The Reflective Bike of Authority

Everyone knows you need at least three road bikes – two if you’re absolutely determined to make a point about minimalism. Bike Number One is reserved for good weather and events, and the Rain Bike for inclement weather. Just like our guns need to be pampered and rubbed down whenever we’re off the bike, any time Bike Number One isn’t being used as a weapon of Mass V-struction, it should be pampered and polished lovingly. Best to leave the dirty work of training in Rule #9 conditions to a dedicated, loyal workhorse with less expensive componentry. It isn’t so much that a bike can’t handle getting wet – don’t be ridiculous – but rather that everything wears more quickly; road grit gets into the drivetrain, water seeps into bearings, and brake pads and rims wear like butter on a grindstone.

I find myself in the enviable position of having my repaired Cervélo R3 holding rank as my current Rain Bike. Having such a steed at hand any time the rain falls makes riding in bad weather all the more enjoyable. I did make some modifications to it, however. For starters, the cassette and chain are both Veloce instead of Record; not only are the less expensive, they appear to be more durable as well. As for hoops, a pair of Mavic Open Pros can’t be beat for durability and reliability.

But perhaps the most important modification centers around making the bike elegantly hi-vis. In addition to Lezyne flashers front and back for visibility, I have also applied strips of black 3M reflective tape to the chain stays, seat post, crank arms, down tube, and head tube. When a light isn’t shining on the tape, you can’t even see its there, but under the shine of a car’s headlights, the bike springs to life.

Riding in bad weather is all about durability and safety; the bike should be outfitted with reliable parts, and the rider should take care to be safe and visible. So whenver you’re riding in Rule #9 conditions, remember these safety tips:

  1. Assume the cars around you do not appreciate the dangers of being on a bicycle in the rain. If you find yourself being followed by a car at a point where it is unsafe for them to pass, either be assertive and take the lane to prevent them making a move that could put you at risk, or pull off the road completely to allow them to pass.
  2. Ride with confidence and make predictable movements. Always signal clearly when making turns. Make eye contact with drivers at intersections and clearly indicate your intended direction of travel.
  3. Always assume cars around you do not see you. Use flashers in any low light situations and give plenty of room to allow for increased stopping distance.
  4. When riding at night, the use of both a helmet mounted light and handlebar mounted light helps drivers realize you are a bicycle and not a motorcycle. I’m not sure why this is, but experience has proven this to be the case.
  5. Avoid riding through puddles, especially ones you can’t see the bottom of; potholes can be bigger than they appear or hidden completely by standing water.

Riding in bad weather means you’re a badass, but it also means cars are less likely to see you or expect to find you out on the road. In accordance with two of the V Tenets of the Velominati, we are to Look Fantastic at All Times, and Return Home Safely To Ride Again Tomorrow. My Reflective Bike of Authority plays nicely in both respects.

Vive la Vie Velominatus.

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115 Replies to “The Reflective Bike of Authority”

  1. Excellent advice. Assuming that everyone is out to kill you is a good policy. We always try to wave when making eye contact to confirm that we have been seen (then assume we haven’t just in case). Drivers are notoriously bad at judging the speed of a cyclist. All the V in the world won’t matter against a few tons of steel and stupidity.

    As a side note, I felt the need to apologize when demoting my former #1 bike to rain bike. Makes it more of a badass though.

  2. Jezus Christ Frank, how tall are you (read: how long are you’re legs)? :O Cool bike btw.

  3. Great public service article @Frank.  Liking the idea of that reflective tape if it’s almost invisible in normal light.  

    By the way, I’m so pleased to hear that you managed to resurrect your beloved R3 and having ridden my new model for some time now (remember Cervelo replaced my cracked frame) I completely understand why you decided not to go for a later model. Totally different feel (that I’m not chuffed with).

  4. What was supposed to be the bike to ride the 2011 Dirty Kanza 200, turned into my work commuter when I was transferred to Belgium before the race.  I tried riding my number 1 to work but the ‘tank’ aka Salsa steel (heavier than $hit)  is much better suited.  While Belgium has 1,000s of kms of bike lanes, they aren’t exactly awesome for a road bike.  So a 700×50 Schwalbe Big Ben tire gobbles up the path.

    I know this bike has many rule violations but it is damn comfortable, especially when it is 5 deg C and raining and dark while riding to work both ways.

  5. @marco Excellent point!

