Since the news of impending paternity came in the middle of this series on safety gear, my priorities have changed. I don't have any plans to quit riding. Since $4, or even $5 a gallon gas seems likely by the end of the year, I hope to be using the Vespa even more for low-load trips. Plus I have no illusions that my life as I know it is over, and my 16 mile round-trip commute, may just become the lions share of my free / recreational time. The Vespa will help me maximize fun and minimize spending.
Suddenly, safety gear seems like an even more important topic than ever. I mean, I certainly want to be around to advocate for what I feel to be appropriate personal transportation for some time. But even more so, I want to be around to embarrass my spawn with my choice my choice in personal transportation.
One of the most important skills a scooterist or motorcyclist can have is analyzing risks and weighing those risks with a realistic assessment of one's skills. For many sport riders who like to push the envelope of speed and technical ability, this can be a pretty complex task. For me, not so much. About the most dangerous thing I do is get on the bike. I've taken classes, I read books on safe riding, and I am content cruising along with traffic speed, and taking scenic routes. I like taking breaks every hour or two, when on a long ride, and don't push my endurance too far. The biggest risk to me, is most likely, other drivers.
And in motorcycle / automobile collisions where the cager is at fault, what are the most common reasons / excuses from car drivers? "He came out of nowhere," and "I didn't see him."
Visibility of cyclists and scooterists is like the weather, everybody complains about it, but few folks do anything about it. "Start seeing Motorcyclists" stickers are all well and good, and I hope more cagers remember them when making left turns. Still, anything you can do to get the attention of that cell-phone chatting SUV driver, is a good idea.
Hi-Viz Lime Yellow ‘jumps out’ on a primal level because it is not naturally occurring, and because the human eye is most sensitive to light in this part of the spectrum. (The eye is least receptive to red & black). The brightest color possible under visible light, Hi-Viz Lime Yellow is more effective than fluorescent colors which, because of their chemical makeup are dependent on the uv radiation in sunlight to ‘glow’, making them less effective at night and in vehicle headlights. The piercing Hi-Viz Lime Yellow carries plenty of visual ‘punch’ even under incandescent and low-light conditions. The well-known Hurt report contains data indicating that most drivers colliding with motorcyclists list “not seeing the rider” as a primary cause of car/motorcycle accidents. As another weapon in the arsenal of the urban commuter, these garments are unmatched.
--From Aerostich's page on their Hi-Viz products.
A study of motorcycle accidents in New Zealand found that:
... drivers wearing any reflective or fluorescent clothing had a 37% lower risk ... than other drivers. Compared with wearing a black helmet, use of a white helmet was associated with a 24% lower risk ... Self reported light coloured helmet versus dark coloured helmet was associated with a 19% lower risk.
The radioactive shade of lime-yellow, also called hi-viz yellow, and slime-yellow, was originally developed for fire-trucks, and some studies have shown that it has had significant impact on reducing accidents involving these emergency vehicles.
During the four years of the study, red or red/white pumpers responded to fire calls 153,348 times, and lime-yellow/white pumpers responded 135,035 times. Those runs (responses to fire emergencies) resulted in twenty-eight accidents involving fire pumpers. Since eight accidents were not visibility-related, study results included only 20 accidents. Of the 20 accidents, red or red/white fire pumpers accounted for 16, while lime-yellow/white pumpers accounted for only 4. Red or red/white fire vehicles resulted in 10 towaway accidents and 7 injury accidents compared to 2 towaways and 1 injury accident for lime-yellow/white vehicles.
-- From Solomon and King's study of accidents involving emergency vehicles in Dallas, Texas.
These are some pretty compelling statistics.
Even more compelling is the visual evidence on the Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Center's website. They have a whole sub-site, highviz.org, devoted to tools and techniques for making sure that other drivers see you. Their pages on reflective vests and brightly colored jackets feature photographs showing the difference between a rider in a traditional black jacket, and one in a hi-viz jacket with ample reflective material. Check it out, it's pretty convincing.
So, what's available in hi-viz from high quality protective gear manufacturers?
Well, I'm glad you asked...
One of the granddaddies of textile gear for motorcyclists, Aerostich is also one of the originators of hi-viz gear. Hi-viz versions are available in both their Roadcrafter and Darien lines.
is one of the few riding garments out there available in Hi-Viz colors. Above you see the Roadcrafter jacket in hi-viz yellow with black ballistic patches. The roadcrafter also features some generous patches of 3M ScotchLite material, for extra visibility. The Roadcrafter features full-armor for the elbows, shoulders and back. The bulk of the construction is of 500 denier Cordura, which has been treated for water-proofing. Potential impact zones on the shoulders and elbows are 1050 denier Cordura.
