Mountain Bike Lights: How To Use & Set Up Bike Lights

Mountain Bike Lights: How To Use & Set Up Bike Lights


– Blasting your bike along a single track in the dark with just a tunnel
of light in front of you is one of the coolest things you can do on a mountain bike. Now that we’re reaching the
season with the darker nights, you really should consider
going out for some night rides with your mates. Honestly, it’s one of the most fun things you’ll do on a mountain bike. With that in mind, this is our guide to night lights, how to set them up, and everything you need
to know about them. (upbeat electronic music) Before you go spending
your hard-earned cash on the brightest possible lights, just take into account
what you’re actually going to use them for first. Of course, there are two major things you need to consider when buying lights. Firstly, there’s the
lumens that they provide. That refers to how bright
the actual light is. And then the burn time, which is of course how long they last. (downtempo electronic music) If you’re just commuting to work, college, school, or whatever, you can get away with
some pretty basic lights with say, 100 lumen output. Bear in mind, as bright as they will be, they’re predominantly based on visibility, so that means for other road users and traffic to be able to see you. They won’t enable you to actually
see anything on the trail. Depending on how serious you
are about your off road riding, you can sort of pick your
lights to cater for that. If it’s a bit of tow path use and maybe some forestry roads, you can get away with a
light around 750 lumens. Personally, I’d bring 1500 and upwards. Really, if you’re a
serious off road rider, you’re gonna need a
bit more kit than that. Really the brightest lights
are gonna be the best. (downtempo electronic music) So if commuting and some basic off road riding sounds like you, what you really need to have is a real light of some kind in your arsenal. Whether you mount that
on your bike or your bag is your choice, but makes
sure it’s nice and bright, and it’s always clean so it can be seen by road users and stuff. Make sure it’s always charged as well because when it’s out back, you’re not gonna necessarily
know if it fails, so just keep an eye on that. Another thing, you’re gonna
need a bar-mounted light. A bar-mounted light like
this is 1500 lumens. It’s an Exposure Diablo. It charges nice and fast in three hours, so it’s gonna do most of the
things that you need to do. However, if you’re a really
serious off road rider, then you’re gonna need to
change things up a little. Having a light like this, actually you wanna put
this on your helmet, and you wanna have a bigger main beam on your bars like this. This is a six pack, also by Exposure. This is a staggering 4750 lumens. This is nearly like having
full beams on your car aiming down the trail. (downtempo electronic music) Let’s look at handlebars first. This should be your main power light. The position of the bars
enables the light’s gonna place, where it’s gonna look
really far down the trail. That’s your main, sorta flood light. Because of the nature of mountain biking, competitive road riding, let’s say, you’re gonna be doing lots of undulations, steep turns and stuff. What that means is you’re gonna
have a lot of blind spots. Having a helmet light is where you can pick up those blind spots. So a helmet light doesn’t
have to be anywhere near as powerful as
your bar-mounted light. That is your main daddy really
for all of the light power. This is purely just to
spot out when you’re going around tight turns just to make sure that you can have that stuff illuminated. So what about only running a helmet light? Well you could do that, but the trouble is to get a light that’s powerful enough to just run on your helmet, you’re gonna be kinda suffering here. Some designs like this one don’t have a separate battery pack. It’s all built into one. To get a light powerful enough to do that to go on our helmet, it’s gonna weigh a lot. If you’ve got a light just on your helmet, you’re gonna run into some
other issues out on the trail. What you probably don’t
realise when you’re riding is you actually move your
head a hell of a lot. You’re moving around the whole time. Your eyes darting around the trail. If your only light source is on your head, you’re gonna find that quite dizzying because your main beam is gonna be darting around everywhere. It also means, if you do look down or look to the side, you’re gonna have huge black spots everywhere
where you can’t see. That actually makes your
riding quite a lot slower. With a main beam on
your bike, you’ve always got light in your peripheral whatever you’re doing on the bike. You’ve always got a light on your head to light up your black spots. You’ve always got your main beam. That is the best way for
off road riding at night. (downtempo electronic music) Once you’ve selected the
lights you’re gonna use, you need to get them set
up properly on the bikes. We’re gonna look at the bike mount set up, and we’re gonna look at
the helmet mount set up. Both do different things and you’ve gotta get
them set up correctly, otherwise you won’t be able to ride as fast as you want as nighttime. As you can see, with the
bar-mounted light here, it’s actually facing quite far down. While there is quite a bright beam coming off the light itself, it’s actually illuminating a big shadow on the ground here from my front wheel. I can see the front wheel as well, which is almost kinda off
putting, this is quite bright. What you really want to be doing is having the light facing
way further down the trail. Again, it depends on how fast
you’re intending on riding, but you want the beam
to at least be 20 feet in front of you so your perception
speed will work properly. You’re gonna understand how fast things are coming towards you,
where they are and stuff. Just aiming the light
further down the trail, it changes everything. Initially, right in front of me, there isn’t really any light at all. But you don’t need that because by the time the obstacle gets to you, you’ve already decided
how you’re gonna do that. Of course, there’s your helmet mount. Depending on the brand of light you use, they’re gonna mount in
different ways to your helmet. You want them to be as central as possible on the top of your head so
it’s quite well balanced. It doesn’t wanna pull your
helmet too far either way. You can just slide the
light along its mount to the correct position. If I just turn on my helmet light here, you can see this will take care of immediately what’s in front
of me when I’m looking around. You’ve got your main light looking all the way down the tunnel. This is the ideal set up
for your off road riding. You’ve got your lights,
you’ve got them set up. You’re ready to go night riding, almost. The most important thing that you really need to take into account is
the burn time of your lights. You need to read your manuals for the relevant lights
you got and understand how long you can run your
lights for maximum power, how long you can run
them for minimum power, and what the signs are when
the power starts deteriorating. Some lights will dim, some will flash. They all have slightly different features built into them for safety reasons. You absolutely have to
know when they’re gonna go and you have to plan
your ride accordingly. It’s not the same as going
riding during the daytime. Night riding does have to be
a little bit more regimented. Speaking of that, you have to make sure that you have a route
that you know as well, especially if venturing
out for the first time. No point going for a
mountain bike off road ride at night the first time you’re doing it, and not really knowing where you’re going and how far it’s gonna take you away from city lights or anything like that. It’s a really good idea to plan a slightly shorter route
than your normal ride. Let’s say an hour. Make sure that you know along that way, there’s a get out point,
so you can get out and get under the safety of street lights if your lights do run out. Also with night riding, make sure to tell someone
where you’re going, when you’re going, and
when you expect to be back. Night riding is really good fun, but it can be really dangerous because if your lights fail or
you crash in the woods, you could be stranded and no
one’s gonna be able to find you that doesn’t know you’re there. So that was our introduction to lights and how you get lights set up correctly on your bike for night riding. Hopefully you guys can get out there and do some night riding yourselves. Let us know in the comments below if you do get up to that, really wanna hear about it. Click in the globe to
subscribe here in the middle. There’s a brand new
video every single day. For some more advice on
great videos to watch, if you haven’t seen Martin Ashton’s amazing video from Whistler, firstly, where have you even been? Secondly, watch it again down here, it’s absolutely amazing. If you’re looking for some
really cool trail side hacks, here’s ten of the best hacks you can do with cable ties right here. Of course, if you like the video, as always, give us a thumbs up.