    What about fenders/mud guards @Frank? I too commute daily in Cascadia (Mukilteo to Seattle). I’ll chant Rule #9 on occasion just to keep sane. Keeping my toes and back/butt as dry as possilbe though is key.

  6. Great piece! I finally rode #2 bike this weekend as the roads were sufficiently dry to warrant it. Otherwise, I’ve been plugging away on my mongrel winter/rain bike with judiciously applied red reflective tape. Where do you get the black stuff?

    Agreed on the lights. If I know I’m going to be out in the dark, it’s three reds at the rear (one blinking) and three solid white up front. With today’s LED lights being so good, so cheap and so long lasting, there’s no excuse to be riding literally, in the dark.

  7. The R3 isdead, long live the R3

    Will try that tape, thanks Frank.

    Put in a few km’s yest and was talking to my friend about how cars pass you and how it reflects the personalities. His theory on those that rev too much as they pass is a bully thing. You are smaller and slower and therefore we need to know this as they I pass. I dunno, but it is interesting how many personality types are driving along.

  8. @meursault

    The R3 isdead, long live the R3

    Will try that tape, thanks Frank.

    Put in a few km’s yest and was talking to my friend about how cars pass you and how it reflects the personalities. His theory on those that rev too much as they pass is a bully thing. You are smaller and slower and therefore we need to know this as they I pass. I dunno, but it is interesting how many personality types are driving along.

    For me there’s usually those that are “good” or otherwise those that are “asshole”.

  9. While I agree with you on all points, my back does not agree with the amount of saddle to bar drop on that bicycle. You must be some sort of ape, Frank.

  10. @meursault

    The R3 isdead, long live the R3

    Will try that tape, thanks Frank.

    Put in a few km’s yest and was talking to my friend about how cars pass you and how it reflects the personalities. His theory on those that rev too much as they pass is a bully thing. You are smaller and slower and therefore we need to know this as they I pass. I dunno, but it is interesting how many personality types are driving along.

    I always think that those that drive unnecessarily large and/or loud vehicles must be compensating for something. So, whenever someone guns it when passing me (when it’s really not necessary) I always have a little grin and wonder what it must be like to have such a small…downtube shifter, if you will.

    (No offense intended to any of the Community that ride DT shifters!)

  11. @KW

    @meursault

    The R3 isdead, long live the R3

    Will try that tape, thanks Frank.

    Put in a few km’s yest and was talking to my friend about how cars pass you and how it reflects the personalities. His theory on those that rev too much as they pass is a bully thing. You are smaller and slower and therefore we need to know this as they I pass. I dunno, but it is interesting how many personality types are driving along.

    I always think that those that drive unnecessarily large and/or loud vehicles must be compensating for something. So, whenever someone guns it when passing me (when it’s really not necessary) I always have a little grin and wonder what it must be like to have such a small…downtube shifter, if you will.

    (No offense intended to any of the Community that ride DT shifters!)

    In my area (The South), unnecessary revving means you are dealing with a red-necked 4wheel-drive truck. Assuming that red-necked trucks have one purpose and that is to drive thru mud and swamps — deer hunting. So I started flashing the “sign of the camo” with the latest Giro DND gloves. It only works on half of the red-necked trucks though. And you have to continue to hail for at least 3 seconds for it to register.

  12. Wise words Frank, I always assume drivers can’t see me, but have never used 3M tape before – definitely something to consider for next Winter. 

  13. @unversio

    @KW

    @meursault

    The R3 isdead, long live the R3

    Will try that tape, thanks Frank.

    Put in a few km’s yest and was talking to my friend about how cars pass you and how it reflects the personalities. His theory on those that rev too much as they pass is a bully thing. You are smaller and slower and therefore we need to know this as they I pass. I dunno, but it is interesting how many personality types are driving along.

    I always think that those that drive unnecessarily large and/or loud vehicles must be compensating for something. So, whenever someone guns it when passing me (when it’s really not necessary) I always have a little grin and wonder what it must be like to have such a small…downtube shifter, if you will.

    (No offense intended to any of the Community that ride DT shifters!)

    In my area (The South), unnecessary revving means you are dealing with a red-necked 4wheel-drive truck. Assuming that red-necked trucks have one purpose and that is to drive thru mud and swamps “” deer hunting. So I started flashing the “sign of the camo” with the latest Giro DND gloves. It only works on half of the red-necked trucks though. And you have to continue to hail for at least 3 seconds for it to register.

