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  1. #1
    Just a geek tdister's Avatar
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    Best/better reflective tape?...product review

    I do most of my riding at night. I am fairly set on my lighting (Minewt X2 dual, mars 3.0), but need some different reflective material.

    I had planned on ordering some rolls of tape since I couldn't find it locally, then I found some NATHAN brand reflective red "tape" kits and decided to try them since they were only $2 (and I am happy with the NATHAN reflective yellow triangle I got for my camelbak).

    http://www.branfordbike.com/cgi-bin/...R_ID=172764507

    Well, I really liked the precut designs and it has held up well...I am not happy with the reflective performance. It only bounces the light straight back. Holding a flashlight by my head and it's very bright, holding the light at my hip it doesn't even seem reflective. Even holding at shoulder height greatly degrades performance. This translates the same with car headlights. From the right angle you might get a flash of it, but it sure isn't very reliable.

    The angle of the tape doesn't matter. You can be looking at it nearly flat/from the side and it will light up if the light angle is there. If not, it just looks like slightly bright regular vinyl.

    Are all tapes like this, and this is just the nature of the thickness? Does it need to be as thick as a reflector to perform as well or even close angle-wise? Do I need to get the expensive 3M stuff? Is there something that works as well for less? Thank you much.
    Last edited by tdister; 10-24-07 at 07:44 AM.

  2. #2
    wheelin in the years ebr898's Avatar
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    I orignaly stubbled on to bike forums while looking for information about making my bike more reflective. I have tried several things. Reflective tape, purchased at Gall's (police supply) has worked the best. I put it on a 85 Schwinn World Sport. The nice thing is it comes in colors, so I blacked out the uggly Schwinn graphics with the black tape. BTW the black tape reflects a gold color.
    I also tried the reflective clear coat that you can get in a can, not very good at all. I even got ahold of the flass beads they use to mark airport runways with and added it to a clear coat of paint. It still was not as good as the Gall's reflective tape.
    May I suggest you check out the commuting section or car free living , you will find more cyclist that have experance riding at night.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Bill Kapaun's Avatar
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    My brother gave me his "remnant" roll of 3M tape after he did his bike. The stuff seems to work fairly well. How much is it for a roll?

    Note: I put one piece around the down tube so that as I pedal, it gives a "flashing" effect as my legs cove/uncover it. Don't know if it really makes a difference or not, but I thought it seemed like a good idea.

  4. #4
    53 miles per burrito urban_assault's Avatar
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    3M is my favorite. It comes in many sizes and colors. Here are two pics of my Cannondale covered in black reflective tape. When hit by light, it reflects white. Pic 1 without flash, pic 2 with flash.


    Last edited by urban_assault; 10-08-08 at 07:58 PM. Reason: correcting photos

  5. #5
    Walks with a limp dijos's Avatar
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    SOLAS tape rules. I have it on my coast guard jacket. http://www.landfallnav.com/ssrt1.html
    I am looking for a 52cm-ish lugged mixte or ladies frame. Pm if you got one.
    Quote Originally Posted by thebristolkid
    Last I checked, most college campuses were firmly attached to solid earth, which, in my experience, is typically adequate for riding a bicycle upon.

  6. #6
    njm
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    I have the Nathan's tape you mention, in yellowish green, on the back and sides of my helmet. I tried to take it easy and stuck on six pieces in a horizontal line.

    I also have the basic 3M reflective tape in red on my Raleigh Record.



    I don't know if it's captured in the picture, but to me the 3M tape seems more "metallic," while the Nathan's tape seems to look more plasticky.

  7. #7
    Just a geek tdister's Avatar
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    njm, do you notice the 3m being better at either reflecting brightness or angle (both?) over the Nathan stuff?

    My tape shows up with a camera flash, but only because the light is coming from near the lens...if I take pic with a flashlight hitting it from another angle, no dice.

    I just got back from a ride and asked a guy in a truck if he noticed it, he looked at me like he didn't know what I was talking about and said he only saw my light and triangle. He was right behind me at two stop signs.

    Oh, and a couple feet of #m seems to be about $15...hoping I can find some scraps for free somewhere local.
    Last edited by tdister; 10-25-07 at 01:31 AM.

  8. #8
    Bike ≠ Car ≠ Ped. BarracksSi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tdister View Post
    Well, I really liked the precut designs and it has held up well...I am not happy with the reflective performance. It only bounces the light straight back. Holding a flashlight by my head and it's very bright, holding the light at my hip it doesn't even seem reflective. Even holding at shoulder height greatly degrades performance. This translates the same with car headlights. From the right angle you might get a flash of it, but it sure isn't very reliable.

    The angle of the tape doesn't matter. You can be looking at it nearly flat/from the side and it will light up if the light angle is there. If not, it just looks like slightly bright regular vinyl.
    Aren't all standard reflectors like this, too?

    It's just the nature of the tape. You'd want it reflecting back towards the source, which should be a pair of headlights that are nearly line-of-sight with the driver; you don't want it reflecting away from them.