About the Author: Michael Flood

100 Comments

  1. My setup is the direct opposite than yours.
    I have also mounted a difusor on the bar-light so it shines wery wide up to 15 meters.
    And the helmetlight is a spotlight so I can search the trail further away.
    This setup fits perfect if there is a trail with many turns as the bar-lights would just point out to the terain. Maybe your trails is more straight than ours i Sweden 🙂

  2. I love night riding, and do it frequently, but dedicated mtb lights are super expensive, even the ones shown here. I found some bright HID lights on amazon that I use. They are aluminum with 2 lights side by side, and have charge indicators. Built pretty well, and cost about $40 each. Just replaced the batteries after about 2 years. They overrate the lumens, but they're at least 1000 each, maybe more. I can get at least an hour on full brightness.

  3. Love night riding, as I work shifts I do it all year round!

    A few tips I've got that weren't in the video:

    1) Match the runtimes on your lights if you can, or have a longer runtime on your helmet light.
    2) Turn your helmet light off for road sections and fireroad climbs, this helps conserve power and also means that your bar light will die first (If you've adhered to point 1) and as you can see your bar light it should warn you before it does if it has a power meter.
    3) Plan any night ride to last no longer than 60% of your light's runtime. That way you have power in reserve for if you get lost, have an issue like a puncture or it just takes you longer to get round.
    4) Carry a small torch to use as a light for use if you do get a puncture, saves your min lights for riding time. It can also double up as an emergency light if you do have a mare of a ride.
    5) If it's a clear moonlit night stop in a clearing, switch off the lights for a few minutes and enjoy seeing all those stars and everything glowing under the moonlight.
    6) If you see a pair of eyes glinting back at you it's not anything scary. Whatever it is is always there, you just now know about it!
    7) Keep your pace in check, everything happens faster at night!

