Buyer's guide: the best reflective cycling clothing

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Buyer’s guide: the best reflective cycling clothing for winter riding

If you're after kit to make sure you're seen this winter, here's our comprehensive guide to all things high-vis

Everybody wants to be safe while they’re out riding and as well as the obvious things – like riding with lights – reflective clothing is another small measure that will improve your chances of being seen on the roads when it’s gloomy out.

In the past, the problem has always been that reflective clothing on the bike has been a little, well, functional. If you wanted to be seen riding on a winter’s morning or evening (or sometimes even in the middle of the day, when it barely seems like the sun rises), you most likely end up looking like you’re on the way to help with some road works, or guide some children across the road after school.

There are two major problems with this. The first is that the clothing wasn’t made to perform well and be reflective, it was made to be reflective. That meant that as a shining beacon of safety on city roads it excelled, but as performance cycling clothing it was rubbish. The second problem was that it looked awful, and if there’s one thing a traditional roadie can’t stand, it’s a lack of style.

Performance-focused, high-vis clothing is beginning to catch on, with a number of manufacturers producing clothing which works well on the bike, as well as ensuring you are seen on the road. The reflective panels in this Proviz jacket ping when hit by light

Fortunately, whereas before it seemed that the two would never meet, manufacturers are slowly coming around to the fact that there’s a significant market for good-looking, correctly-fitting reflective clothing, and there are a range of options, from full-on hyper reflective kit, to bits which are a little more subtle.

Before it was cool, high-vis clothing made sense. Now that it’s high-vis and cool, it’s downright crazy to not add a few high-vis bits to your winter or commuting wardrobe. In this guide we’ll run through some of the options out there.

Shoes and overshoes

Hyper reflective material on shoes has been around for a while. Bontrager’s XXX LE road shoes (£229.99) are an early example, combining a flouro yellow with mega reflective material on the inside. What’s brilliant about them is that they combine all the tech found in Bontrager’s best shoes (they’re the second most expensive shoes in Bontrager’s range, below the £259.99 XXX Road shoes reviewed here) with the high visibility, so you’re not making a compromise one way or the other. What’s bad is that they’re so well ventilated you couldn’t possible wear them on a winter evening ride without overshoes, but that’s another story.

Giro’s latest Empires look like normal silver shoes until you hit them with bright light – like a camera flash in this instance

Another company who have caught on to the trend are Giro. The Empire ACC shoes (£229.99) we tested earlier this year had a silver body and a reflective heel cup, but the latest version (pictured above – and you can find more info here) have gone all in and used that material for the entire outer of the shoes. It’s a great idea but, once again, when the weather turns bad you’re probably going to want some kind of overshoe or oversock to add some warmth or rain protection, which means that bright exterior will be hidden. Basically, if you want to keep that high-vis trend going you’ll need some matching overshoes. But does such a thing exist? It sure does.

Bontrager’s XXX LE Road combine a fluoro colourway on one side with tons of reflectivity on the other

For winter riding, high-vis overshoes make really good sense for a couple of reasons. The first is that even if you’re shoes are reflective, unless your overshoes are too then it won’t matter. The second is that your feet are almost constantly moving so it’s nice and easy for them to catch the eye.

If you’re after something a bit understated then, as ever, Rapha might be your first choice. Their Reflective Oversocks (£25) have a band of reflective material around the top, rather than going all out and, as oversocks, they give you a choice for cool days when it’s not raining. It’s a nice way to work a little reflectivity into your riding kit without going all the way. On the other hand if you choose the coral or bright green versions you can aim for a hitherto unprecedented level of brightness.

Raphia’s reflective oversocks are one of the few ‘Belgian bootie’ options on the market that incorporate reflective material

When it comes to full overshoes, Sugoi have their Zap Booties and Shoe Covers. Sugoi were in early on the reflective trend, and have offered the reflective Zap range for a couple of years now and it includes kit aimed at both commuters and full on roadies. The Sugoi Zap Booties (£54.99) are like classic overshoes with a tight aero-esque fit but with reflective material making up 80 per cent of the uppers, as well as a side zip which should remove some of the discomfort that can come with standard rear placed zippers.

