If you’ve never ridden at night before, you’re missing out. It presents an awesome challenge; obstacles come at you faster, it feels like you’re riding at warp speed and there’s something majestic about the woods at night.
You’ll need a high-powered front light to illuminate the trail, though, and these are the best mountain biking lights we’ve tested this winter.
The brighter your lights are, the better your night riding experience is going to be. You’ll be able to see more of the trail, obstacles shrouded in the shadows pop out at you and speed comes naturally.
The best mountain bike lights 2020, as rated by our expert testers
Gemini Titan 4000: £350
Lifeline Pavo Motion 2400: £150
Magicshine Monteer 6500: £226
Niterider Lumina Dual 1800: £160
Gloworm XSV: £289
Hope R8 : £295
Ravemen PR1600: £130
Light & Motion Seca Enduro: £350
What makes a good mountain bike light?
We set a lower limit of 1,500 claimed lumens for this test, which is more than ample to provide safe and well-lit shredding. You could get away with less, but how suitable that is will depend entirely on how fast you want to go and how technical the trails are.
In the same way that claimed battery life, weight and a host of other things vary from their real-life measures, the number of lumens a manufacturer claims their light has compared to how many it actually has can vary significantly. Don’t fret, though, while claimed lumens is relatively important, what really matters is how that light is projected, not necessarily how bright it is.
The same for run times. We timed each of the lights on their max setting to find out just how long the juice will last.
Obviously, if the LEDs push out lots of light, more battery power is required. All of our lights have at least 1-hour of run time at the 1,500-lumen minimum requirement, but most offer considerably more burn time at their max output, so it’s unlikely you’ll get caught short.
Battery and LED tech is improving all the time, and although lights with dedicated, separate battery packs will last longer than combined all-in-one units, the gap between the two is narrowing.
Light output isn’t the only factor to consider, beam patterns are just as important. Some lights project their output into one specific area, illuminating everything within that space with exceptional detail, but that’s frequently at the expense of broader coverage.
Lights that flood their output illuminate more of the trail’s surroundings giving a better sense of where you are and highlight details easily missed with a more focussed beam. This wider beam spread means it’s easier to see around turns, too – something that needs to be considered if you’re not running a dual bar and lid mounted setup.
Lights with multiple lenses or beam reflectors can combine spot and flood outputs, with the further option to toggle between them. In theory, lights with both beam patterns are the best of both worlds.
It’s also important to check out what extras are included with the light such as remotes, extra-long cables to connect battery and head unit, multiple mounting brackets, and whether they’ve got a certified waterproof rating, are shock resistant and have battery or mode indicators.
The lights on test range widely in budget, from £130 to £350 / $350 / AU$450. Although it’s possible to spend even more or a bit less, with a 1,500-lumen lower limit this is the sort of price bracket you’re looking at unless you’re considering buying an eBay special.
Scroll through the gallery below to compare the beams of our top-rated lights (each in its most powerful setting).
Gemini Titan 4000
Gemini Titan 4000 OLED. Georgina Hinton
RRP: £350 / $350 / AU$450
Claimed max output: 4,000 lumens
Run time (max power): 2 hours 25 minutes
- Very impressive brightness
- Long run time
The Gemini Titan claims to output a very respectable 4,000 lumens, and while we didn’t specifically confirm the claim, we can confirm that its output in the real world is enormous – with our tester finding it could “turn night into day”.
Furthermore, it has a phenomenal run time at around two and a half hours for such a powerful light.
It misses out on a five-star rating because it’s pretty expensive and the beam spread isn’t quite perfect, but if you need this sort of power you’ll be very impressed.
Lifeline Pavo Motion 2400
LifeLine Pavo Motion 2400. Georgina Hinton
RRP: £150 / $170 / AU$265
Claimed max output: 2,400 lumens
Run time (max power): 3 hours
- Excellent beam spread
- Great battery life
If you’re on a tight budget, but still need a top performing light, then this is the light for you.
Putting out a claimed 2,400 lumens – a relatively modest headline figure – we were impressed by how bright it was. This is undoubtedly helped by its excellent beam spread, which floods into the distance ahead but also illuminates a wide area.
If you’re riding the most technical of trails, you’ll probably want something with more lumens, but for most people this light will more than suffice.
Our only qualms are the lack of a battery level indicator and the fact that the bluish hue of the LEDs can be harsh at times, casting quite hard shadows on the trail. But these are minor issues that we’re more than willing to overlook at this price point.
Magicshine Monteer 6500
Magicshine Monteer 6500. Georgina Hinton
RRP: £226 / $350
Claimed max output: 6,500 lumens
Run time (max power): 2 hours 20 minutes
- Unbeatable spread of light
- Illuminating LED colour
With five LED lights and a whopping 6,500 lumens total claimed output, the Magicshine Monteer 6500 is a seriously capable unit.
At maximum 5,000 and 4,000 lumens modes it’s an astonishingly powerful light, but we were also impressed by how this power is put into use. The two spot LEDs illuminate the trail ahead brilliantly, while the three flood LEDs provide unrivalled side-to-side and forward visibility.
Battery life is also excellent. 2 hours 20 minutes run time at full whack is amazing, and this exceeds the claimed life by over an hour, which we really appreciate.