  4. My front brake is not working😥 They doesnt need a bleed and the pads are cleaned. Should i get New pads ore discs? Please need help!

  5. Those lumen numbers are really high. I ride XC with 1200 lumens on the bar and 650 on the helmet. I am looking to upgrade the helmet light though.

  6. And I always carry tiny front and rear blinkly lights to use in a pinch if my main lights run out of juice–so much better to have something than nothing..

  7. IMPORTANT: Never put your bar light so that it points directly forwards or slightly upwards. Better to have it pointing too low than too high. Reason being that fellow riders and car drivers going the opposite way will be blinded by your light. I have had 1 crash and multiple near misses due to people poorly aiming their lights.

  8. I been night riding but accidentally, it was 8 in the evening and I got to the top of the mountain and then one of my friends crashed and got a flat so it got dark fast and we had to go down as fast as possible, it was scary

  9. Due to my job, I cyclo-commute a LOT at night, and usually only small portions of my trip are lit by street lights. I agree completely with the two light setup. I find the Petzl (180 max lumin??)adaptive light to be the best light for helmet use though it didn't come with a mount, so i had to hack one and helmet choice was important, plus don't forget to rig a counter balance or the front of the helmet creeps down your forehead during longer/rougher rides. Brighter lights are more important the worse your eyesight is. I have great eyesight, and if the moon is out, many times i don't have to bother with a light when road riding, except for visibility to other people. The petzl is the brightest light I've ever owned though. Granted I don't ride heavily technical trails, but i can see pretty far ahead with it. The adaptive lighting really extends the burn time for commutes, because it dims automatically when you slow down, or are in a lit area, just have to be careful to turn your helmet a bit to point the sensor away from on-coming headlights, or it will dim to uselessness and you might not avoid that pot hole that snuck into the blind spot

  10. Some ideas:

    Be aware of flood and throw. Floody bulbs illuminate a broad area; I'd have them as a main one. Throw is how far a light can shine on something, it's usually measured by candelas. A helmet light can be a bit more of a thrower than the main handlebars, but still needs to be floody. A good one is a Zebralight SC600W. You might also might try a right angle light clipped to your chest (I use a Skilhunt H03F) that doesn't move as much relative to your head. Advanced Knife Bro has a lot of specific flashlight reviews.

    Color is important too. Cool white can brighten objects farther away, but is harsher to look at.

    Getting extra 18650 or 26650 lithium batteries might be handy so you don't get left in the dark. Most alkaline batteries aren't up to the outputs the latest LEDs can do.

  11. #askgmbn How about a review comparing different prices light from £30 Cree eBay upwards? Lots of people can't afford a few hundred for a light but the cheaper lights seem ok.

  12. I do tons of night rides on singletrack in Ohio, USA. I use a 750 lumens nightrider on my helmet and a 350 lumens nightrider on my bars. They recharge with USB cable and last 3 hours comfortably. Too much and you start seeing a wider view instead of focusing on the trail.. it's distracting for me. I've clocked a few trees looking back at something weird that you don't notice in the daylight!
    Also In my area from Nov – April it gets dark around 5-5:30pm so if you want to ride after work you need lights!
    And as for the wildlife being scared I just use the Cesar Millan shh and they move out of the way😁

  13. Just did a quick check to see how much it would set me back to order bone of those six packs and my heart seriously sunk so fast. Aahh well maybe one day…

  14. I just got in from a 7 mile night shred with my dog! Our first night ride ever. Was sick! Hope x4 headlight mounted on helmet was great for now. It rained on us, but was still totally worth the experience! Can't wait to do more!

  15. How about a light review? It's be nice to see a current selection of the best lights. Even if it's not a detailed comparison, but touching on some of the major points at least.

  16. I currently rock a 850luman light on the helmet. It's enough honestly. I found that when on the bars, there were too many blind spots, especially in the corners. So I recommend if you're using 1 light, mount it to the helmet. Ideally, I'd like to get another brighter one for the bars and have a combo setup

  17. Nite rider lights and Cateye lights for the win. I usually ride with a handlebar mounted light with 3600 lumens and a helmet mounted 6000 lumen light. Single track gets lit up like daylight. Works very well for me.

