Are All Studs Equal?
What do Cycling Mirrors have to do with ICEBIKING? Strictly speaking, not much. However
they are often used by on-road commuter cyclists in winter because of the added difficulty
of turning your head when bundled up against the cold. As such we cover them here on the
ICEBIKE site because a large percentage of ICEBIKERS are commuters.
Cycling mirrors are one of those subjects that bring on arguments almost as intense as
the "Helmet Wars" found on any cycling discussion on the Internet. They come
around once every 6 months or so, and usually leave a lot of acrimony hanging in the
ether. Roadies think they are too sexy to use mirrors, mountain bikers don't need them and
break them too often anyway, but bicycle commuters and recumbent riders seem to gravitate
toward mirrors sooner or later.
|So if you are not disposed to reading the ranting of a mirror
advocate it is time to click another link and surf to some area of agreement. This page is
for mirror users or those investigating various types of mirrors in anticipation of a
"Every helmet or eyeglass mirror wearer I have ever met remarks that
they become so use to the mirror being there that they will glance toward the upper left
when they hear foot steps behind them while walking down the street."
When you are all bundled up with a Balaclava or a hood, it is somewhat more difficult
to turn your head to see what is approaching from behind. Further, if you wear eyeglasses,
depending on your prescription, you may have to turn your head farther than other cyclists
in order to look out of the lens rather than beside it. This is especially true of near
sighted cyclists as the image presented when peeking out beside the lens is often useless.
In heavy traffic conditions, where lane changes are required, knowledge of traffic
conditions to the rear is usually essential. At other times you just want to monitor the
motorists behind you to get a little advanced warning about passing cars, turning cars,
and bow wave blasts of wind from trucks.
There have been many days, usually in heavy snow, that I feel far more comfortable
keeping my eyes on the road and determining when it was safe to move left with the mirror
than taking a risk of hitting a snow rut while trying to do a proper head turn in winter
There are basically 4 different varieties of cycling mirrors, all of which are
in-expensive, usually under $20, most under $10. Each type has different characteristics
of clarity, mounting, vibration sensitivity, and susceptibility to frost/fog in winter
Handle Bar Mirrors
Handle Bar mirrors are designed to fit on the end of your handle bars and stick out
further than the widest part of the rider. There are various attachment methods,
some simply replace the end-plug of your mountain bike bars, other come with swing-away
Pictured is a Rhode
Gear mirror that mounts with Velcro. These are appreciated by cyclists who ride the
same bike all the time, and/or those who do not wear eyeglasses or helmets suitable for
other types of mirrors.
also walk into a store without appearing like a "paranoid dentist". They may ice
up if you leave your bike out in the cold, but you can usually warm them with your hand.
Although most Roadies avoid mirrors, Rhode Gear makes one that fits the hood covers of
drop bars. It is probably one of best for the full tucked position, in that your sight
line is often blocked by your shoulders with other mirror types.
The draw backs with handle bar mirrors are that you generally have to buy one for each
bike you ride, the do not transfer easily. The exception is the Rhode Gear pictured above
which attaches with Velcro and is easy for you (or a thief) to move to another bike.
Further, when the bike tips over and impacts the ground the handle bar mirror usually hits
first. Some have swing away mounting, most just have "break away" mounting.
Since it is mounted on the handle bars it is subject to vibration. This can make the image
useless unless the mounting system has some built in damping. You may have to move your
head or body to see what is behind you, and in extreme cases, you will have to steer the
bike to maneuver the mirror. Finally they require that you take your eyes away from the
road ahead to see what is behind, although this can be done quicker than a head turn.
Bar end mirrors are made by Third Eye and Rhode Gear among others.
Helmet mirrors come in two basic types which differ predominantly in the mounting
system. One system mounts on the hard shell, usually with a screw clamp arrangement. The
other mounting system (which can be used on almost all helmets) is a glue patch.
|The mirror is positioned via a stalk above and to the left or
right of your eye. Pictured below are mirrors by Nashbar.
The helmet mirror sits well outside your hood, balaclava,
and helmet and usually the only view obstruction will be your shoulder or "big
A simple 10 to 20 degree turn of the head allows a full sweep of what is behind
These are cheap and easy to attach, and are always with you regardless of which bike
you ride - as long as you wear your helmet. If you have two helmets, avoid glue mounts.