Its downsides include its relatively high price and a lack of a battery time display or mode indicator – problematic when there are 15 modes – but these issues fade away very quickly when in use.
Niterider Lumina Dual 1800
NiteRider Lumina Dual 1800 front light. Georgina Hinton
RRP: £160 / $149
Claimed max output: 1,800 lumens
Run time (max power): 1 hour
- Great beam spread
- Impressive power
The Niterider Lumina Dual 1800 is a top-performing light that took us a bit by surprise. Despite its relatively low claimed max lumens, it has great power and beam spread, and it’s also relatively cheap, so ticks a lot of boxes.
The internal battery is quite small, so you only get an hour’s run time at full power. It’s not the most sophisticated looking light we’ve tested either, but it easily outperforms its price tag and competes with many of the more expensive lights we’ve tested.
Gloworm XSV. Georgina Hinton
RRP: £289 / $320 / AU$389
Claimed max output: 3,400 lumens
Run time (max power): 1 hour 50 minutes
- Long battery life
- Good mix of flood and spot lighting
With a great amount of power and plenty of range, the Gloworm XSV impressed us with its ability to highlight the trails as if it were daytime.
The spot is fairly focussed on the front of the bike, but it’s good power output means beam spread is okay (though not amazing) with the standard lenses installed. Run time is also good at 1 hour 50 minutes on full power.
Unlike a lot of other lights it comes with a range of accessories, making the hefty price tag a bit more palatable. The fact that it can also be linked into a system with other Gloworm lights makes it a very attractive option for anyone interested in the ecosystem as a whole.
Hope R8+ LED. Georgina Hinton
Claimed max output: 4,000 lumens
Run time (max power): 1 hour 25 minutes
- Exceptional illumination
- Easy to use
It’s not the most powerful light we’ve ever tested, but the Hope R8+ puts out enough light to illuminate everything in front of you and then some. Side-to-side flooding is very good too, and is in fact wide enough to spot lines even when it’s not pointing directly where you want to go.
It’s very easy to use and the battery life is solid, if not exceptional, at 1 hour 25 minutes at full power.The low power mode caught us by surprise on occasion, however – once the battery goes under 30 per cent charge it’s no longer possible to select a higher power mode from a lower one.
We also had concerns about the long-term durability of the mount, but Hope’s after-sales support is generally very well regarded.
Light & Motion Seca Enduro
Light and Motion Seca Enduro with 6-cell battery. Georgina Hinton
RRP: £350 / $400
Claimed max output: 2,500 lumens
Run time (max power): 2 hour 40 minutes
- Well managed light output with good beam spread
- Long run times on max power
Out on the trail, the Light & Motion Seca Enduro feels like it puts out a lot more than its claimed 2,500 lumens max power, showing that raw power numbers don’t always tell the whole story with lights.
Much of this is down to how the power is used. The optics create a fantastic mix of flood and spot lighting, and side-to-side lighting is also great. The only drawback to its lack of pure horsepower is that the range isn’t amazing, but this is only a real problem when you’re going at top speed on fast fireroad descents.
Battery life is impressive, and although the mode and battery indicators are a bit vague it’s an easy to use unit overall. The big problem however is the price, it’s an expensive light and at this price point you might fancy a little more power.
Ravemen PR1600 Georgina Hinton
Claimed max output: 1,600 lumens
Run time (max power): 1 hour 35 minutes
- Enough power to get you out on the trails
- Great price
For the price, the Ravemen PR1600 is an incredible light. At a claimed 1,600 lumens it’s far from the brightest light we’ve tested, but it will get you out on the trails with no fuss at all and at a very decent price.
The compromise is that while the PR1600 has good range, and the flood illuminates the distance ahead well, it can’t match its pricier, multi-LED competitors for beam spread.
It’s certainly good enough as a starting point, just perhaps not for properly technical and fast downhill tracks. It would also make a great option for people who do a mix of off-road and on-road riding.
Buyer’s guide: what to look for when buying a light for mountain biking
On more powerful or longer-lasting lights, the battery pack is frequently separate from the LED section. They’re connected using a cable and the battery can be mounted to your frame or stem with Velcro straps or similar.
All of our lights on test are bar-mounted. Usually the mount is tightened to the bars using an Allen key because head units can be quite heavy. Some lighter options use a rubber O-ring, while other systems have a bespoke ratchet strap system.
As the light from the LED and reflector shines through the lens it’s either focussed or spread depending on the characteristics of the lens. Lights with multiple lenses will give a greater range of beam patterns, illuminating the trail more.
It’s a fact, electronics and water aren’t best friends. While most light manufactures have worked hard to avoid short circuits by waterproofing their lights, some have gone the extra mile and have been awarded an official IPXX (International Protection) rating.
The first number ranges from 0 to 6 (0 lowest, 6 highest) and denotes how dust-proof it is, the second is the waterproof rating ranging from 0 to 9 (0 lowest, 9 highest). If you’re being picky and are worried about the sorts of conditions you’re going to be riding in then pick a light with the highest rating. It is possible to have a dust rating and no waterproof rating and vice versa.
With great power comes more weight. Generally speaking, if your light is putting out enough lumens to cast shadows during the day then it’s going to require more power to generate that brightness and last for any significant amount of time. Bigger lithium-ion batteries are heavier and if the light is bar-mounted then this is something you’ll need to consider.