I have a horrible confession to make: Every time I buy a new bike the first thing I do when I get home is remove the wheel reflectors (and in the process probably violate numerous State, Federal and Intergalactic laws). I have a few bikes that are never used on the roads and my Trek Madone is not allowed outside after dusk. However, on my bikes that I do ride at night I have installed something far better than standard wheel reflectors—Lightweights For Wheels.
Lightweights For Wheels are small reflective strips that are applied to your spokes one at a time and the installation process takes about 15 minutes per wheel. The self-adhesive strips will go on much easier in warm weather and make sure you clean the spokes with alcohol before attempting to apply them to remove any road grime. These strips are made of 3M Scotchlite™ and in my experience 3M makes that best reflective material you can buy.
Once Lightweights For Wheels are installed on your spokes you probably won’t even notice them in the daylight—the reflective material matches most silver spokes perfectly. However, once the sun goes down your wheels will be visible from all directions, and when the bike is moving these tiny reflectors really stand out! I need to point out that light needs to be directly aimed at these reflectors for greatest benefit (like the headlights from a car). If you want to test these strips out just take your bike into a dark garage and hold a flashlight at eye level and aim it at your bike (get ready to be impressed).
One of the great things about Lightweights For Wheels is that they only add 2 grams of weight per tire, as opposed to the 16 to 32 grams that you would have with standard bike reflectors. In addition, these reflectors will never fall off and they are brighter than the reflectors that come with most bikes. You will also appreciate the fact that these reflectors are perfectly balanced (unlike the lopsided weight from a standard wheel reflector).
A package of Lightweights For Wheels retails for $15 and should be available at your local bike shop. Each package has 75 reflective rectangles for spokes, along with nine circles and two ovals that you can use on other places on your bike, helmet or seat bag.
Note: The white ring on the tire in the photo above is from the reflective strip that is built into my Continental Touring Plus Road Bike Tire.