By Stan Purdum
- Convex cycling-specific mirror
- Doesn’t vibrate and interfere with viewing
- Stays in position (no ball joint to fool with)
- No blind spot
- Instrument-quality glass
- Minimalist profile
- Takes a bit of practice to learn how to best read the images (just as with your car’s rearview mirror, objects in this mirror are closer than they appear).
Available here: www.italianroadbikemirror.com (not sold in bike shops)
Price: $44.95 (includes shipping)
Slightly blemished versions, apparently released by the manufacturer, are sold on eBay for $29.95 plus $6.50 shipping.
How obtained: Purchased with cold, hard cash.
RBR Advertiser: No
Eight years ago, I woke up one morning to find that I’d lost most of the sight in my left eye. The reason, I learned later during an emergency room visit, was due to an occlusion of the retinal artery — essentially a stroke in the eye. It’s a fairly rare phenomenon, but there’s no fix for it. While there’s a small chance that the same could happen in my right eye, it hasn’t, and I see fine with that eye.
The immediate effect on me as a cyclist was that trying to check behind me by turning my head to the left was wasted effort; I couldn’t see much that way. What’s more, the rearview mirror mounted on the left side of my helmet was now useless to me in that position. I was able to switch that mirror to the right side of my helmet, where it was better than no mirror at all, but I had a blind spot behind my left shoulder, and more than once, I pulled into the path of another rider while on a group ride.
When I later bought a new helmet, it had the Multi-directional Impact Protection System (MIPS) technology, and the wire clip that attached the mirror to my helmet interfered with the slip-plane (rotational-mitigation) feature of that system, so I abandoned the helmet mirror altogether. One of my bikes has a mirror that attaches to the STI shifter, and that works fairly well — though it gets knocked out of kilter occasionally — but my other bike isn’t set up to accommodate that sort of mirror.
The good solution I recently found is the Italian Road Bike Mirror, which mounts on the end of the drop bar. I had tried some other bar-end mirrors previously, but none were very satisfactory.
The Italian mirror can be mounted on either end of a drop bar, but since we ride on the right in the US, I installed it on the left end of my drops. And though that’s my blind side, when I glance under my arm at the mirror, I can read its images just fine with my right eye.
The Italian mirror, which, as the name suggests, is made in Italy, seems to be a high-quality product. Importantly, the mirror is glass, which reflects clearer images than does plastic, and it is convex in shape, which means it embraces a wide view of the scene behind the rider. I found it provides the view I need to feel secure as I avoid traffic or move left.
While some bar-end mirrors plug into the open end of the drop, the Italian mirror has a flanged rubber sheath that fits over the bar end. In fact, the manufacturer recommends that you first install a bar-end plug to keep the open end from cutting into the sheath. Because of the over-the bar arrangement, the mirror is larger than it might be otherwise.
The disadvantage of the over-the-bar arrangement is that you cannot tidily install this mirror without first removing the bar tape from the drop end. And since most bar tape is wrapped starting at the bar end, this effectively means you have to unwrap the whole tape on one side of your handlebar. However, if you’re ready to refresh your bar tape, this is a good time to do it. In my case, I had recently installed new tape, so I unwrapped and rewrapped. It wasn’t a big deal.
The printed instructions that come with the mirror give some direction for how to position it, but the best idea is, while the bar tape is removed, to install the mirror and secure it with electrical tape. Then take a test ride and adjust the mirror as needed to find the sweet spot. Then, return home and install the bar wrap. Once that’s done, it’s still possible to adjust the mirror position slightly, but the mirror is quite secure at this point and does not move on its own.
By the way, the instructions include this helpful warning: “Like any other instrument, don’t pay excessive attention to the mirror. Use it as part of your total awareness on the bike.” That’s a good reminder to me, who once crashed and broke my collarbone while paying too much attention to my cyclometer!
Stan Purdum has ridden several long-distance bike trips, including an across-America ride recounted in his book Roll Around Heaven All Day, and a trek on U.S. 62, from Niagara Falls, New York, to El Paso, Texas, the subject of his book Playing in Traffic. Stan, a freelance writer and editor, lives in Ohio. See more at www.StanPurdum.com.
Next Article: Specialized Power Pro Saddle With Mirror Technology Review
larry english says
helmet mirror is the best answer!
Jack Hendricks says
I might also suggest using a Garmin Varia Radar tail light to augment your mirror giving you audible warnings and targets on a bike computer on what is approaching you from behind.
just got one, amazing device! Has its own app but also works with RideGPS
David L says
As part of my total awareness on the bike I use the Garin Varia radar detector in combination with a mirror. The detector works really well letting you know when a car is approaching and you can the mirror to monitor what the car is doing such as moving over or not.
Stan Purdum says
Thanks David and Jack. Sounds like a good combo.
Dave Minden says
Been using the Italian mirror for over 3 years, love it. Clear view, small enough to be out of the way, and doesn’t change positions when bumped. Highly recommend it.
My wife and I have been using the Italian Racing Bike Mirror for many years and they are on all our road bikes. We tried others, including helmet-attached and there is no comparison.
Jon Peck says
What puzzles me about this mirror style is that it seems that it would only be useful with the rider in one position. Can you adjust it so that it works both in the drops and on the brake hoods?
Stan Purdum says
I am able to view it whether I am in the drops or on the hoods. I suppose that’s because of the flexibility of the human neck, but I am not aware of struggling to see what’s behind me in the mirror in any riding position. I do not use aerobars, so I can’t speak about how being in that positive might affect use of the mirror.
Yes, I put one on my road bike a few years ago & like it much better than a helmet mirror, which constantly jiggled & seem to get bumped out of position constantly, I spent too much time always having to reposition the helmet mirror. It took a bit of time up & down the road with electrical tape to dial in the “Italian,” but once I did, that was pretty much it. You can still micro adjust once it’s on but I’ve found it to be excellent & doesn’t interfere with the nice look of the bike like some of these “big” bar end mirrors. Gives me a good field of vision, but I always look over my shoulder or under my arm when I’m going to be turning. Just like driving a car, a quick glance lets you know what’s behind & gives me a better perspective than a helmet mirror. Position it for the position you mostly ride in, which for me is on the hoods forearms parallel to ground. I can still use it in other positions, but like a car, the mirror works best when you adjust it to how you usually sit.