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A handy little road bike mirror

Being somewhat of an old skool purist, I am not inclined to hang a bunch of dorky shit on my bike.

However, I recently came across this little rear view mirror that fits in the end of the handlebars.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I would say this would rank at least an 8.5 on the acceptable side of dorkiness, but after using it for about a week, this mirror’s practicality far outweighs the small sacrifice to the pure aesthetics of my bicycle.

For years I have always felt that a rear view mirror on a road bike, ridden by an experienced rider, was totally unnecessary. To see what was behind me, I would simply turn my head.

However, I am no longer as young as my mind thinks I am. I am not as flexible; more important my eyesight is not what it used to be.

I need prescription glasses to see, and when I turn my head I am looking out of the side of my glasses and not through the lenses. The result is that everything in the distance is a blur.

For some time now I have relied on my ears to tell me if a car is passing and this still works well, but the car has to be pretty close, and often the noise of traffic in the opposing lane makes it hard to distinguish a car behind.

This rear view mirror gives me a visual check as to what is going on. If there is nothing coming I am riding about a third of the way out into the lane.

On seeing a car approach from the rear I move over to the right. It seems to me that drivers, having seen me out in the lane, will aim to pass me where I was originally, thereby giving me more room. Other cars following tend to play follow the leader and also swing wide.

Yesterday on my ride I rode about a two mile stretch on a normally busy road, and nothing came past me. It was a great feeling of freedom, to be out there on the smoothest part of the road, knowing it made no difference to other road users, as there was no one behind me.

Being out in the lane means that I am more visible to those ahead of me; people about to make a left turn across in front of me, and those waiting to pull out from side streets and driveways. It is these hazards that come from those in front of a cyclist that are still the biggest threat.

Which brings me to another point; having just got this mirror, like a kid with a new toy I had to be careful I was not paying more attention to my rear, than to what was going on ahead.

I should also point out that it is still a good idea to look over your shoulder and give a hand signal when changing lanes to make a left turn. The looking behind you is a signal in itself that you are about to do something.

From a design standpoint, I can see that the makers of this mirror have gone for an aerodynamic look.

The ball that allows adjustment is inside the rubber plug that fits in the handlebar, therefore the plastic housing could have been at least 5/8 inch (1.6 cm.) shorter.

Also, I would have liked to see the convex mirror round instead of egg shaped. (Giving a less distorted image.)

In my view the designers in an attempt to make this less dorky, have somehow increased its dorkiness; these changes would definitely make it more practical. There is a tendency to bump it with your leg when dismounting; not that this is a big deal, it is easily adjustable.

This mirror called “The Roadie” is available from CycleAware for $20 plus shipping.

I must add that I was not paid for this endorsement; I just thought this could be a product that you might find useful.


Reader Comments (22)

I've been using a pair of these mirrors on my bike for a couple of years now and can endorse Dave's findings on their usefulness; for the same reasons, too.

I've had the usual snide comments from the self-appointed "bicycle fashion mafia" types, but I can handle "dork-ness". Not a problem.

August 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWestfieldWanderer

"On seeing a car approach from the rear I move over to the left."

I would have guessed you move to the right...is that correct? Or are you thinking of cycling in the UK?

Thanks for the tip on the mirror, this looks like it's worth getting.

August 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRick

I haven't tried it yet, but this one looks like it solves some of the problems you point out.

August 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAaron

I did that to see who was paying attention. That's my story anyway :)
Thanks, typo corrected.

That does look better, trust the Italians to get it right.

August 5, 2010 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

I've always relied on one of those mirrors that attaches to your glasses or helmet. I would feel insecure riding any distance without it. It would be like driving a car or truck without rear view mirrors.

August 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJohn B

Dorky? No way! Unless it's dorky to want to avoid becoming roadkill, that is. I never cease to wonder at the naiveté of Satchel Paige cyclists. ("Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you.") Me, I'm a great believer in total situational awareness. That's why I've always used a mirror. Turning the head to check out oncoming traffic is all well and good, but unless you're a barn owl, you're bound to miss a lot, and that's true whether you're sixty or sixteen. Plus it forces you to take your eyes off the road ahead for a lot longer than a quick peek in a mirror. And the road ahead is still the place where most dangers lurk.

In any case, the Roadie looks like a nice little mirror, though of course it's no use to cyclists -- like me -- who use bar-end shifters. But there are plenty of other alternatives.


August 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTamia Nelson

You might also try an eyeglass-mount mirror. I've found it a lot less touchy and much less in the way than a handlebar-attached mirror. Here's the best one IMO, the Take-a-Look.

August 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGrego

Dave -- I'm with you ... as I get older, looking over the shoulder doesn't get the job done.

I live in Mirrorland now.

I have had bar-end mirrors of various designs in the past, but I use the Take-A-Look glasses-mount mirror currently. Top-notch.