  9. #9
    jcm
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    The most effective tape I've ever seen is DOT-C2 reflective adhesive tape for tractor trailers rigs. It has the fish scale-cross hatch pattern that reflects light from all angles. Might be available at truck stops. I'll try to post a pic of my commuter bike sometime. Absolutely blinding in headlights. Camera flashes have to be edited out.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by tdister View Post
    njm, do you notice the 3m being better at either reflecting brightness or angle (both?) over the Nathan stuff?

    My tape shows up with a camera flash, but only because the light is coming from near the lens...if I take pic with a flashlight hitting it from another angle, no dice.

    I just got back from a ride and asked a guy in a truck if he noticed it, he looked at me like he didn't know what I was talking about and said he only saw my light and triangle. He was right behind me at two stop signs.

    Oh, and a couple feet of #m seems to be about $15...hoping I can find some scraps for free somewhere local.
    I have some Nathan velcro ankle/arm straps that are highly reflective. If that is any indication of the quality of their tape then it would be a good choice.
    What is better than getting your heart rate up and saddle time?

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    Quote Originally Posted by jcm View Post
    The most effective tape I've ever seen is DOT-C2 reflective adhesive tape for tractor trailers rigs. It has the fish scale-cross hatch pattern that reflects light from all angles. Might be available at truck stops. I'll try to post a pic of my commuter bike sometime. Absolutely blinding in headlights. Camera flashes have to be edited out.
    Known in the trade as conspicuity tape, amazing reflectivity.

    http://www.identi-tape.com/3m-conspicuity.htm

  12. #12
    Al noisebeam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcm View Post
    The most effective tape I've ever seen is DOT-C2 reflective adhesive tape for tractor trailers rigs. It has the fish scale-cross hatch pattern that reflects light from all angles. Might be available at truck stops. I'll try to post a pic of my commuter bike sometime. Absolutely blinding in headlights. Camera flashes have to be edited out.
    Is all DOT-C2 tape the same? Of course it meets a minimum standard, but are some brands better than others?

    I bought a roll (the alternating red/wide bands, it's also available in yellow as seen on school busses) from a Love's truck stop and wonder if there is better version out there. I don't mean its bad, just not as good as I expected.

    Al

  13. #13
    Just a geek tdister's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcm View Post
    The most effective tape I've ever seen is DOT-C2 reflective adhesive tape for tractor trailers rigs. It has the fish scale-cross hatch pattern that reflects light from all angles. Might be available at truck stops. I'll try to post a pic of my commuter bike sometime. Absolutely blinding in headlights. Camera flashes have to be edited out.
    Probably being a stickler about wording here....

    More worried if it reflects light to all/many angles rather than from all angles. I think it will though from what i remember about seeing red and white DOT tape.

    And no, plastic reflectors are not as directional as this stuff. My pedal reflectors show up when this stuff just looks dull. They do work better at certain angles and head on, but nowhere near as direction-dependent as this tape.

    I will take some pics tonight to demonstrate...

  14. #14
    jcm
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    Quote Originally Posted by dewaday View Post
    Known in the trade as conspicuity tape, amazing reflectivity.

    http://www.identi-tape.com/3m-conspicuity.htm
    That's the stuff.

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    jcm
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    Quote Originally Posted by tdister View Post
    Probably being a stickler about wording here....

    More worried if it reflects light to all/many angles rather than from all angles. I think it will though from what i remember about seeing red and white DOT tape.

    And no, plastic reflectors are not as directional as this stuff. My pedal reflectors show up when this stuff just looks dull. They do work better at certain angles and head on, but nowhere near as direction-dependent as this tape.

    I will take some pics tonight to demonstrate...
    Yes, reflectors are highly dependent on direct angle of light. Very good when seen from an ideal direction. The nice thing about tape is that it wraps around the frame members and thus provides a moving/variable angle in night traffic.

  16. #16
    jcm
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    Here's a pic from a recent club ride up the Ironhorse Trail here in Western Washinton. My bud has a Trek 520 with no tape, and this is full daylight with a flash. My bike is wrapped with the 3M DOT-C2 stuff. All white.


  17. #17
    Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by tdister View Post
    I do most of my riding at night. I am fairly set on my lighting (Minewt X2 dual, mars 3.0), but need some different reflective material.

    I had planned on ordering some rolls of tape since I couldn't find it locally, then I found some NATHAN brand reflective red "tape" kits and decided to try them since they were only $2 (and I am happy with the NATHAN reflective yellow triangle I got for my camelbak).

    http://www.branfordbike.com/cgi-bin/...R_ID=172764507

    Well, I really liked the precut designs and it has held up well...I am not happy with the reflective performance. It only bounces the light straight back. Holding a flashlight by my head and it's very bright, holding the light at my hip it doesn't even seem reflective. Even holding at shoulder height greatly degrades performance. This translates the same with car headlights. From the right angle you might get a flash of it, but it sure isn't very reliable.

    The angle of the tape doesn't matter. You can be looking at it nearly flat/from the side and it will light up if the light angle is there. If not, it just looks like slightly bright regular vinyl.

    Are all tapes like this, and this is just the nature of the thickness? Does it need to be as thick as a reflector to perform as well or even close angle-wise? Do I need to get the expensive 3M stuff? Is there something that works as well for less? Thank you much.

