QUESTION: I ride between 210-235 miles a week, so I’m out on the road a lot. Issue: For any given number of reasons, changing lanes, checking to see if the lane is clear, etc., you glance over your left shoulder. What I witness among the riders I see is the following (and there was no scientific study involved here!).
Veer to the left — 75% of cyclists I see do this
Veer to the right (overcompensation) — 23% of cyclists I see do this
Ride straight — 2% of the cyclists I see do this
So, what should the first 2 groups of cyclists do different, work on, be aware of, etc., so they ride like the 2 percenters?
Coach Fred: Great question! The best way to avoid the problem is to use a cycling mirror. With one, you can check behind without wavering at all. It’s great not only for changing lanes but also for keeping track of overtaking vehicles without looking behind.
I didn’t use one for over 30 years (racers don’t use mirrors…) but for the last several years I’ve used a small sunglass-mounted mirror. It’s unobtrusive and works great. I’ve decided that safety on the road trumps vanity.
If you don’t use a mirror, practice looking over your shoulder while riding a straight line. It’s easier if you look over your left shoulder while relaxing your right arm. That will keep your movement from pulling the handlebars out of line.
Put your left hand on your left thigh and rotate your hips slightly on the saddle to aid you in getting a full view behind. Some practice in a safe place like an empty parking lot will make this instinctual.
Coach John: Like Rick, I also do not use a mirror. However, unlike the younger Coach Fred, it’s not a question of vanity. I just can’t find one that works well with my Rx sunglasses – and a very, very strong prescription.
I have always worn prescription sunglasses for cycling, and the specs do not give me a totally clear field of vision across the entire lens. Thus, I have to find the “focal zone” near the center of the lens through which to look into the mirror, while angling the mirror just right to see behind me. I just can’t make it work for me. It takes me far too long to get it all lined up, when I can glance over my shoulder in less than a second.
But I don’t do it quite the way Coach Fred recommends. (Again, I would have to crane my neck and twist my head and body way beyond what the normal rider — with decent eyesight — would just to get a clear visual from the central part of the lenses in my glasses. I’m no contortionist, so that’s simply not possible on the bike.)
Really, all I need to see is whether there’s a car back there – fuzzy or not. So I have learned to just turn my head far enough, and tuck it down so that my chin touches my left shoulder – and I look as far left as I can, and down, below the lens in my glasses. At the same time, I very slightly pull the bar to the right to compensate for the natural tendency to veer left.
Through years of practice, I’d like to think I’m one of riders who holds my line while looking back. The key for me, really, is that it’s so quick there’s barely time to get off line anyway. So if you’re one of the unfortunate few as nearsighted as me, and you can’t work with a mirror, see if you make the quick glance work for you, too.
Peter Leafman says
I started using a small sun glass mounted mirror about a year ago. While I felt it may look a bit dorky while participating on group/club rides, at this point I really don’t care; the mirror provides an extra level of security by knowing what’s coming up behind me without having to turn around. After the first month I was hooked and now can’t ride without it. Must say I was influenced by two friends who use them plus BICYCLING magazine ran an article by a retired pro who now says he can’t ride without his mirror either. I use the compact version of this one sold on Amazon for 12 bucks; https://amzn.to/2SiCA93
I’ve been using the Bike Peddler Take A Look Cycling Eyeglass Mirror for at least 25 years and can’t ride without it. It’s easy to mount and adjust and gives a clear view of the road behind me. It’s also a great way to keep track of the slower friends I ride with.
Dan Wiessner says
That one is my favorite as well. I can;t ride without it!
david lloyd says
I also use the same mirror- 20+ years. It is indispensable in my opinion. Not only can you track what is behind you, it allows you to be assured “nothing” is behind you. With that assurance gained, you are free to use a very wide swath of the highway (for me that means riding to the left edge of the highway for great views not afforded from only one side on occasion) No head/neck twisting here!!
Yep, it’s the best. 🙂
I have used a CycleAware Reflex helmet mirror for years, Eminently adjustable and a nice big (but not too big) oval mirror. A flick of the left eye (also with MY strong script shades) lets you see that truck coming up behind you. Another bennie I discovered is that I can direct traffic; e.g when a car is afraid to pass me and there are no oncoming vehicles, I wave them around me and get a wave and needed points for cycling courtesy. Bottom line, the mirror makes you safer without the lane drift and makes you FEEL safer as well. Yeah, it;s dorky looking but so are we to the general citizenry. You wouldn’t drive a car without a side mirror so why would you ride a bike on the road without one?
david lloyd says
Oh, Great Point!!
