Editor’s note: Author Luke Elrath and I headed out to Washington Avenue Green to give our Photo Editor Thom Carroll a chance to capture some of the reflective clothing and accessories that help us be seen at night. Though lights and reflectors are required by PA law, there are lots of other ways to be even more visible, including reflective tape for bikes and casual riding-friendly clothing with subtle (though highly visible at night) reflective elements.
The three things I want in my wardrobe: I want my clothes to be comfortable when I am riding my bike (which is daily, almost everywhere I go), I want them to make me easy for motorists to see at night, and I want them to look good.
Collar, cables, and tires: all are reflective and visible from the side.
Recently there have been lots of brands and pieces to choose from that meet all three criteria. Levi’s has developed a Commuter Line including jeans with a touch of stretch, reinforced seat, U lock loop, water resistant fabric and a reflective hem inside the cuff. Beta Brand has a Bike to Work line of clothing including khakis with reflective printing inside both cuffs and a pull-out reflective flag inside the left back pocket. It’s perfect for grabbing the attention of the driver passing me while we are both on our way home from the office.
My favorite part of this trend is that to the untrained eye all these garments just look like clothes. I’m not against spandex, logos and technicolor patterns;* my closet is full of some pretty loud race kits** that I wear proudly. The real satisfaction for me is that I can reach into my drawer and know that I have several choices of pants, shorts, shirts and jackets that look casual, fit in at the office or the coffee shop, and still have the features that allow them to excel on the bike.
Luke’s collar, saddle bag, and cuffs all light up when a headlight shines on them from behind.
I believe that the increased demand and availability of these garments is a leading indicator telling us that more people want to ride their bikes for transportation, utility, commuting and fun. These riders choose to not amass specialized equipment that enthusiast riders possess. Not that there is anything wrong with wanting to go fast on a road bike or to shred the gnar on a mountain bike. I participate in both (and many more cycling pursuits) that require unique bikes, gear, clothing and preparation. But the value of not having to think about suiting up for battle, just being able to grab my lock, swing my leg over the bike, and go is priceless. Having a properly equipped bike is essential towards this end, but that’s another article for another time.