Castelli have also waded into the reflective overshoe market with their Reflex Shoecover model (£75). Interestingly, they’ve also managed to produce two colourways: reflective black and reflective silver, which is a nice touch even if you’re not exactly spoiled for choice.

Jerseys and jackets

If there’s one part of you that makes sense to be lit up, it’s your upper body. From the perspective of other road users, your upper body is the single largest and most visible surface on your person – it’s the same reason why pro team jerseys have the most prominent logos on the front and back of the jersey; they’re the easiest places to see.

One brand who have dedicated themselves to reflective clothing are Proviz. Their Reflect 360 jacket (£109.99) made huge waves when it first came out for it’s unprecedented level of visibility and rightly so. If you watch the promo video, those aren’t after effects, that’s genuinely how the jacket looks at night when hit by direct light. The problem was that although the jacket was great for commuters, it lacked a little as a piece of performance bike wear.

After the success of their commuter range, Proviz have developed a line of performance-led, high-viz clothing

So ProViz went away, had a think, and came up with another version: the PixElite Softshell jacket (£119.99), pictured above and which we’ve reviewed here. This one combines the fit and features of a performance-led softshell winter jacket with a huge amount of visibility in all the right places, and a racy fit. The PixElite fabric has reflective yarn is intertwined with a brushed polyester material which is warm and breathable. Proviz’s PixElite performance range also includes bib tights, a gilet and a jersey, as well as a women’s jacket and gilet.

ProViz aren’t the only brand to get in on the high-vis jacket game, though, and if you’re after performance without quite as bold a look, Pactimo’s latest Alpine RFLX thermal jersey (£95) might be more to your taste.

Stolen Goat’s Climb and Conquer jacket combines high-vis material on the rear pockets with a much more varied styling option than most of the plain black jackets currently on the market

The reflective touches here are distinctly subtler – a strip across the shoulders and hem at the back, a logo on the pockets and a band on each arm – but no less effective and would work nicely for a rider who wants to be seen but doesn’t want to be seen to be seen, if you know what we mean.

Not all jackets combine their reflectivity with black as the main colour and Endura’s Luminite range and Stolen Goat’s excellent Climb and Conquer jacket (£129) , reviewed here, both feature more colourful designs. The Luminite range straddles both commuter and performance wear, and the jackets lean towards the classic commuter colours of bright yellow, green or pink with a fair amount of hyper reflective detailing and, as a lovely final touch, a built in light on the rear pocket. Stolen Goat have opted for something considerably less loud, and added Pixel 100 technology to the rear pockets of their sky blue, white and grey jacket – and the same on the rather fetching starry-detailed women’s jacket too. Stolen Goat’s Orkaan tights, which we reviewed last winter, also use the Pixel 100 fabric on the rear and legs, making for a thoroughly high-vis ensemble.

The Pixel100 fabric on Stolen Goat’s Climb & Conquer jacket is smartly placed on the rear pockets

As well as now offering a reflective version of their overshoes, Rapha have increased the amount of reflectivity on a couple of other bits in their range, without necessarily compromising the understated styling with which Rapha are associated. While the Brevet Jersey (£140) has always had reflective bands around the chest and back, a reflective band has now also been added to the Rain Jacket (£180) and Club Jersey (£110).

Bib tights

If you had to choose between high-vis tights and a reflective jacket, the jacket would win every time for the reasons mentioned above. But, seeing as you don’t, why not go with both?

Thankfully, for the sake of taste, most brands haven’t gone all out and made bib tights that are reflective in their entirety. Black with a significant quantity of reflective detailing seems to be the trend across the board, and whether you want a lot or a little, there’s something that’ll work for you.

