10 reflective cycling products to help you stand out in the dark
Reflective products and clothing for the winter
Other road users have a responsibility to look out for you when you're out riding your bike but as the days draw in it doesn't do any harm to give them a helping hand. Front and rear lights are a must - you're not safe or legal on the road without them, but it’s also worth thinking about other effective aids to your night time visibility too and that's where reflectives come in.
Walk into any decent bike shop and the shelves will be stacked with a variety of reflective products, from jackets and waist coats to sticker packs and ankle bands. As we head deeper into autumn, and soon winter, there's a good chance more of your riding time will be spent in the dark or at the very least, low light, and for many people that means donning some reflective products, or a product with a significant amount of reflective detailing.
Before we go any further it's worth clarifying that reflective clothing or other kit doesn't have to be in fluoro high viz colours - reflectives work - as the name suggests by reflecting back any light that plays on them - black jackets made from the right material or with the right reflective detailing can be just as reflective as fluoro yellow ones - indeed studies suggest that in the dark, in car headlights a reflective product is going to be more visible than a fluorescent one.
But will wearing reflective clothing or products guarantee your safety on the road? There are various studies that have looked into the effectiveness of such products, one in 2009 found fluorescent vests were not a significant improvement on black clothing at night. It concluded that at night reflective knee and ankle stripes were far more effective. That's because the up-and-down motion from pedalling can catch the eye of the motorist more than a large reflective stripe across the back, which can appear stationary. So the placement of any reflective product is as important as wearing it alone.More recently, road.cc ran a news story about a study that suggests it’s reflective, not high-visibility, clothing that is the answer to being seen in the hours of darkness.
For that reason, we’re going to focus on in this guide though is reflective clothing and accessories to boost your visibility to other road users. Not everyone is a fan of reflective clothing, but you'll know if you are or not, we're certainly not trying to convince you one way or the other. We have though picked out 10 reflective products that give a snapshot of the availability, from ankle bands to jackets.
One thing we've noticed in recent years is that a lot of clothing manufacturers are paying more attention to visibility. Beside the obvious trend of fluoro, more clothing designers are adding in reflective details, often very discreetly in the seams or zip lining and smartly applied details, so that style conscious cyclists can boost their visibility without having to don a bright yellow jacket with huge reflective stripes. So it's easier to add some reflectivity to your outfit without looking going overboard.
The most salient point to come out of the studies above are the findings that reflective strips on the ankles, due to the pedalling motion, is perhaps the smartest move in increasing your visibility. These simply Respro Hi-viz Ankle Bands don't cost a lot and wrap around the ankle with Velcro securing them in place. They may not be that fashionable, but if you plan to do a lot of riding, whether it's commuting or training, in the dark, then they're a sensible idea.
If you wear overshoes in the winter (and who doesn't) then a pair of overshoes that offer reflective details are a good idea. These Endura Luminite overshoes will not only keep the weather out of your socks, but with 3M Scotchlite reflective details will provide 360 degree visibility.
Rapha's Hi-Vis gilet is high-visibility pink is ideal for those people who just can't stand to wear a bright yellow jacket, and proves other colours can be combined with reflective strips well. It's made from a DWR windproof fabric so is properly functional for this time of year, with two-tone reflective stripes providing bags of visibility. Not cheap, but it's the sort of garment, like most of the products on this page, that will get stacks of use through the autumn and winter.
Sticking with Rapha, the The Rapha & Raeburn Wind Jacket is a very unique looking and stylish (well we reckon so anyway) jacket with big reflective spots on the arms. There's also reflective tape at the seams. The jacket itself is a special edition and is made from repurposed military parachute fabric, durable woven nylon, which is designed to resist rips and tears.
From Proviz this Electroluminescent Waterproof Cycling Jacket is a highly visible commuting/training jacket for riders that want to be seen. Proviz call themselves specialists in reflective and hi-vis clothing, and this waterproof jacket has some good reflective strips along the sides, front and back to offer 360 degrees of visibility.
Gloves are a good candidate for adding some hi-vis and that's the idea behind these Proviz Winter Cycling Gloves. Useful for signalling an intent to change direction or lane, there's a large reflective panel on the little finger and across the back of the hand.
Another good way to help you stand out in traffic is to have a Respro Hi-viz Nitesight helmet band. It easily slides onto any helmet and a rubberised backing keeps it in place. Once fitted, you're looking at about a 300m visibility range in traffic, and is a good partner to bike-mounted lights.
A popular product in cities is the Respro Hump. It wraps over any backpack and gives a huge increase in visibility, with the bright yellow colour and large reflective side bands and central arrows. There's a small mesh pocket do stashing an LED light. The Hump is also waterproof so acts as a good way of keeping the contents of your bag dry, and the bag itself clean of mud and road grime.
The Respro Camo Sticker Kit lets you customise your bike, mudguards, panniers, with shaped reflective panels. There's of course nothing stop you simply buying a roll of Scotchlite reflective tape and getting creative with a pair of scissors.
Using a bright orange with shaped reflective strips, the Mavic Vision H2O Jacket is a top-notch waterproof jacket that is the ideal choice for riding in the dark, whether it's commuting or training. They haven't skimped on the reflective bands, they're generously applied to the chest, back and shoulders, though there could be more on the arms.