10 reflective cycling products to help you stand out in the dark

Reflective products and clothing for the winter

by David Arthur   October 16, 2013  

hiviz

road.cc reviews

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.

28 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

My commuter bike is black. Thanks to the forum on here, I've just sourced black reflective tape to liberally apply to the frame.

What would be even better would be frame paint that's black/coloured but reflects white.

posted by Al__S [532 posts]
16th October 2013 - 18:11

34 Likes

£100 quid for Rapha hi-vis??? I am sure I could get 100 orange hi-vis jackets from Arco... How can they justify it? Because idiots keep buying it!!!

posted by darranmoore [33 posts]
16th October 2013 - 18:56

29 Likes

1 post and this brings your ire?! Oh well. I wouldn't by the pink gilet and the other jacket is a bit 'outer' for me too. But then again hi-vis just ruins my style lines.

More reflective sticker ideas would be good. There was a company that did a nice range of skull and crossbones stickers which seem eye catching.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1120 posts]
16th October 2013 - 20:22

24 Likes

The mavic vision jacket has been discontinued according to my local dealer. Shame because it's a good bit of clobber.

I tried black reflective tape on my time mudguards but it was pretty useless compared to the white stuff, obviously really.

joemmo's picture

posted by joemmo [802 posts]
16th October 2013 - 20:46

23 Likes

joemmo wrote:
The mavic vision jacket has been discontinued according to my local dealer. Shame because it's a good bit of clobber.

Has it? It's still up on their website so we'll just fire a mail to the guys at Mavic to find out what the situation is.

Thanks

posted by Mat Brett [1871 posts]
16th October 2013 - 21:05

21 Likes

darranmoore wrote:
£100 quid for Rapha hi-vis??? I am sure I could get 100 orange hi-vis jackets from Arco... How can they justify it? Because idiots keep buying it!!!

So Rapha are happy to produce it. And people are happy to buy it.

What exactly is it that you think anyone has to justify to you?

Thanks for the update on Arco though. Very interesting.

posted by Mr Turning [33 posts]
16th October 2013 - 21:32

23 Likes

It's great to see some reviews on reflective gear, so thanks for that guys, but here's a bit of a moan (sorry)...

I think it would be handy to see what the rear of the garment looks like, ie the part that faces traffic coming up behind us.

Also, although it's great to see snazzy gear, how about highlighting ('scuse the pun) the fact that there are hi-vis vests out there for as little as a couple of quid, for those on a tight budget?

Finally, I'm not sure that advising (possibly impressionable novices searching on Google for advice about safe winter cycling) that "style conscious cyclists can boost their visibility without having to don a bright yellow jacket with huge reflective stripes" is the right thing to be saying, when large reflective stripes are indeed better than smaller ones. And the amount of reflective material on some of the garments featured is pretty minimal, frankly, when compared to an industry standard vi-vis.

I was just wondering whether you guys could do a "night time" photo shoot, to see which reflective jackets are the most, err, reflective?

"Hey..... Let's be visible out there."

Neil753's picture

posted by Neil753 [451 posts]
16th October 2013 - 22:22

22 Likes

'£100 quid for Rapha hi-vis??? '

it does seem a shame to spend out on a smart rapha top and then only wear it at night when nobody can see you in it

Northernbike's picture

posted by Northernbike [127 posts]
16th October 2013 - 22:45

21 Likes

I don't think much of hi-viz. I refuse to look like I'm going to a fancy-dress party as a highlighter pen just because drivers don't want to look where they are going in broad daylight.

I suspect its a waste of time, money and dignity. The only way to make sure drivers see you in daylight is to look as if you pose some sort of threat. A police uniform, perhaps, or a large bag conspiciously marked 'nitro glycerine, handle with care'.

However, I actually like reflective stuff at night. Not least because I have many times found the only indication of a pedestrian in the road/path ahead was my headlight glistening off of some reflective patch on their trainers that they probably didn't even realise was there. Or because of the times when all I see of a ninja-cyclist coming my way is the reflection from their mandatory pedal reflectors that they haven't removed (its for this reason I think the law about pedal reflectors on new bikes is actually worth preserving - its the only night-visibility aid many cyclists have, because its there by default).

But also, unlike the lurid yellow stuff I actually rather like the effect of reflective stuff, aesthetically.

But, for heaven's sake, you can get the reflective effect for pennies in the form of cloth rolls or armbands or sticky tape etc. There are also the reflective things that go on your spokes.

