Dressed for visibility?

Discussion in 'Equipment' started by trscott, Mar 16, 2007.

  1. trscott

    trscott Been here awhile

    Mar 8, 2007
    Newberg, Oregon
    This is just sincere curiosity from a new rider. I can't resist asking if anyone else has noticed what I have. Sometimes someone from the outside sees things more clearly with fresh eyes (of course you might think I am an idiot!):

    I rode a touring bicycle commuting in traffic for about seven years total before learning to ride a motorcycle, so I was already prepared for the concept that we are "invisible" to cars. Everything I have read, and everything I was taught in the MFS course I took, and all my experience as a road bicycle rider, taught me that high visibility attire is a real good idea; no guarantee that a "cager" will see you, but every little bit helps.

    After a great deal of looking around at riding gear, I bought the Olympia AST jacket in neon yellow:


    It turns out that this particular choice has a secondary effect, in that some of the local two wheeled cops wear yellow gear that is roughly similar. I have been told that riding on my 1100GS (a lot of cops ride boxers), with an Aeroflow Fairing, black boxes on the back, and that yellow jacket, I trigger some of the "oh shit" neurons that people have wired for when they see a cop and quickly try to make sure they aren't breaking any traffic codes.

    I figure any resemblance that makes them notice me better is all a very very good thing.

    This is what I don't understand: I was the only one in my MFS class, including six different instructors who all rode to class, who wore high visibility riding gear. One of the senior instructors even commented on how visible it was and asked what brand it was and where I got it. Everyone else was in black or grey, except for one student in a dark red. A lot of people had a token retro-reflective stripe here or there, but my contention is that this helps in the dark, but the bigger problem (especially here in the pacific northwest) is the grey overcast days, and dusk, when lights can morph into "distant cars", and retro-reflective is almost useless. Black or grey in those lighting conditions seems almost suicidal.

    I will probably get flamed for this, but I have a hard time seeing how we have much credibility complaining about not being seen, when we are riding around with 20% of the profile of a car, and decide to dress like Johnny Cash! If you go to the top twenty manufacturers of touring gear, you are hard pressed to find 10% of their gear that is more than 50% high visibility materials. A thin stripe of yellow doesn't count much. The single most common style is solid black, and second is probably grey.

    Don't get me wrong, I don't want more rules telling us what we have to wear, and I genuinely do not object if someone wants to wear black as a style thing, but shouldn't we then admit that we really do not care if anyone sees us? Yeah, I know, they SHOULD still see us anyway, they drive black cars, why can't we ride in black gear? But we know that the narrow aspect of a bike is just harder to spot and harder to get depth perception from. We know they have trouble seeing us. Isn't it just a bit disingenuous to complain about them not seeing us, and then ride around looking like ninjas?

    For my part, I do not mind if I look like neon bananna, if it helps keep me from becoming a hood ornament on a Soccer-Mom's Land Rover.

    I really don't intend this to be an attack on anyone's fashion sense, I just wonder if anyone else has noticed this and sees the same logical inconsistency that I do?

    Just trying to keep the rubber down...
  2. TexBiker

    TexBiker Been here awhile

    Oct 4, 2006
    East Texas
    You'll find lots of these discussions in the "Equipment" forum below.

    Personally, I wear a yellow helmet along with the radioactive AST jacket and I've got a Phantom suit on order. I know hi-viz gear only works if the soccer mom actually looks before she swerves the Suburban across three lanes of traffic, but I'll take any edge I can get.
  3. aylorr

    aylorr Rakkasan

    Oct 23, 2002
    Gig Harbor, WA
    Couldn't agree more, and I look positive radioactive on the road.

    Please fill out your profile.
  4. lfmn

    lfmn Been here awhile

    Jan 7, 2007
    Charles Town, WV
    My Harley has an American flag mounted on the back and I rarely get tail-gated, crowded or forced over when I ride it. Even though I always wear more attention getting colors on the Adventure, I have far more close calls. I'm thinking about mounting a flag on the Adventure and seeing if it helps.
  5. ikonoklass

    ikonoklass Kountersteering Krew

    May 5, 2002
    Denver, CO
    No, you're completely right. There seems to be some question as to whether yellow or white is the best helmet color. As far as the rest of your attire goes, most of it's black for "image" reasons. It's completely retarded. My own theory is to wear contrasting primary colors, or to ride a bike of one primary color, and wear clothing of another.
  6. Wolfhound

    Wolfhound Been here awhile

    Mar 13, 2007
    San Diego, CA
    Good post. Yes - dress as you feel will get you observed most easily. BUT - never rely on this to accomplish that goal!!

    I always wear my full kit and have a red/white theme in my jacket, gloves etc. I think the contrast is very important. At night - I wear an orange vest. I went to considerable expense to turn my front indicators, mounted in the mirrors, to running lights.

    any time I am driving and see a biker, I am interested in seeing how observable he/she is and as a general rule, black is not good.

    Take care
  7. Spicy McHaggis

    Spicy McHaggis Darth Peach's cracker...

    Jun 13, 2006
    Cannonsburg, Michigan
    I wanted a Tour Master Transition jacket. Only color they offered in XL-Long was black. It really pissed me off. Completely.

    So, I bought an Icon Mil-Spec vest, in what I call "screaming yellow". I will be wearing it most of the time, ESPECIALLY once I get to Juneau and it's dark, cloudy, and raining.

    I, too, wish more mfgrs would offer more of their products in hi-vis colors.

