Bicycle Mirror Pros & Cons

I wanted to thank everyone for keeping the ongoing helmet discussion civil. It’s one of those tough subjects that, for some reason, tends to polarize people.

I may be pushing my luck here, but since we’ve had such a lively, yet civilized discussion on helmets, I thought we might take a look at rear view mirrors as well—another subject that always seems to elicit passionate opinions.

Bicycle accident studies are conflicted on the question of how frequently cyclists are struck from behind by cars. I don’t know if this is a result of where the studies were conducted, which demographic was studied, or what. The general consensus seems to be that cyclists overemphasize the danger of being struck from the rear, although that doesn’t change the fact that a substantial number of cyclists are killed this way every year.

It goes without saying that anytime you change a lane or move across traffic you must look behind to make sure the lane is clear. The question is whether it’s best to use a mirror to assist in the process, or whether it’s best to just look over your shoulder.

Whether or not you perceive being struck from behind as a grave threat, looking behind is an essential technique for riding a bike, just as it’s an essential technique for driving a car. It goes without saying that anytime you change a lane or move across traffic you must look behind to make sure the lane is clear. The question is whether it’s best to use a mirror to assist in the process, or whether it’s best to just look over your shoulder.

Personally, I advocate the use of mirrors. I’ve used helmet mirrors for the better part of 25 years and I feel half-blind without one. I’m so accustomed to using one, that I often look up to use the mirror-that-isn’t-there while I’m walking through a parking lot. I’m an active user of rear-view mirrors in cars as well. I believe mirrors give us a better sense of situations as they develop behind us, and as a result, give us that few more seconds to react if necessary. Mirrors have helped me to avoid accidents more than once—both in the car and on the bike—possibly saving my life in one instance.

There are valid arguments against the use of mirrors, the most common being that they distract the rider from the road in front of them. The other is that they may tempt a rider to be lazy and take a lane without actually turning to look over their shoulder. I don’t buy the distraction argument—there are so many things that constantly distract us on the road, I don’t believe adding a mirror to the mix significantly changes the equation. And while I agree that a rider should always look over their shoulder before taking a lane, there’s no reason why adding a mirror will necessarily cause a diligent cyclist to suddenly drop their guard.

On the question of helmet versus handlebar mirrors, I say both! But if I had to choose one or the other, I’d pick the helmet mirror because it allows me to scan a wide arc behind me with a small head movement. Plus, handlebar mirrors can sometimes rattle and project a blurred image. The down side to helmet mirrors is that they take a while to get used to and, theoretically at least, they create a small blind spot in front of the rider. And, of course, there’s the question of whether you wear a helmet.. :-)

Ultimately, whether or not we choose to use a mirror is a personal decision very much like the helmet decision, but in this case we have even fewer statistics to support one position over the other. That said, my personal experience leads me to believe mirrors are an important tool that, if used properly, can help safeguard us on the road.

58 Responses to “Bicycle Mirror Pros & Cons”

  • Roland Smith says:

    On my recumbent (a Challenge Hurricane which has a fairly reclined seat) I always use a mirror. It’s almost impossible to look behind me without getting out of the reclined seat.

    Nevertheless, if I need to turn left and/or cross traffic I tend to stop and take a good look rather then relying on the mirror and a quick look. On a bicycle you’re never going to win a crash contest with a car, and arriving alive and in one piece is much more important then arriving fast.

    Having said that, I find a mirror helpfull when sharing a lane with cars, so I can tell if any potential moron behind me is about to crash into me.
    But on the whole I’d rather not be on the road in the middle of car traffic. Reading the comments on this blog I’m extremely glad of the excellent cycling infrastructure we enjoy here. :-)

    In short: mirrors and helmets are a inferior alternative to good cycling infrastructure. But if you don’t have the latter it’s best to make do with the former.

  • Duncan Watson says:

    I am a mirror fan. All of my bikes have mirrors, both recumbents and diamond frame road bikes. I used a helmet mirror for a few years and I can attest to the fact that you get very used to them. I am currently using frame or handlebar mounted mirrors. My mirror mount on the helmet kept coming off and it was annoying me. I would love a helmet mounted mirror that wasn’t adhesive based.

    Mirrors are very useful. I love them.