(I also plan to get some electroluminescent wire and use it to spell out 'don't overtake here, you knobhead' on the back of my backpack. To be lit up by a button press when appropriate.
Though, on reflection (!) that one _might_ turn out to be counterproductive. In the sense of 'getting me run over')

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [668 posts]
16th October 2013 - 22:48

22 Likes

Since this is an article about reflective, I think it should mention there is a legal requirement for a bike ridden at night to be fitted with a front (white), a rear (red) and four pedal reflectors (amber) in addition to the lights. Most police officers won't know the laws on reflectors, but the lawyers representing drivers probably will.

While the front and rear reflectors are almost useless, pedal reflectors do scream 'CYCLIST!!!'. Sometimes when I drive at night, I'm only able see ninja cyclists because of his pedal reflectors. People who use clipless pedals should really buy the ankle strap or consider one of the touring spd pedals with reflectors.

posted by Overweightrider [5 posts]
16th October 2013 - 23:03

22 Likes

FluffyKittenofTindalos wrote:
I don't think much of hi-viz. I refuse to look like I'm going to a fancy-dress party as a highlighter pen just because drivers don't want to look where they are going in broad daylight.

When I'm driving, I find that I'm more likely to see and register people in hi-viz sooner and further away than those in normal-viz. I don't think it's any kind of guarantee of safety against inattention or reckless driving but in general the stuff works, especially in the frequently not-so-broad grey murk that passes for daylight at this time of year .

joemmo's picture

posted by joemmo [802 posts]
17th October 2013 - 0:11

19 Likes

This company may be what you're looking for?

http://www.moglo.co.uk/reflective_stickers.htm

They also sell iron-on versions as well, so clothing could be upgraded too.

I love my bike's picture

posted by I love my bike [41 posts]
17th October 2013 - 0:40

16 Likes

A salient reminder of the benefits of hi-vis clothing occurred at today's inquest into the death of the Boris bike girl. Both the hgv driver and the bus driver who witnessed the tragedy said that they thought that hi-vis clothing may have saved her life.

"Hey..... Let's be visible out there."

Neil753's picture

posted by Neil753 [451 posts]
17th October 2013 - 1:10

18 Likes

I've got to agree with the reflective strips at foot/ankle level and something either reflective or a flashing light at head level. My commute to work is mostly country roads, and the couple of cyclists I pass most days really vary with how visible they are (one of which seems to to choose no reflective clothing and no lights for a 6am ride)
Those who have lights or reflective patches on moving parts of the body are far more noticeable, and it's much easier to see how far away they are and judge the speed they're going than with the reflective stripes on the chest etc.

I've got a few spoke reflectors and strips of tape on the seat stays and guards on my hybrid hack bike and they seem to be pretty noticeable when I've got someone else to test them.

Former Fat Lad on a Bike

posted by RobD [99 posts]
17th October 2013 - 8:05

18 Likes

Neil753 wrote:
A salient reminder of the benefits of hi-vis clothing occurred at today's inquest into the death of the Boris bike girl. Both the hgv driver and the bus driver who witnessed the tragedy said that they thought that hi-vis clothing may have saved her life.

Unfortunately that's as much use as people speculating that "if they'd been wearing a helmet...". Easy to say after the fact, impossible to prove and an effort to apportion blame to the victim.

joemmo's picture

posted by joemmo [802 posts]
17th October 2013 - 8:16

25 Likes

On the one hand, yes, and that's why I used to go for "road mender chic", but on the other I further noticed that the ability to see someone half a mile away as opposed to a couple of hundred meters is a bit of a moot point.

Times people have SMIDSYd me have been when thy haven't looked (and I've seen them not looking), and me running lamps and wearing day-glo and reflectives hasn't changed that.

These days I go for brighter but not fluo colours, but mainly because I like brighter colours, and a reflectives policy based on "enough is enough" rather than "more must be better". I do go for a reflective ankle band, mainly to keep my trews clean but also my clipless pedals don't have reflectors (wish they did!).

Pete Clinch
often seen riding a bike around Dundee...

posted by pjclinch [58 posts]
17th October 2013 - 9:10

18 Likes

joemmo wrote:
The mavic vision jacket has been discontinued according to my local dealer. Shame because it's a good bit of clobber.

Here's what Mavic have told us:

"They are still in the FW13 range (so in some selected stores now) but the Viz + range will not continue going forwards.

