Peter Nicholson plugs into this light-up cycling jacket.
As a cycling commuter for something approaching 17 years, I have noticed rider safety being taken ever more seriously by cyclists and manufacturers alike, with increasing choice in the market and more combinations of high-vis gear in use. Now a Scottish-based workwear company branching into sports clothing has produced what it calls the ultimate cycle jacket.
The Visijax Commuter jacket boasts no fewer than 23 built-in, high intensity LEDs â€“ six white on the front at lapel height, five red at the back (below backpack height), and six amber on each sleeve (three forward and three backward facing) to provide a turning signal when your arm is raised. They are certainly bright â€“ my family found it quite uncomfortable when I walked in with them still on â€“ though you have to raise your arm at least 90 degrees to activate the turning signal. I donâ€™t go with the comment on one of the many labels, that people can see you about to turn even when you’re still holding the handlebars.
Other features are â€œtop performanceâ€ (Teflon coated) waterproof and breathable fabric, carefully designed ventilation points, and one inner and three outer pockets (two side, one rear). It has velcro closures at the cuffs and a soft-touch inner collar to help keep the cold out. It also comes complete with an ICEid emergency contact tag (worth Â£10) â€“ a bit like microchipping your dog, a few minutes online to register your details, and your nearest and dearest can be quickly contacted should the worst happen.
The fully charged battery unit should give you at least a weekâ€™s lit-up commuting at an hour a day, though I found the battery tends to run down if not used for a few days. Full charging from flat takes about four hours and can be done by connecting to your laptop (via USB) while you work. The options of fixed lights or two flashing speeds should let you display what you feel comfortable with.
However my use of the jacket got off to a difficult start. The battery pouch could do with a Velcro tab or similar to hold the unit in place, as it can easily fall out if the jacket is handled casually. And the connecting pins inside the battery port are easily bent, and if that happens the connector wonâ€™t stay in place â€“ result, no lights. (Some poking with a small kitchen knife retrieved that situation, but it was just as well I had backup.) These I would say are the two weaknesses of a product that I have otherwise enjoyed using. Even without these, I wouldnâ€™t go with Visijaxâ€™s claim that the jacket can replace bike-mounted lights.
The jacket is comfortable to wear, passed its first test in serious rain, and while the test period weather has been generally cold, appears breathable as claimed.
The test version was yellow; it also comes in black, but in daylight I would still prefer a bright colour as the best way to be seen from distance, with or without lights. But nothing in life is guaranteed, and the determined idiot who comes out of a side road without looking will still get youâ€¦ yes, it happened during the test. Fortunately the tear in the shoulder is the only lasting evidence. And I don’t fault the jacket to any extent for that incident.
RRP: Â£119.99 from Visijax.