I know folks who use the Italian version (per Aaron's link, above) and like the dickens out of it.

I will not do a road ride or commute -- especially a commute -- without my mirror. It is vital to my information gathering when mixing it up with drivers.

August 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRider

The nice thing about a mirror is that you can relax easier, especially on roads that have infrequent traffic. They also help on rough asphalt, where you need to vary your position on the road to find a smooth path. You can glance back in the mirror from time to time, and keep churning ahead.

They make look dorky, but they probably allow you to ride a little faster. I find when I am more relaxed, I can cover a distance easier and quicker.

One additional benefit is that they give you something to check as you ride along. Let's face it, a certain tedium can set in on an extended ride. I find myself repeatedly checking the front tire, the back tire, the dent in the top tube to see if it has progressed ( it never does ) and with a mirror, there is one more thing on the checklist to keep me occupied.

August 5, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteranonymous

There is a useful mirror discussion going on over at the CTC forum here’s the link.

August 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDave Moulton

Secondary to the point being made was that the mirror was mounted on a bicycle with a lugged frame- beauty in motion! Stay on the safety bandwagon Dave, your efforts may just save a life, well worth the hoarse voice and the use of bandspace.

August 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJim

It just took one of these electric trolley coaches to convert me to mirrors. There's nothing like having a silent 30-foot bus suddenly materialize next to you as you peacefully pedal along.

August 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

Good recommendation, Dave.

I've been endorsing these mirrors for several years now, on various cycling forums, usually to boos from the self-appointed cognoscenti.

The ones I use -- made by Sprintech -- look a little better shaped than yours and the ball-and-socket joint is more concealed.

I use them on all my road bikes.

As you say, shoulder checks are still in order, but I also find them very useful riding in groups. A quick glance keeps me aware of where other riders are situated.

August 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRaymond Parker

Looks like this item has had more feedback than just about anything else. Something to reflect upon.

August 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJohn B

Update the bar tape and the mirror will seem less dorky.

August 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMark

Mark, "update" is not necessarily "upgrade". I have exactly the same style bar tape, except red with black and my bike is anthracite with a red head tube and seat tube panel. If you want to follow the latest trends, go get a plastic bike with brifters.

August 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJohn B

I have used a round bar end mirror for years. I rode without it for a few days recently because the mounting had worked loose. I was surprised at how uncomfortable I was without it. I have tried a number of different mirrors including helmet/sunglass mount and the bar end is best for me. Interestingly, I just started doing some group rides and I found the mirror almost useless, even annoying, unless I was at the back of the pack.

August 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGary

i'm getting one. i seriously have these inner dialogues as i ride along (and i commute in nyc!) that go something like: "jeez, can't turn my neck so far today-must've slept wrong! jeez, i'm way less flexible than i was 20 years ago! well, i GUESS nobody's coming! i'm going!" and i was just thinking today how sad it would be if that was my last earthly thought...

August 11, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjosh

I have a Zefal Spy mirror. Not as aesthetically pleasing perhaps, but it can be easily switched between bikes and attached almost anywhere. Mine's on the top of the frame allowing a view between my leg and the frame. Small enough to be discreet, but with enough view to see what's coming.

Zefal Spy Mirror

Great post.

August 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterOne Loose Nut

You mean you'd consider an altimeter, a compass, an AM radio, a slope indicator, salt pill dispenser, stick on cable routers, or GPS dorky s***? So would I! But a small saddle bag is still pretty useful as it keeps you from having a lumpy back. Thank goodness that for now I live somewhere where one doesn't need to panic every time you hear a car coming up, but if I move I will certainly consider one of these mirrors. By the way, the photo on this post reminds me that I need to move the cable routing to behind the handlebars on one of my bikes. But since the bike remains in the laundry room on the wind trainer, it isn't a priority.

August 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTimJ

The biggest problem with having a mirror is that it tend to encourage you not to look back that often.

I understand why you don't look back enough, especially coming from my grandfather (87) who now ride an old english town bike to compensate his lack of flexibility (easier to look back).

Looking back is a really powerful tools, a simple glance to a motorists would be enough for them to 'acknowledge' you, a way of saying "I am here, don't forget I'm also going to work like you, we are no different", hell you don't even need to look in the vehicles, just turn your head without needing to stare or check vehicles, motorists will think you're actually looking.

I'm worried that not looking back enough, drivers will not think twice about overtaking you in close proxy (even on primary position) simply because they didn't see you looking back.

I teach people that looking back more often will make a huge difference in their journey, and every single one of them found it work perfectly, made their journey enjoyable too.

I'm also blind as a bat, profoundly deaf (ride without hearing aids for safety), and wear thick glasses.

October 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEdward Scoble

Hi all, just a small clarification about the Sprintech and Roadie mirrors. The Sprintech one is the original mirror created in 1996 in Switzerland while the Roadie from Cycle Aware is simply the copy made in China.

February 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterManuela

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