  • 2whls3spds says:

    I use bike mounted mirrors. IIRC most of mine are the various versions that Blackburn makes. I used to wear a mirror that mounted on my glasses temple. But the model I used was discontinued years ago and I have yet to find a suitable replacement. I don’t always wear a helmet, so helmet mirrors aren’t a good choice. I also do the quick over the shoulder check prior to making a move in traffic.

    I also use mirrors a lot while driving.

    Aaron

  • Perry says:

    Yes to mirrors and make them 2, please. I have never used a helmet-mounted mirror but I love having two mirrors on my handlebars so that whatever the angle or curve of the road, I can get a good view of what is behind me. I check mirrors on my bike as often as I do in the car, which is very frequently. It’s not so much that I am worried about being struck from behind. It’s just a good habit to be aware of your environment and properly used, mirrors aid in that task.

  • Perry says:

    PS. Your photos are getting really artsy—and I mean that in a good way. :-)

  • Tim Guthrie says:

    Duncan,

    I took my adhesive based mirror and used a short sheet metal screw to screw the mirror to my helmet. It holds great! no more problems.

    I mostly ride a ‘bent and the helmet mirror is not optional.

    Tim Guthrie

  • Tamia says:

    I always use rearview mirrors on my bikes, and like Alan, when I’m walking my eye automatically scans left to find the mirror which isn’t there. I don’t buy the argument that a mirror is distracting or leads to lazy cycling. Personally, I want to know what’s coming from behind, and if I have to turn my head around to see, I’m more likely to drop into a wheel-eating crack in the road, hit a pedestrian, or veer into the lane.

  • Deb says:

    I wear a helmet mirror, and I don’t find it a distraction. I don’t look it in that often, and I look over my shoulder for a real look when I’m changing lanes, so I feel that it enhances, rather than replaces.

    The benefit I find is that it:
    – let’s me gauge whether there is a potential break in a platoon before needing to look over my shoulder (I have a few tricky left turns on fast roads)
    – potentially give me advance warning of someone wanting to turn right into me/ across my path (specifically when I’m traveling in bike lanes)
    – on a couple of the narrow and/or narrow/twisty/hilly roads, let’s me know that there’s someone behind me so that I can edge to the side when there’s no oncoming traffic. (primarily used when I’m going uphill, which for me is the same as saying when I’m going very slowly.)

    I gave the helmet mirror a try, at first because it was such a small investment (I think it was like $10) I figured I might as well, and once I got used to it, I have found it helpful. It was well worth the $10.

    I’d definitely be comfortable recommending their use to others, but I think that their usefulness (and maybe safety) depends on the situation. I find them useful primarily on the roads that are either very narrow but mostly quiet and slow, or the roads that are very fast multi-lane roads with the odd type of aggressive driving that comes with people in the ‘burbs wanting to get to highway entrances, strip malls, and metro stops, and where I mostly have bike lanes. The denser but somewhat slower traffic portions are where I use the mirror the least, and feel like I can afford pulling my attention from the traffic and road condition the least.

  • Thom says:

    Maybe it’s my choice of mirrors, or maybe it’s me, but I’ve never had success actually *seeing* anything in my rearview mirrors, when I’ve tried them. I’ve never used a helmet-mounted mirror, but then my helmet use is not always consistent (whatever you want to make of that). The problem with bike-mounted mirrors, in my experience, is too much shaking. Whenever I need it most, I’m inevitably on the roughest street, and trying to make out what’s bobbing about in my mirror is a *much* greater distraction than simply looking over my shoulder.

  • Deb says:

    Thom’s comment reminded me – I think my mirror is most handy on my morning commutes, which are dark. I don’t need details at that time so much as to be able to see headlights, and the mirror does a great job of that with very little effort put in on the part of my mind and eyes.

  • Duncan Watson says:

    Great advice Tim. I have a spare helmet and spare mirror to try that with. Time to hit my workshop.

  • Cliff H says:

    I use mirrors- I keep a brand new spare in case my primary mirror gets destroyed or lost. I use the eyeglass mounted mirror – take-a-look mirrors. I rotate helmets ‘cuz I ride daily and sweat a lot, but I always wear the same eyeglasses, so this works for me.

    I have broken every handlebar mount mirror I have ever used- the eyeglass mounted mirrors seem to last a lot longer. And,as others said, I can visually sweep several lanes of traffic by turning my head.

