January 24, 2009

My name is Byron and I'm a reflective tape addict

I have an unhealthy obsession with reflective tape, I think I need to see a doctor.

It all began after I had recovered from a broken collar bone following an accident while commuting to work down Ome Kaido. After all the titanium and screws had been surgically removed from my body and I was all clear to start cycling again I discovered that I had become car shy. I had lost the confidence to ride assertively in traffic.

After discussing the fact with partner in crime Spud, he tossed a reflective vest my way. The vest was a bright orange Nathan Tri-Color Cross Trainer Vest sporting eye burning yellow, silver and orange reflective strips. It didn't appear to have a lot of reflective material, but under the beams of a cars headlights this vest is bright and visible from a long distance away. As I always wear a backpack when commuting though, wearing a vest isn't going to do me much good as it would be obscured at the back, so now I have this vest slung over my backpack and fastened with safety pins.

I give Spud and his vest credit for giving me back the confidence to ride in traffic again as the vest just screams "Cyclist ahead!" to cars all around. When its not screaming that I like to imagine its screaming "Hey dude, see this vest? Yeah, I care about my safety, now how about you care about my safety too!"

Not long after, I discovered reflective tape when a photo I took of a friends bike revealed he had a tiny speck of tape just below his seat post. This had gone unnoticed by me for over a year until, in the photograph it reflected a whole lot of the camera flash. I couldn't believe a 2x2cm patch of adhesive tape could make a rider that much more visible on the road.

By the following week I had discovered a source of reflective tape and placed patch under my seat post. I sure did have a lot left over though. I wasn't about to cover my bike in tape, but that seat post was starting to look like it could use a taping ... and a taping it got, top to bottom 360 degrees. Awesome finished. But what about the front? Shouldn't I be more visible to cars coming towards me? No, I didn't tape up all of the handlebars, just a little strip beside each grip. Maybe some on the front forks, and the rear chain stays, and a little on the cranks? Luckily by then I ran out of tape or things could have gotten more ugly than the already were.

While excessive use of reflective tape can be an eyesore, I remain convinced that it is the cheapest and easiest way to make yourself more visible on the road, so much so that I've devoted another page to the topic (see Reflective Tape for Cyclists - Be Seen, Be Safe) which examines different types of tape available and techniques for applying it, and also looks other reflective items such as gloves and vests etc.

I'm a reflective tape nerd, I'm passionate about it just like Bert from Sesame Street is passionate about his bottle top collection! Oh no, get me to a doctor fast ...

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