When it comes to riding in low light conditions, neon bright clothes alone just aren’t enough. At least that’s the theory being put forth by an Australian study, which purports that cyclists are putting themselves at greater risk if they rely solely on high-visibility apparel when riding in close proximity to traffic during times of low light or at night. Along with a set of good bike lights, adding reflectivity to the equation decreases your odds of getting squashed by a bus, say researchers from Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane.
“We found that crashes disproportionately occurred during low-light conditions such as at dawn, dusk or at night,” said Dr. Philippe Lacherez, a post-doctoral fellow in the university’s school of optometry and vision science, who surveyed 184 cyclists who had been involved in collisions with cars about the conditions surrounding the collision. “Only 34 percent of cyclists in these low-light crashes were wearing reflective clothing and 19 percent of them said they weren’t using bicycle lights at the time of the crash.”
Pactimo is doing its best to right this wrong with its new line-up of fall riding gear, which mixes dashes of hard-to-miss neon yellow with accents of pixel fabric, an innovative material that has reflective elements impregnated directly into the cloth. The fabric is similar to that used in the Sugoi Zap jacket. During daylight it looks like any other piece of cycling wear. But at night when it’s hit by the headlights of a car, the fabric illuminates, making cyclists easier to spot — and presumably safer.
Pactimo calls it RFLX technology and is using the fabric in a number of new pieces, including the impressive Alpine RFLX Thermal ¾ bib tights ($145) that we’ve been testing for about a month now. Other new pieces with reflective accents include the Alpine RFLX Thermal bibshorts ($135), Alpine RFLX Thermal bib tights ($155), as well as men’s and women’s Alpine RFLX Thermal full-length tights (both $95). Each piece utilizes pixel fabric at the bottom gripper, be it at the ankle, calf or thigh. There’s also a strip of the material on the left thigh, which when riding on the right side of the road will always be on the outside, closest to driver’s field of view.
Also new this fall from Pactimo are a host of cool weather jerseys and jackets, which all incorporate at least a splash of high visibility fabric and reflective trim. We’ve spent about a month trying out the men’s Ascent Long Sleeve Jersey ($90) and the men’s Evergreen Jacket ($85). There are also two different vests, a thermal cap and toe covers to round out the new cool-weather line-up. All of these pieces are available in stock colors or they can be ordered custom, which is Pactimo’s primary specialty.
“Visibility is an important aspect of fall and winter riding, but we know that how you look on the bike is equally as important to each of us,” explained Pactimo marketing man Josh Cook. “We wanted to get past the full neon vest look, and find a subtle and stylish, yet effective way to integrate reflectivity and visible colors into key points of rotation and exposure to drivers.”
With roughly a dozen rides of varying length in the books, overall impressions of the new pieces we’ve tested are generally positive. There is no denying the extra visibility provided by the inclusion of the pixel fabric, especially on the ¾ tights. Look down at your calves as a car passes and you can see the material light up.
We also like the look of the fabric. It adds a little bit of Tron-like flavor to what is generally a drab piece of apparel no matter who it’s made by. Chamois placement is also on point, the fabric is soft on the skin, and the front panel is pliable enough that it’s easy to hit the head without completely disrobing.
We’ve worn the ¾ bibs on several cool (45-50’ish degree) cyclocross rides and stayed warm, but not overheated when we cranked out a few race pace efforts. Pactimo says it used something called silhouette engineering during design, which basically is just a fancy way of saying they’re cut for the on-the-bike position, not the walking-around-the-coffee-shop position. Bottom line, they’re a solid piece of cool-weather gear with some added safety enhancements for good measure.
The story is similar with the Ascent Long Sleeve Jersey. It’s a versatile cool-weather piece that’s soft on the skin and will keep your warm, but not cause a total overheat. Think of it as alternative to a standard short sleeve jersey plus arm warmers, and you get the idea. Some will prefer the flexibility of the later. Some don’t like the pinch caused by some arm warmers. Our choice usually comes down to the weather and the ride plan. If temperature is likely to remain constant and you don’t expect to be doing extended hard efforts, long sleeve jerseys work great. But if a cool morning ride has the potential to turn into a temperate afternoon affair — and/or you’re going to be hammering — long sleeves may not be your best option.
As for the look of the full-zip Ascent Long Sleeve Jersey, it’s definitely hard to miss, which we kind of like. But beauty is of course always in the eye of the beholder. This is true across Pactimo’s fall line, where some pieces are definitely louder than others.
Jersey fit was also a mixed bag. The sleeves on our size Large ran a little long, and we noticed some flapping around the torso and shoulders when speed picked up. But no two bodies are exactly the same, so this may not be an issue for you. As always, best to try it on for yourself. Racer types will appreciate the race radio earpiece opening in the center rear pocket and the cord loop sewed into the collar.
The Evergreen Jacket was our least favorite of the three test pieces. Fit of our size Large was very loose and flappy, making it feel more like a piece of commuter attire, rather than something with true performance riding functionality. We’d have to try a size down before making final judgement. But as you can see in the photo above, fit is very roomy. On the upside, we appreciated the easy-to-grab two-way zipper, and the jacket’s ease of packability. We had no problems stuffing it into one of the Ascent Jersey’s three rear pockets. The jacket also has reflective trim and high visibility color accents, continuing the safety-first theme. It’s made of wind- and water-resistant fabric and rated for temperatures between 45-70 degrees.
For more info on entire fall 2014 Pactimo clothing line, visit pactimo.com