Whether or not cyclists should use bicycle mirrors is a subject of huge controversy in the cycling community. Advocates for each side are vehemently against the other opinion. Those who use mirrors swear by them and claim that cycling is only safe when using one.
Those who are against their use, don’t simply say they are useless, but state that they distract cyclists and are a waste of time and money.
First, we’ll delve into the debate a little and then we’ll look at the different types of bicycle mirrors and which you should use, should you choose to do so.
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Why you should use a bicycle mirror
Alert and aware
When driving a car or riding a bike, it’s vital to be aware of your surroundings so you can spot others who are about to perform dangerous maneuvers or overtaking too close.
Just as a car needs mirrors so that drivers can check their blind spots and be constantly aware of everything happening around them so that they can make informed decisions to keep everyone safe, so must cyclists have an easy way of being aware of what’s going on behind them
Most cyclists only check when they’re turning, which means they can miss an overtaking car.
One cyclist credits mirrors with saving his life as he managed to spot a car coming very close to him just before he entered a blind turn. He decided to pull to the side and watched in horror as the passing car scraped past an oncoming car around the bend.
Had he not pulled over, he would either have been squashed between the cars or one of the cars would have had to swerve off road.
Shrouded in mystery
When wearing a hood, cyclists have absolutely no peripheral vision and must turn their heads to be able to see what’s behind them before they turn. In the time this takes, they may miss changes happening ahead of them. Plus there’s the wobbling. We all know that it’s hard to keep your balance when you’re trying to turn and wobbling can often be fine and sometimes be dangerous.
Phantom cars and superstitions
Many anti mirror cyclists will tell you that you can miss a car in a mirror and that if you don’t turn your head, drivers don’t know you’re about to turn. Well, guess what, if you don’t signal with your hands then drivers don’t know what you’re about to do.
So This argument is a little pointless, it’s the law of the land that you must signal with your hand before turning. If you’re checking, well maybe you heard a loud rumble behind you?
Both problems can be easily solved by performing a head check as well as checking in your mirror, so this argument against mirrors is a little weak.
To sum up, mirrors allow you to dodge noiseless electric cars and debris that’s in front of you, at the same time. Yes, they don’t look cool and romantic. But neither do seatbelts.
Why you shouldn’t use a bike mirror
Too small to count
Cyclists worry that using a bike mirror will off balance them and make handling harder. That’s why manufacturers make sure that their mirrors are small and won’t interfere with handling but… if a mirror is small enough to be unobtrusive, it’s often too small to be useful.
There are two major problems with bike mirrors. Firstly, in difficult weather conditions, or even just constant use, mirrors can become twisted and turn the wrong way so they aren’t at the right angle to allow you to see without turning your head.
Secondly, most bike mirrors are convex which may put you in the mind of carnival mirrors where perspective and distance go nuts and can’t be properly ascertained.
One of the arguments for mirrors is that if cars must have them, so should bikes. However this isn’t a logically sound argument. On a bike, you can hear what’s around you, not to mention that it’s easy to see, your vision is not blocked by pillars.
Drivers don’t have to wear helmets, therefore to claim that bikers and drivers must follow the same safety systems ignores the fundamental differences between cars and bicycles.
In summation, using a mirror can be a massive advantage to a cyclist. They can check their surroundings more regularly than shoulder checks, but they can ride safely even without using one.
The different types of bicycle mirrors
There are three main types of bicycle mirrors on the market, however there are many different options within each category, so shop around and you will be able to find something that works for you and doesn’t interfere with your riding.
Handlebar mirrors are mostly convex, although not always. As the title suggests, they click onto the handlebar of the bike, either sticking out at the side or curved to allow you to see what’s behind you.
For those who find repositioning mirrors constantly to be annoying and not helpful, there are mirrors that attach to your bike helmet. These are far more secure and do not have to be constantly repositioned.
For those who are too cool for bike mirrors, there are mini mirrors that fit onto your glasses, allowing you to enjoy the benefits of bike mirrors in a surreptitious manner.
Using a bike mirror is a personal choice and the debate gets very heated among cyclists. Both sides have valid arguments. If you do choose to use a bike mirror, there is a mirror to suit every bike, every need and every taste.