It’s that time of the year where you’re searching for last year’s night running gear, and end up having to shell out yet again for some flashing red lights. We went for some Mercury flashing armbands this time round, for a change.
These armbands provide visibility as they are constructed from reflective material as well as having four flashing red LEDs. There’s a button, that was in the wrong place on one of ours, that allows you to change the arm band’s mode from flashing to constantly on. It takes some pressure to change modes, which makes it less likely to start flashing away in your bag when you don’t need it! So even if the on button didn’t line up on one of ours, they don’t feel cheap. The strap feels sturdy, and you’d be hard pressed to see how you could wear that out. If the LEDs fail at any point, you’ve still got a pair of highly effective reflective armbands. They come complete with a replaceable coin battery.
The reflective nature of the armbands means that they’re obviously going to make you more visible, but do the flashing LEDs add to visibility or are they a gimmick? We tested them out on a run to see how visible they were. We didn’t reckon they lights were particularly bright, especially when you compare it to something like a clip on light (link) and is easily flooded out by the reflective material when that’s hit by light.
If you’re running then you’re much better off with a decent, lightweight red led clipped on your belt and if you’re cycling, a bright rear red LED is essential on your bike and will be much more visible than the lights on this. I’ll also happily admit that I felt like a bit of a numpty with these on, but will happily wear a clip on light. They’re also in your field of vision, which you’ll either soon get used to or find annoying and I daren’t look down at them with my head-torch either, as I’d be temporarily blinded!
Overall, anything that adds to your visibility in the evening has to be good. These armbands add a bit to your overall visibility, but nothing compared to wearing a full hi-viz running or cycling jacket. You can also use them around your ankles, which would further add to your visibility at night where most people tend to wear high-viz tops rather than bottoms. If you do have less visible kit, and want to supplement it a bit they’ll help, but as the LEDs aren’t particularly visible in headlights, don’t improve your visibility any more than a standard reflective arm band. The flashing LEDs are however useful if you want to improve your visibility on cycle paths to other cyclists, runners and pedestrians and that’s where these armbands are at their most useful.