Weekender Ride

For $29, ‘Portland Bike Reflector’ offers a snap-on visibility aid

Posted by on June 21st, 2016 at 10:55 am

Here’s an interesting new local product aimed at people who like to be highly visible on a bike at night but prefer not to resemble a mirror when they get to their destination.

The Portland Bike Reflector, which launched on Kickstarter this morning, is a simple concept: a two-piece “magnetic, removable reflector” that attaches to a jacket, backpack or saddle bag when you’re on the road.

It’s created by Erik Roby, a Portland-based mechanical engineer who’s been working through various prototypes produced using a 3-D printer. The Kickstarter versions will be molded plastic in one of four colors.

(Photo: Laki Karavias)

Because the early backers will let Roby distribute the cost of the first injection mold, it’s a perfect all-or-nothing crowdfunding project. If the project reaches its $30,000 funding goal, the first 100 backers will get a discounted $22 rate.

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The big idea is that the reflector can attach to lots of different things and then be easily detached and stored when not in use on the road.

(Images: Design at Random)

Here’s one noteworthy disclaimer from the product description:

In order to create a product that would attach very securely to a wide range of apparel and equipment with different material thicknesses, very powerful magnets were used. The product should be kept at least four inches away from anything that could be negatively impacted by a strong magnet, including pacemakers, ICDs and other implanted medical devices, magnetic media such as credit cards and computer disk drives, watches, televisions, CRT monitors, and other electronic devices.

If that’s not a dealbreaker for you, this looks like an appealingly simple product worth checking out.

β€” Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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32 Comments
  • BB June 21, 2016 at 12:05 pm

    I’m a big fan of reflective triangles – I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback about mine from other road users, and I feel like people driving give me more room when passing when I have a reflective triangle out. I have both sizes that rivendell sells on their website but you can get them at most bike shops. I hang the little one from my saddle or seat bag, or I attach the big one to a pannier or whatever is on my trailer when I’m carrying stuff. They’re not only good for after-dark visibility – They really pop out on sunny days when you’re riding in shadows and cut down on the camo effect that tends to occur under dappled tree shadow. Even though I have two ‘normal’ reflecto triangles I’ve thrown down on this kickstarter – no reason not to have one more, and I’m interested in the way these attach.

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  • Spiffy June 21, 2016 at 12:19 pm

    I’m struggling to see how this is twice as good as a flexible velcro or zip-tied version that’s half the price…

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    • Anne Hawley
      Anne Hawley June 21, 2016 at 1:22 pm

      A couple of things: Kickstarter prices are often high, but if the product takes off and economies of scale kick in, the price may come down.

      And speaking for myself, I don’t especially want Velcro or zip ties around my better clothes, nor do I want to build Velcro into all my baskets, bags and jackets. The portability of this device is its is real selling point for me.

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      • Spiffy June 21, 2016 at 3:01 pm

        the non-portability of this is the real killer for me… it’s rigid flexible plastic rather than floppy plastic able to roll-up/stuff…

        I put the reflector on my bike, and it never comes off… new bike, new reflector… no need for me to fuss with taking something off…

        I aspire to park, lock, and walk… I don’t want any hassle of taking something off me or the bike at the end of my ride…

        perhaps they should market this towards racing and give the weight so it can be weighed against a rear light during training rides…

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        • Adam June 21, 2016 at 3:07 pm

          From the kickstarter video, it actually looked pretty “floppy”, not rigid. You can see it at 1 min 35 secs into their video. Perhaps someone else can chip in about it?

          I like the idea of this! I’ve seen magnets used increasingly on bike clothing (to attach detachable sleeves on rain jackets etc), and I like the concept!

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          • erikroby June 21, 2016 at 7:23 pm

            Hi Adam and Spiffy, I’ve been trying to go for a good mix of flexible enough that you can throw it in a bag without worrying about what happens to it, but rigid enough that it will hold the shape of the reflector (the reflector part is very floppy). Too floppy isn’t really an issue if it’s on your back, but I usually ride with it through the handle strap of a pannier or trunk bag, so I want to make sure it’s rigid enough that it stays aimed where I want it.

            And thanks Anne for the comment, there are definitely cheaper options if you want to wear a vest, or modify existing clothing with something more permanent. As for the price, there are a few reasons why this is more than some of the other options out there. One is magnets are very expensive, and I’m using some pretty big ones. I’m realizing I should add a video update showing close ups of it attaching so you can see how secure it is. Another is I’m using the best reflective material I could get my hands on, it’s made by Orafol, which I believe competes with 3M in this space. I had sample material from both companies, and the Orafol samples looked brighter to me, so that’s the one I went with. It’s also a material that is made in the US (full disclosure, I did test reflective material from China, and while it was way way cheaper, it isn’t nearly as bright). I’m also using quite a bit of the material, the reflectors are almost 10 inches across, and each side of the triangle is 2 inches wide.

            Please let me know if you have any other questions or comments!
            -Erik

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            • Dan A June 27, 2016 at 12:40 pm

              How does it feel against bare skin? I normally ride in a single shirt.

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              • erikroby June 27, 2016 at 1:47 pm

                Hi Dan, it’s meant more for outerwear and equipment, but I’ve used them with a shirt before. It’s more noticeable, but the new design will have a recessed area so less of it is touching your back, the render on the Kickstarter site shows that.