    Hey, I use mirrors to drive a car in traffic, why would I not use one to drive a bike in traffic?

    Do motorcyclists use mirrors? Are they “lazy” if they use mirrors? Or, are they smart?

  • Stephen says:

    Got to agree with Thom. When I’ve tried mirrors (and I’ve tried everything from helmet to handlebar to bar end), they seem to do more harm than good. And it’s not just transmitted road vibrations; the small field of view is also a problem, or fogging, or a pothole jars them sufficiently to put the angle off. I’m kind of surprised that most of the comments so far have been positive for mirrors. I mean, how hard is it to look over your shoulder? (Or even better sometimes, to look under your armpit?)

    I do agree with Deb’s comment. Mirrors could help with headlights. But if I’m riding in the dark, the direct illumination from headlights is enough to alert me to an approaching car. (Maybe the lack of street lights around here has some marginal benefit. ;^)

  • Charlie says:

    Tim, the sheet-metal-screw idea scares me! If the rider were to land on that part of the helmet and it did its job by compressing to absorb the impact, the screw would go into the rider’s skull like a nail!

    That’s the only downside I see to a helmet-mount mirror in general–what happens to it in a crash, and how does it affect helmet function. If it hangs up on something, it could twist your neck. Or it could come off and poke your eye out. But I’m not all that scared by those ideas, and I do use a take-a-look, attached to my visor. I still need to figure out how to attach it to the ski helmet I use in winter.

  • Alan says:

    @Thom

    “The problem with bike-mounted mirrors, in my experience, is too much shaking.”

    At times I’ve had the same problem with bar mounted mirrors, though they seem to work fine for others – I think it partially depends upon the particular bike/tire/handlebar combination and how much road vibration gets transmitted.

    My wife uses an eyeglass mounted mirror (Take-A-Look) that works well for her since she always rides with glasses on. I don’t usually ride with glasses, so the helmet mounted mirror is the best option for me. The Bell Metro mirror I use is only so-so; the Take-A-Look is much higher quality. When my wife tried my Bell mirror it made her dizzy! I eventually adapted to the Bell mirror and it’s second nature now, but it took a couple of weeks to train my eye to use it. I’ll probably go back to a Take-A-Look one of these days.

    @Charlie

    At least in the case of the Bell mirror, it snaps off easily (almost too easily), so I don’t think it poses much of a hazard.

  • Alan says:

    @Stephen

    This was many years ago, but one time we were riding on a normally lightly travelled rural two-lane highway that was unusually heavy with traffic due to some kind of motorsport event that was taking place in the area. There was virtually no shoulder and a constant stream of cars and trucks with trailers were zooming by at highway speeds. I was keeping one eye in the mirror when a truck with trailer swung wide behind me and I could see that the trailer was probably going to hit me, so I veered off the pavement onto the gravel shoulder. I’m sure I would’ve been hit if I hadn’t seen the truck in my mirror and taken evasive measures.

    This kind of thing doesn’t happen everyday, but it reinforced in me the idea that keeping an eye on what’s coming up from behind can be just as important as keeping an eye on what’s up ahead.

  • Scott Wayland says:

    I like mirrors, although I’ve yet to mount one on my mtb commuter. I ride it only 2.5 miles each way to a bus stop and the traffic is very light. Still, I’ll probably get one before too long. On my fairly reclined recumbent, I actually have one on each side but rarely use the right one. Looking over my shoulder is almost impossible, but I do give a quick glance now and then. I do find bar mounted mirrors the best for me, however. I simply HATE having a big wad of mirror hovering in the air over my left eye. I’ve found the bar mounted mirrors do their job just fine, and the occasional jarring from the road is not too big a disturbance for me.

    My 2 cents–and I’m stickin’ to it.

    Scott

  • andy parmentier says:

    i remember how nice it was to have a big, oversized bar end mirror on my recumbent. (at the time i was also pulling a bob trailer) i felt a lot safer with the mirror (and felt a bigger space cushion around me because of the trailer).
    at a thrift store yesterday afternoon, i bought a BICYCLING magazine, winter issue. an in-depth
    article about cyclists who’ve been hit in traffic.
    i’m going back to using a mirror.