    BOUNTY HUNTER Bavarian Bomber Wrench

    Sep 1, 2006
    Manchester, NH
    Ride like you are invisible and have the mentality that you are invisible. Wear what you want. Personally, I'll stick to:
    Black Helmet, dark / black gear & being as inconspicuous as possible. If they don't see you, they have nothing to complain about and no description. Expecting others to "see you" is begging for an accident. How many cages hit trucks and the driver says "Sorry officer...I didn't see that white 18 wheeler coming down the road. He must have been flying"???
    You asked, I replied! Just my opinion.
  9. JR356

    JR356 Long timer

    May 4, 2005
    Way Northwest

    I'm all for being as visible in traffic as possible,my helmet is yellow and just got a great Ebay deal on a yellow/black Kili air jacket.

    However I do own at least one black jacket and all my riding pants are black.
    One of the very few benefits of the dark colors is that all the dirt/bugs/stains from riding are not as visible.

    If I was commuting regularly on the bike,I'd probably invest in an Icon safety vest or the Olympia Phantom one piece in eyeball frying neon yellow.


  10. Snapper

    Snapper Long timer

    Oct 10, 2003
    SW CT
    I wear a gray aerostitch and silver helmet.... admittedly, not very visible at all.

    I rely on the lights of my bike for visibility. With Motolights upfront, the triangular light pattern looks kinda like the commuter trains around here... it makes people think twice. The huge problem with single point lights up front is that it is exceedingly difficult for cages to accurately judge your distance and closing speed. For the same reason, you can't judge distance properly using only one eye.

    In back, I've a bright flashing LED light tied into the brake light and, of course, the stich has the reflective strip across the back.

    I see motorcyclists approaching with hi-viz stuff all the time, and very frankly, I can hardly notice it behind the headlights of the bike. 90% of your visibility risk is in front of you.
  11. RichBeBe

    RichBeBe All Hail Seitan!!! Supporter

    Mar 13, 2004
    I bought a neon yellow AST in the fall and it is the best piece of safety equipment I have bought in a long time. I ride in NYC and I get cut off so much left. Plus when I go to work i get comments.
    A special education 1st grader said to me the other day "Mr. B I didn't know you are also a fireman."
  12. Jamming

    Jamming Desert RAT

    Sep 7, 2005
    Buckeye AZ.
    On the bike I want to be seen from another planet with the naked eye. That's how bright I like my gear. I could give a shit what other people think when I walk into a store. If it saves my life once or more I hope, it's worth it.

  13. SCQTT

    SCQTT Zwei Kolben

    May 16, 2005
    Mike's Sky Rancho
    Solid colors work best. The bigger the better. Patterns and stripes tend to hide things. (think German WWII ships) Soild white or yellow helmets really do the trick. A 12" white "ball" floating down the street really stands out. Wild graphics and colors on helmets would seem to work, but they break up the shape too much. Same goes for jackets and bikes.
  14. Reprobate

    Reprobate Sarcasm Loading....

    Feb 17, 2003
    Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
    I was really pissed off when my wife bought an orange rain jacket and they didn't have one in my size. All the other rain jackets were black - while you need the vibrant colours the most when vision is obscured...

    My wife and I bought new pants today - black and silver with reflective patches on the side. I don't look like a firefighter, but I'm not Johnny Cash either. White helmet, blue and silver jacket, black and silver trousers and lots of retroreflective shit. Even so, I don't count on being spotted...

    And the reason most gear is dark? Hi-Viz is severely uncool. :rolleyes
  15. RaiderSix

    RaiderSix R6 commuter.

    Dec 5, 2006
    Lakeland, TN
    I just wear whatever color I like. I got cut off by a Ford truck making a last minute left turn while having full brights on and a fluorescent orange Fox racing jersey in the middle of the daytime. Endoed my brand new R6. It kinda made me give up on the beeing seen thing. Now if they would let us run around with flashing red and blue lights I would go for it in a heart beat. :evil
  16. Artboy57

    Artboy57 Slave to THE MOUSE

    Nov 10, 2005
    BEE-yoo-tee-ful Eagle Rock, CA
    +1 on the neon AST. I've definitely seen more notice from drivers. I'll take whatever edge I can get, especially after dark.
  17. makinwaves

    makinwaves Long timer

    Jan 22, 2007
    Travelling in South America!
    Excellent observations trscott! I recently purchased what is considered one of the safest textile jackets available on the market (see my review here... http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=207629) and my one real gripe was the lack of visibility with either colour or retroreflective material.

    I saw someone wearing the Olympia AST jacket in yellow and was really impressed when I had a chance to see it up close.

    I'm in the Pacific North'wet' as well and during the rain or dark I throw on my super hi-viz vest. Along with my 'spaceballs' white helmet I'm a lot harder to miss when visibility is poor.

    If you can believe it, it is a much much brighter yellow than the picture shows. I'm a crappy photographer...


  18. chaserkeywest

    chaserkeywest Been here awhile

    Jun 27, 2006
    Key West
    GOOD for you, I call my Neon helmet/jacket outfit my Ronald McDonald suit!
  19. TomN

    TomN Long timer

    May 4, 2005
    Chalfont, PA
    I agree, I have a all white helmet and a yellow Joe Rocket jacket (want that Olympia but can't bring myself to spend the money till my old jacket is worn out)
  20. GoNOW

    GoNOW Long timer

    Feb 22, 2006

    Along with a modulating headlight, flashing brake light, and orange helmet skin. I may look like a dork, but people don't pull out in front of me, so I don't care. The less time I spend in the ER is more time on the bike.