The Bike List

Motionfox FlashBk £20

Tested by Neil Watterson, tester for The Bike List

The nights are drawing in and greater numbers of cyclists are getting caught out in the half-light every day. Most will realise they're becoming less easy to see quickly, but others will soldier on - after all, if they can see okay, the car drivers must be able to.

But it doesn't work like that. Car drivers, cocooned in their vehicles with heaters roaring, stereos blaring and dashboard lights glowing aren't as tuned to the world outside as cyclists are. Reflections from bright streetlights dancing across windscreens only serve to lessen drivers' optical spectrum to the point where if you're wearing dull clothing you simply won't be seen.

There are, of course, plenty of hi-viz products on the market, from the cheap and cheerful workmans' vest to full day-glo suits, and though they'll help you stand out, they have one drawback in common: if you're wearing a backpack, a sizeable chunk of the top is obscured.

Which is where the Motionfox FlashBk waistcoat comes in: it can be used as a standard waistcoat, but also expands to enclose your backpack, making you one easily-visible entity.

Made from two-colour hi-viz material - yellow/orange, blue/yellow or pink/yellow - the waistcoat is adorned with retro-reflective strips. There's three horizontal ones on the front and back, one on each shoulder and a vertical one down the back. The strips aren't as wide as you'd find on an EN471 workmans' waistcoat but they're sufficient for a cyclist.

The two fabric colours work especially well together in poor weather, like heavy rain or fog. They help you stand out more than a single colour does, simply because of the contrast. Plus there are loops for you to clip lights onto, to make you even more visible.

The fabric is the tight mesh used on most hi-viz gear - breathable, so you can wear it all year without overheating - but it does mean it's not waterproof. It also picks up dirt as readily as other hi-viz gear, but can be machine-washed on a cold setting, should it get too grubby.

There's a chunky zip on the front and poppers on each side close the waistcoat up, so you can wear it like a standard hi-viz waistcoat for everyday cycling. Then, when you need to carry a backpack, you simply un-pop the poppers, put the backpack on, then put the waistcoat on over the top of the bag and yourself, zipping it up.

Now, it's fair to say that it does look a bit odd at first - a bit like a maternity jacket for your bag - but there's no denying that it expands to flash a huge amount of hi-viz fabric. And, as the light does fade, you appreciate the benefits more and more.

In practice, I've found that it's easiest to put the waistcoat over the bag before you put it on, lining up the armholes with the straps then lifting both onto your back in one movement - if you try to put it on over a bag already on your back you end up all contorted as you try and reach the hem to pull it down.

And the good thing is the elasticated hem hooks over the bottom of the bag, covering the bag's base - something that is often a low-viz colour - with bright orange.

Four adult sizes are available, from small to extra-large, plus the company also makes children-specific ones: ideal if the little ones cycle to school/after school clubs.

They're competitively priced, too. £15 for the kids' ones and £20 for the standard adult yellow/orange versions puts them within reach of even the most miserly cyclist - they've got to be worth that for the visibility they exude. And I know a couple have been sold off the back (no pun intended) of cyclists seeing mine.

So, if you're the sort of person who cycles throughout the year, maybe wearing a backpack, maybe not, you could do far worse than bagging one of these. They may just help a driver see you before it's too late…

At a glance

Verdict Cost effective visibility for all year use; great if you wear a backpack.

Motionfox Says:

The Motionfox FlashBk is an expandable hi-viz vest that can be worn fitted or expanded to cover a bag or backpack ensuring maximum user visibility.

  • Easily expands in seconds to cover bag/backpack
  • Can be worn with or without a backpack
  • Patented expansion system
  • Rear elastic hem prevents material flapping in the wind
  • Sturdy two way front zip
  • Rear light hooks
  • Fluorescent colours for daytime visibility
  • Reflective material for nighttime visibility
  • Suits variety of bag sizes and styles
  • 100% Polyester (breathable) fabric

The patented FlashBk expansion system from Motionfox means the vest can be worn as normal, or expanded via a set of simple fasteners, and can then be worn over a bag or backpack.

This unique and patented expandability feature, for when cycling with a backpack, allows the user quickly expand the vest to cover both their body and a backpack, so they maintain maximum visibility on the road. The FlashBk can also be buttoned back up in seconds to fit only the user's body for journeys with no backpack.

Additionally the vests contain loops on the back to attach lights for further safety.

Size - Small, Medium, Large, Xtra-Large