On cycling and mirrors…

The debate over bicycle legislation in Iowa has had me wondering if what I’ve believed for years about using a mirror while riding is wrong – that it’s a good idea.

I’ve encouraged other people to use a mirror and check it frequently for traffic approaching from behind. If my mirror happens to be broken or forgotten (which is rare now that it is hot-glued to my helmet), I feel very vulnerable to being overtaken.

The head turn you hear about seems to work well for some cyclists, but others tend to veer left when they turn their heads to look back. I always feel I see better behind me with a quick glance in the mirror rather than turning my head, which I often do anyway.

Some other people swear by mirrors, too, as you can see in a discussion here, but apparently there is no real research showing they improve safety – and certainly no basis for requiring their use.

The best advice might be this: Understand the mirror’s limitations and don’t focus too much on what’s behind you.

Go here for an interesting article on the subject in Adventure Cycling.

What do you think? Do you use a mirror? Bike-mounted or helmet-mounted? Why or why not?

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3 Responses to “On cycling and mirrors…”

  1. 1 Georgie Pease February 28, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    I have not had good luck with mirrors. The helmet kind make me headachy and nausous. The other kind…vibrate so much. Any suggestions? I really wouln’t mind using one, but I have to be able to tolerate it.

  2. 2 bjsmith February 28, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    Georgie, your experience with the helmet-mounted mirror makes me wonder if it was mounted properly, but I really don’t know what would cause that. If I felt sick from glancing in the mirror, I’d probably ask my eye doctor about it, especially if a bike shop I trust didn’t have any suggestions.

    I’ve tried the handlebar mirrors and agree they didn’t seem stable enough. They were also prone to falling off on the road and breaking.

  3. 3 The Pitbull March 1, 2010 at 12:38 pm


    Back in the day I tried a mirror mounted on my Skid-Lid, that doesn’t date me does it? I didn’t like it, mainly as it seemed as though I was always fumbling with it and then was distracted from the task at hand, riding safely.

    I’ve never used one since.

    I don’t ride with headphones, when I ride, either with a group or alone, it is a ride proactive for safety and I listen as my method of awareness to my surroundings. My choice.

    I appreciate your efforts in promoting a cycling dialogue.

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