  • Remy Huen says:

    I come from a motorcycle back ground, so of course I wear a helmet use mirrors and try to be highly visible front and rear. I am not you are foolish not to, but
    I know from first hand experience that many auto and truck drivers are not expecting to meet up with two wheeled traffic, so be prepared.

  • Thomas Barone says:

    I have a question for the group to ” kick around ” — Why do 99% of road cyclist ( the up right wedgie wnat to be’s) never have ANY MIRRORS? Many club riders ( often 30 -40 ) riders in a fast ride group you will not find a mirror anywhere!!!

  • Deb says:

    Probably the same reason they wouldn’t have fenders, lights, racks, and various other convenient things that nevertheless add weight.

  • Scott Wayland says:

    I think it’s a weight weenie/style issue. Can’t have any HINT of Phred whilst on the Campy racing bike, even though my chances of winning anything are nil. Must look the part. Must be serious.

    Seriously speaking, the ridiculous trend in the past of always focusing on racing I’m sure has turned off many potential cyclists. I’m so glad that everyday, useful, fun cycling is starting to get a little cool cache. Dare I say hip? Release your inner Phred. Slap on the panniers, fenders, lights, mirrors, damn the kilograms and moderate speed ahead!

    Scott

  • Jeremy says:

    I never used mirrors until I got my Volae Recumbent. Then, obviously mirrors are a must. I found it very comforting to see cars coming up on me in the distance (I ride mostly very quiet country roads) and knowing that in about 1 or 2 minutes they’ll be passing me, rather than having the 10 seconds that they are in ear shot to anticipate a passing car. While I still did shoulder check on my Volae (with a bit of practice it was quite easy) I used those mirrors a lot. Granted, the Volae allows for mirrors to be mounted in a very natural, intelligent location, I find that on a DF bike, it’s a bit trickier to get mirrors mounted the right position. When I think of it, I find it odd that after enjoying mirrors so much on my recumbent, I’ve yet to keep any on my DF bikes. Again, I think that is because I’ve had a hard time finding a good place to put them. That in turn is probably because I haven’t tried out the mirrors that would be best suited for drop bars. I wonder what others have found to be suitable mirrors for drop bars. I’ve been thinking about the German mirror from Riv.?
    Cheers.

  • sean says:

    @ Thomas Barone – road racing cyclists dont use mirrors for the simple reason that you cannot be aware of everyhting that is going on all around you by using a mirror. you could also say that using a mirror in the context of a “pack” of riders could be dangerous – pack riding requires the use of ALL of your senses, ALL the time – not just your eyes. i am sure there is an element of weight weenie/style in there too! lastly, racing regulations require that all accessories are removed from your bike so they do not fall off (like a frame pump) in the middle of a pack.

    i have started using for the first time a bike-mounted mirror on my xtracycle S.U.C.H. (sport utility cargo hauler!) mostly because the bike is not as nimble as my other machines and i cannot stop or vear? as quickly as i can on a regular bike. i also haul my kid to school on it everyday and i like knowing whats going on behind me – basically having the mirror makes me feel like a more responsible parent!

    my cycling backgorund is rooted in road racing and through all those years in the peloton i have developed the habit of ALWAYS looking around – including behind. i dont even have to turn my head that far as my periferral? vision (and hearing) works pretty well at spotting oncoming vehicles.

    love the discussion!

  • Fritz says:

    I often (but not always) use a mirror. It’s handy to check for approaching traffic when I want to move left for a turn or pass. I’ll still do a shoulder check before the actual turn, but at least with a mirror I’ll know when to do the check.

    If I’m riding slowly uphill on a mountain road I’ll bring a mirror so I know when to pull off as a courtesy for faster traffic.

  • Nate Briggs says:

    Good discussion, so far.

    I am still actively shopping for an effective mirror because I consider the most serious danger on the street – speaking strictly for myself – to be other bicycle riders: who I cannot hear coming up behind me, and who normally do not give me any warning that they are about to pass on my left (or on my right) with 5 inches to spare.

    Motorists you can always hear coming. After awhile, you can distinguish between diesel and gasoline models.

    I have never had a negative encounter with a motorist. But my fellow bicycle riders really seem to value their ability to “materialize” close to me – and I figure that, when I eventually am knocked down, it will be because one of my two-wheeled buddies makes a mistake.

