Deciding Which Mountain Bike Light is Right for You
The light you need on your bike is going to depend on what sort of riding you usually get up to. Someone who spends most of their time on trails is going to have different needs than someone who is mostly commuting. In the latter case, you want visibility to be safe around other pedestrians and motorists. The best option is a wide beam angle light with smaller batteries. The good news is that these are inexpensive and quite light. You also likely only need a small number of lumens to be visible at a reasonable distance.
For the trail riders out there, rather than being seen, you want to be able to see yourself. This necessitates a higher lumen count coupled with a narrower beam angle. Both of these things are designed to help illuminate the area nearby, so you are aware of roots, rocks, and other obstacles in the way. So, the first thing for you to do is to determine whether the lights you need are to be seen or to see yourself.
Considering Light Performance
If you’re a commuter, you’ll want lights that can be seen in the light and during the day. Low lumen count lights are just fine for the average road rider. Those who choose a light with a higher lumen count may want to consider tilting the light down so that you aren’t blinding oncoming traffic or being a distraction. However, if you are off-roading most of the time, you want the higher lumen count combined with a narrow beam angle. Lumens can range from about 30 and go up towards 20k00. In some cases, your light will have various settings. This can be a great option for someone who travels in both poorly lit and well-lit areas on occasion.
Thinking About Your Budget
With so many lights for mountain bikes on the market, you’ll find that there are dozens of models, builds, and brands to consider. Pricing is going to vary based on which type of light you need. Some lights are going to be quite expensive while others may be quite inexpensive and budget friendly.
You can expect a mountain bike light to cost anywhere from around $50 to over $300. The cheapest lights you find out there are largely made so you are seen. Those who ride in areas that are not well-lit will find themselves needing to budget a bit higher to get the lights they need. You can expect that as the light output raises, the same thing happens to the price.
If it’s important to you that you have the best light possible, you expect to shell out $200 or even more. While this might seem expensive, these lights do come with a higher level of features than the inexpensive models. In most cases, you can use these lights in any location. The batteries are often larger, so you can ride longer before needing to recharge. In addition, you’ll find that the components are of a higher level than inexpensive models, so they will often last for years.
The Budget Bike Light
For under about $50, most of the lights you see are there to allow you to be seen. You can expect small lumen amounts that reach no higher than 100. This is not enough light for you to see well anywhere that is truly dark. If this is the light you want to choose, look for broad beam angles so visibility is available from any angle. You should also put a premium on any lights that have multiple settings. A pulse or flash mode is especially useful. These lights are going to be light and have a reasonable brightness. Some of these lights may have a rubber strap to mount and may or may not have any water resistance available.
The Inexpensive Bike Light
Moving up to the $50 to $150 bracket, you’ll start to see lights that are a bit brighter. These will be better for riding on unlit roads or on dark trails than the budget lights. Some of these lights might have as many as 600 lumens as a total and you’ll see more flexibility in terms of beam angles, run times, and light settings. You’ll also have options for bracket and screw mounts available at this price point. Nearly any light over $50 will come with a rechargeable battery and most lights will carry some level of waterproofing.
The Middle of the Road Light
Above $150 and below $250, you’ll start to see a much broader amount of lights for all sorts of riding options. At this price, you can expect the lumen amounts to go to 1000 and above. There will also be more beam angles, light settings, and extra options. You can also expect these lights to last longer on a single battery charge than the bike lights up to this point. At this point, the lights and batteries are both going to be getting quite large, so you can expect most mounting options to involve screw and brackets. There will also be some lights specifically for off-road that contain a special battery pack to keep the power output at the top setting.
The Expensive Bike Lights
Finally are the bike lights that are even more than $250. Again, you’ll see the lumens, run times, beam angles, and mounts will increase in variety. In addition, you will find that these lights are made out of durable materials and are made to last. Once you reach this price point, some lights will even be combination devices that include video recording devices and other gadgets like accelerometers. These are the cream of the crop lights that most people will never need, but that can be a whole lot of fun if you have the budget for them.
Consider the Length of Your Rides
Having a mountain bicycle light is important since it gives you the ability to see better if you end up riding during the night. However, most lights are also battery operated which means you want to be sure the length of the battery life is long enough for you to get through an average ride. The first thing to think about is how long you stay out on an average ride. Is it an hour? A couple? Many more?
In addition, the battery life is going to be affected by which light mode you choose to use. In most cases, the lights will have several options. That means you can choose a steady mode and swap to a flashing mode a minute later, if needed. When using a steady beam, it takes more energy than it does to have a flashing light. The problem is that the flashing light is only useful during the day to ensure others see you.
We recommend that if you have the budget, it’s a great idea to purchase an additional battery pack. This will give you much more time to enjoy your rides without having to stress over whether you’ll have light for the ride home. Because of that, it’s best to choose a battery you can purchase nearby when you need to buy a replacement battery quickly.
Be Aware of Mounting Options
While the majority of mountain bike lights are able to be mounted on frames, handlebars, and seat posts, this isn’t always the case. If you have a bike with a circular bar, mounting lights is as easy as using a screw, some Velcro, or a stretchable rubber strap. If you have a unique bike with aero bars and seat posts, the process may be much more complicated.
Make sure you are aware of what sort of handlebars your bike has before you begin your shopping for bike lights. This will ensure you find lights that will fit your bike well. You’ll also want to think about the frame of your bike and what it is made from. Aluminum is durable but not as stiff as carbon. That means a carbon frame which is tightened too much could crack. That might mean it’s best to choose a rubber strap or Velcro mounting option. You may also want to search for mounting straps that are able to be used on various bikes with multiple handlebar and post sizes.
When it all comes together, there are a few things you have to keep in mind when buying a mountain bike light. First, you want to have a budget in mind. You want to know whether it’s more important for you to see or be seen, which will reflect on lumen and beam angle. Knowing how long you will run the lights can determine what batteries you want to select. Then look at the options you have for mounting to be sure the light is compatible with your particular bike.
Once you have a better idea of what you need, you can peruse the lights above and see which fit your needs. Each of them has great features and is sure to last for many of your cycling adventures. Take a good look at each of them, see which one you like the looks of, and go from there. Good luck on finding the right bike light for your off-road riding with your friends!