Do You Usually Ride at Night?
Are you looking for something to brighten up your trails for an all-nighter? Or are you just looking for a light that you can use once or twice a week on a two-hour ride? Answer these questions, and then look for a light that best suits your needs.
For example, if I am only going to ride twice a week for a few hours in the dark, burn time is less critical and I can charge it between rides. However, if I am a 24-hour mountain bike racer, I want to pick out a light that will either last 8-plus hours or comes with an extra battery.
Bikepackers and adventure racers may be looking for a system that is chargeable via solar or powerbank — or something that can go for days with careful output management.
What Kind of User Are You?
Are you able and excited to put in the time to program and set up your light system? Or do you want to take it out of the box, clamp it on, and have it ready to go? There are many lights out there that cater to both, as well as some in-between.
There are many that are ultrafancy, like a really expensive watch that can do nearly everything you can imagine (and more you’ll likely never use), and then there are others that are super simple. They charge by the cord that you already have or, better yet, they just take batteries.
Take some time before you buy to think about the amount of time you are willing to put into your lighting system. Systems like the Lupine are easily upgradeable in nearly every way.
The Trail Edition light from Outbound Lighting does not center mount, but it’s so bright we never even noticed; photo credit: Outbound Lighting
What Is Your Budget?
Whether you have money to spend or are pinching pennies right now, you can always find something that will get you out there having fun and lighting up your trails. If you are trying to save money, it may just take a little more patience to find what you want.
A great place to look is on Facebook Marketplace and at your local used gear store. We’ve found some screaming deals lately from people who have moved on to other sports or hobbies. The nice thing about lights is that you can instantly tell if they are still in good working order with the push of a button!
We tested a number of uber-cheap “Alibaba specials” and found that they did work somewhat. However, they invariably failed to match the durability, battery life, beam pattern, or burn time of the similar lights we tested. We now have a drawer full of sub-$15 lights for our kids to use while mountain biking!
Bottom line? It’s worth spending a bit more to get a light that works and lasts.
Have a favorite mountain bike light we missed? Let us know in the comments below for future updates to this article.
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