    Ah, the redneck. Yes thanks to them I can quickly ID the  “woo-woo-woo” of a thrown longneck bottle. Unfortunately my move from the homeland to New England has shown me the universality of that particular subspecies. That said we have had those rare nirvana rides where all the drivers are super nice too (giving us plenty of space, stopping to allow us to make left turns, etc). I’d try the camo trick but it just doesn’t match the kit too well.

  14. You boys need to come and ride with me in my part of SE Wisconsin. Seriously, I have maybe 2-3 encounters with asshole drivers a year here. And we have big trucks – this is serious hunting country. Most drivers are extremely polite – wait to pass, wave at me unbidden. Of course, I try to be overly polite too.

    Now when I lived in Indiana, it was a whole lot of the opposite . . .

  15. @Ccos

    As a side note, I felt the need to apologize when demoting my former #1 bike to rain bike. Makes it more of a badass though.

    Well, from November to April, the Rain Bike sees more action than the #1; in fact, kilometer for kilometer, I bet the Rain Bike sees more action year-round.

    @Mike_P

    Great public service article @Frank. Liking the idea of that reflective tape if it’s almost invisible in normal light.

    You can’t even tell when there’s no light shining on it.

    By the way, I’m so pleased to hear that you managed to resurrect your beloved R3 and having ridden my new model for some time now (remember Cervelo replaced my cracked frame) I completely understand why you decided not to go for a later model. Totally different feel (that I’m not chuffed with).

    Ruckus Carbon Repair fixed it; it was only a few hundie, too. You’d never know anything happened.

  16. Good article.  I would like to bring one point up for debate:  lame plastic fenders that rattle around and fall off on a regular basis may be in violation of Rule #65.  If I lived in Arizona I might feel differently but around here the potholes literally grow noticeably larger in the course of 1 rainy day.  32mm tires and properly mounted alloy fenders are necessary on the rain bike.  I use automotive reflective tape too.

  17. @Overijse

    What was supposed to be the bike to ride the 2011 Dirty Kanza 200, turned into my work commuter when I was transferred to Belgium before the race. I tried riding my number 1 to work but the ‘tank’ aka Salsa steel (heavier than $hit) is much better suited. While Belgium has 1,000s of kms of bike lanes, they aren’t exactly awesome for a road bike. So a 700×50 Schwalbe Big Ben tire gobbles up the path.

    I know this bike has many rule violations but it is damn comfortable, especially when it is 5 deg C and raining and dark while riding to work both ways.

    Looks like a perfect bike for Heck of the North. Interesting gearing; what do you have rigged? Is that a MTB drivetrain on STI? And what are the front ratios? Marko is looking at building a Fat Bike with drop bars for the Aerohead 135 and is wondering about gear combinations.

    I know its a different scenario but I top out my 46×12 on my CX bike on fast bits of trail, so having a single ring seems too limiting, but a double might be good enough.

  18. @brypeter

    What about fenders/mud guards @Frank? I too commute daily in Cascadia (Mukilteo to Seattle). I’ll chant  Rule #9 on occasion just to keep sane. Keeping my toes and back/butt as dry as possilbe though is key.

    Not a fan of mudguards. But I did commute all winter last year from Seattle to Kirkland on my rain bike without fenders. I was very cold some days, but for the most part it was fine. Mudguards to me are ugly and an implicit infraction of Rule #9.

    That said, they’re not against The Rules.

  19. @wiscot

    Great piece! I finally rode #2 bike this weekend as the roads were sufficiently dry to warrant it. Otherwise, I’ve been plugging away on my mongrel winter/rain bike with judiciously applied red reflective tape. Where do you get the black stuff?

    Just got the 3M stuff off Amazon. Tried getting it from local Marina supply stores, but none of them could get it.

    Is buying from Amazon the same as buying local if you live in Seattle?

    http://www.amazon.com/3M-03614-Scotch-Mount-Molding-Tape/dp/B002JOVUO0/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1396303874&sr=8-4&keywords=3m+black+tape

  20. @meursault@wiscot

    All you need is one car at the wrong time; doesn’t matter too much the personalities of volume of traffic!

    Seattle, though, does generally have very cyclist-aware traffic.

  21. When riding Rule #9, I think that every driver is just as distracted as usual, but now with impeded vision because their windscreen is foggy, or the windscreen wipers aren’t working properly or the rain is heavy enough to impede vision in between each swipe.