  • Croupier says:

    I’ve put a mirror on a few bikes, especially recumbents, but I never used them so as some point I became anti-mirror.
    I’m not too worried about people hitting me from behind because I usually stick as close to the shoulder or to the parked cars on the side of the street as I can anyway. Every time I’ve felt I was about to get hit from behind I didn’t need a mirror to tell me to get ready for a collision. If you’re really about to get hit you just kind of know it, difficult to explain but those who have been tapped from the rear will back me up, I’m sure.
    The thing about most bar mounted mirrors is that you have to move so far out of riding position to look at them that you may as well just turn around and take a peek instead. You get a much more complete view of the road behind you with glance that takes (typically) much less time. You can miss an awful lot if you put too much trust in a mirror.
    I have minimal experience with helmet mounted mirrors but I’ve found them to overwhelmingly distracting. They also make me dizzy.

  • Nate Briggs says:

    Good discussion, so far.

    I am still actively shopping for an effective mirror because I consider the most serious danger on the street – speaking strictly for myself – to be other bicycle riders: who I cannot hear coming up behind me, and who normally do not give me any warning that they are about to pass on my left (or on my right) with 5 inches to spare.

    Motorists you can always hear coming. After awhile, you can distinguish between diesel and gasoline models. And reasonably estimate how many of them there are.

    I have never had a collision with a motorist – and I feel comfortable in their company.

    But my fellow bicycle riders really seem to value their ability to silently “materialize” close to me – and I figure that, if I am ever knocked down on the street, it will be courtesy of someone on 2 wheels … not 4.

  • Duncan Watson says:

    @Nate Briggs
    I have been driven off the road a number of times and hit twice by motorists. As a cycle commuter I have seen a number of areas where I can count on issues with motorists. In general motorists turning right are some of the most dangerous to me. I hate right turn on red. Almost every issue that wasn’t road rage related has been a motorist who turned right onto the roadway without regard to my presence. The second most common is a motorist who passes way too close and forces me into a ditch, onto a sidewalk or hits me. I have also seen road rage issues where the driver gets out of his car and starts to threaten me. Those, though scary, were easily diffused by getting out my cellphone and dialing 911.

    Cyclist related issues have only happened to me on Multi-use Paths. Very minor.

  • Fritz says:

    Duncan, anticipation and lane positioning helps a _lot_ with reducing the occurrence of right hooks. And, of course, mirrors help with the anticipation part ;-)

    If there’s an intersection where you’re always getting hooked, move left. You can even move far enough left so the motorists can pass to your right if you’re stopped at a light and there’s a free right on red.

  • Fred says:

    As a hearing impaired cyclist, I’ve always used mirrors – both helmet and bar mounted. Now that I ride recumbents they are more important. These days I prefer the bar mounts since bents provide such a handy place to mount them.

    As a long time mirror user, I’m astonished how unaware most cyclists who don’t use mirrors are. Some look back every 20 seconds and still miss traffic details they should be aware of.

  • Iain says:

    As stated above, on my recumbent I have 2 mirrors mainly due to the fact that I cannot adequately look behind me whilst on it and guessing will eventually lead to tradgedy, the constant stream of info from the rear at any road angle is great. The ‘bent is in the garage for the winter and my MTB has taken over as the commuter for the moment and I feel on a DF bike I have no need for a mirror as looking behind is easy and gives me all the info I need.

  • Hercule says:

    I have become a fan of mirrors since riding recumbent trikes – the Mirrycle mirror on my Kettwiesel is excellent. I keep wishing for one on our (flat bar) tandem. I have tried others including the Busch+Muller Cyclestar but found that they were either too small, or vibrated too much, or both!

    However, there is still great value in an over-the-shoulder look. Firstly, it allows you a direct view of the road behind and allows you to cover any blindspots (like close up and beside you) that the mirror may miss. Secondly there is an enormous psychological impact looking back and making eye contact with motorists that can make all the difference.

  • Duncan Watson says:

    @Fritz
    I have been moved so far left that I am almost in oncoming traffic by people making rights onto my roadway. I was hit by a drunk driver making a right, he moved me into the median of the road, hitting me in the process. I have been cycle commuting for 9 years so you get to see a number of these incidents after time passes.

    I am happy to take the lane and so rarely get threatened by people on my roadway, it is always for me the danger of people turning onto my road.

