Yes, winter is coming and, while that means darker days, it shouldn't mean less riding. With help from the best mountain bike lights riders can illuminate the trail ahead and ride with confidence. Finding the right light for you can be a minefield for new buyers but we've done the hard work for you and compiled the best we've tested to make your buying experience trouble-free.
When looking for your next light, there's an awful lot to consider before dropping the cash. There are lumen counts and external or internal batteries – and every light offers a different beam spread. All of these are things that need to be thought about before clicking 'buy now'. It's also important to look at the light mounting interface as they come in all shapes and sizes and are often specific to a particular light and handlebar.
Some lights are simpler than others, too. There are lights on the market that use fancy artificial intelligence to track your night riding habits in order to adjust the beam power on the fly. Others come with handy remote controls that allow the rider to switch between modes through Bluetooth and some bring things right back to bare bones, relying on a single button for all functions.
If you're new to night riding, one thing's for sure – you need two lights. While you can get away with a strong bar-mounted light, a second light mounted to your helmet will help fill in any dead areas allowing you to fill in any details. Scroll down to find out which mountain bike light is best for you.
Best mountain bike lights
2022 exposure sixpack mk12 sync mk4 light hero.jpg, by Liam Mercer
It may be on the pricy side but, with the USE Exposure Sixpack MK12 bar-mounted light, you're getting what you pay for. This light omits up to 5250 lumens thanks to six white XPL2 bulbs. Housed within a 6063 aluminium housing, it offers up to a 36-hour battery life, so it's sure to keep the trails lit up during some seriously long rides.
On top of all that, this uses an internal battery that's charged using a Smart Port+ port which not only allows for easy charging of the light itself but it means that it can be used as a powerbank in a pinch. The Sixpack MK12 comes with 10 programs, two of which can be customised through an app and all of these offer a number of burn times, as well as lumen outputs, so the light can be tailored to blast out the most light according to how long you're planning to ride.
The Sixpack's beam is of excellent quality as it can pierce deep into a trail but it's also rather wide, allowing for all manners of details to be picked up. Modes are easy to navigate too thanks to a single button on the rear and those modes and burn times are shown on a small LED screen at the rear.
If this light seems like your cup of tea, check out our USE Exposure Sixpack MK12 SYNC MK4 front light review.
Lumicycles Apogee Front Light-2.jpg, by Rachael Gurney
We liked Lumicycles' Apogee because it offers an awesome battery life along with good projection. It's also easy to use and install. It outputs up to 4500 lumens and it runs off of an external battery pack. We tested it with the 6800mAh battery pack which claims a stonking 13-hour run time in Boost mode.
Modes are scrolled using a switch at the back and its beam is projected through the use of CREE XPL LEDs. The brand says these should launch the light up to 100 metres ahead.
What's unique to this light is that it's coloured to enhance the greens of the forest which should result in greater detail compared to standard LEDs.
If you would like more details on this UK-made front light, read our Lumicycle Apogee Extender Pack front light review.
2022 magicshine monteer 8000s v2 hero.jpg, by Liam Mercer
The Magicshine Monteer 8000S offers an almost class-leading (only beaten by the Monteer 12000) lumen output, coming with the capability of blasting a full 8000 lumens out into the trail ahead.
This light is practically built using two levels, a lower and an upper with illumination duties being split between five CREE XHIP 50.2 LEDs. These two levels offer a spot and a flood light that can be switched between and chosen on the fly. They can also be combined to achieve that huge lumen count. Magicshine promises a 315m maximum beam distance with 25000CD beam intensity.
Granting easy switching between each of the Monteer 8000S's settings is done through the use of a 2.5G remote that can connect to the light with a five-meter range. It's then powered by a 10,000mAh external battery that benefits from USB-C charging and it can be used as a powerbank.
Read our Magicshine Monteer 8000S Galaxy V2 front light review to find out more about how it performs.
Much like the Sixpack above, USE Exposure's Zenith MK2 light is another high-quality offering from that brand that uses a very similar 6063 aluminium build. Even though it's small, it's nothing short of mighty with its 2,100-lumen count and integrated battery all of which make it an ideal choice for a helmet-mounted light.
