The Best Deals on High-Visibility Jackets and Shirts for Cycling

June 18, 2012
Alert Shirt Class 2 Pocket T-Shirt

A brand-name, high-visibility cycling jersey can easily run you $50 or more. High-viz jackets often go for $100 and up. But there are much cheaper options out there for being seen on the road, especially if the only feature you’re really looking for is a bright, eye-catching, high-visibility color to alert drivers to your presence.

First of all, for safety I always ride with some sort of high-visibility shirt or jacket. I consider urban and road cycling to be the single-most dangerous outdoor activity I do. To minimize the risk of being hit by a car, I strive to make myself as visible as possible. As I detailed in my recent article, Now You See Me: Bike Lights, Reflectors, and High Visibility, that means wearing ultrabright (ideally fluorescent) yellow-green clothing (as well as having front and back bike lights and an abundance of reflective material on your bike and gear).

If you ride long distances on a daily basis—say a long, two-wheeled work commute—you’ll want to have a collection of high-visibility cycling shirts so that you have a fresh,  non-sweatified, non-stinkified garment without having to do laundry every few days. (At least during the warm times of year; in the colder months, a single ultrabright jacket can suffice.)

So you can either invest hundreds of dollars in a drawer full of cycling-specific jerseys—or you can buy inexpensive high-visibility T-shirts that sell for around $10 or less. With this in mind (and after much online perusing), I recently ordered several shirts from Alert Shirt, a small online retailer that specializes in high-visibility safety clothing.

Based in Valley Stream, N.Y., Alert Shirt seems to cater more toward professions that require high-visibility clothing as part of the job (construction, road work, etc.). But that doesn’t mean their garments won’t work well for outdoor activities like cycling or running.

Alert Shirt offers a range of shirts and hoodies; the two options I like are their basic T-shirt ($5.99) and their Class 2 Pocket T-Shirt ($10.99), which incorporates reflective stripes across the chest, back, and shoulders (a better option for riding at dusk or at night). I just ordered several of each. Alert Shirt also has some good prices on water-resistant, high-visibility windbreakers ($30 to $35, pictured right) as well as more bomber (and probably a bit much for cycling) jackets and coats ($45 to $65).

Sure, you make some sacrifices by purchasing a simple T-shirt instead of a cycling-specific jersey. Cycling jerseys are designed to be form-fitting for comfort and to prevent it from flapping around in the wind. They use highly-breathable, fast-wicking synthetic fabrics to minimize sweat-soaking. And they usually feature several pockets at the base of the back for storing a water bottle, snack, wallet, or keys that you don’t want in your riding shorts or pants.

In contrast, a T-shirt is, well, a T-shirt: loose-fitting, sans pockets, and often made of cotton or a cotton-poly blend. (The Alert Shirt product line is a mix of options. The basic T-shirts are a 50/50 cotton/poly blend; others are all polyester.) But considering I can buy more than a week’s supply of daily commuting apparel for less than the cost of a single cycling jersey, it’s a small sacrifice to make.

Learn more about cycling gear and accessories in these recent posts:
Bicycles for Children of all Ages (2012)
High-Visibility Backpack Covers for Cycling (2012)
Spare Your Pieces: Noseless Bike Saddles (2011)
Get on the Bike: Which style is right for you? (2011)
An Airbag for Cyclists (2010)
Bicycle Helmets: More Reasons to Wear One (2010)

Equipped” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Matt Heid.

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Matt Heid

Equipped blogger Matt Heid is AMC's gear guru: He loves gear and he loves using it in the field. While researching several guidebooks, including AMC's Best Backpacking in New England, he has hiked thousands of miles across New England, California, and Alaska, among other wilderness destinations. He also cycles, climbs, and surfs.