  • Pete says:

    I never wear a mirror when riding in a paceline because it can be distracting, and any distraction can spell disaster when riding with a group.

    I always wear my eyeglass mounted mirror when commuting, touring or just riding by myself. I remember it took a LONG time for me to get used to the eyeglass mirror, but once I got used to it, it’s a lifesaver.

    One of my biggest fears when I commute is of trailers that stick out a foot wider than the truck pulling them. I’ve had several close calls where I was riding in a bike lane and noticed in my mirror a truck approaching from behind with its trailer sticking half way into the bike lane.

    My mirror helps me to be more aware of the traffic around me and helps keeps me alive to ride another day :)

  • Fritz says:

    Duncan: SOrry about being presumptive know-it-all :-)

  • Duncan Watson says:

    @fritz no worries, I Unclear.

  • Croupier says:

    Living in a college/beach town I find it is always a good idea to put a mirror on your beach cruiser, especially during the summer… as big a mirror as possible… yup. Watch where you’re going but at the same time… “enjoy the view” *wink*.

  • Duncan Watson says:

    hmm, I shouldn’t post on my blackberry when in meetings. It comes out miserably. Well, I think my comment makes some sense. I also have to agree with Croupier. I use my mirrors a ton of times to get better views…

  • Dave says:

    I recently got a mirror and I love it. It is an eyeglasses mount, and while it took a bit to get used to, I have found just the right spot to mount it so that it affords the view I need, as well as being out of the way of my normal field of view. I love being aware of what is coming up from behind well before I hear something back there. But one thing I have made sure of is that I won’t let the mirror replace my shoulder check. What the mirror has allowed me to do is to better time my checks and movement in regards to the other road traffic around me. I now have a hard time riding without a mirror as I feel unaware. BTW, I ride to work, and for fun with my kids. Knowing what it giong on behind my kids is well worth the cost of the mirror.

  • Wayne Kerr says:

    I ride both recumbents and diamond frames. Mirrors are great and a must on the recumbents. I have them on the diamond frames too but they aren’t as useful. On a recumbent your upper body and head are always in the same position so you always see the same spot behind you; on a diamond frame you ride in different positions so you have to readjust your mirror with each new position and you can easily look behind you so mirrors arent ase useful.

    I would never do any commute riding on any bike without a mirror. I use them to judge when to pass parked cars on a tight road in traffic. They me to be corteous to people in cars.

  • funride says:

    I try to ride off road every time I can but lately (and due to my wrist injuries) I have been forced to ride on the roads and so the need for a mirror it´s now a reality for me. I have chosen the VüBar ( http://www.kijkom.nl/docs/vubar-e.htm ) as it´s the only one I can use while riding on the road and hide it every time I go off road. Have fun and safe rides!

  • Darryl says:

    I have right and left mirrors on my ‘bent. Not only for safety, but also for the pure geekiness of it. They make my bike look like a bug. I’m on my third different handlebars and have had to switch to mirrors that have a slight convex surface for a wide view. It has taken some getting used to . But they’re better than nothing. My next project is to mount turn indicators on my mirrors for visibility, road courtesy, and for pure fun and nerdish chutzpa.
    I started using helmut mirrors while on my DF bike when I was nearly run off the road by a pickup rounding a corner on a gravely side street. I’ve taped eyeglass mirrors to my helmets and I haven’t been uncomfortable with them. They’re flat and don’t reduce object size.

    Whether you’re on a ‘bent or DF, using mirrors, ears or body turns, the main thread in the responses is “situational awareness;” which is a term used frequently in piloting aircraft. The pilot has to be aware of all that going on around him/her as well as the flight condition of the aircraft.
    To be safe, a cyclist/pilot has rely on seeing where he’s going and who and what could impede travel. Likewise, the cyclist has to project visibility to others avoid others from colliding into him. Therefore, mirrors are the second most important safety accessory to the helmet. but they don’t provide complete protection from collisions if the cyclist isn’t making himself visible to other vehicles and cycles.

