High Visibility vs Reflective vs Fluorescent Clothing

One debate we hear very often is should you wear Hi Vis clothing or Reflective clothing or Fluorescent clothing? They both have huge advantages and also disadvantages. In this article, we are going to discuss which is best for you and why.

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Cycling is a fantastic sport, and it offers so much. You might be looking to get a little fitter, spend some time with the family, or even go on a big adventure, and you can do this all with a bike. The first bike came to us in the late 1700s, and since then, they have just gotten better and better.

One part of cycling which is commonly overlooked is safety. If you are spending a lot of time on the road cycling, you need to keep yourself safe and make sure drivers and other road users see you. Accidents happen, and we should do everything we can to avoid them. The Roads are getting busier and busier, and not all countries have excellent cycling infrastructure, such as the Netherlands.

Over the years, not only have bikes improved, but we also have seen tremendous advancements in clothing. You will see that clothing has now gotten very intelligent, especially when it comes to cycling. We now have Gortex materials, which are super light and keep us super warm, we have jackets that can even work as an electronic heater, and we even have clothing with inbuilt LED’s.

One debate we hear very often is should you wear High visibility clothing or Reflective clothing or Fluorescent clothing? They both have huge advantages and also disadvantages. In this article, we are going to discuss which is best for you and why.

What is Fluorescent Clothing?

Fluorescent clothing comes in a few colors, the most common being yellow-green, yellow, yellow-orange, orange, orange-red, red, and pink. The colors are classed as fluorescent as they are Matt in color and stand out. They use these fluorescent colors so that they clash with as many day-to-day colors as possible, making whoever is wearing them stand out.

Fluorescent clothing in cycling has been around for a very long time, and it has been used to keep cyclists safe for many years. Not only do drivers subconsciously pick up on the movement of someone on a bike but having the user’s colors clash with other colors of the road makes a huge difference.

Advantages of Fluorescent Clothing

  • You stand out in daylight

Not all safety gear stands out in the visible light, and some clothing items are only designed to be used at night. The beauty of fluorescent clothing is that it stands out in the day, and it’s straightforward to see at any time, and statistics show cyclists stand out 76% more when wearing fluorescent clothing.

  • Nice and bright colors

The colors of Fluorescent clothing are great. You get bold oranges which road workers commonly use. Then you have yellow-green and pink, which is frequently used for cyclists and runners, and yellow on construction sites or traffic marshal. Fluorescent isn’t just one color. It is a variety of colors that work in low light conditions.

  • Not expensive to buy

Over the years of fluorescent material being around, it has become cheaper and cheaper, and it has become straightforward to manufacture. It is backed by governments too. As I mentioned before, it is classed as Personal Protective Equipment, and many countries discount this, so more people use it. For example, if you were to buy Fluorescent clothing for a business in the UK, they will remove the VAT (Value added Tax) off this.

  • It’s recognized as a safety color

If you wear Fluorescent clothing on the street, you start to look like you want to stand out and get recognized more by people around you. Police wear yellow fluorescent clothing in many countries, and people instantly recognize you if you wear the same because they associate you with law enforcement or uniform traffic control devices.

Disadvantages of Fluorescent Clothing

  • It doesn’t reflect

Although Fluorescent coloring is excellent, it doesn’t have many reflective properties. Yes, you will see it at night, but it won’t shine the light back as a reflective material would. Although it is very visible, it doesn’t send light back at people looking.

  • The color is exceptionally bold

Fluorescent clothing is very bold in color, and it has to be so that you’ve seen it. It is very extravagant though, and that’s not for everyone. Many cycling clothing companies don’t sell much fluorescent-colored clothing because it just isn’t popular with cyclists and runners.

What is Reflective clothing?

Reflective and High Visibility clothing often get mixed up when they are very different things. Reflective clothing is very special because any light that hits it gets sent right back and reflects off the garment everywhere. There’s much more to reflective clothing than meets the eye. You will often hear the term reflective materials.

To an extent, anything can be made reflective the process of making a reflective piece of clothing all comes down to how it is coated. So you have the base fabric, the adhesives, the micro class bead, and sometimes aluminum compounds. Reflective clothing is much more a unique process than fluorescent clothing.

Over the past few years, reflective clothing has become significant, and many road users have turned to reflective clothing instead of using fluorescent materials. This is because it shines so bright and is very multi-purpose clothing.

Advantages of Reflective Clothing

  • Reflective clothing is amazing at night

Reflective clothing at night is unbelievable to look at. Unlike fluorescent clothing, which when light hits reflective clothing, it will scatter, reflective clothing sends it straight back, and it looks like another light is shining back. It’s incredible to look at, and if you, for example, cycle on a dark road very early in the morning, you will stand out.

