Night time mountain biking can seem a bit intimidating until you get used to it - and without the right lights it's definitely pretty scary. With a good beam, however, you can illuminate the trail and discover a whole new riding experience.
Night riding is becoming increasingly popular across the MTB scene, and with the growing demand for nocturnal adrenaline fixes comes a need for good lights. Riding your favourite trails at night is very different from riding them in the day - and actually it can be a lot more fun as well. Regardless of how well you think you know your local trail, it'll look and feel very different in the dark.
British company, Exposure Lights have been dominating the scene for a number of years now, offering a wide variety of bike lights to illuminate trails all over the country. We tested their Maxx-D and Joystick lights on the Welsh mountain trails of Cwmcarn.
Maxx-D MK8 (£345)
The Maxx-D handlebar light is the second most powerful front light available from Exposure. Specifically designed for all mountain and XC riding, the Maxx-D light is intelligently built to illuminate the trail ahead.
The box comes with everything you'll need: handlebar mount (with spacers) - USB and mains charger - quick start guide. The first thing you'll need to do is charge its 11,600 mAh battery, which takes roughly 9hrs. Not ideal for an impromptu night ride, so make sure the light gets charged after using.
Fixing the bracket to your handlebars is easy peasy, which we love. It requires a 4mm Allen key for the single bolt attachment. The Maxx-D weighs 302g, which is light considering some competitor products are nearly double this. It's best to affix the light as central on your bars as possible, this is to keep the weight distribution balanced across your bars.
The LED display unit on the back allows you to set the intensity of the light, and it'll tell you in hours and minutes how long you have left of the battery, which is invaluable. With a full charge on a high intensity setting, you can expect to get roughly 2hrs of use. On a low intensity setting, you can get up to 36hrs of use.
Joystick MK10 (£140)
In addition to the Maxx-D handlebar light, I used the smaller Joystick MK10 on my helmet for added vision. With a lower luminosity (800 lumens) than its handlebar counterpart (2250 lumens), it makes the Joystick is a little more versatile, as it can be used for road and commute riding also.
Again, Exposure Lights ensure you'll have everything you need in the box: handlebar mount - helmet mount - USB and mains charger - quick start guide - lanyard. The charge time is roughly 3 hours, and this will last you 1.5 hours the higher setting, and 36 hours on the lower setting.
Fixing the helmet bracket is really simple, and only requires the use of a 5mm Allen key. Two lengths of nylon bolt are provided, depending on your helmet type. Ideally, you should choose a central vent to fix the light to, and clamp the bracket securely with the bolt.
A lanyard is provided in the kit which is useful as a secondary precaution should you fall and knock the Joystick off the bracket. The Joystick weighs just 87g, but it's ideal to keep it central on top of your helmet for balance and light direction.
There's two features on the back of the Joystick, the charge port which is protected with a small rubber cap, and the function button. Double clicking the button turns the device on, and single clicks can change the brightness.
On a dark and rainy night in the Welsh mountains, I tested these lights pretty thoroughly on both single track, and fire roads. The Cafall trail in Cwmcarn took me through remote woodland areas where the bike lights were the only source of light.
Having fixed the brackets securely, and mounted both of the lights, the I set the Maxx-D and Joystick on the Low setting to begin with. I directed both lights in a forward facing position to light up as much of the ground and trail ahead as possible.
I expected to feel some difference with the additional 389g on my set-up, but I was surprised that the difference made by the helmet light was negligible. It didn't feel bulky, or clunky, and with the design of the bracket, there was no rattling either. The same can be said with the Maxx-D, there was no rattling throughout the ride, and the light didn't come off, or move... even when I fell off the bike!
During the ride I decided to up the intensity and pop both lights onto their higher settings, and I immediately noticed a vast difference with visibility. I felt more confident and secure being able to see a lot more ahead of me, however the remaining battery life on the display unit reminded me not to get too comfortable.
I was happy to find that the function buttons on both devices were usable with gloves on, and I had little difficulty with adjusting settings and brightness during the ride.
Exposure Lights are well made, intelligently designed and brilliantly functional for a great MTB night ride. They are easy to install on your bike and helmet, with easy to use functions to adjust the settings.
Although they appear to be quite expensive, Exposure Lights are very competitive with other quality bike lights on the market and the investment provides you with hours and hours more fun on the bike in the winter months. And unlike cheap knock-offs that you'll find on eBay and the like, these are guaranteed to provide you many hours of fun and reliably safe night riding adventures.
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