When the sun sets as early as 4:30p, night riding is one of the joys of winter. Even the trails you’ve ridden a hundred times become a new challenge in the dark. The turns come quicker, the downhills seem faster and all your senses are dramatically heightened.
But when it comes to zipping through the woods in the dark, the line between fun and fear —due to lack of sight— is a fine one. And so a good lighting system will keep the stoke high and the riding safe.
For me, a typical setup will consist of two powerful lights: one handlebar light and one helmet light, each of 1000 lumens or more. The handlebar light provides a tunnel of light on the path ahead while a helmet light tracks head movement. So when you’re peeking around the bend, it’ll be lit even when your handlebars have not yet made it through the turn.
The more twisty-turny the trail, the more you will rely on our helmet mount. As such, I prefer versatile lighting systems that can be mounted to either a helmet or to the bars. Knog’s PWR Mountain light with an additional PWR Helmet Extension Mount is meant to do exactly that and a bunch more. I was eager to take the system out on the local trails with me.
Here’s what I thought.
- Make: Knog
- Model: PWR Mountain 2000L with the PWR Helmet Extension Mount
- Price: $199.95 + $30.99
- Lumens: 2000
- Weight: 365 grams / 387 grams with bar mount / 465 grams with extension mount
- Size: H: 136mm x W: 47mm x L:47mm
- Light settings: Six, plus you can program other settings using Knog’s ModeMaker computer app
- Run time: 2 – 200 hours, depending on mode
- Charge time: 4 hours
Australian brand, Knog, has been rethinking bike lights ever since they launched with their little colorful, silicone-wrapped bike lights back in the early 2000s. Their approach was edgy and stylish, yet highly practical and user-friendly. They’ve only improved over the years, and the PWR Modular System is their most comprehensive, versatile and powerful one to date.
The whole range is designed around the concept of separating the battery — or power bank— from the light, and finding a clean way to connect the two. With a power bank at its core, the range includes light heads of various lumens, a camp lantern, flashlights, headlamp straps, and even a Bluetooth speaker — all of which integrate sleekly using USB connections.
The PWR Mountain light reviewed here comes with Knog’s brightest light and largest battery pack: a bright 2000 lumens powered by the 10,000mAh rechargeable Li-ion power bank.
The light comes with a side mount and a plastic handlebar mount that will fit a 31.8mm or 35mm bar diameter using the included rubber shims. Also included in the box are two USB cables: one to charge the light and one to charge your own devices when using the light as a power bank.
The additional PWR Helmet Extension Mount comes with a helmet mount and a split system that attaches the lighthead to the mount and the battery pack to a sturdy, coiled cable. In this set-up, your battery pack is meant to sit in a backpack or hydration pack.
Straight out of the box, one can’t help but notice how beefy the light and battery combo is. While superbly sleek, the unit measures nearly six inches in length and weighs 0.8lbs.
The metal body is all black with minimal branding and a single red button to disconnect the light from the power bank. Four tiny lights indicate battery life, and a simple twisting of the light head will turn the light on or off, and it allows you to scroll through the six different light modes.
The Power Mountain features eight LEDs, which in max mode give off a powerful 2000 lumens of light. Battery life varies depending on the selected mode, with two hours on max mode all the way to 200 hours for the eco flash mode of 150 lumens.
Should you be using the 10,000mAh battery as a power bank, you could expect to charge your phone at least three times. In turn, the battery takes four hours to fully charge.
On the trail
The night riding I do tends to be of the narrow and twisty-turny kind, so I set up the PWR light with the extension helmet mount.
The light head went on my helmet and I tucked the battery in my hydro pack. Despite trying to stretch out the coiled cable before riding, it remained tight and rather tough, pulling my helmet backward. In time, this may loosen up, but perhaps a longer cable would be nice. This would also accommodate tucking the battery pack into a jersey pocket and negating the need for a backpack.
For complete freedom of movement, cable-free helmet lights are preferred but then battery life and/or brightness are often compromised. Also, I wouldn’t want to carry the full 0.8 pounds on my head.
The eight LEDs are arranged in such a way that they provide a circular beam that floods the trail ahead of you and creates a sort of light tunnel to ride through. 2000 lumens is really rather bright, but the light is yellow-white rather than blue-white, and that slight warmness to the color makes it easier on the eyes.
I find myself mostly toggling between the mid and max modes, and have become an instant fan of the innovative twist-head operation. While wearing my bulky winter gloves, this is a hundred times easier than pressing any kind of button.
The difference between the 2000 lumens max and 500 lumens mid modes, however, is rather stark. I would have liked a step in between, especially considering the 7-hour difference in run time between those two. I would very gladly take an option of 1000 lumens for 4 hours.
But with my power bank tucked away in my pack, I couldn’t keep an eye on the battery life anyway. Still, I never ran out of juice, and the 2-hour estimate for max mode seems to be on the conservative side, which is a good thing. For longer outings, swapping out batteries is a breeze and only takes a few seconds, so one could easily bring an additional battery, which is available in three different sizes: 3350mAh, 5000mAh, and 10,000mAh.
About the ModeMaker App
Using Knog’s ModeMaker App on a computer allows you to customize the PWR 2000L light patterns and intensity. Choosing from Knog’s library of 16 patterns, you can tailor how the light behaves. I tried creating the missing 1000 lumen constant option that I had been missing, however, the “High”, “Mid” and “Low” modes are unchangeable. I did create a custom “all on” mode with a medium-to-high intensity that appears to be just above 1000 lumens. But given that lumens aren’t provided in the settings, it’s all kind of guess work.
The PWR Mountain 2000L (available at Competitive Cyclist and other retailers) is a sturdy, powerful, and user-friendly light that stands out due to its versatility. Once you’ve invested in a power bank, a host of accessories and add-ons are available to meet all your outdoor lighting and power needs — from bike light to headlamp to phone charger. As such, this might be a top choice for bikepackers.
But where this system shines in versatility, it lacks in mastery. It’s a solid light, but for pure night riding purposes, there simply are better options at similar price points. Improvements like a longer split cable, a pre-set 1000 Lumens mode, and a lighter weight package would go a long way.
Pros: Interchangeable batteries, decent battery life, can be used as a power bank, sleek design, easy to use twist-head operation.
Con: Heavy and large, split cable is too short, big jump between modes.
For more lights, check out Gerow’s Light ’em Up: A Dozen MTB Trail Lamps to Illuminate Night Rides [Roundup]