  18. It's also a good idea to have a small, light and cheap commuter light with you as a backup just as a get me home if needed.

  19. It's a good idea to time how long it takes for your battery to die at full power to get a feel of how long you can go for. All batteries are slightly different and runtime will drop as it gets colder. The only way to know for sure is to log it every time.

  20. Decent bike lights are so expensive though… I bought some china specials on the bay… they were ‘ok’ (considering the price) but if you wanna do it properly you need to spend some serious £££

  21. Another bit of advice, bring an extra pair of shorts to change into after you soil yourself when the (big and small) critters go crashing through the woods trying to flee some dweeb on a bike. Scares the living s**t out of me!

  22. It would be cool to see a comparison video between a low/mid/high quality lights. There's an app called "science journal by google" that will take the camera on your smart device and use it to measure the lux in an area. I think 1 lux = 1 lumen/m^2. Some lower end lights provide a range of lumens or say "up to…", but I'm guessing their actual lighting ability of an area is pretty low on those cheaper devices.

  23. Would you guys rather have one 1500 lumen light (bar or head mounted) or two 750 lumen lights (one on the bars and one on the head)???

  24. Because of my work i ride 2/3 times at week at night. My suggestions?
    If you have only 1 light, put It on your helmet.
    Buy lights with external batteries, more powerfoul, last more and cheaper.
    Carry ALWAYS a spare battery and a small light to fix your bike to not run out of the main light.
    ALWAYS go out with someone, is more safe and alone is scary AF.
    Take It easy. If you don't know your limits and you don't know the trails be a bit in safe mode. If you call your GF at 1:00 AM she will a little bit pissed.
    Use a back light, essential in road and off-road, so that your mates don't run over you.
    Remember that the led light flats rocks/routes and jumps. And remember that you have a light on top of your head (watch the trees).
    Carry your phone, Google maps is usefoul to find the civilization near you.

    BTW is really a cool experience, even if you ride on your usual trail, if you try It once you'll be waiting for the next time.

  25. All we really need is a bright light than can be charged on the fly with some external battery pack either mounted to the frame (for the handle bar light) or in your pack with a long cord (for helmet lights). I would love to do some all night rides but I cant afford the lights bright enough, and even if i could the batterys never last more than 5 hours on max

  26. Good video! What I would have mentioned as well is the temperature and battery life. Especially in winter, when I go night riding, the battery life is much shorter than with warmer conditions. I always carry a spare battery with me. I even switch the batteries before descent just to make sure, the battery doesn't run out of power.

  27. This lights you have are so expensive but I found really good ones on Amazon $25 for 2500 lumens so I bought 3, 2 for my bar one on my helmet they also have a great burn time but I never run out because I climb before it gets dark and wait it out at the top smoking a joint then I decent after its dark

  28. There is another issue with running the helmet light alone or running it at all. When the weather is foggy you can't see anything because it puts a huge cone of light that illuminates the fog in front of your face and blinds you. For that kind of weather you need your main flodlight to be mounted as low as possible and avoid projecting strong beams from the head area.
    Also, the lower you mount your main light, the more prominent shadows obstacles will cast and you will notice them easier.

  29. I ride all year round, so night lights are a necessity over winter. I agree with some of the other comments here, the helmet light is the most important light so if you can only afford one light then go for a helmet light. However, I'd also say that if you can only afford one light, don't mountain bike at night until you can buy or borrow a second light. I've been night riding for over 15 years, and there have been a few occasions where a handle bar light or helmet light has stopped working due to vibrations from the trail causing the battery to lose contact, turning it off. It's always been on a fast downhill section, not a good time to lose light. The fix was simple, take out the 18650 battery/s, stretch the contact spring a bit, then put the battery/s back in. I think Doddy's lumen ranges were quite good. I use a 1000 lumen helmet light (light weight flashlight with a single 18650 battery in it – I don't feel the weight of it at all and the run time on a single battery is about 2hrs on "medium") and my handlebar light puts out about 3000 lumens. My handlebar light has about a 100 degree spread so I get pretty good light in my peripheral vision, my helmet light has about a 30 degree spread, so it's a pretty tight spot light. I usually run both lights on medium, I will go to "high" on the downhills, and drop to "low" if I have a long grind uphill section. I always carry spare 18650 batteries and a spare flashlight because you never know when your 2hr ride will turn into 3hrs due to a mechanical issue. As Doddy said, ride a trail you know, or ride with a group that knows the trail and will look out for you (not leave you behind). It is great fun, and totally different to day rides.