Johan Mokhtar says
One thing that helps me stay straight while looking behind me is to move my hands as close to the stem as possible before I start rotating my head and turning my shoulders. That minimizes the degree to which the bar may be pulled out of line by the movement of my shoulders and arms.
I have a mirror on the end of my handle bars of two of my bikes.
Jon edmonds says
I have for years successfully used a helmet mounted mirror which I prevent moving around by fastening with 3 plastic cinch clips.
Sheri Rosenbaum says
I always use a mirror mounted to my sunglasses. Not only does it make it easy to see approaching traffic, but also if you’re dropping anyone in the group.
Any advice for bicyclists who are blind in the left eye? Mirrors don’t work!
Robert Brandenburg says
See comment below, did not recognize that I could reply directly to your comment.
Stan Purdum says
I’ve have very little sight in my left eye, but have found that a helmet mirror mounted on the right side of my helmet works fine for viewing behind me except fore the zone immediately behind my left shoulder. But I cover that with a mirror mounted to my left STI shifter.
Roy V says
Move to the UK?
Diane Jenks says
That is not necessarily true. We make a right-hand mount helmet mirror that many cyclists use if they are sight impaired in the left eye. hubbub helmet mirrors.
Todd at Tiger Eye http://shop.teamtigereye.com/ made me a helmet mounted mirror that goes on the right side of my helmet. It took some fiddling but it works. I highly recommend him.
Larry english says
helmet mirrors solve all ” can’t find mirror that works w my glasses ” problems.
Mark Follmer says
I was taught, and it works for me:
1. Reach back and hold the back edge of the saddle with left hand.
2. Hold handlebar near stem with right hand
3. Turn and look
Bill K. says
Point back with your left hand and the head and shoulder will follow.
Charlie Johnson says
I have been using the CycleAware Roadie bar-end mirror for 8 years and it does the job for me. A quick glance down to the slightly convex mirror shows what’s happening behind me. I had a minor crash several years ago during a multi-day ride and the crash broke the mirror. That is when I realized just how many times I use the mirror during a ride!
Here is the Amazon link: https://amzn.to/2VcOcfH
Mark Riordan says
Like “Coach” Fred, I went many years without a mirror but can not live without one now while riding. As this old body aged, it has also become a lot stiffer. My head, shoulders, and back can no longer twist to the left as easily as it did 40-50 years ago, when I first started cycling.
Along with many of the suggestions above, I sometimes look under my arm to see what is nearby.
Robert Brandenburg says
At 74, my body doesn’t have the flexibility it once had. When static on the bike, it is extremely difficult for me to turn fully enough to get a clear view of what is behind me. I also wear variable focus glasses with a relatively strong prescription. To compensate, I use two techniques. The first, I use a handle bar mirror that replaces my bar cap. It is relatively unobtrusive, provides a wide field of vision (although distorted because it is convex mirror) and allows me to get a good sense of what is behind me. The second, I use Garmin’s Varia connected to my Edge 1030. It detects vehicles, including motor bikes approaching from behind, provides a rate of closure, and has a wide angle of view. Added benefits of the Varia, include people riding in the group with me can link their compatible Garmin and anyone riding behind me, also sees a change in light pattern and frequency as vehicles approach.
Robert Brandenburg says
In response to Hank, bar-end mirrors work with a left mirror and left eye closed, a right mirror with right eye closed. The right side mirror in traffic that rides on the right side of the road is limited for seeing vehicles close on your left. I use bar end mirrors on both sides, since it also allows me to keep track of other riders around me in group rides. Not as sexy as mirrors on helmets or glasses, but hell, I’m too old to worry about that.
Thank you for your own vision experiences … I will visit the shops and look around…always an expensive experience…
I’ve been using Third Eye bar end mirrors on my road and commuter bikes. My prescription glasses have progressive lenses, the type where you move your head up and down and side to side to achieve proper focus. Does anyone have experience using progressive lenses with helmet or glasses mounted mirrors? Seems it would not work, but curious if anyone has tried it. Thanks.
