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  1. #1
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    Bike Reflectors vs. Reflective Tape

    Does anyone know if reflective tape reflects as much light as bike reflectors? I am a lightweight backpacker and stand by the saying that lighter is better.
    Reflective tape is lighter in weight than bike reflectors. If reflective tape reflects as much or more light than bike reflectors then I plan to use reflective tape in place of bike reflectors.

    Anyone know the answer to this? Anyone know of a reflective product that is lighter in weight than either bike reflectors or reflective tape that would work here?

    Thanks
    Wayneburg

  2. #2
    I couldn't car less. jeff williams's Avatar
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    Its some 3M patent tape -most bike shops have it.
    One nice thing besides the lightness is if it's wrapped around the f-fork and rear upper tri tube, it's reflective in more than one direction. Hard stuff to get off though, breaks apart.

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    Senior Member mike's Avatar
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    Both tape and solid reflectors work well. I think the solid reflectors work better at a distance.

    Do an experiment; put both on a bike and park your bike on the side of the road at night. Drive in your car toward your car from a distance.

    It would be wise to do this experiment in different kinds of weather.

    Know in your own mind how well you are seen.
    Mike

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    Tape does degrade after a few years. Some of mine barely reflects at all.
    Reflectors dont wear out.

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    Sumanitu taka owaci LittleBigMan's Avatar
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    Wayneburg,

    I highly recommend going to the auto parts store and picking up some red and amber reflectors. They are extrememly bright (especially amber) and last forever. They might cost about $1 apiece.

    The best way to get maximum reflectivity out of a reflector is to mount it so that it faces directly towards the source of light, namely car headlights. The less the angle of reflected light varies as the light travels from its source to the reflector and back to the driver's eyes, the brighter the reflector shines.
    No worries

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    Bike Happy DanFromDetroit's Avatar
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    I use both, plus clip on blinkies and tireflys. I find that reflectors seem to work better for me because over time the tape gets covered with a film of "road gunk", salt, and dirt. This limits its usefulness.

    One good place to use tape is on the straps of your backpack. These flap in the wind and catch the light. This is very noticable. I also wrap tape around the daisy chain loops and compression straps on the backback.

    Nathan Sports makes some tape designed for runners that works much better than the 3M tape. It is more reflective and has a spongier texture.

    Dan
    There is nothing homlier than the face on your last dime.
    --John Wildcat, Greenback Friend

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    I've tried both this year and I have to favor the reflectors for thier durability. Although the tape is good in theory to be able to wrap around parts and use with more flexibility, it just hasn't stood up to use (already cracking and peeling especially when it rounds corners). I tried a diferent type of sticky reflector too, works like tape, is precut in rounded rectangles and circles (from auto parts store), and it has stood up better but once again doesn't take to sticking well on anything except flat surface in my experience. I tried the rounded rectangle shape on my rounded fenders and it is starting to raise (peel up) along its edges.

    might depend on the type of riding your are doing too. If your competing/training and want to put the time and money into replacing tape then go for it. Or if you are doing extended trips (like in backpacking) where wight is a concern. For me as a commuter, I don't see anything better than classic reflectors.
    ____________________
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    Just ride. roadbuzz's Avatar
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    It's all about being seen! Put reflectors where you can, tape where you can't.

    A suggestion from Jobst Brandt: Put strips of good, silver reflective tape on the flat part of your rims between 5 or 6 adjacent spokes, front and rear wheels. Every revolution the wheels "flash" fore and aft. It's pretty noticable.

    Be careful not to let the tape get too near the edges, so it doesn't interfere with the brakes.

  9. #9
    Sumanitu taka owaci LittleBigMan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by roadbuzz
    Put strips of good, silver reflective tape on the flat part of your rims between 5 or 6 adjacent spokes, front and rear wheels. Every revolution the wheels "flash" fore and aft. It's pretty noticable.
    I like that idea.
    No worries

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    There are at least three factors to consider... total reflectivity per unit surface area (which reflects more), how big is the reflector, and how well can you aim the reflector. Prismatic reflective tape might approach plastic reflectors in reflectivity, but how much tape do you use and, more importantly, how big an area of tape can you accurately aim behind you.

    Little bits of tape on angled seat stays will not reflect as much light as an equal or smaller area of reflector that is correctly aimed back.