                Thanks!
                -Erik

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        • Lindsay June 21, 2016 at 4:26 pm

          The reflective piece is sort of like a plastic fabric, which can easily be rolled up and put into a pocket. The brace piece is a really flexible rubbery material that you can wad up and also put in a pocket. What makes it nice is that you don’t have to permanently attach velcro to your bike or clothing. You can put this on your regular everyday clothing and take it off when you aren’t riding. It’s nice if the weather is changing and you want layers but don’t want to have to worry about each layer being reflective. Some people like the little reflective vest things and that’s fine. This offers an alternative option for people who don’t want to wear something like that.

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        • JeffS June 22, 2016 at 1:22 pm

          I don’t think you watched the video.

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        • jeff June 22, 2016 at 4:20 pm

          because no one is racing with large plastic reflectors on their bike or themselves, that’s why. Not going to happen.

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        • erikroby June 23, 2016 at 1:21 pm

          Hi Spiffy, I uploaded a video that should answer some of your questions by showing the product up close a little more. Either way it sounds like it might not fit in with how you use your equipment, but I appreciate the questions and comments. I don’t think I did a good job of explaining what you were wondering in the original video or text, and I’m sure a bunch of other people were wondering the same things.

          https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/981186601/portland-bike-reflector/updates

          Thanks!
          -Erik

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    • Todd Boulanger June 21, 2016 at 1:35 pm

      Yes good point if one only uses it on one jacket or one crate etc.

      The design problem it really tries to address is how to be more visible for those who change their jackets a lot or bounce from one bike to another, etc. (I have a similar product for pedestrians – ‘dumbbell” red reflective magnetic fob for jacket lapels/ coat tails – I picked up in the UK in 2009. Its great though could be bigger for US drivers.) I would not put velcro on a leather car coat or dinner jacket so I use it then.

      Or it might help here: like what seems to always happen is one of our family members rides to meet us during daylight hours and then when we pack up to go home we realize that they have dead batteries or their red blinky was left on the kitchen counter or etc etc.

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      • Spiffy June 21, 2016 at 3:09 pm

        velcro ones are easy to move from bike to bike… and at half the cost you can have 2… and they roll up to go in your pocket… easier to transport as a spare for a friend caught in the dark with only a small reflector…

        I assume there’s a niche here, but I’m just not seeing it being tapped…

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  • rachel b June 21, 2016 at 2:04 pm

    I think I’ll stick to my $2 construction vest and reflective triangle dork belt and save my money for artisanal hotdogs. πŸ˜‰

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  • Adam H.
    Adam H. June 21, 2016 at 2:05 pm

    They’re magnetic? So I could stick them onto cars to make them more visible instead? πŸ˜‰

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  • Dan A June 21, 2016 at 4:44 pm

    I’ve got my own visibility aid coming to Kickstarter soon. It’s a small zippered pouch that drivers can keep their phones in until they’ve reached their destination. It will be very affordable and effective when used properly.

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    • Pete June 21, 2016 at 9:26 pm

      Check sent…

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    • rachel b June 21, 2016 at 11:41 pm

      Genius! πŸ™‚

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    • El Biciclero June 22, 2016 at 11:05 am

      Hey, maybe some “strong magnets” could be built into the bag lining…

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      • Dan A June 22, 2016 at 10:23 pm

        Sure, I can do that. Then you can stick the pouch on the OUTSIDE of the car to eliminate the temptation factor.

        Wait, are magnets bad for phones?

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  • John Liu
    John Liu June 21, 2016 at 6:55 pm

    Panniers should have permanent reflective panels.

    Bike fenders can be made very reflective with tape, which even comes in black.

    Helmet is a good place for reflective tape. Again, the tape doesn’t have to be orange, it can match the helmet shell.

    After you do that, then, sure, a triangle is nice.

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    • JeffS June 22, 2016 at 1:26 pm

      And if my bike doesn’t have panniers, fenders, and most definitely not a helmet?

      Hey, I’m not a fan of this product either, but I like it more than the judgmental, “everyone should ride like me” musings.

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  • Doug June 22, 2016 at 4:05 am

    I don’t ride at night. One rondo and it scares the crap out of me. Never since. My rondo number is retired, what an idiotic activity, exercise and lots of paper work.

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    • jeff June 22, 2016 at 4:22 pm

      I ride almost every night, all year around. Pretty safe, unless in a heavy downpour. Lights, lights, lights. Bright ones. USB chargeable ones.

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  • Adam June 22, 2016 at 9:39 am

    What is a rondo?

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    • El Biciclero June 22, 2016 at 11:09 am

      A classical music form, often seen as one movement of a concerto.

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  • Jan June 22, 2016 at 10:47 am

    I’m in!

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  • shirtsoff June 22, 2016 at 9:33 pm

    This is somewhat of a particular question but.. is the magnet strong enough to use the product through the backside of a thick, motorcycle jacket?

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    • Anne Hawley
      Anne Hawley June 23, 2016 at 11:16 am

      The newly added video shows it being strong enough to attach through the thickness of his hand, so my guess is that the answer is yes.

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    • erikroby June 23, 2016 at 1:52 pm

      It would depend on how thick you are talking. I stuck one on a motorcycle jacket that had a built in back brace, and while it was able to attach, I’m a little concerned that at motorcycle speeds, turbulence from the air could knock it off. So if you just mean a heavy leather motorcycle jacket, that would probably work, but if there is a foam back brace built in then I’m not sure.
      -Erik

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  • Daniel June 23, 2016 at 3:56 pm

    There’s Boston-based law practice that will give you some reflective stickers for the price of 2 envelopes and 2 postage stamps: http://bikesafeboston.com/retro. Just send them a self-addressed stamped envelope (How to S.A.S.E.: http://www.meaganspooner.com/sase/). I stuck a couple on my front forks, facing outwards, hopefully to provide additional visibility for cross traffic, where my lights don’t point.

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