Proviz Australia – Men’s REFLECT 360 Cycling Jacket and Backpack Review

Riding to work through the summer is usually bliss. The days are long; the weather is warm, it’s sunny with a slight breeze. Life is great! The need for winter riding gear is the last thing on your mind. But with the arrival of winter in Melbourne the need for winter gear has hit hard – it’s cold, dreary and dark on the commute to and from work. Begrudgingly, the choice of attire had to change if I was to continue riding.

Along came Proviz Australia who wanted Australian Triathlete to try some of their reflective apparel, perfect for the winter season. The jacket and backpack that I was using through summer were not going to be suitable in winter so I decided to try the Grey REFLECT360 Men’s Cycling jacket and REFLECT360 Cycling Backpack.

REFLECT360 Jacket

First up, the REFLECT360 Jacket. On first viewing, in daylight, the jacket is mid-grey in colour. Held-up at certain angles the colour changes slightly and the material gives off a hint of the technical prowess that it holds within it – that comes to life at night. On opening the packaging, the jacket comes with advertising asking you to, “Take a photo with the flash on to see it shine!” We did as instructed and the result is amazing. It is like a beacon of light shining back at you.

I was intrigued to learn how it actually does this – how does the jacket come to life when light shines on it? Well, according to their website, Proviz state that they ‘achieve this utilising millions of highly reflective tiny glass beads’, which are ‘embedded in the material’. Very cool! I was really excited to test it out and to see what affect this might have out on the road.

Safety

It goes without saying that riding through the inner city; particularly at night has its dangers. Despite having the mandatory safety requirements such as front and rear lights, and reflectors, the potential of an accident occurring increases in the dark. So, doing whatever you can, to make yourself more visible while riding – i.e. wearing reflective gear in addition to having lights on your bike – is going to make you more visible and will, hopefully, keep you safer on the road.

With the REFLECT360 Men’s Cycling Jacket on, and knowing its reflective properties and potential, I somehow felt safer on the road – I had an image in my mind that drivers could see the body of a cyclist and not just some random reflective object. I certainly sensed cars behind were more aware of me. Their driving, breaking and manoeuvring all seemed different – it felt more controlled and purposeful. Prior to testing the Proviz jacket I would ride wearing a yellow reflective all-around body strap but I always questioned its effectiveness. Not that it wasn’t effective, but was it enough? From the earlier iPhone flash test I knew with certainty that I was well lit up wearing the jacket compared to the strap. This made me feel a lot safer wearing the jacket vs. the strap. See image comparison below.

Functionality and comfort

I ordered a large size to allow extra layers to be worn underneath the jacket for added warmth during my commutes. I soon realised, however, that this wasn’t necessary because the extra layers weren’t needed – a single short sleeve top was all that I had to wear underneath the jacket, it kept me that warm! I quickly discovered the material is a great wind/chill breaker.

During my first winter ride I zipped the jacket to the neckline, which has a zip garage to eliminate chafing. I tightened the adjustable hard wearing cuff that comes with a Velcro hook and loop attachment to stop the cold air going up the arm, and tightened the adjustable pull cord to a comfortable snug fit around waist. I kept the zip vents closed to retain warmth. I felt snug as a bug in a rug! The low profiled rear spray guard was a good length too, a nice fit, not too short to become ineffective from water spray from the rear tyre. However, as the dreary evening temperature wasn’t icy cold I soon became too warm and needed to let some airflow in to cool down.

To help regulate body temperature the jacket comes with zip vents in the front, lower back, under arm and a part stitched flap across the upper back. Opening these vents should allow enough air to flow through to help cool you down if you’re too hot. Alternatively, if you’re cold, keeping the vents closed should keep you warm. An additional purpose of these vents is to allow you to wear the jacket all year round, even in the warmer months.

However, while these design vents are theoretically great for allowing variability and control for the rider in regulating temperature, I actioned some of these features when I was heating up and still remained quite warm. So, I think the jacket’s build is more suited for cold winter riding, rather than all year round, especially also as it has a micro fleece collar to keep the neck warm. Personally, I would be looking for a lighter jacket during summer, as the REFLECT360 Jacket did get warm even with air-cooling features engaged, most noticeably on the up-hills as there is less wind flow to assist cooling. With the jackets warmth, along with your own body’s heat and sweat rate, even though the jacket has soft cotton mesh lining to further aid comfort and breathability, it also can have a tendency to collect moisture on the inside.

A bonus feature of the vents is that they double as extra pockets if you need them – win! While I didn’t test this out, the single back pocket looks quite big, so you should be able to carry a variety of things on your ride, such as a wallet, tissues or spare gloves etc.

