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  1. #1
    Just biking along....
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    Reflective tape - Which brand is the best?

    As I read somewhere on the forums, I decided to stick some reflective tape on my rims. I bought some 3M Scotchbrite self-adhesive which was red in color. The problem is that I don't find it very reflective at all! I pretty much need to shine a flashlight directly on the tape to get any reflection. Maybe it's a problem with the red color? I think I may need to try silver next time, which is a shame, red looks nicer on my bike.

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    Yes, the silver 3M tape seems to reflect more brightly...no tape seems to reflect as well as a plastic/glass reflector with beveled surfaces though. If you ride at night in neighborhoods with a lot of traffic coming at you from the side streets, the curved plastic wheels reflectors that are about three to five inches long and half an inch wide work very well. When vehicle headlights hits them, the driver thinks he is headed directly at a carnival.

    But there are always idiot drivers. I got pinned against a curb a few weeks ago while riding at night by a guy who ran a stop sign, made a right turn and then began driving on the wrong side of the street. He claimed "You were invisible". The strobe lights on the front of my bike look like an firetruck on its way to a fire...

  3. #3
    Senior Member ken cummings's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mav67
    As I read somewhere on the forums, I decided to stick some reflective tape on my rims. I bought some 3M Scotchbrite self-adhesive which was red in color. The problem is that I don't find it very reflective at all! I pretty much need to shine a flashlight directly on the tape to get any reflection. Maybe it's a problem with the red color? I think I may need to try silver next time, which is a shame, red looks nicer on my bike.
    I have worked with 3M when using reflective tape in underground mines. Forget the red. The white or silver variety is such a good retroreflector it is likely that the flashlight beam was being reflected back at the flashlight, not at your eyes. Try backing off 50 to 100 feet and hold the light close to the line between the tape and your eyes. 3M makes tapes with wider reflection angles for when the light source is at a poor angle to the tape. I have the bright silver type on my rims. My Cannondale has that tape on all of the frame members. As well as about 20 feet of it on my pick-up truck. Remember looking nice is not why you are doing this. If the silver looks bad get a second bike for day use. (see, another excuse to buy another bike )
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  4. #4
    Rides again HiYoSilver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alanbikehouston
    But there are always idiot drivers. I got pinned against a curb a few weeks ago while riding at night by a guy who ran a stop sign, made a right turn and then began driving on the wrong side of the street. He claimed "You were invisible". The strobe lights on the front of my bike look like an firetruck on its way to a fire...
    And to be a devils advocate, there are always idiot night bicyclists who assume since they can see others can see them. Forget the strobe lights on the front of the bike. Do you have a light on the side? If not, you're invisible, like a hearst running with no lights on its way to a grave plot.
    Hi 'o Silver away

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    Rides again HiYoSilver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ken cummings
    My Cannondale has that tape on all of the frame members.
    Well done, now add reflective sidewalls and front and rear side lights and you will be seen in twilight and night riding conditions.
    Hi 'o Silver away

  6. #6
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    Sheldon Brown has a good article that, in suppporting that reflectors alone are not enough for riding at night, explains how refectors work. This also applies to reflective tape. For any reflector, it has a whole lot to do with the angle the light beam is coming from in relation to the eyes of the person seeing the reflected light.
    http://sheldonbrown.com/reflectors.html

    My old commuter has a fair amount of reflective tape on it, in addition to active lights. On my old commute I normally got passed by several coworkers, in the winter time, this was before, sometimes well before, daylight. The coworkers who drove cars could see my reflective tape very well. The coworkers who drove vans couldn't see my reflective tape well at all. This was because the car drivers, sitting lower, had much less angle between their headlights and their eyes, while the van drivers had much more angle, sitting with their eyes well above their headlights.

    I did my own experiments with this to confirm it. In darkness, with a strong flashlight held right beside my face, the reflective tape did very well. With the flashlight held at arms length, the reflective tape did poorly. With the flashlight at more than arms length, the reflective tape didn't show up at all. I also got the same results with commercially available bicycle reflectors. The only difference being that the face of many bicycle reflectors are angled to account for light coming in at less than an optimum angle.
    Last edited by CommuterRun; 03-10-06 at 04:40 AM.

