Why Reflectors Are Actually Dangerous . . . and Mostly Pointless

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Bike Reflectors
Reflectors do little to keep you spotted at night
Bike Reflectors
Reflectors do little to keep you spotted at night

I recently started a project bike with an old frameset (more on that in a future post), and in searching around for ideas on paint schemes, I came across something that caused me a great deal of concern. This blogger, while detailing her bike rebuild, noted that she would soon add some reflectors so she could do some night riding.

Since cycling in itself is already a somewhat dangerous activity, especially when riding in traffic, it’s always best to stay as safe as possible. Reflectors won’t do much. Some might say I’m letting my bike snobbery get in the way here–because any high-end bike doesn’t bother with reflectors–but I quickly took them off my project steel bike too. Here are a few reasons:

  • They’re pretty lame.

Forgive my eloquence, but reflectors are passive and rely on a car’s headlights to illuminate them. If you’ve been cycling for any period of time, you’ll find you can never rely on a driver to spot you–you’ve got to be on the defensive all the time. And consider this: if you’re off to the side of a driver at a stop sign, their lights will be lucky to even touch you. You’ll be basically invisible to the driver, even in your fancy jacket.

  • They give you a false sense of security
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Even the coolest looking reflectors (wait, I think that’s an oxymoron) may make you feel that you don’t need to have any active lighting systems. In fact, lights are the law just about everywhere. Front and rear lights will keep you safer because they’ll ensure you’re illuminated enough for cars to spot you.   So leave the reflectors or pop them off and find them a new purpose in life, but for sure grab some lights! Here are a couple of options that will let you be seen:

Lezyne LED Light Set
The Lezyne LED Light Set is one of the best for keeping you spotted at night

Lezyne Macro LED Light Set: About $120 for both the front and rear lights. Lezyne makes some seriously high-quality products, which is why they’re one of my favorite companies. These lights, while pricey, will make sure you’re seen from the side as well, and they’ve also got easy to mount strap fittings.





Life Line SuperBright LED
LifeLine SuperBright LED Set is a more budget-conscious option


LifeLine SuperBright LED Light Set: Only $25 or so for this set. While these aren’t quite as bright as the Lezyne models, they’re a sturdy, useful, and bright enough option to keep you illuminated and riding in the dark.








So, forgive my preaching, but it’s key to remember that reflectors do little to nothing to keep you visible. Plus, my coach has been on me lately to ride during the day with a super bright, red rear light for a while now. She’s right, it’s just a good idea. Every little extra bit of safety helps.

About Bek 301 Articles
SLO Cyclist's former chief editor and recovering road snob, Bek made sure everything ran smoothly around here. She was also the one who reminded us not to take ourselves too seriously--unless it involves black socks. Black socks are always serious.

1 Comment

  1. Good points on reflectors and their false sense of security. DEFINITELY a good idea to use your tail on strobe even during the day – anything to catch a [distracted/irresponsible] driver’s eye. But I also use my headlight (NiteRider 750) during the day on strobe. Since I started doing this, I’ve noticed drivers really see me and slow down, think twice about ripping out of a turn in front of me, etc. Highly recommended for additional safety. You can never be too careful on the bike.

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