Boyonabike!

Life beyond the automobile in Southern California

Rear View Mirror

About 2 months ago I decided to try a rear view mirror for my bicycle commuting.  I had been thinking about getting one for some time, but hesitated because (vanity, thy name is boyonabike) I thought they looked geeky.  Well, who am I kidding?  I look geeky anyway, so why not go full geek mode?  After 2 months of using the mirror, I am sorry I waited so long.

There are several kinds of rear view mirrors for bicycles.  Some fit on the end of a handlebar, others clip to a rider’s glasses, and this one sticks on the side of a helmet.  The mirror is adjustable so with a little bit of experimentation you can angle it just right, so that a quick glance will enable you to see what is behind you.  It also easily detatches from the base (which remains on the side of your helmet), so you can take it off if you don’t want to use it or want to pack your helmet.  I initially thought I probably would take it off for most rides, but after two months I find it so useful I keep it on my helmet at all times.

The mirror is extremely helpful in a number of common bicycling situations.  For example, you’re riding along a street where there’s no bike lane (which is the majority of streets where I ride).  Ahead, parked cars along the curb will force you to move further into the traffic lane (“taking the lane”).  Your mirror allows you to quickly assess whether there are cars coming up from behind, how close they are, and how fast they’re going.  Another important use of the bike mirror is when preparing to make a left turn, especially if you have to cross a lane of roadway to get into a left turn lane.  As with a car’s side view mirror, itr makes changing lanes easier and safer.  Finally, it just gives me a greater sense of safety and control to know where all cars are at all times when I’m riding.

The mirror does take some getting used to, and it has some minor drawbacks (besides looking bike-geeky).  First, the presence of the mirror, though small (approximately 1.75 in. high and 1.25 in. wide), does create a tiny blind spot behind it on your left side.  However, you quickly learn that a small turn of the head gives you a full range of vision to your left.  Next, in my opinion, keep your glances in the mirror short, so that you continue to be fully aware of things up ahead of you, such as road hazards or car doors when riding past parked cars.  Nevertheless, the mirror allows the glance to be much quicker than turning your head to look behind you, and makes it less likely that you’ll miss something ahead of you  Again, with a little practice, the quick glance becomes second nature.

Overall, I find the rear view mirror to be a very helpful device that increases my awareness of what’s behind me, and it increases my safety because I no longer have to turn my head to see behind me.  Having used it on my helmet for about 8 weeks, I really miss it on those short rides when I don’t wear my helmet.

Would I recommend the mirror?  Absolutely.  Will you look geeky?  Maybe, but I’ve decided that bike-geekdom is the new cool.

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11 thoughts on “Rear View Mirror

  1. I have been using the Bike Predator “Take a Look” mirror for maybe two years. I was getting my certification to be a Training Ride Leader for the Aids Life Cycle ride and my mentor highly recommended it since he saw my constantly turning around to check for riders behind me. I tried it and I’ve gotten hooked on it especially when I ride in traffic or do group rides. It’s good to glance up quickly to see what’s behind you and then decide if I need to turn my head around. It’s really valuable when you have to scoot over to the left turn lane to check for traffic to decide when you’re going to make the move. After using it as long as I have, it’s second nature to take that real quick glance. Now I notice that whenever I’m not riding alone, I really miss it when I don’t have the mirror.

    When I’m riding in groups, a lot of people do not call their passes but at least I don’t get caught by surprise when I’m being passed.

    I like the “Take a Look” mirror because it mounts on my glasses so it’s always at the same place in my field of vision. I tried a helmet mount a long time ago but then I had to be really careful where I put my helmet when I took it off. It kept getting knocked off.

    I guess it looks a little bike geeky but at my age, I don’t really care that much how I look. I have pictures of me on ride but they all have this little rectangular object hanging in front of my glasses. In a picture, it does look a little strange.

