The truth behind Hi-Viz

As we all know, High Visibility clothing is seen as a must have safety item for cyclists. With the biggest selling items being jackets and rucksack covers.

High visibility clothing or fabric is made up of a fabric which is bright in colour and often has fluorescent properties, in addition there are reflective strips. The fluorescent properties of the material only work in natural light and the reflective strips only work if a light source is shining on it.

Fluorescent clothing works best during hours of natural light because the clothing ‘converts’ ultra-violet light into visible wavelengths, which makes it appear brighter than other colours and objects. It’s noted that it stands out considerably during poor conditions, such as rain and fog. Light from non-natural sources doesn’t contain much ultra-violet and thus the fluorescent properties of the clothing provide no advantage against non fluorescent clothes.

In most cases, the reflective panels on hi-viz clothing are designed to reflect light back at the source, in a handful of cases the reflective panels reflect light in all directions, this usually weakens the appearance of the reflected light. The more common type of reflective material (known as retro-reflective), reflects light at only a few degrees. So the performance of a reflector can appear very different from the perspective of a lorry driver vs a car driver. As the observation angle increases, the performance of the reflector drops.

So hi-viz is made up of two parts, one being good for day time visibility and one being good for night-time visibility. But they have their drawbacks. With growing numbers for road users being seen wearing fluorescent clothing it can have the effect of making you blend in with others and thus not standing out from the crowd, not the effect you always want. The retro-reflective material only reflects light back at the observer if they shine light at it.

The limits to retro-reflective material can be seen quiet clearly in the pictures below. Due to car headlights shining no higher than the waist of the average person. Any retro-reflective material won’t shine back a strong light because there isn’t much shining on it. In one of the pictures I lower the hi-viz cover into the headlights of the car and quiet clearly there is a difference between the two.

High visibility clothing is obviously great for standing out. After all that is what it is designed for. Cyclists in a busy city have to weigh up the options. At night the Hi-viz jackets and rucksack covers are next to useless unless you have rolling hills. During the day they can help you stand out but if you get into a group of other cyclists you may blend in, which can result in someone miss-reading your speed.

During the day I think it is personal choice about wearing hi-viz jackets, I personally don’t, I would much rather turn my lights on than wear yellow.
During hours of darkness I don’t see the point in wearing hi-viz jackets, it adds limited visibility. You would be much better off wearing retro-reflective on the legs and feet. Not only are these in the headlight zone of a motorised vehicle but they also move as you pedal. Adding in a much more attention grabbing effect.

Magicshine MJ-808 Review

Turn night into day with a seriously good value for money bicycle light that rivals products 10 times its cost!

I’ll start off by saying that the lumen ratings are slightly off, the ratings are the best possible outputs with the components they used and not a true representation of the light output. The 900 lumen lights put out closer to 500 lumens. That is still a good amount of money for the cost of the light!
The Magicshine range of lights are far from a perfect product, if you can work around the slight issues then the light can be a great one.

The lights primary design is for off-road. This is clearly visible in the beam pattern that it produces, it is fairly wide and is not ideal for using on the road, especially at full power. For commuting purposes you can get around this buy using it on the half power setting or by pointing it only 2 meters in front of you, this means that any light going to the driver is not the focused beam and shouldn’t dazzle them.

There have been many complaints that the unit gets hot when at a standstill. I personally don’t think this is a problem, it’s generally a good indicator that the thermal paste is working. The unit has been designed to keep cool by the passing air, when you stop the air doesn’t pass it and the unit heats up.

The main downside of me is the mode switching, it’s a simple button press on the back of the unit to do everything, but the off mode is included in the other options, which means to do a full cycle you need to turn the unit off. Not the best thing when you are cycling off-road at night!

The mounting bracket isn’t the best, it’s a rubber bottom with a rubber o-ring that keeps the unit tight on the handlebars. It is good because it is easy to put on and remove but bad because it won’t keep the unit secure on the handlebars. Lots of users have complained about the unit moving around whilst going over a bump or similar. I get around this by mounting the light under my handlebars but others have got around this by modifying the mount and adding on a cam based bracket which is much more secure and just as quick to remove. It is a fairly simple task to do, simply a single screw to remove the standard mount and then add the new mount with the screw.