    Big reflectors properly aimed are much more effective than bits of tape wrapped around round tubes.

    Another good alternative option... reflective tape on front & rear edges of crank arms give nice motion...

  11. #11
    Pat
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    Remember, for something to be visible it has to either shoot out X amount of light or be of a certain size or a combination of the two. Tape is going to generally be covering only a small part of the bike unless, of course, you wrap a bunch of it on your posterior giving a whole new meaning to getting "mooned" .

    I would think that reflectors would be better.

    But the problem with reflectors and tape is they are both passive. That is they have to get struck by a vehicle's headlights and that reflection is what the drivers see. So the car has to be pretty close for them to come into play.

    There are plenty of rear blinkies that have a visible range of about greater then .5 mile. I am a strong believer in using one or better yet two of these when I ride. The sooner they see me the better.

    Even so, there are some areas I will not ride. Last year, a cyclist was struck and killed on 441 rather near where I live and late at night. Late at night, people drive at high speeds on that road like 70 mph +. At that speed even a .5 mile cushion is only about 25 seconds warning. If the driver is fooling with the radio well then the warning is much less.

  12. #12
    I drink your MILKSHAKE Raiyn's Avatar
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    Sumanitu taka owaci LittleBigMan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raiyn
    Yup.

    I got a very bright xenon strobe that is visible for at least 180 degrees. The dome on that thing is about 3 inches in diameter and about 2 inches high.

    You need more than reflectors at night. In fact, it's not a bad idea to run lights in the daytime, if they are bright enough to catch someone's attention.
    No worries

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    I'm not going to argue the point that reflectors don't work in all instances, and no I didn't read the whole Sheldon Brown article, but I hope noone jumping into this forum will take the article as an excuse not to have reflectors pointing in every angle in addition to active lights. Many reflectors these days are also built with multiple angles so that the viewing area is increased. You can add them to the front back and sides for a very cheap cost. Reflectors do work, I see mailboxes, driveway entrances, etc reflected back numerous times any night I am out driving. Please use multiple strategies for visibility.
    ____________________
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    Sumanitu taka owaci LittleBigMan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by franklen
    ...use multiple strategies for visibility.
    Sounds reasonable.
    No worries

  16. #16
    seeking simple
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    I had the white reflective tape covering (wrapped around) my whole forks on my old bike. It worked awesome for almost everyting but rear visibility. If I do it to my new bike, I think I'll wrap something else around the frame or forks or whatever first, that way I can remove the tape when I want to, because they're right, the sheiss doesn't come off! I was thinking rim tape first (the cheap rubber stuff...)

  17. #17
    I drink your MILKSHAKE Raiyn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by franklen
    snip.... no I didn't read the whole Sheldon Brown article, . ...snip... Many reflectors these days are also built with multiple angles so that the viewing area is increased. ....snip.... Reflectors do work, I see mailboxes, driveway entrances, etc reflected back numerous times any night I am out driving. .
    Obviously you didn't read the article at all.

    except:
    'If you go for a drive tonight, you'll see reflectors shining brightly from mailboxes. You'll see reflectorized stop signs. If bike riders are out, you'll see their pedal reflectors . All these reflectors will appear bright, and very easy to avoid.
    So here's the seven million dollar question: If all these reflectors are so darn bright and easy to see, how come the bike safety nerds insist you need active lights to be seen at night?

    There is a very scientific answer: reflectors work only under very specific conditions. Those conditions happen to prevail in most of the nighttime driving we do, so we get the impression that reflectors work most or all of the time. But reflectors don't work at all if those conditions aren't met, and many well-defined bicycle accident types occur in situations when we can expect reflectors to not work.

    Few people understand how easy it is to wander outside the range of conditions in which reflectors will work. But it's astonishingly easy.

    Why would a reflector decide to malfunction? And how could it? It doesn't have electrical components to fail, like, say, a British car.

    It does, however, have other limitations. Among them:

    It can be anywhere outside the beam of a driver's headlights.

    It can be tilted at an angle ("entrance angle") that severely degrades its optical performance. (If you look at bikes parked on the campus bike rack, you'll see reflectors aimed in all sorts of dysfunctional directions.)

    The driver's eye may be outside the narrow cone of light which the reflector sends back to the light source. (The angle between the light source and the driver's eye is the "observation angle.")

