Our last post suggested that while there was considerable merit in riding with some form of rear view mirror to increase awareness of approaching traffic, few riders in New Zealand (or elsewhere for that matter) seem to be convinced, as the use of mirrors is clearly the exception rather than the rule.
To get some first-hand experience I ordered a “Bike-Eye” mirror from an online site (this particular mirror is apparently not available in NZ), and fitted it to my MTB.
The attraction of the Bike-Eye solution is that it is fitted close to the frame of the bike, where it is less prone to knocks, but still provides an unusual – but as it turned out, very effective – view backward between the frame and the rider’s right leg. The mirror is designed to be fitted at the junction of the head and down tubes, with the mirror on a spindle extending to the right (in left-hand drive countries), and angled to provide the backward view. On my MTB that was not an option because of the construction of the bike, however after a bit of fiddling around with the flexible bracket supplied, I successfully fitted the bracket upside down, under the down tube and attached to the lower part of the head tube. In that position the mirror is extended upward from the spindle at its lower edge, and is easily viewed with a quick look down.
As I found on my first ride with the mirror fitted, in this position the view behind is surprisingly clear (after a few minor adjustments to change the angle): being close to the frame there is very little movement to blur the image, the clarity of the image is first rate, and the range and view arc is very good.
That said, as the sketch shows, the view in any mirror will be limited by the size and placement on the bike, and there will be black-spots, where vehicles (or other riders) sit outside the arc covered by the mirror (the car approaching from behind is about to exit the view arc, but fortunately will be alongside and easily seen when it does). While a convex mirror increases that arc, it can also distort the image, making it more difficult to judge proximity of approaching traffic. Regardless of your choice however, the reality is that no relatively small mirror can pick up everything: the mirror provides an added aide only, in no way does it replace the direct look back before commencing any change in direction.
In my short use of the Bike Eye mirror to date several things have become apparent:
- Perseverance is key:
- It takes time to get used to checking the mirror and focussing automatically on the image
- It also takes time to reach the point where you rapidly recognise what the image is showing you:
- The small mirror cannot show everything behind you, so you need practice to recognise what it does – and does not – show
- Do your research:
- I chose the Bike-Eye as it seemed to meet my needs best, but it may not suit your bike or riding style
- You may prefer a mirror mounted on the bars, or on your helmet/glasses
- You may also prefer to use a convex mirror (to increase the view arc) rather than a flat mirror with a more restricted view
- Keep looking back
- The mirror does not replace the look back
- It simply increases your awareness of what is happening around you
- The mirror does not replace the look back
Using a mirror may seem uncool, but frankly, at our advanced years if it adds to our awareness and the sense of safety and confidence, who cares what other people think (a cynic may even suggest that if you already look like a prat because of your riding gear, how will using a mirror detract further from that?). The earlier post (Reflections on Cycle Mirrors) provided an overview of the types of mirrors available. With the range of options around (many more online than through retailers in NZ) do your research, and identify the option which works best for you.
I won’t be riding on public roads without the Bike-Eye on board from now on – the benefits make it worthwhile. Not only can I keep an eye on our own “Tail-end Charlie” (typically Kev, as seen here) and approaching cars, I also get an early warning of the silent approach of the serious riders on their well-oiled machines.
I suspect that most other recreational riders would also benefit – if only they can get over the “user reluctance” which seems to dissuade many. Give it a try: there are many low cost options available and you don’t lose much by trying one out. You may even get help from a friendly retailer, allowing you to try out options before committing to a purchase.
Ultimately it comes down to personal choice, and may be a choice between appearances and safety/increased awareness. I choose the latter every time.