Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Things You Should Have While Night Cycling

When I worked at night, I needed to ride my bicycle to the job site and this meant riding along dark streets that weren't often as well-lit as I would have liked and alongside cars being driven by people who weren't as observant of cyclists as I would have preferred.

To increase my night-time visibility and hopefully decrease my chances of getting hit by a cars, I added a few things to my bike and gear (e.g. more reflectors, better lights, etc) and I must say that I survived every single ride without a scratch or a close-call.

I've decided to mention things that I use and some others I have found-out about since then.

Safety Shirts, Jackets and Vests

These are shirts that have an easily-seen color (e.g. lime/yellow or orange) to them and are equally as good for riding at night or in the day. You can buy them at Walmart or at a store that caters to construction crews, as they are often required wear for employees.

Rather than spend $10 for a shirt at Walmart, I looked around eBay and found someone selling them at a much cheaper price. There are actually quite a few people on eBay selling these shirts in safety yellow, but this is the one I bought mine from. The people at addicted2shirts didn't charge me for shipping, so it was a pretty good deal. They also have a website, which you can find here.

Another website you can visit to look for reflective raincoats and vests is uniforms4all and their selection of reflective rainwear can help keep you safe, yet not cost a lot of money. I've noticed that many people forego buying safety equipment simply because of cost. While money should be no object in regards to keeping you alive and out of the hospital, there's no sense in spending money when there's no need to do so. Visit their website here and their selection of reflective gear is found here. I compared a jacket I found at Sears for $75 with one uniforms4all is selling and quickly noticed that I could buy three jackets from uniforms4all for the price of one from Sears.

I will grant that these shirts, vests and jackets can look rather dorky when you're not riding your bike in pouring rain at night, but when you are, it's better to be safe than well-dressed. I just wish that Chrome sold a jacket like these, but one that would look totally cool while keeping me safe at the same time.

But, if you absolutely must be stylish and reflective at the same time, you can go to We Flashy and browse their selection of shirts and sweaters. The prices are a bit steep, but the shirts are fucking awesome!

Reflective Gloves

One would think that an item like this would have been more widely-available than they are. Seriously, most cycling gloves have a thin reflective strip on them like that little piece of cloth will actually help drivers see you  on the road. As Gorilla Monsoon would say: "Give me a break!".

But, persistence paid-off and I found a cycling glove that can actually get the job done and it's called GloGlove. These little wonder can either be worn alone or over your regular gloves, so you can stash a pair in your bag if you ever get caught out at night.

Flashing Pedals

Okay, these are really nice and they put out a lot of light to the front, sides and back. The lights flash white in the front, yellow in the middle and red towards the back. I'd prefer that they simply flashed yellow, but that's a personal preference. You can them buy at Walmart's online storeAmazon.com or from Pedalite's website.

Bike Brightz

I've blogged about these before, but they bear repeating. These lights are attached to your bike with zip ties and shine colored light downward, creating an aura of light under your bike that makes you very visible from long distances. I found-out about these from an ad they posted on Facebook and immediately bought a pair. Visit their website to check out the available colors, which they are adding new selections to all the time.

I even felt safer when I had these on my bike the first time I used them. Their biggest drawback is that they attach with zipties, which can be easily cut and they can be attractive to thieves. I simply bought a fistful of zipties at the store and would use some to attach them to my bike, cut them when I had to park and used another four to reattach them when I got back on the bike later. Granted, you'll use-up zip ties pretty quick, but you'll avoid having them stolen, which is always a good idea.

Reflective Stickers

I've bought the typical ones that you find at bike shops that are cut into all sorts of shapes, but I soon gave-up on these because they'd wear-out very quickly. Judging by the shapes offered, I suspect that these are aimed more for children than adults. Most cyclists I know don't have reflective stickers on their bikes, even though it would be a good idea to increase the reflective are of their bike frame.

I decided to find a type of sticker for my bike that gave good reflection and would be durable in all kinds of weather. I finally settled on reflective safety tape like the kind used by construction crews and you can see what I mean by going to this link. These tapes are meant to last a long time and can stand up to rain or cold weather and can take more punishment than the kiddie stickers. I didn't order mine online, I just went to Safety Systems here in Honolulu, which specializes in safety equipment and is the primary dealer in this city. I bought and 18 inch long piece for less than $5 and I cut it into strips that I placed on my frame, cranks and wheels. I added them to my cranks and wheels so that the reflective surface would move and attrat attention from drivers. I tend to prefer the yellow/amber color, since these are most often associated with road crews working and red could be mistaken for something else, like another car.

You don't have to have any artistic talent (I don't) to cut them into strips, which makes it easy for the average person. If there's a retailer in your area where you can buy some, pay them a visit. I also think that you can find them at Home Depot. A pretty popular brand is Reflexite Conspicuity Tape, which is widely available online from various retailers. It's often sold by the roll because it's primary customers are assumed to be work crews for companies or government agencies, but you can buy them by the strip. US Cargo Control sells them, if you can't find it locally.

If you want reflective stickers that look nice and you can have a stylish look to your bike as you ride at night, have a look at Ryde Safe Reflective Decals. These are very impressive and you have a good seletion of colors and shapes to let your imagination run wild.

I'll add more suggestions as I find them, so this blog is a work-in-progress.

Duane Browning
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