  30. Riding at night in Australia is awesome. Avoiding kangaroos can be a challenge during the day but at night it's a real danger. Night riding makes you feel like you are riding faster than you really are and your adrenaline levels can be way up.

  31. Personally I run 1000 lumens total between two lights and find it's plenty for all the local blue / red singletrack around Afan Argoed, South Wales.

    Lezyne Macrodrive 600xl on the bars, Macrodrive 400 on the helmet (weighs less). Both without external battery keeps it nice and simple, last my 4 hour rides without issue.

  32. I 100% disagree with the main light on your handlebar I keep my secondary light on my handlebar (1000 Luma) and my main light on my helmet (1500 luma) with a extension cord to battery pack in backpack. This whole main light on your handlebars does not work for the North Shore.

  33. One big issue not addressed here is the tint of the light. Typical cool white tints wash everything out cause glare. A more natural neutral white tint allows you to see details of rocks, roots, etc. much better. Those of us over in MTBR's Lights & Night Riding forum have been trying to educate riders on this.

    Also, you can't always trust manufacturers specs (esp. Chinese "budget" lights). Take specs with a grain of salt and search for reviews on the lights. There are some hidden gems in the "budget" options.

  34. In order to cycle legally on the roads at night you need lights mounted on the bike not your body.

    I find a helmet mounted light can really flatten out the terrain, whilst a handle bar mounted light actually highlights bumps by creating shadows.

  35. Great video! I missed most of the season due to a**ho*es stealing my bikes, so I figured the seasons' not gonna stop me now that I have my kitted out CD Jekyll 😀 Thanks for the tips! And if in Norway, let's ride!

  36. Hate to say this but for my first time ever I disagree with Doddy on Bars v Helmet light. I find a light on the bars distracting as it rarely points where I’m looking. Whereas a light on my helmet relays to me exactly what I’m looking at. I do have a light on the bars, but only to use in the social gaps between trails so I don’t dazzle my mates when I’m looking at them. A Solarstorm x2 on the helmet is not heavy with the battery pack in my back pack. And you can get them now for less than £10 with a usb plug so you can run them with a reputable powerpack instead of the dodgy cheap batteries.

  37. Doddy , thought that something is missing . How about stiffness , toughness , waterproof , weight . And especially , what kind of batteries for the light . It's quite important I think so . I prefer 18650 batteries than build-in batteries . It's cheaper , so you can bring more spare batteries . Buy a good charger , 2 x capacity spare batteries (for example , 4 if your light need 2 in a time) . I use cheap cigar tube to stock the batteries in my backpack , which is nice , safe and sound 😉

  38. It should be recommended that cheap lights can be had online for around $30 (coming from Asia via e bay) and give around 1000 lumens . They are perfect for getting started and maybe all you will ever need. Batteries are cheep and easy to come by, worth the 2+ weeks to arrive. I did receive one that was dead on arrival, but the seller replaced it no problem. Have a solid couple years of training and racing on one, no issues.

  39. For commuting, you want two bright rear lights. Much more eye-catching than just one. Off road, a single fairly dim rear light will let your mate(s) see you better without dazzling them. If you rely on a single high-power light, carry a spare (if only a torch). I use 3 single-emitter lights on the bars and one on my helmet, each with its own battery pack.

  40. Great vid as usual! I do a fair amount of night riding in the woods, especially when it gets dark at 4:30 in the afternoon in winter. I use 2 lights, one on the helmet (1200 lumens) and one on the bars (1600 lumens). Both are Brigtheyes brand with remote battery packs and can last up to 5 hours (depending on how bright you run them) and are very affordable. One other thing I do is use a GPS tracking app called Glympse. You can share your location with others, especially when going out by yourself. It will send them a text with a link which displays my location, speed, etc. overlayed on Google Maps. So if I do crash and am immobile, they can find me. Or if you loose your phone, they can help you find it…

  41. You will need a great bike light for the sake of your safety.
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  42. Love night riding , usually go for about an hour on a route i know well. Always have a normal road light front and rear as back up and to use on the roads on my way home .

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