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See the light: the best cycling jackets to keep you safe at night

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If the dark nights of recent days have left you feeling vulnerable on your bike, how about a cycling jacket with built-in LEDs to let motorists know that you are there?

Simon Sibia came up with the idea for his Vizirider cycling clothing after twice being knocked off his bike in Sydney, where he was living at the time. Fast forward to today and the Briton has returned to the UK’s south coast and is selling his jackets and gilets direct to the public, and via a small number of bike shops. Each features 12 LEDS and reflective materials.

While LEDs have been around for a while, they have taken an inordinate amount of time to make it into cycling jackets, given that they can really make the cyclist stand out on country lanes and in the busiest cities. Until recently, riders had to fork out £200 or so for a light-up jacket.

If my experience is anything to go by, you will have to put up with ‘disco boy’ and ‘Christmas tree’ references

This week, Guardian Money has been trying out Vizirider’s £85 jacket, which has to be a contender for the best-value hi-vis cycling jacket around.

If my experience is anything to go by, you will have to put up with plenty of “disco boy” and “Christmas tree” references from friends and even passersby but if you really value being seen by other road users, this jacket is at the top of the (Christmas) tree.

At first glance it resembles any other hi-vis jacket. However, look closer and you see six white, waterproof LEDs bonded to the front and six red ones in the back. There is a rechargeable battery in a special pocket.

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Vizirider says the battery will last up to 20 hours on slow flash, 14 hours on fast flash or 10 hours on constant. The jacket lights are designed to be used in addition to normal bike lights but are bright enough to keep you seen if those fail.

The jacket isn’t technically waterproof but it is water-resistant and it kept me dry on a 30-minute ride in the rain this week. It appears well made and has three useful pockets, for carrying keys, a mobile, gloves, etc.

View image in fullscreenAs the nights draw in, it is important for cyclists to be seen. Photograph: Alex Broadway/Getty Images for OVO Energy

The removable battery is charged via a standard mobile phone cable and should last the life of the jacket – 300 charges. The makers advise it should be charged every two to three months.

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The jacket is washable at 30C with the battery removed. If you don’t want a jacket, the company sells a basic LED cycling vest for £39 or a two gilets – one at £45 and another at £65, with the latter featuring the full 12 LEDs.

Neither I nor my wife (who also wanted to try it) liked the fastest flash mode, as it had a rather unwelcome strobe effect, so I recommend the slower-flash mode. Its lack of breathability caused by the fact that it has no underarm venting will mean some riders will get too hot, particularly in spring and autumn. If you tend to ride more slowly this won’t be a problem. The other negative is that it does not, annoyingly, feature a loop to allow it to be hung on a hook.

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Hi-vis jackets – the other best options

View image in fullscreenMetier’s Beacon jacket. Photograph: Metier

Métier’s Beacon cycling jacket was the first to feature LEDs. It is a serious bit of kit featuring hydrophobic, wind-resistant and breathable performance fabrics, and LEDs front and back. However, it is black in colour and, at £250, this is one very much for the aficionados. The rain version can be had for £200.

View image in fullscreenCyclists wearing Proviz gilets. Photograph: Proviz

Proviz’s Nightrider men’s and women’s cycling jacket 2.0 does not have LEDs but features Proviz’s REFLECT360 retro-reflective material, which shows up amazingly well in vehicle headlights and even street lights. This £85 jacket comes in high-vis colours – there’s a great purple for women – which are good on the way to work in daylight. Again, there is no underarm ventilation. If you ride quickly, and you can afford it – upgrade to a coloured REFLECT360, which is £129 but comes with much better venting. Both are waterproof. Order a size down than you would normally unless you have very long arms.

View image in fullscreenThe RC120 hi-vis yellow jacket from Decathlon. Photograph: Decathlon

If you are on a tight budget, look no further than the £29.99 Triban RC120 hi-vis yellow jacket from Decathlon. It has enough reflective bands to make sure you are seen at night, while the 3,000mm hydrostatic head rated fabric will keep you dry over a 20-minute commute.

View image in fullscreenMadison’s Stellar jacket. Photograph: Madison

Another jacket that is a bit of a bargain at the moment is the Madison Stellar men’s waterproof jacket. Again, it comes in hi-vis colours for daytime riding and has lots of reflective material for when it is darker. The jackets are priced from £45-£70 at Freewheel Cycles.

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View image in fullscreenThe Endura Urban Luminite II jacket. Photograph: Endura

The Endura Urban Luminite waterproof jacket II is also worth looking at if you find one in your size and less than £85. These are a good bet if you live somewhere that gets plenty of rain.