Switching Up From Night Viz to Day Viz
Post updated May 2021
With the daylight hours appreciably longer and the sunshine making far more regular appearances, the focus for our cycling get-up can go from night viz to day viz. Unless you regularly cycle home in the middle of the night after shift work or you enjoy a pre-dawn zoom around your local roads, it is safe to say that your grey, fully reflective cycling gear can be packed away until the autumn. Jackets such as our best-selling REFLECT360 Cycling Jacket are great for lighting you up like a beacon in the path of on-coming headlights after dark, but we are the first to admit that they are not the right choice for daytime rides.
Day viz needs a different approach, so we have put together our top tips for staying safe and seen on your spring and summer cycle rides.
Choose a Colour Scheme to Clash with Your Environment
It may seem obvious, but next time you are driving, look out for cyclists wearing grey or black, especially in urban environments, where they may as well be wearing camouflage. We predict you may see quite a few! This is not just because these dark, neutral colours are often more flattering and many of us are self-conscious about exercising. There is also a big debate about whether cyclists should embrace wearing high viz at all, as it seems to be an acknowledgement that cycling is inherently dangerous and thus absolves drivers of their responsibility to drive with due caution.
As keen cyclists ourselves, we feel very strongly that anyone getting behind the wheel of a car should do everything in their power to avoid inconveniencing or harming other road users (you know, don’t be drunk, on drugs, half asleep, on your phone, fighting with someone in the backseat – all those things).
However, there is no doubt that cyclists make it easier for other road users to spot them if they wear bright colours that clash with their surroundings. Giving drivers more time to register your presence and react accordingly does not (in our humble opinion) say ‘I’m here, sorry to be creating a hazard as I enjoy my dangerous pastime’, it says ‘I’m here. I have as much right to use this road as you do, but I realise that I am more vulnerable than you are and I am doing all I can to avoid a situation where you do not see me and I inevitably come off worse in a collision.’ It is not worth risking injury to prove a point and we promise that your bum will look worse in a hospital bed than it does in high viz!
Go For High Viz Colours With Reflective Elements
These hard-working garments will not only help you to stay visible on the road during the day, they will also help you to stay visible if, for whatever reason, you are out on your bike as the light fades. We’ve all planned routes that take us longer than we expect or stopped off for a drink in the pub on the final stretch of our journey, so that we end up coming home as dusk falls. It is far easier to have multi-tasking bits of kit that help you stay seen by both day and night, than having to cart around a change of kit for when the sun goes down.
We are biased, but we recommend our Nightrider Cycling Jacket, which is available in high viz yellow or orange (for men) and high viz yellow and pink (for women) and features significant reflective accents for those times when you’re out and about in low light conditions.
Be Aware of Your Backpack
You may be patting yourself on the back for having opted for the most vibrant high viz cycling jersey and jacket combo you could find, but if you then put on a black or navy rucksack for your journey, you are having a detrimental effect on your potential visibility to those behind you.
If you have spent many years finding the perfect rucksack and are not keen on starting all over again looking for a high viz equivalent, invest in a backpack cover. This will allow you to enjoy the comfort and functionality of your favourite stuff carrier without compromising your visibility.
Take Me to Your LED-er!
An easy way to make your spring/summer cycling kit step up its performance for the evening or for challenging daytime conditions, such as fog or fine drizzle, is to opt for kit that has integrated LEDs. These add very little extra weight, so won’t hold you back or make you sweat more when the sun is out and you are powering up that hill. They can also be switched on and off as needed, so it is a super-efficient way to enhance your visibility when necessary.
Keep It Simple
You want to enjoy your time in the saddle and not worry about whether you are wearing the correct combination of the 106 garments and gadgets you have accumulated to keep you safe on the road. If you have items in your collection that are not suitable for day viz (such as a drab, grey fully reflective jacket) and you aren’t planning any nocturnal adventures on your bike, pack them away until the autumn. Having a capsule wardrobe of suitable kit choices will make preparing to leave the house for those spring/summer cycle rides a lot easier.
Be Prepared For Sudden Changes in Weather Conditions
Having advised you to pare down your kit, it is also worth remembering how quickly conditions can change during a classic British summertime and to make sure you are prepared for all eventualities. This is especially important if you are planning a long ride that will take you a long way from home. You can start your day in the bright sunshine and, by lunchtime, be battling headwinds and driving rain. Choose a lightweight, waterproof and breathable top layer that is also equipped to keep you visible to other road users in low light conditions. This can be folded down small and stowed in a pannier or backpack when conditions are fair and called into action to help you face bad weather.
