All Things Bright and Beautiful (and Cheap)

Last fall I was riding into work along Rt.27 in New Portland when I chanced upon another cyclist and struck up a conversation. "Say," he asked after a time, "where'd you get that shirt?"

I told him truthfully that I'd found it on the side of the road and he laughed - "That's even better!"

The "shirt" - bright neon yellow with broad reflective silver stripes - was a 'can't miss' roadside find - I think I spotted it 50 yards away. It's what's known as a high-visibility shirt ("Hi-Vis" in the trade) complying with ANSI Standard 107-2004 Class 2 Level 2, which, I'd guess, as a standard, ensures that the shirt is naturally garish and gaudy - two things that I can only pretend to be.

My find was up to my standards, and amply cut, too - a size Double XX, which I might "grow into" some day, although I hope not to. As is, I can wear it comfortably over a rain jacket. It even comes with a vest pocket, intended, I think, for a pack of cigarettes. (I'm told that long, long ago, cycling jerseys came with similar vest pockets for similar purposes, but you have to be a real old-timer to have experienced anything that retro.)

For cycling, the shirt really comes in handy during the "dim time" between equinoxes when daylight is short and the sun sits at low angles making roadside things harder to see. It stands to reason that whenever motorists have a hard time seeing moose that one should not dress like a moose. Or, as aptly phrased by the legendary Dick Burns (of the Rochester, NY, Bicycle Club): "It is better to look like a blot on the landscape than to be a blot on the landscape."

I told my envious friend that I had seen similar shirts (in Neon Yellow & Blaze Orange) for less than $20 in Renys - which, as he was from away, I explained are a chain of locally-owned Maine department stores, remarkably still located for the most part in accessible storefronts in downtown business districts - a business model all but extinct elsewhere in the country. I also mentioned seeing the shirts in the anti-Renys - Wal-Mart (he'd heard of them).

While I find the shirt comfortable to wear, eminently practical, impressively visible (and, in my case, you can't beat the price) - still, I confess I've longed for a fancy glow-in-the-dark cycling jacket - a proper jacket - if I could only justify the expense in today's economy.

You can imagine my surprise when I happened to visit Marden's in Waterville a week ago and was stopped in my tracks by rack after rack of high-end illumiNITE cycling and running gear. Marden's (for those reading from afar) is a local chain of surplus and salvage goods, and their slogan: "I should have bought it when I saw it at Marden's" was about as subliminal as the $100 neon yellow jacket with the mark-down tag of $39.99, and the temptation was too much to bear. If you're in need of a new cycling jacket you might want to check your local Marden's outlet.

Still, I intend to keep my Hi-Vis t-shirt for really sloppy weather and grunge commuting. It has crossed my mind that these shirts might make interesting KVBC club t-shirts, too. You think perhaps a Blaze Orange shirt would look avant-garde with HEAVY LOADS LIMITED printed on the back? Ye gads - less than a week into the blog and already he has a "marketing concept?" Oh, the shame of it. Who wants a 'large'?