Another great feature of the jacket is that it’s waterproof – perfect when it starts to pour on your way to/from work! During my test rides, I got caught in the rain a couple of times and found that the jacket was truly waterproof – it managed to repel the water well.

Onto the price of the jacket. At $200 would I spend this amount on this jacket? I can confidently say that I would. The safety features of this jacket (it’s reflective properties) are priceless. The REFLECT360 Cycling Jacket is truly ‘enlightening.’ Its prime selling point is its ridiculously high visibility factor. It is 100 per cent reflective, so no need for add-ons to help with being seen in the dark. It is an outer layer that will be a ‘go-to’ every time through the dark cold mornings and evenings to stay warm and be seen. Wearing the jacket gives you human form and I believe if drivers notice they are approaching a person it creates a greater amount of accountability to pass you safely. We want to be proactive not reactive and safety is paramount as we all want to get home to our families.

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REFLECT360 Backpack

This backpack is a beauty! I’ve had a lot of backpacks over the years for riding/commuting or simply walking that came with all ‘bells and whistles’ but the REFLECT360 Backpack just ticks so many boxes.

As bike commuters we need a backpack to carry a change of clothing, lunch and for some, a computer. But a large backpack, especially if it’s a dark colour, could be obscuring your cycling jacket, which is a potential source of extra illumination to help being seen by cars and traffic. This used to be my very problem. To counter this, I would fashion a reflective strap around my black bag. But I found this to be cumbersome, time consuming and really an inefficient solution. At times the strapping would slip to the sides, making it less visible – it simply wasn’t designed for the bag. It was a quick fix that I thought was OK but it really wasn’t working – there had to be something better out there.

Well, with the REFLECT360 Backpack having the same reflective material as the REFLECT360 Cycling Jacket, I could use the backpack on a non-reflective jacket and still be lit up from afar in traffic. Perfect! The best part about it is that you just throw the backpack on and go. No more faffing around looping reflective strapping around my old black bag trying to make myself as visual as possible.

Again, like with the jacket, for me, the primary selling point of the backpack is its reflectiveness, and as such better safety, which is the main reason to try it out. However, it also has other cool features that you will like.

At 30L carrying capacity the REFLECT360 Backpack is large enough to carry clothes, shoes, lunch, a spare tube, tool kit and pump without being too big to fit comfortably on your back. It also has a separate compartment to hold a laptop. Even fully laden, the well-padded and generously wide supportive straps seem to effortlessly distribute the weight so that you don’t feel like its being forced on the tops of your shoulders. This is a big tick, as I tend to ride with it filled to the brim. Furthermore, the backpack stands upright whether full or not, a trait I haven’t found with other bags I’ve used, which always tend to fall over. I might be being picky here, but it was a standout feature for me nonetheless.

The REFLECT360 Backpack boasts waterproof AquaGuard® zips, that are strong, sturdy and easy to handle even with gloves on. Deep and wide mesh pockets on both sides allow you to carry your necessities, such as bananas, with ease of access. Waist and chest straps provide extra support, keeping the backpack firm against your body even when you’re out of your saddle, climbing those stubborn energy-zapping hills.

The rear of the backpack has The BES Beetle Ventilation System allowing for air to freely move around your back so you can avoid that uncomfortable clammy back feeling. I found that this padding area that lifts the bag away from your body also helps prevent something like a shoes heel from prodding you creating discomfort.

If the reflective qualities of the backpack weren’t enough there is an LED light loop to add an extra light to further endorse its properties. The bag also has grab handles at the top for easy carrying, which for me is also handy for strapping my helmet onto. There is one at the bottom as well. Similarly, there are elastic shoulder strap loops for accessory attachments. There is even a plastic loop on each strap ready to hold a 2-litre hydration pack.

The features on this backpack just keep on giving but I have to say it was the small zip on the front panel that gave me a little smile. I found the positioning, accessibility and its size perfect for my wallet, phone and keys. These are always the last three things to be put away when leaving the office. When I needed them I knew where to find them; they had their own secure place rather than being scattered somewhere at the bottom of the bag with everything else.

The REFLECT360 Backpack has everything you would want in terms of features, functionality and comfort. But, again, it’s the high visibility that shines (pun intended) the most. You are going to be seen from a good distance when car lights cast their beams onto it. When used while riding your bike in the dark, I believe you have made the safest choice, and with the extra features mentioned above, at $145 you’re definitely getting bang for your buck!

Winning combination

The jacket and backpack alone are awesome products that have many redeeming features worth the investment. However, if you are a commuter in need of using a backpack, by combining the two together the bag doesn’t impede on the jackets reflectivity, it adds to it, therefore still guaranteeing 100 per cent, unhindered coverage of light reflecting material over your upper torso. Your body is clearly lit up showing you as a human form riding on the road, even on your darkest commutes.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andy Cumming

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