Motorcycle 101 – Hi-Vis Vests

Motorcycle riding, while incredibly fun, is not without its hazards. In fact, part of the joy of riding is the thrill of danger. But just because the sense of possible danger is exhilarating, doesn’t mean you need to behave recklessly. There are many steps motorcyclists can take to improve their safety on the road. Smart cyclists will wear protective gear and learn to use their bike effectively, with proper turning, braking and evasive maneuvering. Unfortunately, even the most conscientious biker cannot control the biggest risk on the road… oblivious automobile drivers. Motorcycles are easy to miss because they are smaller than cars and fit easily in the “blind spot”. The agility of motorcycles often surprises unsuspecting drivers. And since motorcycles appear with less frequency on the road, they become a second thought. Many automobile drivers operate in a state of auto-pilot rather than heightened awareness, relying on habit to get them from point A to point B. All of these factors put motorcyclists at risk of being hit by an unaware driver. The best defense against these drivers, is making sure they see you.

The easiest way to increase your visibility on the road is by wearing hi-visibly safety vests. These vests are particularly important if you ride a dark colored bike, as darker hues tend to blend into asphalt. Most motorcyclists notice an immediate change when they start wearing a visibility vest. Drivers notice you more quickly and often give you more room on the road and at intersections. And since most cyclists spend hundreds of dollars on safety gear, such as helmets and jackets, this will be refreshingly inexpensive addition to your riding wardrobe.

The following is a list of things you need to look for when selecting the right hi-vis vest for you.

  • Quality construction. A quality vest is constructed of durable materials that can be machine washed. Fasteners such as zippers or snaps need to be easy to manipulate while wearing gloves.
  • Bright colors. Vests come in all sorts of bright colors and you can choose whichever suits you based on personal preference. Some believe that bright orange is best because motorists are conditioned to look for orange vests on roadside workers. Others think an unexpected color is better because it catches attention. Certain hues will stand out more when worn against your jacket’s color, so try on a few and select the best one for you.
  • Reflective strips. Your vest should feature reflective materials. It is recommended that you also purchase reflective arm bands, since the vest will not be able to reflect light on your sides.
  • Comfortable fit. The vest should be comfortably snug. If it is loose, it should have adjustable strips that allow you to cinch in. The vest should not restrict movement, so when you try it on, experiment with movements and various stretches.
  • Buy two. Always carry a spare vest for passengers. A reflective vest does little good if the back of it is blocked by your riding companion.