    A couple of other thoughts:
    Some people are not flexible enough to turn bodily so they have to rely on mirrors.
    IMO: Road racers are out there for peer group aesthetics. i haven’t seen a Carbon Fiber bike that was really practical for city riding. Also, races must learn to look back on a bike, right??
    Mirrors are distracting at first, however I’ve gotten so used to them I feel nakedly vulnerable without them. Besides, I’ve never driven a car or ridden a bicycle solely by looking at mirrors. Mirrors really take up only a small angle of view in the total image field but are big enough for detailed look. But I’m not looking for detail in mirrors. I’m looking for motion and proximity. The key for me, is to develop a scan across my vision to be aware of my total surroundings in addition to what’s behind me.

    ‘I also depend on mirrors to keeps track of riders behind me, who can be more unreliable and stealthier than automobiles.
    I don’t let geekiness get in the way of safety. God made me goofy-looking as I am today so I might as well use mirrors to make sure I remain just as goofy tomorrow.

    Just my two cents worth. Thanks for letting me prattle on and on.

  • Red says:

    I go back and forth when it comes to mirrors. Some years ago I used one all the time when commuting. Now it just depends. It is kind of nice to have one. But I will say my closest calls when it comes to accidents haven’t been from the rear. They have been from pulling turning left in front of me.

    I find mirrors are pretty much a necessity for me when bicycle touring with 4 loaded panniers. It is just too hard to turn and look behind with the load.

  • Charles says:

    I can not imagine commuting without a mirror. Mine is the adhesive Third-Eye type; but, attached without the adhesive or a screw. After cutting down the “flag” where the adhesive foam patch is intended to be attached, I used a craft knife to make a small and very thin cut up into the foam at the lower left front of the helmet. The cut-down mount can be shoved into the slot and has stayed there for several years without problems or glue. This works well for both my Trek “Post Office truck” and my recumbent, a Longbikes Slipstream.
    Handlebar mirrors seem to vibrate too much to be useful and lack the ability to scan quickly the entire area behind.
    Many times I have found myself looking up and left for the mirror after getting off a bike.
    As many have noted, you don’t get to be an old commuter by taking chances and not being aware of your surroundings.

  • jim says:

    I never ride without a mirror. Why is it any different than driving a car? With the mirror you’re check behind yourself constantly, not just when you “think” you ought to. It’s prevented me from pulling out into a lane when that would have been disastrous.

    On my recumbent I have a handlebar-mounted mirror that works well. For ordinary bikes there seems to be too much vibration although as others have mentioned, that probably depends on the bars.

    Plastic, helmet-mounted mirrors bobble around too much. The Take-A-Look is the one that works.

  • simon says:

    soooo no cons at all then…..:-)

  • David Hembrow says:

    For me, no mirror. Not on my “normal” bike. There’s simply no need. Also no helmet, no reflectives, no brightly coloured clothing and (occasionally) no lights if they’ve gone wrong.

    Is it safe ? Of course it’s safe. Everyone else is doing the same thing, despite which this is the safest place in the world to cycle by quite a wide margin. The envrionment / infrastructure design makes it safe.

    However, I do have one bicycle mirror which is mounted on my recumbent. I bought this while I still lived in the UK where constantly looking out for the next goon driving a car is a necessary preoccupation of cyclists. It’s more difficult to look behind on a recumbent, so I think a mirror is more worthwhile there.

    Many years ago I tried a bar end mirror on the dropped bar bike I then used for commuting in the UK. It gave a great view of my knee when cycling, and thankfully snapped off after a few weeks…

  • Andy in Germany says:

    I’ve considered a mirror, but I began to notice that drivers give a wider berth when I look at them. It could be an entirely subjective thing, but I think that making eye contact makes them see a ‘person’ not just an obstruction. A Mirror would make this less obvious. That’s entirely anecdotal though, just my subjective experience with relatively well behaved German drivers.

  • Mohjho says:

    Yes on mirrors. I found that the better the mirror, the less trouble I had with vibration.
    I use my handlebar mirror constantly but I dont rely on it. I still turn my head and look before commiting to a turn or lane change.

  • ksteinhoff says:

    I’m a little late to the ball, but I’m a big mirror fan. I can’t think of anything I’d miss more. Like Alan said, I sometimes look up for the mirror when I’m NOT on the bike.

    Here’s the mirror that’s worked best for me:

    http://www.pbbt.org/2008/12/11/looking-back-at-my-chuck-harris-rearview-mirror/

  • Rider says:

    Gotta have my Take-a-Look!