Those that screw-clamp mount on the helmet shell may not be reversible, so be sure your
order it in the country where you will use it. The ones sold in the USA are made for
riding on the right side of the road.
The down side of helmet mounts is that you must be careful when setting your helmet
down. It is sometimes difficult to get a good mirror placement because of inconsistent
helmet position or because the mirror is too high due to the fit or shape of the helmet
body. If your helmet moves around even a little on you head your mirror will be out of
position part of the time. There tends to be more vibration in these mirrors than those
Third Eye, Nashbar and Rhode Gear make helmet mount mirrors.
Eyeglass mounted mirrors attach to the temple or bow of your eyeglasses or cycling
glasses. They typically use a three point mount along the left bow (or right side for
those who drive on the left). These generally position the mirror either at the same level
as the eye (or slightly above) and just far enough to the side to clear your helmet and
balaclava. When riding with a hood on, it is occasionally necessary to adjust the mirror
and turn the head slightly more to accommodate the extra bulk
Again, a simple 10 to 20 degree turn of the head allows a full sweep of what is
behind you, 45 degree head turns let you see what is on your right. Eyeglass
mounted mirrors tend to suffer less vibration than other models, you can often read the
license plate of the car about to pass you. The positioning of the mirror is the best of
There are two main manufacturers and a couple of smaller regional companies.
The first company is Third Eye.
Third Eye uses plastic mounts, and the part that attaches to your eyeglasses bow is rather
|I have had several pair fail while trying to attach or remove them, most
often in freezing weather.
The adjacent picture shows the most common failure mode,
where one of the three-point-attachment legs breaks off rendering the mirror useless. This
is part of the design, it is intended that the mirror break away here in the the event of
a crash rather than in front of your eye.
Third Eye will honor the warranty, just mail the broken parts back to them. I
sent in a couple broken mirrors and they sent me several extra of the
three-point-attachment parts which can be snapped together with the shaft and mirror.
Take A Look:
Manufactured by Bicycle Peddler of Greeley Colorado, these are the finest bike mirrors
I have run into. Impervious to the cold, all of the critical parts are metal.
The three point mount is a single piece of metal and is designed to be bent at specific
places to accommodate wide or narrow glasses bows.
|The mirror can be rotated on three axis, and the entire assembly can be
flipped upside down and mounted on a helmet shell. The un-framed mirror is acrylic. They
are unconditionally guaranteed by the manufacturer.
These are very
clear, with hardly any vibration, and far more adjustable than other eyeglass mirrors I
have run into. They provide a larger field of view than most other helmet or eyeglass
mirrors, and require less head movement than any other mirror I have tried.
The mirror, being plastic can be scratched with rough handling, but it survives drops
This company does not appear to have a web page but the phone number is 1-800-832-2453.
Their fax number is 1-970-330-0757
and the address is 3820 W. 10th St. Greeley CO 80634. Ask your local bike store to carry
Bill Waller via Email.
Cycle Aware is
a relatively new manufacturer of cycling mirrors and they offer a product
in each of the categories on this page, handle-bar, helmet, eyeglass and
|We tested the eyeglass model and found a new
twist. Twist, Bend, and Adjust, but no break. The main
stem of these mirrors is made up of a bendable plastic that is
supposed to retain its shape after being bent to fit your glasses
and to position the mirror. Being a little timid about bending
plastic parts we approached the task carefully.
Sure enough, we found we could accomplish quite a bit of adjustment
without breakage. The stem did tend to retain its bend for some
time, although after many days it tended to need adjustment. We
haven't tried this adjustment in freezing conditions, it seemed wiser to
do it indoors.
The fingers that hold the mirror to your glasses were beefy and have a
non-slip pad built in that does not come off and get lost like some
others. These are very strong and you can bend the main shaft
between the fingers to achieve a tight fit.
Note that the mirror is an OVAL shape, and is more vertically oriented
than others such as the Take A Look. We think this is a mistake and
the mounting stud on rim of the mirror should (in our opinion) be
positioned half way between the end of the mirror (where it is now) and
side of the oval so that you could position the mirror in a more
horizontal orientation and thereby achieve a wider viewing angle. Other
than that we found the mirror stable and the mounting sturdy.
