Bend in the Road: Light ’em up!

Hi-vis clothing trends upward, and you should consider it

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My neighbor Lou doesn’t give a damn what you think.

At 52 years old, Lou wears a day-glo construction-worker vest over his street clothes when riding around town. He’s interested in drivers seeing him, not their thoughts on his fashion. Lou also drinks scotch in public parks, on occasion, from a child’s sippy cup. There, he just wants his scotch not to be seen, and again, he could not care less about what people think of a grown man nursing a plastic bottle.

As roadies, we generally don’t possess Lou’s bold indifference to others’ opinions. A vest with the shape and feel of a shower curtain just won’t cut it. But we do share his need for visibility on the road, especially as drivers spend more and more time looking at the screens of their smartphones and less and less time looking at, you know, the road. And that’s why the current trend towards fashionable hi-vis clothing is A Good Thing.

It’s funny how fashion comes around. Day-glo green helmets that looked ridiculous to me a couple of years ago now make sense — and match some of my clothing.

Whether with helmets, clothing or shoes, there are two basic thoughts for being seen among brands: high-visibility colours and/or reflectivity under light. 

For 2016, the hi-vis colours will be day-glo green, yellow and orange, if the seemingly endless displays at Eurobike and Interbike are any indication. Some brands like Pearl Izumi argue that these colours, when done right, are two to three times brighter than white.

Many clothing brands have sewn small reflective elements into the seams of jerseys and shorts for years, or added flashes on jackets. Now reflective piping is being added into the full run of seams, or into the logo of shoes like those from Fizik.

This moto gp sl kit from capo features bright green panels that visually pop during the day…:

The bright green leg and arm bands on this Moto GP SL kit from Capo visually pop during the day and reflect car lights at night 

Some companies like Capo or Pactimo are building leg and arm bands with tiny reflective dots incorporated into the fabric that looks normal during the day but pops under artificial light.

Now the folks at Pearl Izumi will tell you that some of these reflective elements aren’t as safe or as highly visible as others. I’m not interested in wading into a Clintonesque argument about the definition of what vis is; I’m just happy to see more of it makes its way onto what we wear.

Two people I used to ride with are dead from car/bike collisions, and you probably know someone who has been hit or had a close call.

I’m constantly nagging my children as they leave the house on their bikes to watch out for cars, “because the cars are not watching out for you.”

“Yes, yes,” they say with more than a little annoyance, “we know how to ride our bikes, dad.”

I’m sure you don’t want to be lectured, either. Enough preachy talk from a bike columnist can have any grown person reaching for a scotch-filled sippy cup.

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All I’m saying is that I’m glad we have more options than ever for getting drivers’ attention with what we wear — without having to go the construction worker route like Lou.