    I was given one of Branfordbike's cycling vests as a gift. It works really well. With its neon yellow strips on bright orange mesh, people have taken notice of me. I use it for both bicycling and hiking purposes. While bicycling, motorists have taken more caution. When walking on MUP's or sidewalks, other cyclists riding in stealth mode that have no regard for pedestrians also slow down.

    I only wish that the vest had more neon yellow reflective stripes than it currently has. Does anyone know how I'd be able to apply more wide, neon yellow stripes to the vest without having to buy a new one? If you do, please get back to me.

  18. #18
    Conservative Hippie
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    Quote Originally Posted by tdister View Post
    ...I am not happy with the reflective performance. It only bounces the light straight back. Holding a flashlight by my head and it's very bright, holding the light at my hip it doesn't even seem reflective. Even holding at shoulder height greatly degrades performance. This translates the same with car headlights. From the right angle you might get a flash of it, but it sure isn't very reliable.
    Some more than others, but all reflective anything does this. My own experiments have shown Sheldon to be absolutely correct (of course) in this article:
    http://sheldonbrown.com/reflectors.html
    Especially note the section on "Observation angle".
    Last edited by CommuterRun; 10-25-07 at 06:12 PM.

  19. #19
    Senior Member no motor?'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by urban_assault View Post
    3M is my favorite. It comes in many sizes and colors. Here are two pics of my Cannondale covered in black reflective tape. When hit by light, it reflects white. Pic 1 without flash, pic 2 with flash.

    [IMG][/IMG]

    [IMG][/IMG]
    I've got some big pieces of that on the back of the suitcases on my motorcycle (it must be SOLAS too) and it works great.

  20. #20
    Just a geek tdister's Avatar
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    Yes, that i a nice term for what I am looking for, tape with the best/widest observation angle. I could wrap my entire bike with this stuff i have, it won't help because it only bounces back light to the source.

    I think some are confused as to what I am saying, but I some good info too. Thanks.

    I like the sound of the SOLAS enough to try it, but I would prefer red as it will be on the rearward areas. I think I will gamble with the 3m DOT type tape and hope for the best, maybe a bit of the SOLAS too.

    If they don't work though, I won't use any of it. I don't mind looking like a dork, but I won't purposefully
    do it for no good reason . This stuff is coming off right after I get some pics.

    Surely it is possible to have a reflective material that has a nice wide/consistent observation angle. It just needs many different angles of reflective bits inside. Even if it reduces the maximum reflectiveness from certain angles it would be better overall. Maybe the thickness of tape is the limiting factor.
    Last edited by tdister; 10-25-07 at 06:32 PM.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by tdister View Post
    Yes, that i a nice term for what I am looking for, tape with the best/widest observation angle. I could wrap my entire bike with this stuff i have, it won't help because it only bounces back light to the source.
    PM me an address if you'd like and I'll drop a sample in the mail. Not 3M, but it's definitely top level stuff.
    Good tape should reflect to and from any angle. It's made of laser cut, plastic prisms inside the tape. There's also a kind with suspended reflective particles which is pretty cool, but not as effective as what you want.

  22. #22
    Just a geek tdister's Avatar
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    Thanks for the offer, I think I will just try to find a truck(s) around here to play with using a flashlight and a buddy. I have seen different designs available online so I should be able to identify brand and type.

    Thanks again to everyone. Will post my results/pics along the way to hopefully help others and keep everyone as safe as possible.

  23. #23
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    Go for the Reflexite Daybright (V92) reflective tape. Here's a link where someone compares Reflexite, 3M, and SOLAS tape.

    http://www.mahonkin.com/~milktree/hawk/reflector-pics/

  24. #24
    Just a geek tdister's Avatar
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    PICS

    I just got back from taking some pics. I have to say that, after all my bellyaching, this stuff actually works fairly well...much better than I expected and had been told (though not quite as well as the following pics seem to show). I think my taillight and triangle are so bright that they are just what you notice whether the tape is visible or not.

    The important thing is that I'm visible. I am still getting some 3M type tape...just to see. Not sure which version yet


    Notice the tape bits on my brake levers in an attempt to give width perception. I also have these little pieces on the buckles of my camelbak. There is a circular piece where the seat stays and seat post meet that isn't very identifiable at times. Not sure how much good the handlebar tape does when I'm actually on it, but it seemed like a decent idea at the time. Opinions, suggestions and questions always welcome.

    http://s233.photobucket.com/albums/ee144/tdister3/

    sorry for quality, long shutter and unsteady hands=bad photo


  25. #25
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    Reflective Tapes

    The type of reflective tape that you use makes a big difference. Type 8 or Type 9 tapes reflect much brighter and at sharper angles. This is why they are rated for highway use on trucks and for use offshore. There is a photo of the 4 main types of tapes at www.colebrothers.com/biketape that you can use as a comparison. For bike use I would definately recommend only the prismatic type 8 or 9 grades. Since they are prismatic and not based on glass beads they reflect up to 10 times brighter and at much sharper angles.

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