The Roadcrafter comes as a separate jacket and pants or as a one-piece suit, which is famous for the speed with which it can be put on and taken off. There are a slew of stories of riders who have walked away unintentional dismounts in Roadcrafters which they still wear. Google "Aerostich Roadcrafter Reviews" and you'll get some idea. Aerostich has a stellar reputation, their products are available only from them, and they do custom orders. In fact on their website, you can use a web interface to build the color combination of your preference.
With a little dinking around, I generated this version of the one-piece suit, which I call Kid-Flash.
I've been playing around with the concept of doing a Flash or Kid Flash themed custom Vespa for sometime, and if I ever get around to it, I'll probably have to get the above one-piece suit.
Man, if that don't make the youngster go "Aw, Daaaaad!" nuthin' will.
Also available from Aerostich is the Darien Jacket (and pants of course) Like the Roadcrafter, this is a classic choice for BMW riders and other long range tourers. It is likewise well regarded for bullet-proof performance, and top-notch waterproofing. Aerostich prides themselves in the fact that their gear is frequently used by riders making transcontintenal voyages. It IS that good. It's priced accordingly. The one-piece Roadcrafter runs $797, the Roadcrafter Jacket is $467, and the Darien jacket is $517. Of course Aerostich also takes these garments back for repairs, and as I said earlier, it's not unusual for riders wear one of these for more than ten years of heavy use and abuse.
Aerostich has a devoted following, especially among BMW riders (who can afford the premium which 'stich's reputation seems to add to the bottom line). But they have been selling the same basic design for many years, and some folks seem to believe they have been resting on laurels for too long. So of course, there are other manufacturers nipping at their heels.
Another company who is really committed to hi-viz riding gear is Olympia Moto Sports. Above is their Bushwhacker jacket, which is a mesh jacket that includes a removable water-proof thermal liner for three-season riding. Of course the solid panels are made of 500 denier cordura, the mesh is ballistic, it has CE armor in the elbows, shoulders and articulated back armor. Nice if you're looking for the Summer convenience of mesh, but with a little more versatility. Still, though this jacket should perform well for one crash, but I don't think you'd be using it much after that. The Bushwhacker costs $250.
The real competition to Aerostich though, are the next two garments. Above is the Olympia AST (for All Seasons Touring,) Like the Aerostich offerings, this is a dang fine piece of protective gear, in hi-viz or no. The bulk of the jacket of the jacket is 500 denier Cordura, and the panels on the elbows and shoulders are 2000 denier Cordura. Serious stuff.
Like the Bushwhacker, it has a waterproof and thermal liner, unlike the Bushwhacker it has bonded breathable waterproofing on the outer shell, and five waterproof exterior pockets. It also has elbow, shoulder and back armor. I suppose it also worth mentioning that the removable liner has been designed to be worn as a seperate jacket, looking like a basic windbreaker. The integrated venting system is reported to be very effective when open, yet maintaining waterproofing when closed. Some of these are features you'd find on the Aerostich gear, some go beyond that. Despite this fact, the AST retails for much less, at $289.
The Olympia Phantom fills out their options available in slime yellow. It's basically the AST in a one-piece suit version, and aims to take on the Roadcrafter one-piece head on. Besides having tougher Cordura at the high-impact points, ancedotal accounts say that it is more waterproof than the Roadcrafter due to a different zipper set up. This different setup does have the deteriment of making the Phantom slightly more involved to get into and out of. The Phantom lists for $449.
Now, I know that radioactive neon gear is not traditional amongst scooterists. Neither are one-piece suits. I'm just throwing these options out there, because I think they definitely have some pluses. The hi-viz suit was made for urban and suburban commuters who are daily riders on dangerous crowded roadways. I think that describes the average scooterist better than the average motorcyclists.
Sure, a lot, if not most scooterists, prefer riding gear which is subtle and looks as much like street clothes (preferably hip, stylish clothes) as possible. But if you have a serious commute, which you under take in all kinds of weather, one of these options just might be right for you. Get a suit, for safety while riding, and wear whatever you want underneath. Just store the whole thing in your topcase when you are off bike.
Of course there are some of us scooterists out there, who are attracted to scooters as a manifestation of form following function. Personally, I think wearing a day-glo riding jacket is pretty punk rock. Finally outer-wear which will recapture the shock value the leather biker jacket had sixty years ago...
New York Times article from 2004:
As for looking cool, that's subjective. Mr. Goldfine, lacking a windshield, pays a price for giving up the camouflage of black leather. ''The high-visibility yellow garments become plastered with oil, bug stains and other road filth,'' he said. ''To me this looks as authentic as faded denim or well-worn shoes. But most nonriders find this alarming. Several times when I've met someone, their eyes alight on the crud and their expression changes from friendly to a kind of nonverbal eeeeewwww.''Anyway, Mr. Goldfine said, when you show up on your motorcycle, ''it's not what you wear that makes you cool; it's that you rode there.''
Previously, Scooter Gear: Part 1, Leather Jackets