Biking Shorts - November 20, 2012


By Barbara Schmid

In my opinion, too many cyclists are invisible on the road. We just don’t realize it.

Riding against a light breeze, legs churning, heart pumping, enjoying how the morning light plays against a building....we feel vibrant and alive. We’re connected to the earth. How could we possibly be invisible to motorists?

But we often are.

Many times, it’s because a cyclist is wearing dark clothing, which blends in with the asphalt. I’d personally like to burn all the black cycling shirts and jerseys that some riders prefer to wear. Black? Really? It may be a good color for burglars or fashionistas; it’s not a good color choice for cyclists.

Safety conscious cyclists choose bright colors over fashion. Neon yellow, lime green, construction zone orange offer a pop of color that motorists can see from far, far down the road. Pretty blues, dark reds, and even multi-colored jerseys simply aren’t as conspicuous against a gray sky, dark foliage or even on an open road.

I learned that from a kind stranger. 

Six years ago I was riding my dark blue Specialized Roubaix across the Southern Tier route, from San Diego, CA to St. Augustine, FL. Somewhere in western Arizona, if I remember correctly, a woman in a van stopped me and my two riding companions on a flat, open road in the desert. It turned out she was the support driver for a Women’s Tour cycling group.

She pointed to each of my companions, wearing neon yellow and said, “I could see you from a mile away.” Then she pointed at me, wearing a sleeveless, colorful jersey, and said, “I couldn’t see you at all.”

Wow! And I thought I was totally visible in that jersey. But then, I realized, I was also wearing a black Camelbak water hydration pack that covered much of my back.

The woman was so concerned for my safety that she handed me a “slow-moving vehicle” orange triangle that we attached to my Camelbak. And from that day forward, I also only wore a vivid yellow, sleeved jersey.


Another validation for color: During a local group ride, I pulled on a bright orange windbreaker for the last few chilly miles home. The group had strung out a bit and when we regrouped, one rider commented that she was amazed at how well she could spot me from a long distance away. That much visibility made enough of an impression on her that she vowed to ride in brighter colors.

If what we wear can make such a difference in how well we’re seen on the road, it’s curious that more people don’t do it. I’d rather look like an LSD nightmare, a kaleidoscope of color, than have a sexy, black jersey cut off during an ambulance ride.

Of course, there are no guarantees that bright colors will keep us safe, but I’m hedging my bets that it helps. I hope you do too.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


Note: These are my views and opinions and in no way reflect those of GGRBC.



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