How To Stand Out And Still Blend In

Cyclists need to stand out when sharing the road with motorized vehicles. The brighter you are, the more likely it is that a passing car will see you and move out of your way. But just because you are riding a bicycle doesn’t necessarily mean you have to dress in neon colors and plaster reflective tape over every inch of your body. There is a way to stand out to cars while on your bicycle and still blend in with the rest of the world as soon as you step off your bike at the end of the day.

My strategy for standing out and still blending in is as follows:

Riding with panniers, my bicycle and bags make up approximately half of the visible part of my vehicle (me and my bike). My body makes up the second visible half.

With this knowledge in hand, I choose to ride with bright red panniers, which stand out to passing motorists and allow them to see me coming from far away. But instead of covering my body with bright colors as well, I choose to wear more muted tones that blend in better with the rest of society when I step off my bike. This allows me stand out on the bike and blend in off the bike.

It’s a simple strategy that I’ve found to work quite well.

stealth clothing

For the traveling cyclist, however, this strategy of standing out at times and blending at others can be taken much further.

Camping for instance. If you are camping in a traditional campground, having a bright colored tent is no big deal. However, if you plan to stealth camp, a bright colored tent will do nothing but give you away. A green, brown, or black tent would be much better suited for travelers who plan to camp in the wild.

Even bright colored panniers (or trailers) might be too flashy for some traveling cyclists. A new set of panniers strolling into a muted brown town does nothing but draw attention. In many places in the world, a person on a bicycle looks poor (almost homeless), but in other areas of the world, a bright red set of panniers hanging off a thousand dollar touring bicycle is a sure sign that someone with money has rolled into town.

Maybe this idea of standing out at times and blending in at others can be taken even further? What if there were bicycle jerseys that were red on one side and black on the other – allowing you to choose at any given moment whether you wanted to wear red and stand out to passing vehicles… or wear black and blend in with people around you.

What if there were tents that were bright orange on one side (and could therefore be used to signal for help in the event of an accident), but came with a camouflage rain fly that could be used to camp in the wild if need be?

And what if there were panniers than looked like a million bucks at one moment, but could be instantly transformed to look like nothing more than trash bags in the next?

Is this all too much? Does it really matter whether you blend in or stand out? I think it all depends, but I’d like to hear what you have to say. And while you’re at it, let me know how else you think it might be possible to stand out while traveling by bike, but at the same time, blend in with your surroundings.


0 thoughts on “How To Stand Out And Still Blend In

  1. Galen Fitzpatrick says:

    I tend to favor an increase in visibility during poor weather conditions, so even though I like my bags and clothing to, in general, be muted, I make sure my rain gear is “hey notice me” bright. I use dynamo lights so I typically keep the lights on regardless of lighting conditions, and if I feel like the road is well trafficed I’ll leave the battery blinkie on sometimes too.

  2. Martin Hartley says:

    I like to use gear that looks well worn, and ugly – not worth stealing. I also customise them with sew-on patches/badges and, use mis-matched sets. It all makes me look like I am not worth robbing. None of my equipment is particularly expensive, however it has a lot of practical value to me.

    I renew the hi-vis striping my panniers regularly (in Australia the harsh sunlight makes them useless after not very long). I also have a yellow hi-vis vest which I can put on in poor visibility, and I also carry a couple of extra red flashing lights which I can attach to the outer extremities of my rear panniers just to make sure that any motorists know where I am and how to overtake me carefully.

    I also keep all my most valuable items (wallet, keys, camera, etc) in my handlebar bag and take that bag with me at all times. So I can never lose anything valuable. When I park my bike I also disconnect the brakes (I use V-brakes) so that anyone who attempts to ride away my bicycle will meet with disaster quite soon. It’s okay – I instinctively pull on both brakes when I mount a bicycle, so I know very quickly whether or not I’ve forgotten to re-attach the brakes!

    My prefered tent is a sort of khaki-tan colour, which seems to blend in quite readily in the Australian bushland. I have not yet resorted to camouflage, but old Army cammo shelters would be useful as a cover for my bicycle on rainy nights.

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