A brand-name, high-visibility cycling jersey can easily run you $50 or more. High-viz jackets often go for $100 and up. But there are much cheaper options out there for being seen on the road, especially if the only feature you're really looking for is a bright, eye-catching, high-visibility color to alert drivers to your presence.
First of all, for safety I always ride with some sort of high-visibility shirt or jacket. I consider urban and road cycling to be the single-most dangerous outdoor activity I do. To minimize the risk of being hit by a car, I strive to make myself as visible as possible. As I detailed in my recent article, Now You See Me: Bike Lights, Reflectors, and High Visibility, that means wearing ultrabright (ideally fluorescent) yellow-green clothing (as well as having front and back bike lights and an abundance of reflective material on your bike and gear).
If you ride long distances on a daily basis—say a long, two-wheeled work commute—you'll want to have a collection of high-visibility cycling shirts so that you have a fresh, non-sweatified, non-stinkified garment without having to do laundry every few days. (At least during the warm times of year; in the colder months, a single ultrabright jacket can suffice.)
So you can either invest hundreds of dollars in a drawer full of cycling-specific jerseys—or you can buy inexpensive high-visibility T-shirts that sell for around $10 or less. With this in mind (and after much online perusing), I recently ordered several shirts from Alert Shirt, a small online retailer that specializes in high-visibility safety clothing.
Based in Valley Stream, N.Y., Alert Shirt seems to cater more toward professions that require high-visibility clothing as part of the job (construction, road work, etc.). But that doesn't mean their garments won't work well for outdoor activities like cycling or running.
Alert Shirt offers a range of shirts and hoodies; the two options I like are their basic T-shirt ($5.99) and their Class 2 Pocket T-Shirt ($10.99), which incorporates reflective stripes across the chest, back, and shoulders (a better option for riding at dusk or at night). I just ordered several of each. Alert Shirt also has some good prices on water-resistant, high-visibility windbreakers ($30 to $35, pictured right) as well as more bomber (and probably a bit much for cycling) jackets and coats ($45 to $65).
Sure, you make some sacrifices by purchasing a simple T-shirt instead of a cycling-specific jersey. Cycling jerseys are designed to be form-fitting for comfort and to prevent it from flapping around in the wind. They use highly-breathable, fast-wicking synthetic fabrics to minimize sweat-soaking. And they usually feature several pockets at the base of the back for storing a water bottle, snack, wallet, or keys that you don't want in your riding shorts or pants.
In contrast, a T-shirt is, well, a T-shirt: loose-fitting, sans pockets, and often made of cotton or a cotton-poly blend. (The Alert Shirt product line is a mix of options. The basic T-shirts are a 50/50 cotton/poly blend; others are all polyester.) But considering I can buy more than a week's supply of daily commuting apparel for less than the cost of a single cycling jersey, it's a small sacrifice to make.
Learn more about cycling gear and accessories in these recent posts:
Bicycles for Children of all Ages (2012)
High-Visibility Backpack Covers for Cycling (2012)
Spare Your Pieces: Noseless Bike Saddles (2011)
Get on the Bike: Which style is right for you? (2011)
An Airbag for Cyclists (2010)
Bicycle Helmets: More Reasons to Wear One (2010)
“Equipped” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Matt Heid.
Labels: Bicycles, Clothing, Cycling, Safety