Add visibility in fall’s limited light for a memorable ride.

by John Brown

With school in session and Fall in full swing, using passively bright gear is a critical component to being better seen while riding our bikes. The two primary forms of visibility we need to focus on are passive and active visibility. Things like reflectors and bright colors are forms of passive visibility. In contrast, lights and blinkers are great examples of operational visibility. Read on to see where each one is helpful and most efficient.

Using visibility passively

Most autumn rides start in the light and only devolve into darkness as the ride stretches. Most riders rely on passive visibility to get them home in these cases. If your ride is under street lamps or lights, that passive visibility will get you home safely. The most common form of passive visibility is a lowly reflector. The CPSC requires these plastic devices installed on all bicycles sold in the United States. You will find glasses in white (front and wheels) and Red (rear).

Additionally, many apparel companies install reflective materials on their products. Like the reflector on your bike, these reflective materials will take any light thrown at you and return it to the source of the morning. Passive reflectivity falls short when there is no light source to activate visibility.

This jacket offers excellent visibility through color and reflective materials.

Sealing makes some excellent winter gloves that are both visible and insulated.

Using visibility Actively

When the area lacks a light source, you must create that light to keep yourself safe as a rider. For cyclists, Lights and blinkers are the most common devices for light. The light and the blinker differ because blinkers are designed to be seen, while lights allow a rider to see and be seen.

Great lights are usually rechargeable and use an LED bulb. These lights are necessary for riders who spend much time off-road or on unlit paths. While most mount onto the bars or helmet, a few companies integrate lights into the bike or your helmet.

MagicShine Bike Helmet and remote (inset)

Several bike helmets offer lights with a remote (inset)

Blinkers are usually battery-operated and use an LED to flash intermittently. These blinkers can easily be mounted to your bicycle. Blinkers are sometimes incorporated into helmets, gloves, shoes, saddles, and handlebars.

The Omni Bike Helmet, with photo receptor covered and lights on.

The Omni Bike Helmet, with a photoreceptor, is covered and lights on.

What to use this Fall

Mount a pair of blinkers to the bike (one front and one back). Switch on the blinkers when riding in low light and high traffic. A front light makes things safer if your route will be unlit for any portion. Overall, think ahead before your next ride and pack to ensure you can see in the dark while others can see you.

About John Brown, the author

John operates Browns Bicycle in Richfield, MN as a lifelong cyclist and consummate tinkerer. It all started for him in grade school when the bike bug bit him, and that particular fever is still there. Now, and over the past thirty years, he has worked at every level in the bike industry. He was starting by sweeping the shop floor while learning anything he could about bikes. He eventually graduated as a service manager and then a store manager. Through the years, he has spent extensive time designing and sourcing bicycles and parts for some of the largest bike companies in the world. All the while focusing on helping as many people as possible enjoy the love of riding a bike. In that pursuit, he has taught classes (both scheduled and impromptu) on all things bikes. John also believes in helping every rider attain their optimal fit on the bike of their dreams. Please feel free to stop in any time and talk about bikes, fit, and parts or share your latest ride. You can also see more of John’s tricks and tips on the Brown Bicycle Facebook Page.