If you ride at night then you'll need a good light. Tackling the trails in the dark is much easier and definitely more fun when you can see what you're doing. So we've put together a list of some of the best mountain biking lights to keep you riding this winter.
- Best mountain bike helmets for trail riding
- Best mountain bike pedals - a magnificent 7
- The best bike lights for road cycling
And if talk of lumens, mAh and LEDs leaves you utterly in the dark, then check out our buyer's guide to mountain bike lights to cut through the jargon.
Updated September 2016.
Gemini TITAN (6 cell)
Gemini’s TITAN shows it’s not just what power a light packs — although it’s very well endowed in that department — but how it puts it on the trail that matters. It’s basically three Gemini Duo lights side by side in a shared housing, with the six LEDs pumping out up to 4,000 lumens.
The wide spacing of the LEDs creates an astonishing blaze of broadly spread but extremely far-reaching light.
• Price: £49.98 / US$59.95 /AU$129.95
Cheap lights have been getting better for ages, but this tiny lamp looks and performs like it should cost two or three times more. The super-lightweight ‘cyclops’ head has deep cooling fins for efficient running and secure metal hooks for the universal O-ring bar mount. The theoretical 1,200-lumen output gives a tight focused beam that’s clean and clear enough for predictable illumination when tackling challenging trails.
The mode-change button is nice and big for easy switching even with fat winter gloves, but beware the flash and ‘off’ settings in the scrolling power menu. Otherwise the tiny hardshell battery can be tucked anywhere and run times are reasonable without much fade. It’s covered by a one-year warranty, although our Magicshine samples have always been totally trouble-free despite the low prices.
Exposure MAXX D MK9
• Price: £349.95 / US$476.99 / AU$599.95
Exposure pioneered powerful all-in-one bike lights and the MAXX D still sets the benchmark for big light power and cutting-edge practical tech. The latest version gets a more sensitive acceleration and gradient-driven ‘Reflex Plus’ mode for automatic output selection up to 3,200 lumens. Alternatively, you can program various mode menus for selection via a big stainless steel button, which replaces the previous occasionally temperamental touchscreen.
The powerful four-LED beam is well balanced in terms of spread and reach for flat-out riding, and the real-time run time display makes battery management easy.
You can add remote switches, auxiliary batteries or charge other devices via the ‘Smart Port’. It’s too heavy to helmet mount, but the secure alloy clamp fits all bar sizes.
MTB Batteries The Lumenator
• Price: £105 / US$137 (approx) / AU$182
MTB Batteries specialises in building upgrade batteries for other light manufacturers, but it also produces its own range of simple but cost-effective lamps. The 2,000-lumen output doesn’t look as bright as it sounds on the trail, with rapid fade-off from the focused spot. It’s still enough for most rides though, especially as impressive run times from the tiny new Panasonic four-cell battery mean you can run it at full power, as long as it stays cool.
MTB Batteries is based in the UK but will ship internationally.
Moon Meteor Storm Pro
• Price: £125 / US$N/A / AU$TBC
Moon’s brand new all-in-one light looks techy and provides impressive power on the trail for its size and cost. The Meteor Storm Pro is listed at a healthy 1,600 lumens max output but the focused beam looks even brighter.
The scrolling five-step menu can be shortcut to maximum power with a double-click at any time plus there’s a cabled remote switch. Power setting and run time are communicated via an LED panel and you can swap the two Li-ion cells for fresh ones if you want to extend the already decent run time or charge another USB device.
While the supplied bracket fits 31.8mm bars there is a 35mm option too. A couple of niggles are that the operating button can be tricky to find if you’re wearing thick gloves and the early trigger on the automatic battery saver can be irritating.
Gloworm CX Trail
• Price: £134.99 / US$178.99 / AU$237.45
An impressive amount of light and tech is packed into this well priced all-in-one unit. It comes with a powerful, far-reaching double spot lens but swapping to one of the supplied wide lenses (no more fiddly than changing a brake pad) gives a broader, more useful beam. The lightspreading rim around the lens is great for visibility on the road but creates a lot of upward light leak that can be distracting on the trail. Also, the battery indicator light isn’t that easy to see.
Run times are surprisingly good for its size though, and the neat micro USB remote switch can also be used to charge other USB devices. It’s packaged with an offset Garmin-style twist mount as well as GoPro fixtures.
Although the self-contained CX Trail is a new design, it’s proved bombproof so far and Gloworm has an impressive reputation for reliability.
Lumicycle Explorer Enduro Pack with Helmet Kit
• Price: £304.94 / US$TBC / AU$528 (approx)
Lumicycle’s evergreen Explorer is a comprehensive light kit but the tight beam is frustrating. The triple-LED head has a 3,500-lumen ‘boost’ mode, but while the very focused beam is excellent for long-range reach there’s limited peripheral awareness on twisty trails — unless you switch to the optional wide-beam lens set.
The toggle switch is easy to use even with the thickest gloves and you now get a remote control button too. Power and run time are communicated through an LED on the back of the lamp, and while the compact bag battery looks homemade it’s got plenty of battery life.
Although Lumicycle doesn't have a distributor in Australia, its lights can be purchased through the Lumicycle website and shipped internationally — they'll even include an Australian 240v three pin charger.
Need a bit of night riding inspiration? Check out Tom and Ruby the trail dog as they go for a night-time shred...
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.