Portland’s Best Biker Jacket

From Willamette Week’s “Best of Portland” issue, 7/23/08:

Mark Allyn has an unconventional relationship with 115-volt Christmas lights. In the 1960s he started lighting his clothing using strings of the yuletide decorations. He even showed up to a high-school dance with an illuminated necktie. “Basically, I’ve been fascinated with light, and tinkering with electricity, since day one,” says the 55-year-old Intel computer programmer. Allyn tirelessly refined his “home-brew lighting system” over more than 40 years,and his latest project involves transforming his bicycle and bike attire into striking, radiant neon objects. Allyn says the “artistic element and uniqueness” of the pieces, which use a combination of LEDs and fiber-optic technology, are his first priority—but increasing his visibility when riding at night is definitely a bonus. He’s posted how-to instructions on his website (allyn.com). For now, projects like his incredible lighted jacket are not for sale, mostly because the clothing isn’t all that practical: His raincoat weighs almost 30 pounds, and he’d have to sell the jacket for close to $1,000 to recoup the substantial cost in time and materials. But that doesn’t seem to bug Allyn too much. “I don’t have television, so this is my entertainment; this is my way of relaxing,” he says. “I enjoy the process of making it more than wearing it.”

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