On Lens Mirrors
|The final category of cycling mirror are the on-lens mirrors. These are
very high quality mirrors that attach directly to the inside of your eyeglasses. They are
very small, and have an adjustable swivel base. Several companies make these, including Third Eye.
These mirrors, although
meant for eyeglass wearers, will not work if you need the correction supplied by your
prescription lenses, as the image in the mirror does not come through your prescription.
They are best used by cyclists wearing sunglasses or who do not need correction for
distance vision. They will not work with wrap-around sunglasses.
Since these sit inside your glasses your rearward vision is blocked by your own head,
and you will have to turn your head considerably further to scan traffic to your rear than
you would with a helmet mirror or eyeglass mirror. But they are hardly visible behind a
pair of sunglasses. Great for the aging Roadies who does not want to be seen wearing a
mirror, but finds the head turns more difficult with each passing year.
of Eye Fears
One reason that non-wearers frequently give for not wearing helmet or eyeglass mirrors
is the fear of losing an eye in a crash. I have no statistics on this, nor have I ever
heard of an incident of this happening, but I would bet that somewhere in the world it has
happened. There is no history of litigation on this matter, so it must be extremely rare.
Eyeglass wearers are somewhat protected by their prescription lenses (you ARE wearing
plastic, NOT glass lenses aren't you?) so one would imagine this danger would pertain more
to helmet mounted mirrors, if it exists at all.
In the one serious crash and several minor ones that I have experienced, my eyeglass
mirror was never damaged or even dislodged. Yet, I have managed to drop one onto the only
rock in an otherwise well manicured lawn, and broke the mirror. Go Figure!
You Have to Head Turn
The other reason frequently given for not wearing an cycling mirror is the need to do a
"head turn" to be absolutely sure nothing is behind you. Generally good advice,
nothing wrong with being safe. I do it myself most of the time.
The problem is, this bit of advice is is often put forth with self righteous vehemence
based on superstition and habits formed from driving automobiles, and always by someone
who does not wear a mirror, and probably never tried one.
Most drivers have had an experience of peeking in the mirror, and starting a merge into
the left lane only to hear the irate blare of a horn from another motorist lurking in the
"blind spot". However, with a helmet or eyeglass mirror, THERE
ARE NO BLINDSPOTS. A simple, quick10 to 20 degree turn of the head provides a full
rearward scan, curb to curb with no place for a car or even another bike to hide.
You will occasionally hear people rail against mirrors because (they claim) the mirror
distracts you from watching the road ahead, and you spend too much time looking behind
Right! Yet they are required by law on every motor vehicle and even jet fighter
aircraft use them! This argument is often put forth by the same people who insist
you have to do a head turn. The fact that a head turn is far more distracting than a
peek in the mirror never even occurs to them. If they spend too much time looking
behind it is because they have never tried a mirror long enough for the novelty to wear
off. In a sense, this argument is essentially that mirrors work TOO well, so well
that you will not be able to concentrate on where you are going.
As stated above, after wearing one for a week, you will find it so natural, and so
convenient, that you will wonder how you ever got along without them. You will feel
positively naked without your mirror while in traffic. You will even catch yourself
peeking to your upper left while walking down the street.
Loss of Communication:
Finally, there is the Turn your head to "Communicate" with
motorists argument, that says your head turn will tell the blue haired lady
in the Suburban exactly that you intend to turn, and she will instantly understand and grant
your wish, even though she hasn't been on a bike since the 6th grade.
Non cyclists have no idea why you turn your head, other than to believe that you turned
and obviously you saw them and are therefore responsible to avoid them. If
you wanted to turn, you would have signaled! That's the law. That's
what they expect.
So the mirror lets you see, your signal lets them know, and your head turn satisfies
your fears and superstitions regarding ghost cars that don't show up in mirrors.
Uncharitable characterization? Perhaps, but no less so than those used by the anti
mirror crowd, one of whom writes "Cyclists who have developed their worries more than
their skills are strong advocates of rear view mirrors...".