  • Not commonly seen

Reflective clothing is relatively new to the market in the cycling world, and it hasn’t been seen as much as fluorescent clothing. This is a massive benefit because reflective clothing catches people’s eyes much more. The difference between seeing a fluorescent green and a fully reflective jacket at night is enormous. I have found wearing reflective clothing at night shows up much more, not only because it’s so bright under light but because people don’t see it as much.

  • Good value for money

Although reflective clothing typically costs more than fluorescent clothing, it is still outstanding value for money. You can buy a reflective jacket for under $100, and it will be well fitted and last a long time. With newer technologies in clothing, you often find they really like the price up, but reflective clothing has always been a reasonable price.

The Disadvantages of Reflective Clothing

  • Reflective clothing is not always very visible in the day

Reflective clothing is fantastic, but it needs a light source to send the light back to the person looking at it. It won’t always have a direct light source pointing at it during the day and can look like a deep silver. This is the same at night, you need the light source to make it work, and it can be useless without it.

  • Reflective clothing does cost more than fluorescent clothing

Although it is still good value for money, it costs more than its competitor. Not everyone has $100 to spend on a cycling jacket, and fluorescent clothing can be found at a much lighter pricing point. Yes, it is worth the money, but it’s not in everyone’s budget.

  • Limited base coloring

Unfortunately, if you buy a fully reflective jacket, you will more than likely get it in silver or grey. This isn’t the worst color in the world, but it does give you fewer options for color coding with your bike or the rest of your kit.

High Visibility Clothing

High Visibility clothing is a mix between Fluorescent and Reflective clothing. It’s an amazing technology and covers all ground when it comes to staying safe and seen on the road. High visibility safety apparel has been worn for years, not only on cyclists but in factories, on construction workers, by security guards, and in many more places. It’s designed to make the user of the clothing stand out, and it’s actually classed as personal protective clothing too.

You get the fluorescent bright colors for the day and also the Reflective to cover you at night. It’s the perfect mix between them both and makes you very visible to anyone passing you either in a car or even onlookers.

High Visibility clothing will be mainly fluorescent and it will have reflective stripes down it. This is a design that works really well. It looks amazing and is extremely bold.

Advantages of High Visibility Clothing

  • Great in the day and at night

As I have mentioned before having Fluorescent and Reflective combined together to make high visibility clothing makes you visible at any time of the day. The fluorescent keeps you seen in the day and low light conditions and the Reflective bounces the lighting back at them.

  • A lot of variety and designs

When you’re working with two different types of material and components of visibility it does give the designer many more options to make some great cycling clothing in very unique ways. The designs on High Visibility clothing are by far the best on the market but they are extremely bold.

  • Not expensive to buy

Surprisingly this clothing with all its technology does actually come at a similar price compared to Reflective and fluorescent clothing. A high visibility jacket is a very popular product on the market and you will have many to choose from at great prices.

Disadvantages of High Visibility Clothing

  • It is very bold

From a safety point of view, the clothing is amazing, but it’s not what every cyclist or runner wants. Some people find High Visibility cloth a bit too much on the eyes.

High Visibility, Reflective or Fluorescent Clothing?

It really comes down to personal preference more than anything. I would recommend going for what suits your riding or running. For example, if you were to just be cycling in the daylight I could get away with just using Fluorescent clothing. If I was to be riding at night then Reflective would work for you because it really is going to make you stand out on the roads. If you are going to be doing a mix of riding then I would personally have to say high visibility clothing.

Conclusion

High Visibility apparel, Reflective clothing, Fluorescent clothing it doesn’t matter as long as you have optimal visibility, then it will keep you safe. Many cyclists and runners neglect to wear high visibility safety apparel because it might not feel cool, or they might stand out a little bit too much. In my opinion, the key is just to make sure you can be seen and help make the roads a safer place for everyone. High visibility clothing, reflective clothing, and fluorescent clothing really improve your experience and put you in the visible spectrum of drivers.

FAQ’s

Do you have to wear High Visibility clothing as a cyclist or runner?

You don’t by law in most countries, but it is highly recommended. Although it might not be the coolest clothing, you will be better seen, giving you much better peace of mind when cycling and running. You also need to consider if you were in an accident and went through insurance. They would be asking if you had made a reasonable effort to be seen.

What is EN17353?

EN17353 is a safety standard in Europe that certain companies require high visibility clothing. The garment will have to have a certain brightness level and a certain amount of reflective material to pass this standard.

When should I wear Protective clothing?

As often as you can while out on the road. The more you can use it the more chance you will have to be seen by other road users. I highly recommend it all the time. I appreciate having a safety jacket on the cold weather. Safety vest/gilet in the warm weather.

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Ellen

Hello there! I'm Ellen, your go-to safety clothing expert with over 16 years of experience. My team and I specialize in hi-vis clothing and reflective wear, helping businesses like yours thrive.

What sets us apart is our commitment to streamlined processes, transparency, and prioritizing your needs. We're not just vendors, we're solution providers.

So, why not connect with me for a no-risk free consultation and a free sample? Let's start a conversation today!

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