So, you have decided to try mountainbiking at night (check out this article on why would you want to ride your mountainbike at night)? Great, now you need some bike lights. There are a few types of bike lights, but these days get a LED lamp – without a doubt. But what kind? The main differences between lamps is the power – how many lumens do they emit. What is a lumen? A lumen is a unit of measurement for how much light is contained in an area. More lumens means more light. Then there is the built of the lamp – how quality it is, is it waterproof, what kind of mounting does it have etc.. Then there are the batteries – how long do they last, how quickly are they re-charged, how heavy are they, how are the batteries mounted to your mountainbike. All these things kind of go hand in hand with the price. So your budget limits the power of the lamp and most of other things.
But then there is one property of lamps that you also need to know. Does your lamp give flood light or spot light and which one is best, which one you need. First let me explain the difference between flood lights and spot lights.
As the name suggests – a lamp that gives you flood light will lighten a bigger wider area in front of your bike. It will light it evenly without a bright spot in the middle but it will not light it very far ahead of your bike. This of course also depends on the power of the lamp. Flood light is also more pleasant for the ascents.
On the other hand – a lamp that will give you spot light will lighten a much more narrow area in front of your bike but it will reach further ahead than a flood light. This of course again also depends on the power of the lamp. Spot light is also the brightest in the middle and then fades away towards the edges.
So which one is better for mountainbiking?
Both! If you want the best of the best then you will want both lights at the same time. One flood and one spot. Flood to give you good visibility around your trail and spot to give you the distance. But if you are only going to get one lamp then get a powerful flood lamp. A powerful flood lamp will do for most of the conditions except a really fast downhill where you really also need the distance that the spot light gives you.
Then there is also the handlebars vs. helmet setup. I suggest you also read this article on the perfect bike light setup for mountainbiking.
And one more thing – very often the light manufacturers do not mention weather a certain light is a flood light or a spot light. I suggest that you check the comments on each lamp on different mtb forums or review websites. Lamp users will quickly mention if a light is a flood light or a spot light.