I couldn’t quite work out what was going on at first. It was late – around 11pm – and I was on my way home after an evening stewarding at the Globe. I’d almost reached the lower end of Dalston, and was now caught up in the snarl of traffic.
This section of the road is almost always jammed, and ordinarily I have to weave precariously through the gaps. But not on this occasion. For some reason, I was being given more space on the road. What on earth was going on? For a moment or two I was thoroughly confused – and then I remembered I was wearing my new Monkeysee Harness.
It’s amazing what a difference a bit of reflective gear can make.
I am, as previously mentioned, not a huge fan of hi-viz cycling gear. By ‘hi-viz’ I mean the fluorescent jackets, vests, bibs, rucksack covers and so on that many cyclists wear. Not only is it quite ugly, I also think it’s all a bit unnecessary: being seen on the roads is as much, if not more, about how you cycle as it is about what you wear.
But that’s during the daytime. In the dark, however…that’s a whole different matter. I know, from being out on my bike after sunset, just how hard it can be to spot fellow cyclists and pedestrians on the roads. The sheer number of competing lights on a busy street can be disorientating, particularly if the roads are wet. Even with lights on their bike, it’s incredibly easy for a cyclist to disappear in the glare of an oncoming headlight.
At night, I always ride with front and rear lights, and in the colder months I wear my Altura Night Vision jacket. Even though I’ve never had any problems – no collisions, nor even any near misses I can think of – I still worry that I’m not as visible as I could be, particularly now the weather has (finally!) improved enough that it’s too warm to wear my jacket.
This is where something like the Monkeysee Harness comes in very handy.
The harness is the brainchild of Denise Straty, Chief Chimp at Monkeysee. As she says:
As keen cyclists ourselves – we feel pretty strongly about cyclist ‘visibility’. Visibility in the sense of ‘we exist’, that the weight of our popularity is clear to motorists and other non-believers. And visibility from the practical sense, of being more visually ‘seen’ by motorists and pedestrians from a safety perspective.
So to address the practical side of being ‘seen’ in this fashion-orientated climate we found more of the same-old boring fluro (neon) workman style vests and tacky hi-vis gear. We started to wonder if there was a way we could make gear that was good looking and wearable – yet truly effective. And so Monkeysee was born!
What I like about the Monkeysee Harness is that, yes, it’s hi-viz, but it doesn’t look hi-viz. It’s bright pink, for a start (or at least mine is. If pink isn’t your thing, it also comes in other colours including black and white). With its lightweight, fitted shape, it’s a lot more discreet than your average hi-viz garment. It’s a good compromise between style and safety.
It’s also a lot more comfortable and easy to put on than the name ‘harness’ might suggest. It goes on over my head, and fastens with clips on either side. Once it’s on, it’s so light and flexible that I barely notice I’m wearing it. And when it’s off, it lives in a handy little pouch that fits easily into my bag.
Of course, style and comfort would mean nothing if it didn’t do the job. So does it? I would need to follow myself home one night – an impossible feat – to truly answer that question. But I think my experience that evening on my way home from the Globe suggests that yes, it does.
The Monkeysee Harness is available from www.monkeysee.net.au. They’re based in Sydney, Australia, and ship worldwide.