Light fantastic: bright lights and hi-vis cycling accessories to make yourself seen

Cyclist in Proviz 360+ jacket cycling at night above cityscape

Cyclists – like Victorian children – are better seen than heard. We know this, despite my first foul-mouthed instinct when faced with a reckless driver. When it comes to making themselves seen, many – London Cyclist ed Andreas included – hold the perfectly sensible view that you don’t need to go overboard on the high-vis kit if you’ve got great lights and your wits about you. I, however, am a firm believer in going overboard wherever possible, so I like great lights, whatever wits I can summon, and loads of clever and/or shiny stuff too.

And there’s more to my kit-happy approach than just a shopping problem; more and more studies are showing the worth of high-vis clothing or accessories for road safety. For a detailed outline, I’d recommend this read from Cycling Tips, but the general gist is that ‘visibility aids’ lessen accidents. Which means they save lives. Crucially, though, the kind of kit impacts too, and where you wear it. Again, to summarise Cycling Tips’ excellent article, fluorescents heighten visibility by day, but night cyclists (which most of us inevitably are) need reflective clothing – simply, scientifically speaking, because fluorescents draw on UV light from the sun, while reflective fabrics work with whatever light is available. More than that, studies now show that drivers are much more likely to pick up reflective light when worn on moving parts too: the ankles or knees, say, as well as the torso.

So that’s the science, now to the shopping. Of course, everybody’s different – I’ve a friend who prefers to string himself in fairy lights than sport a high-vis jacket – but if you are after some new stuff to help you stand out in a crowd(ed street), here are some of our favourites.

Lights

Cyclist using blaze laserlight on street

Front light: Blaze Laserlight
Smart as. On top of an impressive 300 lumen LED light, the rechargeable Laserlight projects a bright green bike symbol six metres ahead of you – giving you a greater footprint on the road, and other road users at every angle a heads up that you’re coming. I don’t tend to follow a ‘if it’s good enough for Boris’ mentality, but these clever lights are being added to every ‘Santander bike’ in the city, which sings for their high-vis creds. Plus they look great, are fully waterproof and engineered to last (important, because they’re not a giveaway).

Knog Blinder on bike

Back light: Knog blinder
People love Knog Blinders. They’re rechargeable, with a battery life that far outstrips most USB lights (and barely dims with time), and an integrated USB plug designed to withstand the elements – keeping them totally waterproof. They have three interchangeable straps to fit a multitude of posts, five different light modes, and they’re really bloody bright. What’s not to love?

Man on bike with MonkeyLectric wheel lights

Wheel light: MonkeyLectric
MonkeyLectric’s brilliant wheel lights have dual purpose: one, from a visibility POV they make you impossible to miss from the side, and two, they turn your bike into a mobile disco/art installation. All you do is fit a small light circuit board to the wheel, pick one of a number of patterns, and the wheel spin will turn your bike into a high-vis, conversation-starting light show. Either the most fun piece of safety kit on the road or the safest toy on the market.

Clothing/wearable accessories

Man wearing Proviz 360+ cycling jacket

Jacket: Proviz Reflect360+
As with all the kit listed here, cycling jackets are a very personal choice, but you’d be hard-pushed not to have noticed how many cyclists are sporting these at the moment – testament to their so-reflective-it-looks-a-bit-CGI charms. In terms of visibility, whether you go for the 360 or 360+ is up to you – they both use the now world-famous reflective tech, made up of millions of highly reflective tiny glass beads, and look kind of cool and grey by day. The + however, has upped the tech in terms of breathability and waterproofing, making it a brilliant all-rounder.

Man wearing Proviz flexi-vis cycling belt

Jacket alternative: Proviz Flexi-Viz Cycling Belt
Of course, you might already have a beloved cycling jacket that you see no reasonable need to replace. Or you might hate cycling jackets and want something you can put over your designer coat. Or it might be too hot for a top layer altogether, somewhere in a parallel universe or equatorial country. Which is why I like Proviz’s pop-over-anything then slip-into-your-handbag/manbag. While a lot of high-vis sashes quickly fall apart, this one is super durable, flexible and nice and bright.

Image of ankle with respro reflective bands

For moving limbs: Respro Ankle Bands
If you made it through the science-y second paragraph, you’ll know the benefit of adding a high-vis element to your (moving) legs. These stretchable Velcro ankle bands are reversible, with day-glo and Scotchlite options, work on slender knees and less-slender wrists, too. Simple, effective.

You might also like…

I can’t vouch for this one, and I hear the jury is still out on how well it works, but if it does, Volvo’s reflective LifePaint is totally genius – making either any textile you like reflective (and allowing you to wash it off afterwards). If anyone’s tried it, we’d love to hear what you thought.