  7. #7
    45 miles/week Eggplant Jeff's Avatar
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    One thing that will help somewhat is to put the tape on curved surfaces. I.E. around frame tubes. That way you get some light scattered in all directions from the tape, plus the light doesn't have to be perfectly perpendicular to the tape to get a good reflection.

    It's one of those things... it's not perfect, but if you have enough of it, it'll help.
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  8. #8
    ROM 6:23 flipped4bikes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HiYoSilver
    And to be a devils advocate, there are always idiot night bicyclists who assume since they can see others can see them. Forget the strobe lights on the front of the bike. Do you have a light on the side? If not, you're invisible, like a hearst running with no lights on its way to a grave plot.
    Running a stop sign has nothing to do with not being seen. Maybe the driver didn't see the stop sign? And if he didn't, he's never going to see a bicyclist. Maybe he was drunk or high?

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    jcm
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    White reflects more light to it's source than other colors. This tape has been on this bike since 1988. It looks gray like the bike but as you can see, it's a bright white. Can't remember the brand. The oblique photos show that it works well because you are always presenting a 'straight on' angle when you wrap the tubes. Pretty visable out to about 250 ft. but the best is definitely blinkies.
    EDIT: to humans, red 'grays out' sooner than other colors.
    http://i2.tinypic.com/r2iw3r.jpg
    http://i2.tinypic.com/r2iwip.jpg
    Last edited by jcm; 03-10-06 at 11:59 AM.

  10. #10
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    My night riding involves some offroad and not much road work where car headlights will need to see you. My clothing has reflective strips all over it as standard and it is surprising how well they can be seen. The attachment shows the tape on one of my tops and the pannier bag, and is not lights.

    Then on top of that- ALL bikes sold in the UK have wheel reflectors fitted. These are normally the second bit to be thrown away (First is the bell that does not work). Serious bikers may not use them but they work very well.
    Last edited by stapfam; 03-09-08 at 04:30 PM.
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    PatronSaintOfDiscBrakes dynaryder's Avatar
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    Not sure what brand it is,but I get all my reflective tape from identi-tape.com. I've put the orange stuff on several bikes and it works really well.

    +1 on the curved surfaces idea;I angle it on my seat and chainstays for multi-angle coverage.

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  12. #12
    Senior Member Paul L.'s Avatar
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    Once I get my bike all rigged up with reflectors and such I like to put a video camera on my car and turn the headlights on, then I video tape myself riding away from the car for a few hundred feet and then back. I do this once without lights on and once with lights on. From this I get a pretty good idea of how I look, when I turn around I even get to see how visible I am from the side. One thing I have found to be very effective on my wheels lately is not so much a small tab of tape every 3 spokes or so but 5 tabs together in 3 places on the rim, this gives a much more eye catching design as it reflects 3 larger areas of light as opposed to a bunch of tiny ones.
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  13. #13
    Senior Member ken cummings's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stv
    My wife works for 3M in the Personal Safety Products Div. which encompasses reflective tapes. She says that 3M doesn't make a red reflective tape. Apparently 3rd parties buy the tape and colour it red, thereby reducing the reflectance characteristics significantly. Apparently the silver and orange I think she said is the best reflectance tape. (Not much help especially if your trying to colour match)
    Stv, can we buy that silver cloth tape in wide pieces somehow? I saw an actor once in an open air theater wearing robes that must have been reflective cloth. When he was hit with a sunlight beam from a large mirror he was BLINDING. I know 3M no longer makes the reflective paint and was told someone else does now, but who?
    This space open

  14. #14
    Good Afternoon! SamHouston's Avatar
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    2 inch is the largest standard for cloth backed sewable 3M I think. BTW Ken you're right about that tape seeming as though it throws light directly back at the flashlight, it's exactly what it does. The same strip of ScotchliteŽ you're lighting up from the front won't appear bright to someone seeing it from a different angle. As it does light up Very brightly this is actually an advantage. No need to light up something you don't have a possible collision course with, blind yaself for nothing is all it'd do. 3Ms retroreflective sewable tapes are definately superior, it's all we'll use.