    Fog can completely block the reflector when other lights remain visible. (Howzat? The farther light travels through fog, the more the light gets absorbed-and light from a reflector is making a round trip, twice as far as light from an active light source.)

    The driver may have a burned-out headlight (possibly a lethal problem if it's the left headlight-generally, the right headlight's observation angle is too big for good reflector performance). Or the headlights may be mis-aimed or covered with dirt. Or powered by a Lucas electrical system in the throes of an 8-volt brownout.

    The reflector surface can be abraded, covered with moisture or dust, or otherwise altered in a way that wrecks its optical performance.

    This list is surely incomplete, but it makes a point: many factors can prevent a reflector from beaming light at the intended observer. This point is not hypothetical-our nightly accident rate shows that. Roughly once per night in this nation, a person is killed on a bicycle after dark. Many more are injured. Very often, I suspect, these accident victims have Consumer Product Safety Commission approved- and required- reflectors on their bikes. So here's my message to those who say, "These reflector requirements are safe and effective." You've lost all credibility.
    To understand how reflectors can fail, you need to learn about fifty cents worth of industrial engineering. The relevant topics are: entrance angle, observation angle, headlight beams, positions on the roadway, the human propensity to make big mistakes, and "other."'


    excerpt in reference to your "multiple angles" theory:

    "CPSC-spec reflectors have three surfaces at 30-degree angles to one another, so that an approaching headlight will point to a section of reflector with a small (highly reflective) entrance angle through a broad range of car-to-bike angles.
    We Fred-types often debate whether the CPSC-mandated design, by carving the reflector's surface area into three small pieces, sacrificed needed rearward brightness to add unneeded brightness from irrelevant rear-quarter angles. I think this discussion is a bit of a sideshow. That's because I believe that a bicyclist needs an active taillight (and is much safer with two taillights, should an overtaking motorist be inattentive or drunk). A bright reflector is nice-but only as icing on the cake.

    Another factor to throw into this debate is the latent assumption that more brightness equals more safety. One expert who doesn't think so is Richard Blomberg, who has done numerous studies of these questions under government contract. Blomberg has found, and published, that some dim objects are quite attention getting. (The old blinking Belt Beacon flashing light scored top marks for detection distance in one of Blomberg's studies.)

    Three Freds and their flashlights demonstrate how the entrance angle affects reflector performance. The Fred on the right will see the brightest return from the reflector, since his entrance angle is zero. The Fred in the middle will see a little glimmer of light; his entrance angle is about 30 degrees. The Fred on the left, whose entrance angle is about 60 degrees, probably won't see any light reflected back.


    Please actually read the article. Reflectors may be the law but the are no substitute for a good light set.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by franklen
    I'm not going to argue the point that reflectors don't work in all instances, and no I didn't read the whole Sheldon Brown article, but I hope noone jumping into this forum will take the article as an excuse not to have reflectors pointing in every angle in addition to active lights. Many reflectors these days are also built with multiple angles so that the viewing area is increased. You can add them to the front back and sides for a very cheap cost. Reflectors do work, I see mailboxes, driveway entrances, etc reflected back numerous times any night I am out driving. Please use multiple strategies for visibility.

    I'm afraid you are confusing issues the same way the CPSC and many regulatory agencies do, and I suggest you read the long post above mine and look at this article by John Allen with its pictures: http://www.bikexprt.com/bicycle/reflectors/index.htm

    I will also draw from your experience to highlight a few points. When you drive (cycle?), you see the reflectors on rural driveway posts and mailboxes because they are perpendicular to the roadway and reflect your headlights. But while you see the mailboxes on the right side of the road (assuming you live in a country where we drive on the right, such as Canada or U.S.), you hardly see those on the left side of the road. Well, you see them easily on your high beam, but not on your low beam, even when no traffic is coming towards you, because your low beam is focussed away from the left side of the road. And if by any chance, the driveway post has reflectors on 3 or 4 sides, you won't see them until you turn in the driveway.

    Likewise, the rear reflector of a bike is very effective, because that's the one car headlights are pointing into. But the front reflector is only useful for wrong way cyclists, or for cyclists riding at night on a desolate road where one meets a single car with its high beam. As for the side reflectors, unless you cycle sideways, they are not that useful.