  2. Michele Zack on said:

    I will now insist my husband gets one. Like you, he already looks geeky, so why not have a little safety edge while he’s at it.

  3. Pingback: Two big bike races at once, a perfect example of press anti-bike bias, and a whole lot of link love « BikingInLA

  4. Eric W on said:

    Just got one myself. Mine is the kind that clips on to sunglasses. Complete bike Fred geek when you don’t have the helmet on…

    I tried various handlebar mount mirrors and they all failed for different various reasons. So, for me, a head mounted mirror seems to be the answer.

    I do use it for all the items above and another one comes to mind. I ride in traffic a lot. I use the mirror to fix the location of the car I can hear behind me exactly. Seems like they get quieter and quieter. I’ve found myself being paced by a Prius more than once. Heard it approach, them it gets too quiet to quite tell where it is. The mirror check shows be exactly where it is.

    Very useful part of my bike gear. Recommend everyone try it.

  5. I agree with all of the benefits you mention in your review, but I would like to point out that all of these are benefits of *any* helmet mirror, and none of the benefits are unique to the CycleAware helmet mirror, which I feel was poorly designed. The mirror often pops out of its loose ball joint, and eventually, it will pop out while riding, and you won’t be able to find it. I say this from experience. 🙂 I’m looking for another brand that is just as flexible, but doesn’t come apart so easily.

  6. Jerry on said:

    I used mine for two years and never had a problem with it popping out of its ball joint. Until it impacted the road at 30mph in a crash. Not that I would expect it to survive that kind of impact.

    • Jerry, yes, I too have been using mine all year with no problem. Thanks for the comment.

      • Taylor on said:

        I should add that the manufacturer sent me a replacement arm and mirror, and it’s been okay. It has come off a few times when bumped, but not as easily as the first one. Much better.

  7. I’m a NYC LCI and an adamant mirror user; if I leave my apartment having forgotten my mirror, I go back up to get it.

    For those who are just starting out with their mirrors, or are considering adding a mirror to their safety and awareness kit, here are a couple of tips and thoughts:

    Regarding making lane-changes based on a mirror check, the best advice I’ve heard is; “The mirror can tell you ‘no’, but the mirror can’t tell you ‘yes'”. The point being, the mirror does not eliminate the need for a scan back before committing to a lane change.

    On that same point, the scan back is a crucial part of your communication with motorists. From their point of view, seeing a cyclist move laterally without the scan and the accompanying hand signal seems like unpredictable behavior.

    We operate in a 360 degree environment, where as we move forward through the landscape, relative to traffic that is passing us, we’re moving in reverse. Wearing a mirror is akin to looking where you’re going!

    Being able to monitor approaching traffic reduces that tense feeling you get from not knowing what’s coming up behind you. There are fewer surprises, fewer last minute decisions. Your increased awareness results in a more involved riding style which motorists find reassuring; as often as you signal for them to “stay back” you’ll give them the “you go first” wave, all contributing to our ability to control our interactions with motorists.

    I’ve heard it argued that “I don’t want to become dependent on a mirror, so I don’t use or recommend them”. I am happy to use and be “dependent” on any technique that increases my situational awareness. There is no handicap that results from having more information.

    Last comment – yes, allow for a period of learning to use a helmet or eyeglass mirror. When you “get it”, there’s no strain, it’s very natural, but the first time you put it on your instinct will be to focus on this thing that’s inches from your eye, but that’s wrong. Your focus will be on the distant objects shown in the mirror. The mirror itself is not what you’re looking at. (just trust me, you’ll get it)

    Lance Jacobs, NYC
    LCI #3507
    VirtuousBicycle.com

    • Lance, thanks for sharing your thoughts on the mirror. I completely agree with what you’ve said here, as it comports with my own experience. I, too, miss the mirror if it’s not on my helmet. Some may say I’ve grown “dependent” on it, but what I’ve grown dependent on is the safety and peace of mind of being able to see behind me as well as in front of me.

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