Roy V says
I use a Take a Look mirror mounted on my helmet visor (secured by small zip ties). I’m quite nearsighted and have progressive lenses. I can see well looking back with my mirror.
Thanks, I’ll check it out.
Bob Menendez says
If you have a garmin edge computer, then they have a rear read light and radar. Shows approaching at a different speed on your edge. I really love this tool
Richard Grantner says
I do not race, so my reason for looking behind is so I don’t get run over positioning for a left turn. I found that if I stand while I look back (generally turn my head 180 degrees) I do not waver.
Looks like there are some geezers on this stream so how about hearing. I find that using a helmet mirror is good but if you can hear the vehicle first then you will look. As you age you lose the hearing in the tire noise area and hearing aids help a bunch. I am 85 and have been using them for 6 years. Made a difference. You can’ t be looking in your mirror all the time. Get the right ones and wind noise is not a problem. I got mine from SAMs
Jim Unger says
Third Eye bar end mirror is a great solution.
Before I got mine i was run down by a teen aged girl who was adjusting her radio in the car. Have ridden safely for the past 20 years using the Third Eye.
Larry Best says
I have an issue with something Coach John said. “… I very slightly pull the bar to the right to compensate for the natural tendency to veer left.”
Doing this will have the exact opposite effect. Pulling on the right bar will make the bike swerve to the left. Bicycles, motorcycles & other in line vehicles steer using counter steering. In a car if you want to turn left you turn the wheel to the left. On a bike it’s just the opposite. I don’t want to get into technical discussion here, but to simplify counter steering, if you want to go left, push left. To turn right, push right. So when John says he pulls on the right bar, no matter how slightly, he’s going to turn left, which is the very thing he was trying to avoid.
Mark Lassler says
I use a bar end mounted mirror. Highly adjustable and it doesn’t matter if you have Rx glasses or are blind in one eye. They are convex and work very well to let me know if there is anything coming up on my left or right sides.
Richard Drewelow says
With a glasses mounted mirror, I could only see my shoulder. I had better ability to see behind with a bar-end mirror. I currently do not use a mirror, but I do not have a problem holding a straight line and do not use any technique when I look over my shoulder.
Richard Drewelow says
The bar-end mirror I used was on a hybrid bike with a straight handle bar, and would not likely work as well on a typical road bike handle bar.
Susan Tunnicliffe says
The gentleman that mentioned that he couldn’t find a mirror that would work with his prescription sunglasses, I have used a mirror that i purchased through Tandem Bicycles in Saranac Lake. It is truly awesome. I have used the same one for over 6 years and works with my very strong prescription sunglasses. Give it a try. You won’t be disappointed. It is completely adjustable and works from where ever you are in the saddle. It also comes off very easily for travelling. It also has 100% life guarantee. See it at: http://www.gtgtandems.com/.
Good luck and ask for Rick.
Diane Jenks says
If you go back into the RBR archives, you will see a great review of our hubbub helmet mirror by Jim Langley. (https://www.roadbikerider.com/hubbub-helmet-mirror-d1/)
His only “gripe” at the time was a bit of confusion in mounting the mirror on his helmet. We fixed that problem immediately with a tiny white dot on the wire form.
Since Jim’s original post, we have also made several improvements including a new sealant for the mirror, a better bend in the wire form (making it easier to use right out of the package), and a lifetime guarantee.
Once adjusted, the mirror is secure, lightweight, and can be a life saver.
Happy New Year All.
I have been riding with a mirror for many years after seeing a few club riders with them and having close calls on the heavily trafficked roads I used to ride. As noted in above comments, I would not drive a car without a mirror, why would I ride a bike without one where I am even more vulnerable and need to know what’s behind me!? The vanity of cyclists who won’t use mirrors amazes and saddens me. In any case, I have used the sunglass mounted mirrors (very good), HubBub helmet mounted mirrors (great), and just got the TriEye sunglasses with small lens mounted mirror (very good but smaller, yet sharper, field of vision). An article on the subject might be warranted given the number of comments.
Mike Tierney says
I make my own mirrors (a spoke, thin mirror glass, some epoxy) and have to 45 years. I wouldn’t ride 10 feet without it. Mine is about 1.25cm square and sits 3mm from my glasses and painted matte grey so almost no-one knows what it is and it sure as hell doesn’t look dorky. Heck I used to use it in road races so I could see the attacks coming.