I started making my own bicycle-friendly clothes with reflective trim last year because I was looking for options that didn’t scream “I bike!” Everything I found was too niche, too sporty, too expensive, too Tweed Ride, and often, only in dark colors. I wanted to be able to look stylish as I biked to work, when The Mechanic and I are out on a bike date (or running errands, less romantic but more common), met friends for coffee, and so on. Nothing fit my admittedly high standards of reflective cycle chic.
Even though I enjoy making my own clothing, I haven’t stopped looking to see what else is out there. And recently I found some things at REI that I got a bit excited about initially, but didn’t end up buying.
I really liked the look of this Novara shirt. I think it’s this Ruston Plaid Bike Shirt .The colors on the website are a bit too “I’m a lumberjack” for my taste, and sadly, this color in the store wasn’t available in my size.
I also love that the tabs are totally reflective – what a great idea. But it does mean that you pretty much have to roll up your sleeves for them to show. I’m not in love with the mesh sides, but don’t disagree with the need for some ventilation. Just not work appropriate. Alas, I didn’t take a picture of it with the flash.
Then I found these Novara Pilsen Cycling Shorts, which I was also pretty tempted to buy. The back of the waistband is higher than normal, which is nice, and there is a loop to tuck your U-lock into, it’s got those reflective tabs, and a padded seat.
I love the reflective tabs, but I don’t like my shorts to be too short, plus, every pair of shorts I’ve ever owned that rolled up ended up being too tight for my large thigh, so then I couldn’t wear them rolled up. I didn’t try these on, maybe it wouldn’t have been an issue.
The biggest problem with these pieces is that it’s as if the designers threw every “bike” feature at them without thinking about it. The shirt will clearly work for cruising around town as well as for mountain biking, but with that reflective fabric, it seems to be to be more practical for running errands on a late summer or fall evening, when you want drivers to see you better. What’s going to reflect on a mountain bike path? Do you often mountain bike in the wee hours? Or even dusk? Unless you are an extreme athlete , that doesn’t seem very safe. And do mountain bikers carry their U-locks with them? The padded seat – if you are just biking around town, do you need the padding? So are they mountain bike shorts or casual “townie” shorts? These pieces are bit too much of everything to make them really great. Okay, I haven’t yet been mountain biking, so many I would want to carry my U-lock, reflect so the bears can see me, and flash my thighs at the deer.
One of the things that BikeArlington and goDCgo like to emphasize in their bicycling outreach is that one does not need special clothing to ride a bike. It can be done in yoga clothes, jeans, business suits, whatever you feel like wearing that day. I like anything that reflects on the back, arms, and legs, and bigger than a wee logo on a hem (Lululemon, I’m looking at you) or a tiny square on the back of a shoe (Merrell, now I’m looking at you). And a reflective patch on the underside of the collar is a good start, but seriously, I’m not going to channel my 1980s high school classmates and go all preppy with a turned up collar. It’s nice that those designers consider those details, but they haven’t thought through, apparently, how useless those little bits are if they are your only reflective touches. That’s why I love the reflective plaid fabric – it makes you much more visible in the dark, even as a pedestrian. I would love to see more reasonably-priced fashions designed with better visibility in mind, as well as some truly practical bike features.
If you were to design your ideal bike fashion outfit, would it include anything reflective? Does visibility make any difference to you? Do you wear anything to make you more visible to cars? Or am I the only one so obsessed?