ProViz offer one of the most visible sets of bib tights around, and their PixElite tights have high-vis material making up the majority of the lower legs

ProViz sit at the ‘a lot’ end of the spectrum, as you’d imagine, with their PixElite bib tights (£74.99) having entirely reflective lower legs so everything from the calf to ankle sparkles under the beam of car headlights. They combine that with reflective panels on the side of both thighs and are probably the most high-vis package on the market at the moment. Unusually, the bibs also have a substantial amount of upper body coverage for added insulation and wicking – to the point where calling them bib tights seems like a bit of a stretch.

A step down in the reflectivity stakes are the winter bibs from Altura and dhb, both of which line their tights with reflective strips, but stop short of aiming for any full panel coverage. Altura’s Peloton NightVision tights (£69.99) use their eponymous NightVision tech to offer a claimed 360 degrees of visibility. They also offer a windproof version of the tights (£79.99) for use in deeper winter conditions.

Altura’s NightVision range includes bib tights, gloves, a jersey and jacket

Dhb’s Flashlight Thermal bibs (£60) go with a similar style, but instead the detailing takes the form of hexagonal printing on the material with one on each calf and three on the thighs. It’s definitely a more stylised take than Altura’s, but one that’ll certainly catch the eye on the road.

Pactimo offer a reflective companion to their Alpine RFLX jersey in the form of both full bib (£115) and 3/4 length (£110) Alpine RFLX tights. These are one of the subtler offerings, limiting reflectivity to the leg openings and left thigh (which is likely a nod to their North American core market who ride on the right hand side of the road). Castelli have also added some reflective detailing to their Nanoflex Pro bib tights (£159.99) for 2016. The inner half of both calves and lower front of the tights are now made from a water resistant reflective material nailing two important functions in one go.

Pactimo have gone for an understated approach to reflectivity on their latest Alpine RFLX kit, adding high-vis panels only where it matters

Accessories

Finishing touches come in all shapes and sizes, and if you’re after an accessory or two as the final pieces to your high-vis jigsaw, you won’t be disappointed with the choices available, from headwear to gloves and plenty in between.

First up is ProViz’s Reflect 360 Waterproof helmet cover (£14.99). Yep, we know it doesn’t look great, but if you’re after visibility for your helmet but don’t want to mount a light, a helmet cover is pretty much your only option. Unless, of course, you fancy grabbing a can of reflective paint and giving your helmet’s aeroshell a makeover (we’re only half joking, it’s not a bad idea).

It might not be the coolest piece here, but if you’re after full-on reflectivity then ProViz’s helmet cover might be just what you’re after

Keeping with the headwear theme, Sugoi offer a Zap Skull Cap (£24.99) where the bottom third at the back is reflective. It’s smart, because that’s the bit that pokes out from under the helmet’s retention system as the only bit that’s actually visible. So making the whole thing out of relative material would be a waste of time.

Down to the hands and plenty of brands offer gloves with reflective detailing. Sugoi, ProViz, Altura, Madison, Sportful, dhb – in fact, most brands, do some kind of winter glove with a high-vis element. If you’re after something neoprene, Altura’s Thermastretch gloves (£24.99) have a large reflective section on the backs of the hands, as well as a logo down the index fingers. If you want something for the coldest of days, mind you, then Endura’s Luminite Thermal Gloves (£39.99) might be more suitable, combining that reflective detailing with a significant quantity of insulation.

If you’re committed to bib shorts rather than tights during winter, then Castelli’s Tempesta leg warmers (£80) are definitely worth a look. They might be pricey, but they combine a brushed Nanoflex material the upper leg with a waterproof and high-vis lower leg section to make for a potent combination. Stolen Goat have waded into the arm warmers market, and their Orkaan Weatherproof arm warmers (£28.49) have reflective patches on the elbows, combined with a water repellent and breathable fabric that will help keep you warm, dry and seen up top where Castelli’s excel on your legs.

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