Editor’s Note: This article is part of the Mtbr Ultimate Guide to winter mountain biking, fat bikes, gear, apparel, lights and trainers. We are taking a deep dive into all manner of cold weather mountain bike gear, with round-ups and reviews of fat bikes, tires, wheels, apparel, trainers and more. To see all the articles, head over to our Winter Guide Hub Page.
When money is no object there are plenty of light options out there. Reliability, brightness, and beam quality are key considerations for riders who take night riding seriously. Here are the five best lights we’ve tested this season. (And if this list is too rich for your blood, check out our round-up of Best Budget Lights.)
Lupine Piko 4 Smartcore
Lupine impressed us five years ago with the introduction of the first Piko with an output of 550 lumens. We were wowed by the output and heat management from such a small package. But how could it wow us this year while maintaining its small, useable form factor? Meet the Piko 4 with 1500 lab-validated lumens. Add in a wireless remote that’s easily mounted on your bars and a sophisticated smartphone app that can control, configure and monitor the light, and this is the total package. Want five levels of light or two? No longer will you have to play Morse code with your light switch. The app handles that. You can also have infinite light adjustment via an app slider bar for ultimate light control while riding. | Claimed Lumens: 1500 | Measured Lumens: 1489 | Mounted Weight: 218 grams | Run time (on high): 1:45 Hours | Price: $375 | More info at www.lupinenorthamerica.com
CatEye Volt 6000
CatEye made the first HID bike light with the Stadium 3 a decade ago. It revolutionized night riding. But the system was incredibly heavy at 2000 grams and it put out about 500 lumens of very white/blue’ish light. Flash forward to the new Volt 6000, and my how things have changed. With a claimed output of 6000 lumens, this light weighs just 718 grams and has a built-in fan to counter the greatest enemy of LED bike lights — heat.
We just wish it had a little longer run time than an hour on high. Also, stepping down the fan when in lower light levels would have been a nice touch to lower noise and conserve battery. But you can still run low mode and get about 6 hours at 1000 lumens. Bottom line this is a great light for high speed night rides — or for anyone who is afraid of the dark. | Claimed Lumens: 6000 | Measured Lumens: 7252 | Mounted Weight: 718 grams | Run time (on high): 1:00 Hours | Price: $800 | More info at www.cateye.com
New Zealand’s Gloworm makes extremely well-crafted lights that come in three configurations, X1, X2 and XS. They are all honest with their lumen output claims and have very compact configurations for bar or helmet use. This year, they are including optional wide beam optics in the package to give the rider the choice of beams that suits their riding. The model reviewed here is the middle X2 with two LEDs. Gloworm is an Mtbr forum legend, with the X2 model sitting in the sweet spot between the X1 and XS. This year, the X2 raises its measured output from 1391 lumens to 1545. Total weight and run time have stayed the same and the price dropped.
We rode the X2 on our local trail and love all the details of compactness and versatility. The light system comes in a tiny box that one can just keep in the bike bag all the times. The helmet mount and bar mount are included in the package, and the remote wired switch is something you just don’t see these days. It frees up head unit real estate for critical cooling fins, and it protects the user’s fingers from a potentially hot light head. | Claimed Lumens: 1500 | Measured Lumens: 1545 | Mounted Weight: 323 grams | Run time (on high): 2:30 Hours | Price: $255 | More info at www.glowormlites.co.nz
Light & Motion Taz 1500
The Light & Motion Taz 1500 is all about beam pattern. We’ll even go out on a limb and say it has the best beam pattern of any self-contained bike light. The only thing that held it back was it wasn’t quite bright enough when it was initially introduced at under 1000 lumens. The beam pattern is so big that it needed a lot of light to execute good throw and even spread.
The Taz 1500 addresses those issues. It’s ideal for riding fast or even using by itself. For the ultimate speed setup, complement it with a bright helmet light and you’re off to the races. Of course it is self-contained without replaceable batteries, so run time is the limiting factor. Although it is a flashlight style light, it is too big and bulky with the non-removable mount to use as a flashlight. But if uncompromising self-contained performance is what you want, the Taz 1500 delivers with a bright, even and wide beam pattern that even has a pleasant yellow color tint that allows you to see shadows and trail contours more clearly. | Claimed Lumens:1500 | Measured Lumens:1404 | Mounted Weight: 216 grams | Run time (on high): 1:30 Hours | Price: $300 | More info at www.lightandmotion.com
Bontrager Ion 700 RT
Two years ago, Bontrager floored us with the introduction of the Ion 700 for $100. It was an extremely compact and well-constructed light that was better than the competition, yet cheaper by $20-$40. This year, the light is the same with just slightly better output. The big news is the light can now be part of a remote controlled system (usually headlight and tail light) with many options. It is certainly one of the best remotes we’ve seen. All lights can be turned on/off with one button. Turn signals are a possibility as well.
This light also has a nice beam pattern and the output is now 706 lumens, which matches its 700 lumen claim. Weight is a mind-blowing 119 grams making it a very modular light where the rider can use more than one to dial in the brightness. Although this light is lower priced, we included it here because it is meant to be used as a system with the remote and tail light, which bumps up cost. | Claimed Lumens: 700 | Measured Lumens: 706 | Mounted Weight: 119 grams | Run time (on high): 1:45 Hours | Price: $140 | More info at www.trekbikes.com