Here is the current lineup:
- Vision jacket: £120
- Vision jersey: £60
- Vision gloves: £45
- Vision Arm warmer: £30"

posted by Mat Brett [1871 posts]
17th October 2013 - 9:57

19 Likes

All the comments about pedal/ankle/shoe/overshoe refectors seconded.

When I used to have a 22 mile unlit commute I festooned the rearwards facing parts of my bike with reflector strips taken from a new traffic cone. They're VERY good.
Years ago I had some Vredestein tyres that had reflective sidewall strips, but it seems no one makes such things anymore, at least not for road bikes. Being seen from the side is often missed. In the absence of such tyres I put 3M reflective tape on the sides of the bike tubes and cranks.

Fluoro kit is definitely worthwhile in gloomy weather. Makes no difference in pitch dark, that's what reflectives are for.

posted by racyrich [118 posts]
17th October 2013 - 10:29

22 Likes

Nothing wrong with a bit of Crane Sports gear...lit and reflected up like a Weihnachtsbaum

posted by ct [39 posts]
17th October 2013 - 11:05

13 Likes

'reflector strips taken from a new traffic cone' Pure genius that. I assume you purchased said cone?

arrieredupeleton

posted by arrieredupeleton [551 posts]
17th October 2013 - 12:08

16 Likes

Horses for courses.

Bright/contrasting colour when there's reasonable light to see them. Though in this situation they should damn well see you anyway.

Flouresent fabrics in low light levels (dawn/dusk) because they re-emit ultraviolet sunlight as visible light.

Reflectives when its properly dark, as they send headlamp light straight back at the driver. Won't help when you are outside the headlamp beam (e.g. approaching a car coming out of a side road).

Always assertive road position, primary position at pinch points and junctions and not tucking behind other vehicles.

posted by RichardD [3 posts]
17th October 2013 - 12:20

14 Likes

Mat Brett wrote:
joemmo wrote:
The mavic vision jacket has been discontinued according to my local dealer. Shame because it's a good bit of clobber.

Here's what Mavic have told us:

"They are still in the FW13 range (so in some selected stores now) but the Viz + range will not continue going forwards.

Here is the current lineup:
- Vision jacket: £120
- Vision jersey: £60
- Vision gloves: £45
- Vision Arm warmer: £30"

Cheers - I think the vision jacket may refer to the softshell jacket, not the H2O waterproof one though (which is £110). I found that the middle sizes were sold out all over the interwebs but was able to find one in a nearby shop to try and buy.

joemmo's picture

posted by joemmo [802 posts]
17th October 2013 - 12:32

13 Likes

The Respro ankle bands are particularly effective. Our club does a weekly 6pm road ride and one of my club mates uses these, one side yellow out for dusk & the other reflective for when it gets dark. they are doubly effective as the are on a moving bodypart & the human eye has evolved to focus on movement. not bad for £15.

There are also loads of reflective tape options on ebay that are signifcantly cheaper than, just search for 3M

Carpe Diem ab absentis: seize the day off

Coodsta's picture

posted by Coodsta [95 posts]
17th October 2013 - 13:09

17 Likes

Schwalbe Sammy Slick tyres have reflective writing on the sidewall. Always surprised that more tyre manufacturers don't do this!

Felt B2R
Fuji Cross 1.0
Kona Shred

posted by nderk [1 posts]
17th October 2013 - 13:10

17 Likes

Because it looks nice...
I could buy an ASDA price suit thats functions perfectly for £40, however if I choose to look a touch my stylish why not pay £200 for a better cut/colour.

You pay for brand and design. We all know that Nylon is cheap and Rapha probably make it for about £2.50

posted by Cookie91 [16 posts]
17th October 2013 - 13:36

13 Likes

Hi Viz is pretty pointless at night anyway.

Leodis's picture

posted by Leodis [197 posts]
17th October 2013 - 14:33

14 Likes

Woo, Rapha rants!

I don't care, I live in a solid gold house and drink swans' blood for breakfast, from goblets fashioned of baby panda skulls.

Ghedebrav's picture

posted by Ghedebrav [1094 posts]
17th October 2013 - 17:42

14 Likes

darranmoore wrote:
£100 quid for Rapha hi-vis??? I am sure I could get 100 orange hi-vis jackets from Arco... How can they justify it? Because idiots keep buying it!!!

You'll look a bit of a dick wearing 100 orange hi-vis jackets as I pass you wearing just one.

posted by Dunks517 [44 posts]
26th October 2013 - 14:52

14 Likes