    Basically, bright lights and ride super conservative. Plus avoid paint markings, manhole covers etc as much as possible, and if you must, ride straight over with no turning or braking.

  22. @KW

    I ride DT shifters, but they are enormous, and the young girls run – screaming.

    @Conrad

    Good article. I would like to bring one point up for debate: lame plastic fenders that rattle around and fall off on a regular basis may be in violation of Rule #65. If I lived in Arizona I might feel differently but around here the potholes literally grow noticeably larger in the course of 1 rainy day. 32mm tires and properly mounted alloy fenders are necessary on the rain bike. I use automotive reflective tape too.

    No argument here mate. I hate mud guards of any kind, shape, or color.

    @Nik

    Can a rain bike be called a Nine Bike?

    Plus One badge to you, matey. And into the Lexicon with it, too.

    @RedRanger

    @frank thats a double upfront and it looks like xtr rear d.

    I mean the size, genius.

  23. @frank

    @Overijse

    I know its a different scenario but I top out my 46×12 on my CX bike on fast bits of trail, so having a single ring seems too limiting, but a double might be good enough.

    I’m thinking a 50 or 46 with a 10-42 cassette might become a pretty good option, although ugly and larger gear gaps harder for cadence. Lighter, fast as a std road combo on the top end, easy as a compact 50 x 28 combo for the hills…

  24. @frank

    @wiscot

    Great piece! I finally rode #2 bike this weekend as the roads were sufficiently dry to warrant it. Otherwise, I’ve been plugging away on my mongrel winter/rain bike with judiciously applied red reflective tape. Where do you get the black stuff?

    Just got the 3M stuff off Amazon. Tried getting it from local Marina supply stores, but none of them could get it.

    Is buying from Amazon the same as buying local if you live in Seattle?

    http://www.amazon.com/3M-03614-Scotch-Mount-Molding-Tape/dp/B002JOVUO0/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1396303874&sr=8-4&keywords=3m+black+tape

    I think you meant:

    http://www.amazon.com/3M-Scotchcal-Reflective-Striping-5-Inch/dp/B00063XI64/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8

    Unless the moulding tape is what was used to fix the R3?

  25. Thanks for this, Frank. I rode in the rain yesterday – soaked (proudly) to the bone. I added better lights recently and think they made a difference. Good advice about the tape – going to look into it.

  26. @wiscot

    You boys need to come and ride with me in my part of SE Wisconsin. Seriously, I have maybe 2-3 encounters with asshole drivers a year here. And we have big trucks – this is serious hunting country. Most drivers are extremely polite – wait to pass, wave at me unbidden. Of course, I try to be overly polite too.

    Now when I lived in Indiana, it was a whole lot of the opposite . . .

    That’s cause you live up there in the middle of nowhere. You need to come down here and ride in the city more often!

    Seriously though, I find that the drivers in the near suburbs are worse. They’re soooo important, and I’m just in the way.

  27. Great to see your R3 again! Still, that drop makes my eyes (nuts) squint!

    Another spot for the reflective tape in on the rim face, facing the hub. Less is more, say three strips of tape equally spaced between the spokes gives a eye-catching “strobing affect”.

    I see those saftey tips apply in the dry and daytime as well.

    Another tip is to give a salute/nod to the driver’s that treats you with repsect on the road. They may even tell one of their fellow motorist that they had a good experience with sharing the road with a cyclist and may change the view of another driver or more for the better.

  28. Frank, ace reflective tape tip, thanks and thanks too @sthilzy, that rim job is getting laid on for maximum effect. I tell the VMH that I am lit up like a christmas tree so that she can yell at the bastide in court “which fecking light did you not see?”.

    Speaking of commuting in rain, down in the tropics it’s often torrential but 25-30c so no Rule #9 but rather this bathtub like water fest. The traffic slows to 30-35kph and it makes for some of the most fun commutes, even to the point of getting in the fast lane to avoid the BB deep puddles – not so much to avoid going through but to avoid getting knocked over by the tire wash and wall of water thrown up.

    @Optimiste

    @unversio

    @Ccos

    @unversio

    I’d try the camo trick but it just doesn’t match the kit too well.

    You have to wear all black to make it work.

    Or you could go all-in and see if this gets you points with the locals:

    Even if this saved your ass from some Deliverance type pig reaming it is ALL wrong unless maybe your commuting to your grow field…

  29. 3M reflective tape just may be the new black !

