The first weekend in November came and went, and Daylight Savings Time went along with it; and now the dark times are upon us… This is that time of the year that I’m commuting to work in the dark, only to leave work and ride home in the dark. The longer I ride, the more I’ve made it a point to “be seen” as much as possible, hoping that will keep inattentive drivers from pulling out in front of me or running me over while I’m sitting at a red light. A few weeks ago I stumbled across VUZ Moto on Instagram (pronounced “Voose”); turns out they make a Hi-Viz vest including LED lights that may help me in that endeavor so I sent them a message. I’ve been testing the VUZ Reflective Safety Vest for around two months now and I’m pretty impressed with what I’ve seen.
Out of the box the vest material is very light in the hand and the reflective panels are some of the most substantial I’ve seen. The vest has really wide reflective panels across the chest with accent panels along the shoulders. The rear of the vest has matching back and shoulder stripes along with two sizeable vertical panels that should be very visible from the flanks. Attaching the controller cable is really self-explanatory and the battery already had a little bit of a charge out of the box. I was immediately struck by how bright the LEDs were; the 6 front LEDs are an unbelievable bright white, while the back has an additional 4 LEDs in red. Per the instruction sheet, the LED controller has five settings, front-only, rear-only, front and rear, strobe, and off. Standing in my kitchen testing out the lights, I figured the strobe setting might be a little over the top during a night ride, but I’ll touch more on that in a minute. The vest dons easily, with lateral “stretch” material that helps cinch the vest over your motorcycle jacket. The front zipper is a little small when compared to a motorcycle jacket main zipper, but it operates smoothly and you can still find it with a gloved hand. I had to put the vest on a few times to realize there is also an exterior zipper pocket available on the lower right side. The inside pocket is really only meant for the LED controller, but the exterior pocket is large enough to store your cell phone.
Unlike some of the competitor’s heavier construction, the VUZ vest doesn’t set out to offer additional crash protection, so much as to grab people’s attention. The material is actually 50D Waterproof Polyester along with an inner mesh liner; it’s thin and very light weight, and is intended to be form fitting to reduce drag. Initially I was a little concerned about the vest trapping heat in, but on an 80°F afternoon, I was pretty impressed with how well it breathed; it’s actually quite comfortable in mesh gear on a hot day, although I suspect you’ll want to make sure you keep rolling on the hottest summer days.
Considering it’s now very much fall, the temperatures have been falling and I’ve spent a lot more time wearing the vest over my new Icon DKR Jacket. Despite the fact the vest is a little oversized, it fits over the DKR jacket nicely as it’s a bit more bulky than my old Rainier jacket. More impressively, the material doesn’t fill up with air, flap in the wind at high speeds, nor does it take up extra room in my mirrors, something I can’t say for my rain suit most days. That said, with the expandable lateral material, you’ll want to follow the size chart and order a vest that fits a little closer to your size (I have an XL, I probably need a size smaller).
Initially I figured I would only use the red LED lights on the back of the vest when riding, just to ensure that drivers see me sitting idle in traffic. It wasn’t long before I found myself riding in the cold rain that I recognized the value of the front lights. Commuting around the city I figured it was a good idea to turn on the front LED lights in addition to the rear in order to attract more attention to myself in the hustle and bustle of rainy stop and go traffic. Per my previous comments, I was reluctant to engage the strobe setting at night, assuming the flash and reflection off the bike would get irritating, if not distracting while riding. That might be true on a clear day, but on my way home from the office last week the skies opened up. The temperature was somewhere in the 40’s and it seemed like everyone headed home at rush-hour had completely forgot what it was like to drive in the rain. As folks started to get “dodgey” I flipped the VUZ Vest LEDs to full strobe and merged onto the highway. Considering the bright “sheen” on all of the wet surfaces, I really didn’t notice the pulsing reflection of the strobe lights. Just moments after engaging the strobes, I noticed a car up ahead of me start to pull into my lane; just that instant I could see that they recognized the crazy Christmas lights headed right for them and dove back into their lane and refused to move until I passed by. “Bright lights save lives” apparently.
I recognize that Hi-Viz gear is not for everyone, but the first word out of someone’s mouth right after they pull out in front of a motorcycle is: “I never saw them”, I’m of the mindset that it’s worth the extra effort to be seen, especially if you want to survive this somewhat dangerous hobby. Needless to say I’m a big fan of rally orange and Hi-Viz yellow, but when the sun goes down, these big reflective panels are exactly what I’m looking for; the LED lights are an added bonus.
I’ve spoken with Ryan from VUZ Moto several times in recent days; as of this moment standard black with reflective panels is the only model available, but VUZ will consider adopting other Hi-Viz colors if there is sufficient customer pressure. Personally I think they can get a leg up on the competition by adding a little modern twist on the old “construction worker” thing that you usually find in retail motorcycle stores.
The Reflective Safety Vest will run you about $70 (delivered; free shipping to the lower 48 states) and comes in sizes Medium through XL, ranging chest sizes from 45 to 48 inches (measured over the jacket). $70 might seem expensive at first glance, but looking at the other safety vests on the market, they tend to run $50 or more, most of which are bulky Mil-spec vests that don’t offer additional LED lighting. Along with the safety vest, southern California based VUZ Moto also carries a number of other motorcycle accessories from luggage to motorcycle covers; more information at www.vuzmoto.com.