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.
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).
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?
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.
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.
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.
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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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.