The Hi-viz Conundrum

By Gerde Applethwaite

Shorter: Why wouldn’t you wear hi-viz? After I bought a Firstgear Mil. Spec. Hi-viz Vest for a friend as a Christmas present I got to thinking about hi-viz…..again.

I bought the Firstgear Mil. Spec. Hi-viz Vest because it is my favorite amongst our hi-viz vest options. My pal’s gear is pretty much all black and I thought It would be smart to help make him more visible on the road. He thanked me for the present and then made a self-deprecating joke about his reluctance to wear it not because of some sort of fashion choice but because its just too visible. Yeah, we both cracked up. This lead me to wonder about what keeps people from buying hi-viz gear. I see more and more folks kitted out in hi-viz every day especially bicycle riders. Whether on Motorcycle or bicycle I only wear hi-viz these days.

For a mere $60.00 you get an instant upgrade for your lo-viz jacket or suit. For me this is a no-brainer yet there are plenty of folks out there who do not see hi-viz as a viable option. I am sure that moto gear manufacturers take this into account when designing their new gear. How they go about this I do not know. I imagine gnomes in Alpen caves looking into vats of bubbling future-predicting goo to suss the trends for the latest Alpinestars lineup. Who knows? I guess they hire fashion consultants (who may or may not ride) in order to get input into the designs for the latest looks. If you read my stuff at all you know by now that I constantly rant about the cluelessness of gear manufacturers when it comes to both hi-viz and reflective tape use. This seasonal design thing quickly becomes an odd game of cat and mouse though: when does consumer desire tilt the scales for manufacturers and when do the fashion mavens wholly dictate product design? Mostly I suspect it is the latter.

The fashion bonzos are not asking questions like: “What percentage of cage drivers who strike motorcyclists say to investigators “Golly, I just didn’t see him.”  Instead I am convinced they are saying stuff like “if we add the farkle X graphic scheme to this helmet how much can we expect it to bump up our sales in the 18-24 demographic or ”Sure we have to put some reflective stuff on jacket Y but “If we only put a little bit of reflective tape on this jacket we can save an extra .02 cents per unit.”

Another way that might work in the effort to coax manufacturers toward the bright would be to have insurance companies offer riders a discount for wearing hi-viz clothing and helmets. It would certainly be to their advantage but I don’t know how you would enforce it.

I am convinced that unless the push comes from the consumer side my vision of a hi-viz option in every part of a manufacturer’s line is a very long way off. The next time you go shopping for riding gear think for a moment about that half-wit in a cage texting his way down the road – right toward you.

Gerde Applethwaite

Firstgear Mil. Spec. Hi-Viz Vest On The Road

By Gerde Applethwaite

Shorter: I bought the Firstgear Mil. Spec. Vest and took it out on the road to see and be seen.

I wrote recently about the wisdom of buying a hi-viz vest and just popped for the Firstgear version. Wait? What! More hi-viz chatter from Gerde? Yup. Hold on – this is a nifty sixty-some-odd dollar solution to your hi-viz needs. This time I flipped my hi-viz ride test scenario. Instead of riding around with it myself and asking folks how well they could see me on the road I reversed it. I loaned the vest to various riders on a few rides so that I could judge its visibility over that of conventional jackets. As predicted it makes a huge difference. I am now a big fan of the hi-viz vest for substantially increasing your visibility while wearing one of your no-viz jackets. Firstgear says that it provides you with visibility at a thousand yards away. This is not hyperbole, I tested it out and yup it’s true.

The design of this vest is the best I have seen to date as regards the placement of both the hi-viz fabric and the reflective material. The design is savvy all the way around – including the side area below the arm pit which is hi-viz, black and reflective. It is your standard CE EN-471 hi-viz color.

First gear makes this in three doubled sizes, I mean; extra small/ small, medium/large and large/2XL. I bought the medium/large and its a snug fit on my old medium Tourmaster jacket. They have sets of adjustment straps on the sides so you can easily snug it up to fit your jacket.

The vest is constructed mostly of a double layered mesh material so it will breathe air right through to the vents in your jacket. The mesh also gives it low wind resistance and I don’t get any annoying flapping at all – the vest zippers closed. They have placed an ID wallet on the chest (that’s required for the Mil.Spec. Part.) It is Velcro’d on and you can just pull it off if you do not need to have your id immediately available. If you have any particular medical needs in case of an accident I think its a good idea to leave the wallet in place and put that info in this chest wallet thing on a laminated card. I ironed a Flying Spaghetti Monster patch over the front of mine. Voila.

There is a long narrow pocket on the back and it just fits my empty helmet bag. It will instead fit a pair of gloves

Ask yourself this: how many times have you idled past drivers on a clotted freeway or at a stop light and looked over to see folks banging away on their cell phones? I see it every damned day! For something a bit over sixty dollars why wouldn’t you want to enhance your visibility in the face of the half-wits on phones in car cages across the land.

Gerde Applethwaite