Its lumens are shot out from three white XPL2(W3) bulbs and its lithium-ion battery has a 5,000mAh capacity that offers up to 18 hours of burn time. The Zenith is stacked with nine programs that are scrolled using the single button at the rear of the light that offers a choice of run times and outputs. What's extra cool is that this light has a super fancy tap feature, allowing the user to simply tap the light to scroll through output options.
As for the beam, it's very well shaped with a large central hot spot that throws light far down into the trail which tapers out towards the edges. The colour of the light is a little cooler than daylight.
For our full verdict, read our USE Exposure Zenith MK2 front light review.
The Moon Canopus comes with mounts for both a bar and a helmet. Although it can feel a little weighty when fixed to a helmet, we liked it for its great build quality, ease of use and long-lasting battery.
Max lumen output is 4,000 and can either emit a flood light at 17-degrees or a spotlight at 105-degrees. A special trick up its sleeve is that users can adjust its colour temperature on the fly, choosing a warmer colour for foggy conditions and a cool colour for when the air is clear. These can also be combined. All of its modes are controlled via a wired handlebar remote.
It's stellar build quality comes as a result of CNC machining, with a heatsink built into the casing but if that alone isn't enough, there's overheat protection built in.
To learn more about this light, check out our Moon Canopus review.
Gloworm XSV Front Light-7.jpg, by Rachael Gurney
Gloworm's XSV has made it into the Buyer's Guide thanks to its interchangeable optics that allow for complete customisation, its useful remote and its great battery life. It may not pack the lumen punch of other bar-mounted lights but its range of features more than earns its keep.
It's designed to be a floodlight, using its 3500 lumens to throw an even but wide beam. The XSV is built with three spot LEDs but they can be swapped out with wide or flood optics that are included in the box, so you can mould it to your preference.
This light is sorted with a waterproof build and it's paired with a 6,800mAh lithium ion four-cell battery that offers up to 1.5 hours of use when used at full blast, non-stop. There's also a wireless remote. There are then four power modes.
For more details on the Gloworm XSV front light performed during testing, read the full review.
How to choose the best mountain bike lights
What are lumens?
Lumens is a measurement that quantifies the amount of light that a human eye can see. The higher the lumen count, the brighter the light will be, the lower, the dimmer. Another important measurement is lux, which takes into account the surface area of which a light is spread.
How many lumens do you need for night mountain biking?
Anything above 1,000 lumens is a great place to start but as mentioned before, the more lumens a light can output, the brighter that light will be. What's also important to consider is a light beam spread as this has a large bearing on how effective the best mountain bike lights can be.
Can a light be too bright?
For pure off-road use, the only downside of too many lumens is that it'll get dangerous when accidentally shining the light into a mate's face. If your normal night ride contains any period of road riding, there are legal limits that a rider will have to abide by where a light cannot be too bright.
What's best for mountain bike lights – internal or external batteries?
As well as lumen output, an external or internal battery has one of the biggest effects a light can have on a bike, whether that's mounted to the handlebar or the helmet. High-output, lights require a higher-capacity battery in order to provide a usable lifespan. If that battery is internal, it'll directly lead to a bigger light altogether if that battery is internal. This also means that it'll be heavier.
A light with an internal battery completely restricts the user's ability to redistribute its weight. As such, that weight can be noticeable when steering a bike. However, the user won't have to deal with extra cables.
The benefit of an external battery is that you can place the battery almost wherever you like on the bike, minimising excess weight at the bar which can affect its handling. The downside here is that you'll have to manage the cables that guide power from the battery to the light itself.
It's the same story with helmet lights. The extra weight of an integrated battery can be felt when mounted to a helmet but an external battery will have to be stored in a backpack, and the cable can restrict head movement.
Do I need two lights for night riding?
Employing a handlebar-mounted light and a helmet light poses huge benefits to night riding off-road. A high-output bar-mounted light is intended to flood the trail with light but because it's mounted lower than a rider's eye line, it creates very contrasty shadows which can be distracting and misleading as to what's actually ahead.
Adding a helmet-mounted light to your set-up will allow you to light up where you're looking more effectively. So they come especially in handy while looking well ahead when cornering, where the light on the bike will point one direction when the rider is trying to look ahead to another. A helmet light also fills in shadows created by the handlebar light, giving you a clearer idea of what to expect from the trail. They're also useful when faffing, and setting up before, or during a ride.