Glowing like District 12
March 8, 2013 4:53 AM   Subscribe

Looking for reflective "things" for my bike.

I'm Japan and own a "city bike". I often have to ride it late, in all weather. I have so-so headlamp that lights up when I'm riding.

What can I add to my bike to make it more visible from as many angles as possible? I once saw some sort of reflective things a guy had on his wheels that made it really bright! And I know about those little reflective dots...but what actually works?
I want to glow, especially since I tend to have to ride in dark work clothes.

posted by DisreputableDog to Shopping (16 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
3M makes several types of vinyl, highly reflective tape. It is basically a long roll of the stuff that's used to write POLICE and AMBULANCE on official vehicles. They're something like 10,000x more reflective than conventional refelctors (which don't really do anything).

You can also get LED valve caps.

There are also several companies making really great front/rear lights - I like Serfas. Twenty bucks will get you a super powerful LED that's USB-rechargable and easily removed from your bike for when you lock it.
posted by entropone at 5:20 AM on March 8, 2013

Reflectors in the spokes of both tires. Cheap and easy.
posted by three blind mice at 5:26 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Get more lights. IMO if you don't have two each, minimum, on the front and back, you are not visible enough (again, IMO, at least one of them should be constant and the other flashing/strobing) - this is just my opinion as a driver and former cycle-commuter-in-all-weathers. High-vis jacket or at least one with a lot of reflectors on. If you wear a backpack you can get a high-vis cover for it. You can get either little LED lights to attach to the spokes or thin foam tubes covered in reflective material that go over the spokes.

Apologies for UK links when you're in Japan, they're just to give examples.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 5:27 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you really want it to glow, I noticed a company on Kickstarter a while ago called Revolights that do a very cool-looking wheel light product. I think there are others that do this kind of thing, through various methods. Here's a Lifehacker article on making your own much more cheaply.

I haven't tried either of these. What I have done, for the past two winters, is buy a €2 pack of short, battery-powered Christmas lights and rigged it to my spokes with electrical tape. I can't vouch 100% for its safety, but I haven't had any spontaneous detachments yet. If you want to see what my wheels look like with the lights attached, here you go. They are amazingly bright in low-lit areas. A lot of fun.
posted by distorte at 5:35 AM on March 8, 2013

You might try motorcycle shops. In the US, Aerostich sells a flashing LED armband that is bright and conspicuous.
posted by workerant at 6:23 AM on March 8, 2013

I have LED spoke lights from MonkeyLectric and love them.
posted by Signed Sealed Delivered at 6:51 AM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Niteize SpokeLits! They're only about $7.50 USD each on Amazon. I recommend you buy four of them (two per wheel) and pick up a bulk pack of the watch batteries they take at the same time; replacing the batteries from tiny packs sold in electronics stores gets very, very expensive.
posted by Juliet Banana at 7:00 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seconding the NiteIze SpokeLits !

Because their movement is nonsymmetrical (when you put only one per wheel) they seem to catch the eyes of drivers better than a solid or flashing light moving in a straight line. They are inconspicuous when turned off, though accessory theft is probably less of a sport in Japan than it is in my city.

The MonkeyLectric style seem to distract drivers and other riders, rather than just alerting them to your presence.

I use a popular bike trail at dusk daily, and the neatest lighting I've seen has been electroluminescent wire wrapped around and fastened to the bike frame: very TRON.
posted by Kakkerlak at 7:18 AM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Another thing to consider is a reflective vest you can wear over your clothes. From the front and rear, bikes don't present much surface area to show reflection. Your body does.
posted by advicepig at 7:24 AM on March 8, 2013

get one of these and cut it apart and stitch it onto the back of a vest !
posted by cheesyburgercheese at 7:32 AM on March 8, 2013

Get some reflective tape and put it on:

Pedals (any flat part around the edges)
Shoes (sides, backs)
Seat (back)
All of the tubes (I think that's what they're called?) of your frame
Helmet (front, sides, back)
Any other available surface that will take tape (on my bike, that's my racks and the bags in my racks)

Then get some of those SpokeLits and put them on your spokes.

Then get some Planet Bike front and rear blinkies: Front Blaze, Rear Superflash (and you might also want to consider carrying backup lights in case your batteries fail, I like the Flea).

Basically, you want to be visible from every angle, and whether or not car headlights are present. I do think the SpokeLits work well, I notice them when I'm driving, but I notice blinkies and reflective tape more.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 7:48 AM on March 8, 2013

For your person, I recommend the Dargelos lightning vest. Or--if you're feeling spendy--something in Lumatwill, made to order from Dashing Tweeds. Raver gear shops sell LED gloves and lots of battery-powered bodylights that attach with magnets.

Alternately, you can buy sew-on reflective fabric tape, which can be sewn to sleeves or collars or hemlines or wherever you want it. It more durable and easier to work with that reflective plastic strips, but also more expensive.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:55 AM on March 8, 2013

Reflective tape strips in the gaps between spokes on your rims will turn into glowing hoops when the bike is in motion. You only need strips every third gap on the rim to achieve this.
This gimmick used to be sold as a kit but cyclists soon just started buying 3M tape and making it themselves. This has the advantage of being much more visible for and aft, but does little from the side.
posted by No Shmoobles at 8:06 AM on March 8, 2013

Definitely check out deal extreme for a front light and a back light. They're cheap but very bright and take those larger-than-AA rechargeable lithium batteries which give you over 1.5h light. Buy 4 batteries, a charger, and they make bike attachment accessories.

I've been tempted to cover my bike in 3m diamond grade reflective tape, which is "very" reflective but very pricey. It's sold on amazon by the meter I think.

You can also but reflective rucksack covers that work well.
posted by guy72277 at 8:09 AM on March 8, 2013

also, cool neon. you could line your handlebars, or do something artistic with it.
posted by acm at 8:26 AM on March 8, 2013

Thirding the SpokeLits. Cheap and effective. You can also get a string of LED lights that are battery powered if you want to add more glowing (I do this during winter holidays, when it is dark most of the time). You can also buy a jackets with integrated lights, or just use a reflective vest which is cheaper if somewhat less glowing.
posted by mikepop at 8:41 AM on March 8, 2013

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