Something to consider is the battery pack, it’s an external based one which you need to charge at the mains, no simple AA batteries for this unit. Luckily on the back of the light is an indicator of how much juice is left and if you go for the waterproof case then that also has a volt meter on it. With a light of this power and a batter like this you really need to get a good charging routine thought out if you are going to use it regularly on the commute, the last thing you want is this to die on a dark lane!

An important factor is the charger, if you buy from outside the UK you will probably get an american pin charger. I found it difficult to find an adapter which it fitted in properly due to the chargers design and the adapters design they never gelled properly. It also doesn’t perform quite the same as the 3 pin plug, so definitely worth investing in a 3 pin charger for one of these if you are in the UK.

The cost of these devices can vary massively depending on where you buy them from. You can get them cheap as chips if you buy one from deal extreme but the delivery time can be several weeks due to the way they work. Buy from the UK re-seller or from ebay and you are looking to pay more but it’s still a great price for the power the light puts out.

There are a few variants of the MJ-808, the best one in my opinion is the 3-mode unit with the waterproof battery pack. It’s the most reliable and has the best battery. I use this light for commuting all year round, it stands out from every other cycling light and makes the Hope Vision 1 look like a child’s toy.

Conclusion

A great value light for all kind of uses but be careful if using it on the road, you can easily dazzle other road users .

Hope Vision 1 Review

Featured

The Hope Vision 1 bicycle light is Hope’s bottom of the range bicycle light but don’t let that put you off. The CNC machined case makes the light full water proof and the Vision 1 puts out over 200 lumens from only four AA batteries, something not achieved by many other lights.

Hope Vision 1 Beam

The Vision 1 has 4 light modes, 1 flash and 3 steady ones. Making it a perfect commuting light, especially if you travel through multiple types of roads (lit vs unlit). The Hope Vision 1 is often praised by its quality, Hope certainly is traditionally british as the make good quality parts and offer a fantastic service. The whole product is well thought out and well designed.

Due to the narrow beam a single Vision 1 is not enough for cycling off-road or on unlit roads at night-time in my opinion, two Vision 1’s are enough. Whilst the narrow beam does have that disadvantage, it has an advantage when using it in other traffic. Pointing the beam on the road in front of you means you don’t blind other road users, you light the road up in front of you and you are made visible!

Something which crops up in other lights of similar target market is how you turn it off and change modes. For a light which is used in the dark and potentially off-road it is important how it handles this. The Hope Vision one can only be turned off by the user if the battery is removed or if you hold the power button. Pressing the button cycles through the light modes and this is how it should be.
Other models of lights have the off mode in the button cycle, which means if you want to change back to the first mode you must turn the light off first which either means crashing or stopping your ride.

Hope Vision 1

The only downside to using a light with 4x AA batteries is that the light really does chew through them, using regular Duracell batteries will be expensive and small capacity rechargeable batteries just don’t last long enough. High capacity rechargeable batteries are a good value purchase but you still need to work out a good recharging scheme so you don’t get caught out. At least you can rest in the fact that if you do run out of juice whilst on the road you can at least pop into a petrol station or corner shop and buy some batteries which will get you home, unlike the lights which use special battery packs.

The major downside of the hope vision one is the lack of power indicator, it is one often brought up by people who have bought one and is a real problem with its hunger for battery power. You can get around it with good battery management but be warned, when the power levels get too low the light will suddenly switch off and you will only get a few more minutes on the lowest power setting.

All in all it’s one of the best and brightest lights on the market for commuters, it’s at the higher end of the scale for most commuters but it’s reliability (as long as you manage the batteries) and power more than out weighs the price you have to pay, this light will last you years!

Where to buy one from?

Prices range from £70 – £90 so make sure you shop around