At the London Bike Show earlier this month, it was evident that there is a trend amongst manufacturers to incorporate lights into clothing and accessories to maximise the visibility of cyclists on the road. Helmets and gloves with flashing lights were on display and judging by the numbers circulating these stands, they are products that garner much interest.
Though they were not exhibiting at the show, Sealskinz have also seized the initiative with their Halo Overshoes range, which incorporates a red light in the rear of the heel, housed in a small 'kangaroo' pouch. With no hint of irony, Sealskinz have trumpeted their new product as 'possibly the most significant development in overshoes in a generation' and though the light is the USP of the Halo range, there is a little more to these overshoes than just that extra bit of illumination. The overall quality is very high, which is a good thing, as at £40 a pop, it's going to take more that a light to make you want to buy them!
They Halo overshoes come in both a lightweight version, suitable for spring, autumn or milder winter days and a more robust neoprene version that will keep your feet warm in the cold and better protected in the wet. Both models boast a 4 lumen light that can switch between a continuous mode or two flashing modes. These two latest editions to the Sealskinz stable of overshoes have been well received, culminating in the neoprene version picking up a Gold gong at the annual ISPO Awards in Germany, a coveted Outdoor Accessories award celebrating the very best in innovative and functional design.
Whether Sealskinz have stolen a march on their rivals remains to be seen (let's wait to see what products emerge in the autumn from rival manufacturers) but there's no denying that the incorporation of lights in the Halo range is an innovative idea and one that will appeal to many cyclists. I've experienced a few near misses in dim conditions, which has made me rather evangelical about lighting oneself up when riding in dark or murky conditions, so I applaud any efforts to enhance a cyclists' visibility on the road.
My initial misgivings about the Halo overshoes, however, was that the light was a bit of a gimmick - rear mounted hi-viz strips or piping, when caught in low winter sunshine or headlights, light up ones feet spectacularly, especially when moving in a circular motion, so I had doubts over the benefits of incorporating a light. Then I wore them and the comments from my cycling friends and the added reassurance of having yet more lighting on board convinced me that this is a rather natty design and one that is positively eye-catching in every way. Where I feel there strength really lies is in dimmer conditions, when motorists may not necessarily have their headlights on (rendering hi-viz pretty ineffective) and also for commuting or riding in urban areas, when it pays to pull out all the stops to be visible to other road users.
Sealskinz claim the Halo light can be seen from 500 metres away - that may not bear up to scrutiny (and would certainly depend on the conditions and location one is cycling in) but the 4 lumen light throws out a good little punch, which definitely provides one with more reassurance that you will be clearly seen by vehicles approaching from behind.
Robust, high quality stitching are evident on the Halo overshoe
Both versions take a replaceable CR2032 battery that provides around 240 hours of life when in either of the two flashing modes or 120 minutes when on continuous, so more than enough to cover winter training rides or commutes. It's easy to access, thanks to a small 'kangaroo' pocket that houses the water resistant casing of the light. Switching on the lights or changing the mode is done simply by pushing the light cover - straightforward, even when wearing gloves.
As for overall quality, the lightweight overshoe (tested) is very well constructed. The stitching of the panel construction appears very robust and the base incorporates a Kevlar reinforced toe for added durability. There is a strong YKK zip with a fastening strap in Sealskinz signature green and small semicircle of Kevlar at the base of the zip to protect against scuffing in this vulnerable area - that's a nice attention to detail. There is also an interior storm flap on the zip, which is a useful barrier against water ingress, especially road spray. There's also some silicon edging around the collar area that ensures they stay tight around the top of your ankle.
Most overshoes have a zip on the rear, which usually allows a convenient place to incorporate a hi-viz strip or piping. With the Halos however, the position of the light has dictated that the zip has to be sited on the outer edge, so one zips up over the ankle. Despite their rear light, Sealskinz are not in denial about the benefits of hi-viz detailing and so two highly reflective strips run down either side of the zip, which combined with a hi-viz Sealskinz logo, provide excellent illumination by any light source coming from the side.
Have feet ever been this well illuminated?!
Thanks to the Velcro fastening strap on the sole, the Halo Lightweight is easy to pull on, though I would advise that one gets the sizing right - too tight and the zip could be a little troublesome to pull on, so err towards a larger size if you are borderline. Fortunately, the size tested - Medium - were a reassuringly tight fit over my Size 10 shoes.
The material used in the panel construction is wind and water resistant and provides a level of protection from the wind that one would expect in a overshoe at this price point. Water spray and standing water has not penetrated them in several outings, though I've yet to experience sustained rainfall whilst wearing them (though in my experience, no overshoe can protect against water ingress in those conditions and anyone who expects them to is misguided!).
So, looking at the Halo lightweights as a whole, they are an original overshoe that will provide the wearer with a higher degree of visibility on the road, but Sealskinz have backed up their innovation with good design and robust construction. If, however, you remain unconvinced by the need for a light in your overshoes, then Sealskinz also make both a lightweight and neoprene overshoe with a more traditional rear mounted zip with hi-viz strips. If their quality is as good as Halo overshoe tested, then they would also be well worth considering if you need to keep your toes protected from the cold and wet.
More information on the Sealskinz Halo Lightweight and Neoprene overshoes can be found on the Sealskinz website, where you will find further details on their socks, gloves and accessories for road cyclists.
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