The concept is simple: take a piece of clothing and add lights. Compact LED’s with compact batteries make this viable but clothing integrated lighting has not yet commonplace. A bit of internet searching will dredge up DIY pages showing people installing lights into gloves, shirts, helmets, or shorts. But if you don’t want DIY (let’s face it, most people don’t) Vizirider created a windproof cycling vest into which a series of LED’s are install. I will admit that it initially had a the feel of ‘solution for problem that doesn’t exist’, but now recognise that it is potential a useful piece of equipment for cycling.
Vests (aka gilets) are a clothing item typically favoured by road cyclists that can have a reasonable timespan during spring and autumn in which they can be used while riding in many parts of Australia. For cool weather cycling they keep wind off the body’s core while remaining breathable and cool enough to keep you from overheating (such as while climbing hills). They’re good for light rain, as well plus are generally light weight and compact so can fit in a jersey pocket if need be.
Once it gets much colder, the winter jersey takes over and a vest becomes obsolete. But in the case of the Vizirider, if you want to add in the extra lighting, it could be worn on top of the winter cycling jacket – this will keep you toasty and add a touch more weather protection because heavy rain is nearly always going to find a way to defeat anything but purpose-designed wet weather gear.
Before we take a closer look at the Vizirider, let’s first acknowledge that there will be arguments about how much light a bike rider should be wearing to avoid the almost-inevitable victim blaming in the event they are hit by a vehicle. You can’t always deliver perfect visibility to drivers who are simply not attentive, but you can still try and draw attention to yourself.
And this is not the first cyclewear with integrated LEDs that we have reviewed on Bicycles Network Australia. Christopher reviewed the Métier Beacon Cycling Gilet last year which is pitch towards high-end cyclists.
Neat idea, neat package
The package that turned up in the mail from Vizirider was straightforward: a vest with integrated LED’s (4 front, 5 rear), a battery pack and a USB charging cord. The battery pack has a sliding charging port cover to maintain some waterproofing, with the connecting plug and cables on one end. It’s not very big, 55mm x 35mm x 15mm, and lives in a purpose-built pocket inside the vest. To operate, pressing the unit from the outside in the area marked with the well-known power symbol turns it on and cycles through the 3 modes: constant, fast-flash and slow-flash.
At 187cm and close to 90kg heading into winter, a medium was a neat fit. The measurements on the website provided good guidance for sizing and the selection I made based on that was quite good. The large would be longer, and possibly roomier. The sizing steps are not enormous, so finding a matching fit which is comfortable should be achievable for most body sizes.
There are three colour options, black, blue and fluro and reflective piping on the front and are a good addition to highten your visibility. On the front there is a pocket with zipper which fits a mobile phone and also a rear zippered pocket on the rear.
The Vizirider vest is reasonably wind-proof and light-shower proof. The mesh inner lining provide a little air flow, but the vest is possibly going to be too hot during summer in Australia, even with the short sleeves. Though that’s not something that is specific to the Vizirider vest, it goes for most cycling vests. It wasn’t very cold during my initial evening commutes so I had to running this unzipped a little to keep from getting too hot. As the temperatures cooled, the zipped moved up and up until it was cool enough to wear it fully zipped.
The front of the vest has four white LEDs and these are at stomach height, below the chest. On the rear there are five red LEDs place around hip height.
The claimed run-time is between 13 and 27 hours and this depends on the mode you select. After about 4 hours use, I plugged in the battery pack and it was fully charged within twenty minutes. It was ‘normal’ to charge the battery regularly and even after a few commutes I would plug it in so never needed to push the battery run-times to the limits.
While this is well suited to commuting, it will not really serve the intended purpose if when you wear a backpack. The rear lights will be covered by a backpack or messenger style bag, and possibly the front lights as well.
I mentioned this vest is in-between cyclewear suited to mild temperatures in spring and autumn though with the functionality of body mounted lights, you may want to wear it in hotter or colder conditions, but it won’t be suited so this somewhat limits the periods of time which the Vizirider can be used. OK, so maybe this is a little more niche than I had first consider. Does that diminish the Vizirider idea? Not totally, no. You don’t have to have the lights on if you’re wearing a backpack, so it works just fine as a wind-proof item of clothing on it’s own.
But is it serving a need?
For those times when it suits the weather, it could be a very handy device. I’m a believer in having low- and high-mounted lights on when I ride at night. Seat post mounted lights can be obscured by vehicles, for example a a few cars back, the drivers may not realise there is a rider upfront and may try to take an inside line when the first car moves out to pass. The Vizirider vest places lighting slightly higher than a seat post light or a handlebar mounted light and can increase your visibility to other traffic who may not see your regular lights.
So, will this substitute for bike-mounted lights? It’s a no from me. It’s additional, and every little bit helps. While I usually run one light on the bike and one on my helmet, adding a third level might seem overkill. But it can give you a second light source or replace a helmet mounted light).
To some riders, this product will still feel like a solution looking for a problem, but for $79 it still works as a vest so the lighting is a bonus!
In my view, this is well-suited to commuters, and not just the road cycling type commuters. Everyday type bike riders who may not usually consider functional cycling wear can benefit from the functionality of a vest along with some extra light.
Being able to easily put it on and just ride is an advantage. It’s not complicated, mind you, as long as you remember to charge this one up. It’s no more onerous than having to recharging your regular bike lights, you just need to include the Vizirider battery pack into your recharging routine.
The retail price is $79 including shipping within Australia and this is available for purchase online at vizirider.com.au