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    Senior Member ken cummings's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SamHouston
    2 inch is the largest standard for cloth backed sewable 3M I think. BTW Ken you're right about that tape seeming as though it throws light directly back at the flashlight, it's exactly what it does. The same strip of ScotchliteŽ you're lighting up from the front won't appear bright to someone seeing it from a different angle. As it does light up Very brightly this is actually an advantage. No need to light up something you don't have a possible collision course with, blind yaself for nothing is all it'd do. 3Ms retroreflective sewable tapes are definately superior, it's all we'll use.
    About that guy wearing reflective robes. I saw it some 40 years ago when a friend and I sneaked in to the annual Easter Pagent of the IAM cult on the south side of Mt. Shasta. The man playing Jesus had the robes on and each time he said something that supported their beliefs he was hit with the sunbeam and blazed in Glory. For an effect like that the cult would be willing to buy an entire bolt or roll of the material. And I heard of an English jogger with reflective sweats who was attacked by an owl.
    This space open

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    Senior Member no motor?'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SamHouston
    2 inch is the largest standard for cloth backed sewable 3M I think. BTW Ken you're right about that tape seeming as though it throws light directly back at the flashlight, it's exactly what it does. The same strip of ScotchliteŽ you're lighting up from the front won't appear bright to someone seeing it from a different angle. As it does light up Very brightly this is actually an advantage. No need to light up something you don't have a possible collision course with, blind yaself for nothing is all it'd do. 3Ms retroreflective sewable tapes are definately superior, it's all we'll use.
    Is this http://www.aerostich.com/product.php...cat=362&page=1 what you're writing about? The retroreflective striping they use on this product (especially the strip across the back) http://www.aerostich.com/product.php...cat=248&page=1 is extremely visible, and I've had many people comment on how that was brighter than the tail light on my old BMW in the dark.

  17. #17
    Good Afternoon! SamHouston's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by no motor?
    Is this http://www.aerostich.com/product.php...cat=362&page=1 what you're writing about? The retroreflective striping they use on this product (especially the strip across the back) http://www.aerostich.com/product.php...cat=248&page=1 is extremely visible, and I've had many people comment on how that was brighter than the tail light on my old BMW in the dark.

    the retroreflective tech is the same but I was refering to the sewable 3M tapes, like these:

  18. #18
    Senior Member ken cummings's Avatar
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    Grainger had a better selection of reflective stuff on the net than 3M. And they had REFLECTIVE PAINT!! One spray can will cover 12 to 15 square feet. For under $8.00. At that low a price I can see coating a cheap set of coveralls and scaring the beejezus out of the motorists on Halloween.
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    Has anyone used the reflective paint? I need something for black panniers - and the reflective tape does not stick well to the cloth.

  20. #20
    Senior Member ken cummings's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by farrellcollie
    Has anyone used the reflective paint? I need something for black panniers - and the reflective tape does not stick well to the cloth.
    Yes. I used it on the plastic hull of my recumbent. People said I froze traffic at intersections because drivers thought I was a UFO. Seriously, for the $7 something price I saw on the Grainger website it is worth buying some and trying it on some waste cloth then a little spot on the panniers. Please do and tell us how it went. A lot of large town and cities have a Graingers store. These are not normal retail stores, you are expected to know what you want and be ready to deal when you walk up to the counter. Like print out the page about the paint and bring it along.
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  21. #21
    Drive the Bicycle.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mav67
    As I read somewhere on the forums, I decided to stick some reflective tape on my rims. I bought some 3M Scotchbrite self-adhesive which was red in color. The problem is that I don't find it very reflective at all! I pretty much need to shine a flashlight directly on the tape to get any reflection. Maybe it's a problem with the red color? I think I may need to try silver next time, which is a shame, red looks nicer on my bike.
    --- If you type "reflective tape" in the Search The Forums box, you'll find loads of info. For example, check out this thread: www.bikeforums.net/showthread.php?t=113812
    "The bicycle is the perfect transducer to match man's metabolic energy to the impedance of locomotion. Equipped with this tool, man outstrips the efficiency of not only all machines but all other animals as well." Ivan Illich ('Energy and Equity')1974

  22. #22
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    The type of tape you use is more of a factor than the brand. For bikes and motorcycles you want to use either Type 8 or Type 9 SOLAS tape. If you go to www.colebrothers.com/biketape there is a photo comparing the engineer, high intensity, Type 8 and SOLAS. You can clearly see why the type 8 and SOLAS are recommended.

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