BrammoBrian on Visibility and Safety

Brian Wismann, Lead Designer at Brammo, has been providing some more bookmark-worthy posts over at Elmoto.net.  His latest one is on the subject of visibility:

Oh to be noticed…

Visibility is a key to staying safe on any motorcycle, electric or otherwise. By visibility, I’m talking about how well OTHER drivers can see you. This is a concept that is of critical importance to me, so I’ll do my best to try to convince you to ditch the “cool” darth vader lids and get something colorful and bright instead. I have a feeling that many on this forum (especially the ones that have been riding for years and years) already get this, but I wanted to post this for a new rider that might be having a hard time deciding on gear.

To help visualize the idea, I took a photo from a trip to Portland, blurred it, and then changed the color of my helmet from yellow to black. The blur effect is intended to replicate what information is available to process by somebody’s brain as they quickly scan an intersection before turning. Keep in mind that most drivers are quite distracted by music, children, phone calls, eating, etc…

With black helmet:

With yellow helmet:

What should be obvious is how easily a black helmet, jacket, and neutral toned bike blend in with the background environment. Your head is the highest point on the vehicle and is the most “in-line” with a 4 wheeled vehicle driver’s line of sight. This effect would, of course, be even more dramatic with one of those neon riding vests, although I think even these coupled with a dark colored helmet provide a diminished benefit.

In my opinion, the best helmet colors for visibility are red, yellow, and orange as these are colors that we’ve been trained to recognize as colors of caution and only appear on our roadways to denote hazards. They stand out from the background and command a driver to “see you” rather than look through you. I know alot of guys that assume that a light silver or grey qualify as a “bright colored” helmet, but I think these are only marginally better than black. I’ve noticed that Shoei now offers their RF-1100 (new version of my helmet) in “Pure Orange” which is a great match for the Enertia in Sunburnt Orange. This is what I’ll be recommending for my brother, who I’d like to see riding for a very long time…


I also increase visibility on my bikes by having some fun with retro-reflective rim tape, which “glows” when headlights hit it. Makes you very hard to miss at night. I even add a couple stripes of this to my helmet, along with the Team Oregon retro-reflective decal on the very back.

Here’s the retro-reflective stripes (red) on my Ducati:

And here on my Enertia… (need to add them to the wheels…).


I’ve said my piece… whatever you do, just think about your visibility to other drivers before you head out EVERYTIME you ride. Thanks!

* * * *

Later, another forum member added:

Since I started wearing a reflective vest when commuting about 15 years ago, I have not had a single vehicle make a left turn in front of me at an intersection. However, it does not work as well at night, unless the vehicle behind you happens to have its high-beams on. Low beams don’t point high enough to illuminate the vest, so I stick reflective tape on the rear mudflap down low and use those little reflective license plate fasteners that are sold in Cycle Gear for additional visibility on my bikes.

Also, always check your tail light and brake light operation before taking off every day. I have ridden in heavy fog for about 50% of my commute riding over the past 35 years and have only been rear-ended (fortunately just a little love tap) once – and that was when I started to worry about being visible.

(Thanks Richard #230 !)

I think this is what Richard was talking about:

Anything you think should be added to this discussion?  Reply in the comments, or go over to Elmoto.net and weigh in.

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