Color isn’t something I first thought about when I began traveling by bike, but over the years I’ve come to the realization that color is very important. When traveling by bike, there are a number of areas to pay attention to when selecting colors… and I want to talk about these areas today.
When traveling by bike, most of your days are going to be spent in the saddle. If you are traveling with panniers, you need to make special effort when selecting your pannier colors. As you will see in a moment, color says a lot about you and can instantly determine whether or not you will remain safe while out on the road.
The color of your clothes is also very important. When you’re on your bike you will want to be seen by passing vehicles, but at the same time, you may not want to look like a neon yellow lemon in spandex shorts.
Finally, the color of your tent is something to consider. If you plan to spend any time stealth camping while on your bicycle tour, selecting the correct tent color is very important.
Why is color so important for the aforementioned items?
The colors you choose for the products mentioned above are important because they determine your safety out on the road.
For years now, cyclists have darned bright flashy neon colored clothing, helmets, and gear. They’ve done this for a reason! These colors get drivers to pay attention! The last thing you want when traveling by bike is to get hit by a passing motorist… and bright flashy colors have been shown to help in these regards.
That being said, not everyone wants to look like a neon sign riding down the road (I know I certainly don’t) and there are times when I believe looking like a neon light bulb is not only a bad idea, but could also be detrimental to your safety.
For one, bright colors draw attention to you in situations where you may not want such attention. In some places around the world, having flashy colored panniers and/or clothes make you instantly stand out as a tourist. They may signal that you have money or that you don’t know where you are going. In many places, this isn’t a problem, but in some locations, looking like a tourist is not a good idea.
I’m still in the process of trying to figure out exactly how to remain safe out on the road and not look like a walking billboard at the same time, but I’ve definitely got some theories.
First of all, if you know you are going to be traveling through areas with high crime rates or places where people may not be accustomed to seeing a cyclist in spandex bike shorts, pick panniers and clothes that are much more muted in color. Use black, gray, or green panniers and wear clothes that, for the most part, blend in with what the native people are wearing.
On the other hand, if you are traveling through Europe or maybe across the United States or Canada, having bright red, blue, or yellow panniers and clothing is probably not going to be an issue. In these places, you may stand out as a tourist, but for the most part, no one is going to care.
If you are going to be traveling through a mix of safe tourist areas and sketchy streets, I’d recommend buying dark panniers and then using brightly colored rain covers when you want to be visible out on the road. This way you can ride virtually unseen when you want to and stand out when the weather gets bad.
I’d also recommend having two different changes of clothes to choose from. Have one pair of clothes that is more brightly colored (like red, orange, or yellow) and have another pair that is more muted (like brown, black, or green). This way you can stand out when you want to and blend in the rest of the time.
Finally, when selecting your tent color, having a bright colored tent can be to your benefit if you get into an emergency situation and you need to signal for help. Having a bright red or yellow tent will make it easier for a helicopter or other safety personnel to find and come to your rescue.
However, if you plan to do any sort of stealth camping, a brightly colored tent can blow your cover and get you into a whole lot of trouble. If you plan to do any stealth camping, select a tent that has a brown, green, black or camouflage exterior. These colors will allow you to better blend in with your surroundings and remain hidden throughout the night.
As you can see, there are a number of things to think about when selecting the color of your panniers, clothes, and tent. I wish I had a 100% definite answer on how to remain visible but not look like a neon street sign at the same time, but I don’t. I think there has to be a happy medium somewhere inbetween and I’m still searching for that medium. Once I find it, I’ll let you know!
I’m curious to hear what your impressions are about selecting the color of your panniers, clothes, and tent.. Do you think having brightly colored panniers and/or clothes is a good idea or a bad one? Do you have a story where color made a difference in your safety out on the road? Please use the comments box below to share your thoughts and stories with other BicycleTouringPro.com readers.