I’m always excited when I discover women-owned businesses — especially when they are connected to cycling gear. Add in an eco-friendly element and I’m all over it. In the past, I’ve reviewed products from women-owned and run businesses like Jules Threads, Machines for Freedom, and GRACEDBYGRIT. I laud these women who have turned their passion for cycling into successful businesses.
Recently my friend sent me a Forbes article on Sarah Canner, the founder, and designer of Vespertine NYC. Sarah’s cycling story is similar to so many women, the fear of riding in traffic. Even CNBC’s feature on the recent bike boom highlights how the number one concern women have is around safety on the road.
What does Vespertine mean? According to Webster, active, flowering, or flourishing in the evening. Excellent name for a company that produces reflective gear that helps you be seen at night. I reached out to Sarah to obtain a few samples that would interest RBR readers since with all the distracted drivers, we want to be seen! Two of the three items below are unisex and can be leveraged for multiple activities outside of cycling…gotta love multi-use gear. The cap and headband can be worn under a helmet or on their own for hiking, running, or even skiing.
So how did Sarah decide to start her business? Per the company’s website,
“For years I refused to ride a bike in the city. It seemed to me to be a sign of insanity. Too scary, too dangerous, there was no way. I was living in Paris and working in film when I finally mustered up the courage to try “getting around” on a bike. A shout out here to Velib’, the Parisian bike share system. When a station popped up across the street from my apartment, I had no more excuses. I had to give city biking a try. The fun of discovering bike lanes and traffic lights, a whole world just for bikers, the intimate experience of the city, the speed and ease of avoiding subway delays and traffic jams, the pure joy of coasting on two wheels, I hadn’t counted on any of this. My fear was tempered, to my great surprise, (but not eradicated entirely), and almost immediately, I was hooked.”
“Not long after this love affair began, I swapped out the loud printed jacket that I had initially been riding in for a black coat. It was a dark November afternoon, and my new attire led to a revelation, (and a close call with a Parisian bus.) On my bike, I was part of traffic. As long as drivers could see me, I would be OK. If I wear something that makes me visible, drivers are far more likely to see me and we can share the road in harmony. (Huzzah! An actionable solution to my fears.)”
“I searched for something to wear over my regular clothes (black coat) to make me more visible to drivers while on my bike but only found the typical crossing guard vest. I wasn’t directing traffic, I was traffic, and Parisian traffic, no less. Weren’t there everyday clothes that could make me stand out in a good way, that could integrate with or even enhance, my wardrobe and my biking lifestyle, too? I didn’t want to compromise on safety or style. Ultimately, I was so moved by this vision of safety wear as beautiful, stylish ‘clothes you want to wear everywhere,’ as well as my desire to empower other cyclists to take their daily adventures by bike, that I founded VESPERTINE Haute Réflecture.”
Reflective Merino Headband
Colors: Charcoal Black w/Light Grey details, Light Grey w/ Charcoal details
Both the headband and the hat (featured below) are part of the Brompton X Vespertine NYC collection. They were produced in collaboration with Brompton Bicycles, a British folding-bike brand. The graphical design on both items pays homage to various iconic architectural elements found around New York City.
The headband is made from 100% Merino wool which is naturally soft and breathable. To make it reflective, 3M reflective strips are sewn into the design (see above picture). Merino wool naturally regulates your temperature by warming in cool temps and cooling in warmer weather. I tested the headband on numerous trails, MTB, and road rides. The properties of the Merino wool wicked moisture away never leaving me with a wet, sweaty headband. Even on a 66-mile mixed-terrain ride, that started in the low 30s and ended in the mid-50s, the headband was perfectly dry at the end. Also, this natural fiber doesn’t require laundering after every use, it just doesn’t smell.
Reflective Merino Hat
Colors: Charcoal Black
As with the headband, the Merino wool hat is soft, breathable, and both thin and snug enough to fit comfortably under my helmet. The temps in Chicago have yet to dip low enough for me to need a wool cap to stay warm on a ride. For the most part, I opted to test this on hikes. There are reflective elements on the hat using 3M reflective strips sewn into the design (see above picture).
As far as sizing goes, it is a one size fits all. I wear a small helmet so someone with a large or XL head may find the hat too snug. If in doubt on sizing, contact the company directly.
VESPERT Reflective Vest
Colors: Pink, Red, Citron, Lime, White, Silver
The design of the VESPERT VEST is a perfect option for those who need to be more visible on the road, like commuters, bike share riders, or someone casually running errands on their bike. There’s 360 visibility of Scotchlite™ reflective material as seen in the picture above. The reflective material is visible within 2000 feet of cars’ headlights giving ample time for drivers to react. For those who are into Randonneuring, according to the company, the vest meets or exceeds Randonneurs USA guidelines for reflective gear.
The “open” design gives ample room for wearing the vest over a heavy coat or bulky clothing in colder weather. For the hardcore roadie this might not be the ideal design since the loser fit isn’t aerodynamic.
Unique features of the vest are its feather-light fabric made from 100% recycled Eco-Circle® polyester and easily folds down into its own attached packable pouch. The pouch is small enough to fit in a jersey back pocket or saddlebag so it’s available to put on should a ride last past sunset. The front right panel has a mesh lining pocket to stow your phone or keys. A front tie closure lets you determine how snug or loose you need the vest to fit depending on the clothing being worn. When ordering consider how you’ll be using the vest to determine proper size selection. Lastly, the vest is machine washable and I assume in cold water since there wasn’t a care tag.
To view the complete line of fashionable, reflective gear from Vespertine NYC, check out their website.
Sheri Rosenbaum regularly contributes articles and reviews products for RBR. She’s an avid recreational roadie who lives in the Chicago area and a major advocate for women's cycling, serving on the board of directors and volunteering with the Dare2tri Paratriathlon Club. Click to read Sheri's full bio or visit her web site sunflowersandpedals.com.