    Now which rear reflector is the most useful? It depends where and how one rides. On an arterial street or highway, curves have a large radius, traffic is fast and therefore one wants to be seen from as far as possible. So a large reflector that reflects in a single direction is the best. A drawback is that it won't be seen very well when the car driver is very close to you (but your taillight will be).
    Conversely, the CPSC 3-face reflector (and especially the larger version) is seen from a closer distance, but the sideface is also seen when a car is almost overtaking you. Also, on winding local roads or for people who cycle while zizzagging in the street (ex.: young children), the 3-face reflector allow visibility even when the bicycle is not in line with the driver.

    As for wheel reflectors, they have a limited use, as explained in John Allen's article.

    Finally, one aspect to always consider is placement and utility of those reflectors when the bike is actually used. Official setups place the rear reflector on the seat post or seat stay, two places where they are likely to be hidden by stuff carried on the bike.


    NOw, what do I have on my bikes?
    - one bike has the rear CPSC reflector, 2 others don't (no room).
    - 1 red and 2 amber SAE automotive reflectors (2 25" x 4.5") installed on the rear mudflap (i.e. low and behind the load, no matter what I carry, and behind road spray)
    - 2-3 rear taillights arranged to make a large surface (visible from further away);
    - 1 generator-driven headlight that has a built-in reflector;
    - wheel reflectors (not because I believe in them, but because they are required)

    Regards,
    Michel Gagnon
    Montréal (Québec, Canada)

  19. #19
    Senior Member randya's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LittleBigMan
    Wayneburg,

    I highly recommend going to the auto parts store and picking up some red and amber reflectors. They are extrememly bright (especially amber) and last forever. They might cost about $1 apiece.

    The best way to get maximum reflectivity out of a reflector is to mount it so that it faces directly towards the source of light, namely car headlights. The less the angle of reflected light varies as the light travels from its source to the reflector and back to the driver's eyes, the brighter the reflector shines.
    I agree with all of the above. Amber reflectors are the most reflective (see John Forester). If you're looking for light-weight, eliminate the backing or use tape. Reflective tape will age. Sunlight exposure is a factor. Tape is OK as long as it's replaced as needed...

  20. #20
    aka old dog greywolf's Avatar
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    I use flashing LEDs but I also use reflective tape , a red triangle on the back of my helmet + 2 lengths of reflective ribbon tied to the back of my helmet that blow about in the wind , your rear light may fail & you may not know it , a reflector or said tape will still offer you some protection in case of a light failure
    :D
    dont worry be happy ????

  21. #21
    Donating member Richard D's Avatar
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    As someone who has been hit by a pedestrian stepping off a pavement don't forget that they rarely carry a torch so reflectors won't help much with them. Personally I use a mixture of tape, reflectors and lights.
    Currently riding an MTB with a split personality - commuting, touring, riding for the sake of riding, on or off road :)

  22. #22
    Sumanitu taka owaci LittleBigMan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Richard D
    As someone who has been hit by a pedestrian stepping off a pavement don't forget that they rarely carry a torch so reflectors won't help much with them. Personally I use a mixture of tape, reflectors and lights.
    And make them obnoxiously bright.
    No worries

  23. #23
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    I have driven at night (doh of course) and came upon cyclist with various reflective devices and the ones that seemed to work the best were those wide reflective leg bands (which I also use). The bike reflectors were almost useless! Maybe the auto reflectors are better than the ones made for bikes, either way I would not put much stock in them. Use rear lights instead-they work a 1000% better. I do use a combo of both, I use a wide reflective leg straps plus reflective stripping built into the jacket and backpack plus a reflective decal on the helmet. My lights in the rear now consist of the Cateye 600 and I just added about 2 months ago those little handlebar end lights which are surprisingly bright.

  24. #24
    Sumanitu taka owaci LittleBigMan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by froze
    I have driven at night (doh of course) and came upon cyclist with various reflective devices and the ones that seemed to work the best were those wide reflective leg bands (which I also use). The bike reflectors were almost useless!
    Angle of reflection is everything. While night driving, I came upon a car that had no tail lights working, driving in the lane to my right, a few car lengths ahead. The built-in reflectors in it's tail light covers were practically invisible because I was not directly behind it.

    I agree that lights are the best bet.
    No worries

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    Why does it have to be "VS?" Tape will fit a lot of parts that reflectors won't, and without hardware. The back fenders of four of my bikes have various reflective tape mosaics--as does the leash for one of our dogs!

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