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The greatest thing we’ve found about night riding is that all the trails feel new again. No matter how many times we’ve done a trail in the dark, it always surprises us how different and adventurous it feels. As professional adventure racers (you might remember Team GearJunkie from a recent USARA National Championship 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’ve found a light for you!
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 our detailed buyer’s guide, as well as our comparison chart and frequently asked questions at the end of the article. Or if you know what you’re looking for, scroll through to see all of our recommended buys or jump to the category you’re looking for.
The Best Mountain Bike Lights of 2023
Mountain Bike Lights Comparison Chart
Why You Should Trust Us
The crew at GearJunkie has certainly spent their fair share of time in the saddle. Many among us steal away for after-work mountain bike laps, and some even participate in international adventure racing — where a good light can be the difference between a sunrise and a DNF. After years of both casual riding and full-tilt pedal mashing, we’ve keyed in on the best mountain bike lights on the market today that’ll see you through the night.
During our many seasons of testing, we’ve learned that a light for downhill won’t be the same as a light for all-night cross-country travel, so we carefully weighed each light against one another with these use profiles in mind. We also aimed to assess the real brass tack performance metrics such as brightness, burn time, and weight. Both battery and LED technology are constantly being improved upon, and the MTB lights of today are only getting better as time goes on.
Many of the lights here have been used by our staff for years of tough riding, and are still kicking today. As sure as there will be new lights on the market in the years to come, we will be testing them and updating our list to reflect the current best of the best in mountain bike lights.
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose the Best MTB Light
When the time comes to select a mountain biking lighting system, there are a few key factors to consider. In this how-to-choose guide, we’ll cover the major variables that will help inform your decision.
Types of Riding
If your trails are super technical and steep, you’ll 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.
Ride Duration and Burn Time
Burn time is the total length of time a bike light can stay on before its battery is depleted.
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 2-hour ride? Answer these questions and then look for a light that best suits your needs.
For example, if I’m 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’m 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’s chargeable via solar or power bank — or something that can go for days with careful output management.
Brightness and Lumens
The brightness of a light is measured in lumens. While mountain biking in low light, you’ll definitely want a bright light that adequately illuminates the terrain ahead.
If you plan to ride in full darkness, we recommend a light with at least 500 lumens on your handlebars and 500 lumens on your helmet. Depending on the quality of the lights, this should be enough to create good visibility in dark foliage-covered areas.
It’s important to understand lumens are not the only factor to determine a light’s brightness and performance. Other factors to be considered include beam pattern and burn time.
A light’s beam pattern refers to how it disperses light across the trail. An excellent beam pattern will fill the entire trail with light and focus the brightness where you need it most. While lumens are important, a light with tons of lumens only fulfills its potential if the beam pattern is effective.
Burn time is another key consideration. If your light doesn’t last as long as you need it to, its lumen count doesn’t really matter.
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 ultra-fancy, 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 you already have or, better yet, just take batteries.
Take some time before you buy to think about the amount of time you’re willing to put into your lighting system. Systems like the Lupine are easily upgradeable in nearly every way.
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’re trying to save money, it may just take a little more patience to find what you want.
A great place to look is on online gear swap sites 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 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 specials and found 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.