Equally, if we’ve missed your favourite bit of vis-kit, let us know – these are just a few favourites, but there’s always room for another light source on my Christmas tree bike.

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13 Responses to Light fantastic: bright lights and hi-vis cycling accessories to make yourself seen

  1. Dave Hedgehog 07/06/2017 at 1:14 pm #

    Volvo Lifepaint is a total gimmick and anything but genius, they’ve been done for false advertising.
    http://www.bikebiz.com/index.php/news/read/volvo-s-cycling-lifepaint-ad-is-banned-by-watchdog/021279

    Anyway, seriously who is going to spray their bike and clothing with spraypaint? Imagine if they told brand new Volvo owners to do that… just goes to show the contempt car manufacturers have for other road users.

  2. Dave Hedgehog 07/06/2017 at 1:19 pm #

    I use the Respro Ankle Bands almost every day and can confirm they work better than normal bicycle clips which can either cut circulation or fall off.

    I have to put them in the wash every week as they can get covered in road muck but I’ve used them for about 18 months now and they’re great for visibility as well as stopping trousers from rubbing on the cranks and keeping the cuffs clean.

  3. Jules S. 09/06/2017 at 10:31 am #

    Like to add that for commuting the Respro “Ankle Bands are vital for wrists too so that cars can see you signal your turn intentions This is especially true for deadly right turns or on roundabouts.

    I train all year on a Wednesday evening with a cycling club. Apart from a short time during summer, a couple of guys wear the Proviz jackets. It is amazing how they glow so brightly. Once you see one in action you will know you have to buy something from their range!

  4. steve 09/06/2017 at 12:07 pm #

    cut two 2 litre Coke* bottles length wise and snap into place over your lower shin/ankle a la shinguards.

    *other brands are available
    4 litre bottles for bigger readers.

    • Jules S. 09/06/2017 at 7:13 pm #

      Tell me you meant to post this on Viz’s Top Tips!!

  5. Dave Hedgehog 09/06/2017 at 2:21 pm #

    Volvo Lifepaint is a total gimmick and anything but genius, they’ve been done for false advertising- there are lots of news articles about this.

    Anyway, seriously who is going to spray their bike and clothing with spraypaint? Imagine if they told brand new Volvo owners to do that… just goes to show the contempt car manufacturers have for other road users.

  6. judith richmond 09/06/2017 at 3:14 pm #

    I have a real problem with wheel lights such as MonkeyLectric. Sure you will be visible, but will drivers stare in amazement?

    Even normal, alert drivers in daylight conditions may steer in the direction of eye position during periods of intense fixation.

    Not the response I want!

    • MJ Ray 21/06/2017 at 1:02 pm #

      Showing flashing blue or green lights is also antisocial, imitating emergency vehicles and medics. If you must use them, amber only, please!

  7. Rabbit 11/06/2017 at 3:54 pm #

    I have a Torch helmet, and Aktiv lights on my wheels. I’d invest in Revolight wheels if I could afford them.

  8. Dave 11/06/2017 at 7:23 pm #

    Cassia, for excellent lights check out the Serfas range. I use the 1500 lumen e-lume front light and their 60 lumen Cosmo rear light for fast night time road riding. As a plus the e-lume has a very good day time flash (double pulse) mode which really does work.

  9. olivier 13/06/2017 at 1:28 pm #

    I had 2 Proviz Reflect360+

    Great for visibility, no doubt about that, but remember that this is reflective material, ie when no light (eg during the day), it is a boring grey (which might be good if you don’t like the aggressive yellow)

    However, disappointing for quality: the 2 I got (ok, I got the second one as replacement very quickly free of charge – known issue?) and both started to ‘peel’ after short time (3-4 months). Meaning that they started to loose their waterproof quality.

    And they can be a bit too hot at some point, there isn’t much possibility to let air in…

    Maybe I’ll be back when a mix of reflexibility in part of the jacket and standard material for the rest. Could be a good mix of visibility versus good quality.

    • Jules S. 13/06/2017 at 7:14 pm #

      Thank you Olivier, this is very constructive. Good lights and highly reflective bands on moving bits of the body may just be the answer. Nothing more fatiguing than over heating!

  10. MJ Ray 21/06/2017 at 1:07 pm #

    That Cycling Tips article is bunk. It cites a couple of studies claiming to show horrible colours and reflectors can be seen from further away in ideal conditions, but ignores the studies showing no reduction in cyclist injuries. Basically, it seems that the problem isn’t that motorists can’t see us – it’s that some are either careless or dangerous around us. You can’t fix that with clothing. Infrastructure and justice actions are needed.

    There’s an argument that by making yourself look unexpected, in strange colours and clothes, you actually make it LESS likely that people see you. The invisible gorilla or somebody else’s problem effect, if you want to search for it.

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