June 01, 2023

Reflective Backpacks: The Perfect Solution for Commuting in the Dark

Reflective Backpacks: The Perfect Solution for Commuting in the Dark

Reflective Backpacks: The Perfect Solution for Commuting in the Dark

High-vis commuter backpacks are a no-brainer for anyone traveling the streets on two wheels. Their bright fluorescent fabrics reflect more than twice the light of conventional colors, forcing drivers to take notice of the motorcyclists and bicyclists who wear them.


DOT studies have proven beyond a doubt that high-vis fluorescent colors dramatically increase your visibility to drivers, and with higher visibility comes a lower risk of being struck by a vehicle. It’s a good start, but unfortunately, even the most brightly-colored backpacks share a common flaw: Once the sun goes down, they completely lose their effectiveness. 


That’s why if you’re going to be commuting after dark, reflective materials are your best friend. Reflective commuter backpacks keep working when the sun calls it quits, but as you’ll read below, not all packs are created equal. 

motrocycle commuter wearing reflective backpack

Retroreflectivity: The Riderbag’s Secret Sauce


Ever notice how some road signs appear much brighter than others at night? There’s a good reason for that, and it’s called retroreflective technology.  


Knowing the difference between retroreflective tech and regular reflective materials is crucial to understanding what makes the Riderbag one of the safest reflective commuter backpacks money can buy, so let’s take a moment to break down how it works. 


See, standard reflective materials handle light the same way a mirror or a sheet of metal does: Light enters in one direction, and then bounces off at a fixed angle depending on the position of the material. If you’ve ever seen someone laying out in the sun with a tanning reflector under their chin, you’ll have a pretty clear picture of how this works.  

Retro Reflective diagramRetroreflective materials reflect light too, but it’s the way they do it that makes them special: Rather than reflecting light at a single determined angle, retroreflective panels like those found on the Riderbag bounce light directly back at the source, giving them a bright and glowing appearance for anyone shining light their way. In our case, this means your reflective commuter backpack reflects the headlights of a vehicle directly back in the direction of the driver, and that’s a very good thing indeed.


This technology makes the Riderbag highly visible to nighttime drivers from any angle, even if they’re coming around a curve, sitting across an intersection, or merging into traffic from another lane. Normal reflective materials are only conspicuous when a driver is directly behind the rider, and according to the Department of Transportation, they completely lose their effectiveness when viewed from any angle more than three degrees off-center.


Our retroreflective panels also allow the Riderbag to take advantage of another proven method of visibility called “contrast.” Contrast refers to the visual effect of placing two starkly different colors directly beside one another, which has also been proven to draw the human eye and help you to stand out from your surroundings. 


As an added bonus, the Riderbag’s contrasting characteristics work both day and night: By day, its bright fluorescent panels shine brightly, while the large retroreflective portions of the bag are a subdued grey. After dark, the fluorescent panels lose their brightness, but the retroreflective portions go to work, essentially reversing the roles of the two fabrics while maintaining the desired effect.


Adding Safety Beyond Conspicuity

If retroreflective materials are your first line of defense against nighttime accidents (and believe us, they are), then bodily protection is your plan B. Don’t get us wrong, proactively avoiding accidents is always our top priority, but accidents do happen and you want to be prepared when the time comes. 


This is another area where reflective commuter backpacks like the Riderbag come in the clutch: Because our bag includes an integrated compartment for housing a CE-approved back protector, you’re adding an extra layer of safety just by throwing on your backpack. 


Regular safety gear can be bulky, expensive, and (let’s be honest) inconvenient. We’re firm believers in the “all the gear, all the time” ethos, but we’ve also been guilty of riding in casual clothes from time to time, especially for shorter commutes and errands around town. Who wants to spend ten minutes suiting up for a fifteen-minute ride?

 female motorcycle rider wearing a pink motorcycle backpack

Our solution? Make safety as convenient as possible. By integrating a back protector inside of our reflective commuter backpack, you’re effectively doubling up on your protection without adding any extra time or effort to your routine. If you’re going to wear a backpack anyways, why not make it one that protects your spine?

Backpacks are Versatile, Mobile, and Affordable

Dedicated motorcycle luggage has its time and place, and both hard and soft panniers add tons of utility to any motorcycle from the humble urban grocery-getter to big globe-trotting adventure bikes. When it comes to the daily grind, however, reflective commuter backpacks are a much smarter option than dedicated luggage for a few reasons. 


The first reason (and the most important one for many riders) is cost. A good set of bike-mounted panniers can easily set you back anywhere from $200 to well over $1000, whereas  even the highest quality backpacks like the Riderbag can be had for well under $100.


In addition to their outright affordability, backpacks are just plain easier to live with. They’re universally compatible with all bikes, require zero time and effort to install, and can be easily carried off the bike hands-free.

 woman wearing blue commuter backpack

We’ll also note that both hard and soft panniers make popular targets for thieves. Gear gets stolen from luggage all the time, and even locking hard bags are routinely broken into (or stolen off the bike entirely) in a matter of minutes.


With a reflective commuter backpack, however, all of your gear is always with you. The Riderbag even includes a stowaway sling for your helmet, so you don’t have to choose between awkwardly carrying it around or having it stolen off your bike while you’re away. 


The Verdict: Is A Reflective Commuter Backpack Right for You?

We may be a bit biased here, but we’re convinced a high-visibility backpack is the perfect solution whether you’re commuting via motorcycle, bicycle, or scooter. 


Proper commuter bags like the Riderbag bring all the convenience of a traditional backpack while also adding three degrees of safety to the mix: They’re highly visible both day and night, add bodily safety via impact protection, and also protect you from theft by the simple virtue of their design. 

 commuter wearing a reflective red backpack

We’ll also note that while the Riderbag isn’t the only commuter backpack on the market using retroreflective technology, the overwhelming majority of options out there only use retroreflective materials in concerningly low amounts: Whether it’s a tiny patch on the bottom of the bag or razor-thin reflective piping around a zipper here and there, most brands focus heavily on design with minimal regard for safety, and that simply isn’t a risk we’re willing to take. 


The fact that the Riderbag also comes in at well under $100 despite being loaded with convenience and safety features in equal measure is just icing on the cake. The best commuter bag on the market also happens to be one of the most affordable… What’s not to love?


Don’t put yourself at risk order one of our  colorful reflective backpacks right now!

 red backpack, commuter backpack, reflective backpack