For nighttime trail rides, you want a helmet light to be bright, easy to mount, not weigh a ton but still provide sufficient battery life – who wants to be left in the dark in the middle of a steep descent? To find the best trail light for your after-work ride, we compared six different helmet lights to see how they fared in this regard.
What to consider when buying a helmet lamp?
Ask yourself these questions to avoid any nasty surprises on your first outing in the dark. First and foremost, ask yourself what you intend to use the light for – often the lamps aren’t only useful for mountain biking.
It’s also important to consider the range and illumination of the lamp. When biking, the lamp should illuminate the trail ahead of you as clearly as possible. A high-powered beam of light, with which you’ll light up a single root or rock won’t be helpful. You need to see the full width of the trail – maximal luminous range, which is especially important for riders who like to go fast.
In this review, we focused on bright yet lightweight lamps. If you want to create daylight on the trails on moonlight rides, we recommend mounting a second light on the handlebars. Note: every lamp we tested can either be mounted on helmets or handlebars.
Our comparison confirmed that the battery life of lamps can vary a lot and that some lamps with an integrated battery don’t attach to helmets as securely as their weight demands. To properly secure a light with an integrated battery on a helmet, a sturdy helmet mount is crucial to take the extra weight, and even then the extra weight on the helmet is more than just annoying. Our tip is to use a modular system: attach the light to the helmet and use an extension cable to store the external battery in your backpack or clip it onto your waistband. For even more ease of use, some of the models we tested can even be controlled via a remote control on the handlebar or via an app on your smartphone. Disco light or alpine distress signal – you name it!
Overview of the helmet lights we compared
|Model||Output*||Battery capacity*||Battery life (maximum output)*||Measured complete system weight||Price (€)|
|Cateye Volt1700||1700 lm||6.8 Ah||2:00 h||278 g||€ 235.00|
|Hope R2||1300 lm (measured 1000 lm)||3.2 Ah||1:30 h||343 g||€ 255.00|
|Knog PWR Trail||1000 lm||5 Ah||2:00 h||256 g||€ 124.99|
|Lupine Piko R 4 SC||1.800 lm||3.3 Ah||1:15 h||210 g||€ 350.00|
|Magicshine MJ-906 B||5000 lm||7.8 Ah||2:15 h||490 g||€ 179.00|
|SIGMA Buster 2000 HL||2000 lm||6.5 Ah||2:30 h||487 g||€ 200.00|
A small lamp-lexicon
Illumination / reach
The term illumination describes the maximum total area that a lamp covers in each mode. The range is the maximal distance that the light shines ahead of you.
To wirelessly connect to a remote control, a smartphone or a tablet, some of the models in this test feature Bluetooth connectivity. These include Lupine, Magicshine and SIGMA. This wireless feature is not only handy for a wireless remote control on the handlebar. You can also connect to an app on your smartphone to individually control the lighting modes, check the battery level or read the current operating temperature.
Lumen is the unit of luminous flux that describes the brightness of a lamp. The higher the number of lumen, the brighter the lamp is. For example: 150 W = 2000 lm.
Ampere Hours (Ah)
An ampere-hour is a unit of measurement for batteries and rechargeable batteries. It indicates the available charge a battery can hold. The more Ah a battery has, the more battery life it has. For example: 1 Ah = 1000 mAh.
Paragraph 67 of the German road-traffic-authorisation-order (Straßenverkehrs-Zulassungs-Ordnung (StvZO)) was revised on June 1st, 2017. Part of the revision allows for the use battery-operated and removable lamps on a bicycle, as long as they do not dazzle other road users. And they have to bear the German seal of approval, awarded by the Federal Motor Transport Authority. Of the lamps tested, none have StvZO approval, as they are intended for outdoor sports and not to be used on public roads.
Key data for the helmet lamp review
|Model||Lighting||Luminous range||Battery mounting on the helmet||Battery in the backpack||Comfort on the helmet|
|Knog PWR Trail||●●○○○||●●●○○||yes||no||●●●○○|
|Lupine Piko R 4 SC||●●●●●||●●●●○||yes||yes||●●●●●|
|Magicshine MJ-906 B||●●●●●||●●●○○||no||yes||●●●●○|
|SIGMA Buster 2000 HL||●●●●○||●●●○○||no||yes||●●●●○|