As Cheryl Cole’s Kermit-green dress on The X Factor proved, the right, or in her case, wrong outfit can really get you noticed. And making sure people spot you, is never more important than when running near busy roads in the dark.
Reflective or bright clothing certainly makes you more eye-catching, but just because you stand out from the background doesn’t necessarily mean today’s driver – with the ever-increasing dashboard distractions – or zombie-like smartphone wielding pedestrians will actually see you.
So what I really liked about French firm RaidLight’s KIT LED-Top is the option to set its 20 white LED lights to flash, (my model had two speeds of flashing). That’s not to say the lights aren’t bright when just set on – but when they flashed they command people to spot you.
These lights combined with the reflective piping on the front and the back even led relations to accuses me of showing up their Christmas tree, while a good few of my favourite local yobs demanded to know where I’d left my bike.
The top, a cross between a tabard and a vest, is described by RaidLight as being “ultralight”. And with a weight of only 140g and its material efficient design it’s surprisingly easy to forget you are wearing it. The top, made from 20% polyester and 80% polyamide, is pretty versatile too. Designed to fit over a coat when trail running it works just as well over just a T-shirt.
And thanks to the placement of the lights I never found them interfering with my peripheral vision. Running in the winter – I wasn’t worried about it making me too hot – but I think there’s little chance of that with so little cloth to trap heat even in high summer.
The top boasts two meshed pockets at the back and one front zipped pocket. The smaller meshed pockets didn’t seem all that practical to me. They are about large enough to fit a small mp3 player (think Ipod nano) or perhaps an Oyster card. RaidLight’s demonstration video has the front zipped pocked used for a mobile phone. At a squeeze, I managed to get my iPhone 5 in there – but smaller phones will probably have less trouble making it into the space. But the top would have to be adjusted to be quite tight to top the phone bouncing about as you moved. There is also a headphone clip – which I neglected to use as it was just as easy to slip my headphones under the top.
The batteries, two 3.5V, and the control for the lights are also tucked away in the zipped pocket, presumably to keep them safe from excess water. But it’s quite important to remember to remove the battery box before throwing the top in the washing machine. Even over a coat it can get a little ripe if left too long.
According to a spokesman for the firm, the lights should run for about 15 hours before needing to be changed – although cold weather may reduce this time slightly. Other reviewers have commented that the top could be improved with USB-rechargeable batteries, which would certainly take the hassle of having to keep a set of spares handy.
It’s not exactly cheap though. It seems to retail online between £30-40. But given how well it works I think it’s a price worth paying. And it seems pretty robust too, with the exception of a change of batteries, the top feels like it will last a decent amount of time. And in any case, who can put a price on being the centre of attention?
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