Being visible while riding is a major safety concern for us cyclists. The old excuse of “sorry mate I didn’t see you” is harder to take in these days of super bright bike lights. A lot of potential riders are put off by this, so perhaps products like Proviz’s REFLECT360 Plus might make them feel safer?
The REFLECT360 Plus Jacket is an updated version of the original REFLECT360 that was first sold back in 2014. Proviz claim to have improved on the breathability and waterproofing of the original. I guess I’ll have to take their word for that as I never tried the original.
If you’ve not seen one of these jackets before you may be in for a surprise. We are all used to outdoor gear having reflective details on them, but the REFLECT360 Plus takes it to a whole other level! The entire jacket is one giant reflector. Proviz have achieved this by embedding millions of tiny glass beads into the material. These bounce back any light hitting them, making the whole jacket light up.
The effect is incredible, even a small amount of light can make the jacket light up. Very handy when hunting for it in the dark. Even better is the effect it has on motorists. Part of my route home is along twisty, narrow and in some places, dark streets. Riding along them with the REFLECT360 Plus jacket I’ve noticed cars slowing down as their beams catch me. Previously they would carry on as if I wasn’t there, but with Proviz’s kit on they obviously saw me and slowed down; job done!
So let’s take a look at the REFLECT360 Plus jacket. Straight out of the box and the first thing you notice is the weight, this is not a lightweight race cape. It also won’t be packing down into a rear pocket. Ventilation is mainly achieved through a large back vent. This can be boosted by opening up large, zipped under-arm vents and two vertical chest zips. The last two can also double as handy storage pockets.
The front zip is well sealed when done up and prevents any water getting in. The sleeves are adjustable via velcro straps and there’s a large storage pocket on the lower back. The material has been designed to produce “higher rates of breathability (10,000gm/24hr) and waterproofing (10,000 mm) while not losing any of the incredible reflective capability of our unique, upgraded reflective material (CE EN 20471 certified)”.
The jacket has an internal mesh and soft fleecy collar lining to stop any rubbing. An internal chest pocket on the left is large enough for my phone and case. And I’m pleased to say there’s a decent loop to hang it up on! I hate coats that can’t be properly hung up.
So that’s the details, what was it like to use? Most of my testing was done on short commutes to and from the station. While it didn’t often rain, it was always dark. As I said above I could see that it was working by the reaction of other road users. You can also see it for yourself as the jacket catches the odd beam of light and you catch the relection in your peripheral vision.
However it did get a good try out on a wintery, daytime ride. I had planned a long ride and the weather was set to be a wet and warmish 10 degrees C, warm for January. I thought it would be a good chance to try out the breathability of the improved material. With just a long-sleeved merino base-layer and the REFLECT360 Plus jacket I set off into the drizzle.
After about half an hour I noticed I was beginning to feel the heat, time to open up those vents. Within a few minutes I was feeling a lot cooler, the vents were obviously doing their work. Later in the ride the temperature began to drop and the rain was blowing in from the right. I could feel a chill from that side and a little dampness, presumably rain being driven in. Zipping up that side stopped that.
As the day wore on the temperature went up again, time to re-open the vents and I’m comfortable again. While wearing a waterproof jacket is always going to be a sweaty event, the REFLECT360 Plus showed that with proper ventilation it can be kept under control.
Back home again and a quick check of my base layer showed no more than the usual amount of sweat I would expect from a hard ride. The only really damp area was on my forearms, I think this was down to my not wearing gloves. With no elastic cuffs, the rain had been driven up my arms. If I had worn gloves that would have prevented this. To be fair it wasn’t until the last half hour that I noticed my arms were starting to feel a little damp. Maybe the next version will have some kind of cuff fitted?
So it passed the long hard ride more than satisfactorily, how was it on the daily commute? My commute involves a short, fast downhill to the station at five o’clock in the morning. Whizzing downhill on a dark winter’s morning, visibility is important. Other road users tend to assume the roads are empty and drive accordingly. So having the REFLECT360 Plus jacket was a confidence booster.
Comfort wise I could fit a fleece and jumper underneath, perfect for those cold morning starts. And once in town it was handy when using a Boris bike. It doesn’t look too strange when worn off the bike, although you do get a few startled looks if it catches the light and suddenly lights up! The ride back up is hilly and the ventilation doesn’t work too well when moving slowly with a back pack. Those vents need to have moving air to remove the heat and sweat, so a backpack tends to block that.
So to sum up, the REFLECT360 Plus jacket is an excellent waterproof jacket. The vents help to keep you cool, but you have to be moving and obviously wearing backpack will prevent the cooling effect. On long foul weather rides it works very well, but you will have keep it on. The only drawback I came across was it’s packability if you want to remove it mid-ride. Otherwise an excellent bit of kit for commuting and night-time riding.