    I use it on my sunglasses. I never ride without glasses, and never ride without the mirror (unless I am off road).

    I think it is more important than a helmet — it helps me find my way in and out of (generally unaware) cars and drivers.

  • Another Rider says:

    Over the years, I’ve had almost every helmet mirror ever made. I prefer a helmet mirror because you can “aim” them and cover a wider area behind you than a handlebar mounted mirror. They vibrate less, too. The only one that I liked was an all metal job that clipped onto the edge of the helmet, but it’s not available any more, and wouldn’t work on the contemporary helmets anyway.

    My current favorite mirror is the Steady Eye mirror. It takes no adhesives, as it just clips onto my helmet visor. It has a short stiff arm that just about negates vibration, and I can swap it from my bike helmet to a baseball cap or a visor. The pivot joint has adjustable friction, unlike the plastic ball joints used on most other mirrors. The whole thing (other than the mirror itself) is metal but still weighs only .72oz.

    My problem with the plastic ones is three fold. Most are stuck onto the helmet with adhesive that tends to unstick. Most have long plastic arms that are prone to vibrate and mess with your vision. The ball joints used don’t hold the adjustment. The last plastic one I had wore out in two months in that the ball got so loose it flopped in the wind. With no friction adjustment, it was shot.

    The Steady Eye mirror addressed all these issues. Plastic stinks. Metal rules.

    I got mine off an ad on eCrater, but a Google search for “Steady Eye mirror”
    will find it too.

  • charles says:

    I use mirrors on my recumbent and upright bicycles. I like that I can make a quick scan and see what is coming from behind that may hit me. I can’t look under my arm since I don’t ride a track bike on the road. I can turn to look behind me but it always seems safer to just glance in my mirror rather than turn my head in a direction other than where I am going. If I plan to merge, change lanes or turn, I do turn my head after I scan my mirror and check out whats in front of me. I use mirrors just like I do in an automobile or on a motorcycle. I don’t see why anyone would have trouble using them. There are several good brands. I use the “German mirror” from Rivendel on my Albatross bar bike, a Blackburn on my drop bar bike and Mirrcycle mirrors on my recumbent. I also have a helmet mirror but it doesn’t fit right. Mirrors are handy and are also nice when you stop riding and need to comb your hair.

  • EcoVelo » Blog Archive » Another Year Gone By says:

    [...] (57)Bicycle Helmet Pros & Cons (55)The Decidedly Unfashionable Chartreuse Safety Vest (55)Bicycle Mirror Pros & Cons (54)Cyclelicious: A United Front? (49)Hybrid Electric Bicycles (49)Foot Loose (49)A Friendly Debate [...]

  • R.L. says:

    I think road riders (racers) don’t use mirrors because they can cross wheels with the bike in front of them and crash in the time it takes to check the helmet mirror. Especially true when they are in a pace line.

    I find it interesting that nearly everyone who responded to this blog posting uses a mirror. I do too (mine is helmet mounted). I find it troubling that the bicycle safety “elite” in North America seem to not like mirrors. I think they are *very wrong* not to promote their use. A rear view mirror provides situational awareness to the rear and a mirror check should be a routine part of active 360º scanning while you ride. As Alan says, mirrors should be used with a head check for lane changes. Just like they are in a car, truck or on a motorcycle.

    Mirrors are mandated equipment on every other vehicle on the road. They offer the same benefit to bicyclists as they do to all vehicle operators. I wish the bike safety experts would hurry up and figure this out and start promoting rear view mirrors for their obvious benefits.

    R.L.

  • Amoeba says:

    On a recumbent, mirrors are essential, looking round really isn’t an option, I use two.
    On upright and folding bicycles, I use one.

    I keep on checking the traffic behind me.

    The secret to avoid vibration is to use a convex mirror and short stem.

    By far the best is the Mountain Mirrycle. They fit mountain / hybrid / Azor Dutch & Pashley Princess Sovereign Roadsters, Dahon Speed D7 and my Optima recumbent. In-fact I’ve just bought another three.

  • Amoeba says:

    My only experience with a helmet mirror is from Bell.
    I’ve never got on with it. My assessment is its field of view is very narrow, which renders it pretty worthless. It also needs to be realigned after stowing, which reduces its usefulness.

    I certainly wouldn’t buy another. I do not recommend it.

 
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