It is also worth cycling with a neck gaiter. This lightweight bit of kit can double as headband to stop sweat getting in your eyes when the sun is shining, but it is quick drying and can be pulled down to keep your neck warm if the clouds roll in and temperatures plummet.
If you are confident of decent weather conditions for your ride (or you don’t mind getting a bit wet in the rain), opt for a high viz cycling gilet instead of a jacket. A gilet is lighter and more comfortable to wear in warmer weather than a jacket and will help to keep you visible to other road users. It also allows you to wear a favourite neutral-coloured cycling jersey without compromising your safety.
If In Doubt, Keep Your Bike Lights On
Bright sunshine may seem ideal for cycling - it is certainly a hundred times more enjoyable than some of the conditions we contend with each winter! However, in terms of your visibility, it is sometimes as bad a driving rain or dense fog, especially as evening falls and the angle of the sun hits drivers square in the eyes, dazzling them and making you momentarily invisible. To make yourself as noticeable as possible in low-lying, bright sunshine, keep your lights on and set them to flash mode if you can.
In fact, it is worth keeping your bike lights on for cycling in any bright sunny conditions, as passing from bright sunshine to deep shade (going through a tunnel or passing through a section of road that is densely wooded on either side) can also impair drivers’ vision, and you are more likely to be seen if you have your lights on.
Place Your Trust in Neon
We’ve all seen the videos and images online of the car driving down the road and the cyclist or pedestrian approaching at the side of the shot. In one version the person is wearing black and in the comparison shot they are wearing bright neon colours. It is astonishing how marked the comparison can be.
A person wearing black blends into the background until the last moment, whereas a person wearing high viz yellow is visible from hundreds of metres away, giving approaching traffic plenty of time to register their approach and react accordingly if necessary. There is nothing more effective in daylight that high viz block colours, whether you are in an urban or a rural environment. Don’t mess about with high viz detailing on otherwise black garments. If you are serious about your safety, go all out and invest in a fully high viz jacket and jersey.
Even if you are an experienced cyclist, well-versed in the rules of the road and your rights on the highway, unexpected things can occur. If a child or animal runs out in front of you and you need to swerve into the path of an oncoming car to avoid it, it is far better that the driver spotted you in your high viz as a potential hazard for hundreds metres before the incident occurred. That way, when you have to take evasive action, they have a better chance of successfully doing the same.
Check All Your Old Kit
If you have been cycling for years and already have a core selection of trusted day viz kit that comes out of the attic every March when the clocks go forward, it is worth checking that all your kit is still fit for purpose. Have those reflective strips all but worn off? Are those LEDs on your favourite lightweight waterproof jacket a bit too dim to be useful? Is the waterproofing on your favourite jacket a distant memory (likely to leave you soaked to the skin after the first ride through an unexpected shower)?
It is probably not necessary to buy a completely brand new day viz wardrobe, but investing in a couple of key items that are box fresh and far brighter than your old, very well-worn and well-washed items, could help other road users to spot you a bit earlier. They could also make your cycle rides a bit more comfortable, as a jacket that now lets the rain in is far from pleasant to wear!
Learn to Love Your Kit!
Neons may not suit you. They may clash with your hair and make you feel like you are going out in fancy dress. You may feel aggrieved that it is necessary to wear them at all; that our roads and cycle paths should be safe enough for you to get out and enjoy your favourite pastime in whatever outfit you please.
However, we’d like to make the case for high viz being your friend, not a gaudy embarrassment intent on making you look daft. When you put on high viz to cycle, it is like going out with a noisy companion that constantly shouts ‘We’re here, We’re here!’, only instead of shouting and ruining the zen of your cycle, it does it silently and unobtrusively, allowing you to take in the scenery and enjoy your ride.
Wearing high viz is akin to a mate that knocks on a driver’s window hundreds of metres away from where you are, happily cycling along and minding your own business, and says ‘See that guy over there? Take care when approaching and passing him.’ This mate may not be the coolest or most stylish buddy you have, but he has your back and that is the most important thing.