    I do alot, refer 2 kids, of night riding so if the tape doesnt detract from number 1 then I may give it a go.  Sadly no rain bike option for me unless you count a circa 1989 steel “Dodsun” converted to a short flat bar or an OLD USPS Trek frame with no running gear.

    Im covered back and front with Ay-Up twin headlights and a Thunderbolt tail light.    Its the cars coming side on at country road intersections that can cause issues.   Descreet flasher on the helmet might be an option and keep the head pointed to the approaching car on those side roads.

  30. @sthilzy

    Another tip is to give a salute/nod to the driver’s that treats you with repsect on the road. They may even tell one of their fellow motorist that they had a good experience with sharing the road with a cyclist and may change the view of another driver or more for the better.

    As it happens, I smile and wave both at the idots, and those going a little out of their way to do the right thing. Including the wanker in the cement truck on the rainy pre-dawn. There were only two of us on the road, but for somereason he decided to cut infront of me and slam on the brakes before taking off again. After cathing up with him and asking WTF he was playing it he replied “It’s dark, wet, and slippery. You shouldn’t be on the road”. If only it were possible to charge him with attempted murder because that is what it was. How I stayed up right, and did not go under his wheels I don’t know.

  31. @Barracuda

    Im covered back and front with Ay-Up twin headlights and a Thunderbolt tail light. Its the cars coming side on at country road intersections that can cause issues. Descreet flasher on the helmet might be an option and keep the head pointed to the approaching car on those side roads.

    A buddy lives in a small town full of give-way signs. Cars entering roads at night without looking is a problem for him so he put the (legally required!) wheel reflectors back on his bike. They are white, not yellow but swears despite the ugly look, the swirls they make at night in a cars headlights has been a life saver more than once.

    @Optimiste

    Must be a trend with this camo gear or sommat? I can’t fathom it myself…

    http://shop.fyxo.co/predator-cycling-kit/

  32. @sthilzy

    Another tip is to give a salute/nod to the driver’s that treats you with repsect on the road. They may even tell one of their fellow motorist that they had a good experience with sharing the road with a cyclist and may change the view of another driver or more for the better.

    I wave to every car that passes in either direction, especially cars traveling in the other lane. And make sure to wave when I am at the back of the pace line or on the front. A small gesture that humanizes you rather that being seen as an obstacle for irate drivers. And the extra motion helps catch attention if a driver just isn’t looking. When necessary the wave can quickly be changed over to the “fuck off” motion of recourse — or best to let the wave stand.

  33. @Puffy

    @Barracuda

    Im covered back and front with Ay-Up twin headlights and a Thunderbolt tail light. Its the cars coming side on at country road intersections that can cause issues. Descreet flasher on the helmet might be an option and keep the head pointed to the approaching car on those side roads.

    A buddy lives in a small town full of give-way signs. Cars entering roads at night without looking is a problem for him so he put the (legally required!) wheel reflectors back on his bike. They are white, not yellow but swears despite the ugly look, the swirls they make at night in a cars headlights has been a life saver more than once.

    @Optimiste

    Must be a trend with this camo gear or sommat? I can’t fathom it myself…

    http://shop.fyxo.co/predator-cycling-kit/

    This, or as Fiasco in Adelaide do http://www.fiascociclismo.com/   for the times when you need to go and ride in iraq.

  34. @Rob

    Frank, ace reflective tape tip, thanks and thanks too @sthilzy, that rim job is getting laid on for maximum effect. I tell the VMH that I am lit up like a christmas tree so that she can yell at the bastide in court “which fecking light did you not see?”.

    Speaking of commuting in rain, down in the tropics it’s often torrential but 25-30c so no Rule #9 but rather this bathtub like water fest. The traffic slows to 30-35kph and it makes for some of the most fun commutes, even to the point of getting in the fast lane to avoid the BB deep puddles – not so much to avoid going through but to avoid getting knocked over by the tire wash and wall of water thrown up.

    @Optimiste

    @unversio

    @Ccos

    @unversio

    Confession: wore Black DND gloves last hunting season and they were great. When “sign of the camo” version came out last year I thought better DND gloves for hunting, but they have become a winter thing for me on the bike.

  35. Speaking of safety and being accountable for actions on the road as a user, our state government are to introduce rego plates on all helmets – motorcycle and cyclist alike.

  36. @sthilzy

    Speaking of safety and being accountable for actions on the road as a user, our state government are to introduce rego plates on all helmets – motorcycle and cyclist alike.

    Do they not know that will ruin the aero?

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