Bike mirrors are some of the most neglected cycling accessories. Road cyclists don’t want to spoil the beauty of their bikes with a mirror, those practicing off-road activities claim they are useless while the urban cyclists and commuters rarely remember they exist.
Nevertheless, bike mirrors can save lives, especially when they are used by the last category reminded.
In fact, if you have ever cycled to work through the rush hour traffic, you know how hard it is to monitor the vehicles behind and change direction. Turning your head is often hazardous and nothing could be more helpful in this situation than a rear-view mirror.
Although designed especially for commuters, bike mirrors can be useful for other cyclists as well. The other category who can benefit from bike mirrors are exactly the road cyclists but also those who practice cycle touring.
Since this cycling accessory could save a lot of lives and keep you save, you should really consider investing in one.
This buyer’s guide will offer you a comprehensive understanding of the various types of mirrors, then find out how to choose the one to suit your needs.
Types Of Bike Mirrors
The first step in choosing a bike mirror is identifying the model you like or the one you might be comfortable to use. There are different types of bike mirrors on the market and the main difference between them is the way they mount to your bike or cycling gear.
1. Handlebar Mirrors
Handlebar mirrors are the most common. They look very similar to the mirrors used on motorcycles and they mount to the handlebar of the bike through different attachments.
These mirrors are the easiest to use for most cyclists and present the advantage of being mounted at a great view angle. Compared to all the other models, they are also bigger, meaning that you will have a wider field of view.
Moreover, the handlebar mirrors are probably the strongest and, if kept well, will have a longer lifespan than the others.
The main drawback of the handlebar bike mirrors is that they are difficult to mount. With the exception of a few models that use Velcro attachments, these mirrors are a hassle to put on the bike. They are also hard if not impossible to transfer between bikes if you use more than one.
On the other hand, handlebar mirrors are easy to knock off and most of the times they will add width to the bike. Moreover, they require you to move your eyes from the road in front of you on the mirror if you want to check what is happening behind.
If you leave your bike outside of your working place, these mirrors also represent an invite for the thieves.
2. Helmet Mirrors
Bike helmet mirrors are probably the most popular among expert and amateur cyclists alike. As their name suggests, these mirrors are mounted on the helmet and a long rod keeps the mirror in front of your eyes.
Helmet mirrors present a series of advantages above all the other models. To begin with, they are really easy to mount either with a clamp, with glue or with Velcro straps. Most models fit on all types of helmets and they come in the most various shapes and sizes.
The main advantage of these mirrors, however, is the adjustability of the field of view. Once you have placed the mirror on the helmet at an angle that allows you to see what is happening behind you, it is enough to simply turn the head to change the field of view.
Other mirrors that work in a similar way are the eyewear mirrors. However, helmet mirrors are better because their position is less awkward and will cause you fewer migraines.
Another great advantage of these mirrors is the fact that you can use it on any bike, as long as you wear your helmet.
These mirrors are easy to store when not in use and most of the times the rod detaches from the base mounted on the helmet for more convenience.
The main disadvantage of these mirrors is that the rod and joints wear out quite easily. This will cause the mirror to be less stable and in some cases, you will have to change it completely.
The models mounted with adhesive are probably the worst to choose. The adhesive wears out and can come loose, making the mirror useless.
3. Eyewear Mirrors
As I mentioned above, on the market there are eyewear bike mirrors designed to attach to your eyewear. They function in a way similar to the helmet mirrors and have a similar structure. The only major difference between the two types is the attachment system and the gear to which they attach.
The eyewear mirrors mount either on the eyeglasses or on the cycling sunglasses through a sort of comb with three teeth. A long rod will position the mirror in front of your eyes in a way similar to the helmet mirrors, and you will be able to adjust the angle of the mirror to the desired position.
The problem with this system is that the mirror mounts and stay in an awkward position that will not allow you to look at it in a natural way. For this reason, you might experience migraines or neck pain when using this type of gear.
They are also typically small, which for many is a major inconvenience.
Nevertheless, these mirrors are the easiest to attach and detach and you can use them with any type of glasses. Moreover, the eyewear mirrors will give you a good excuse to wear cycling glasses even if you normally don’t wear them.
4. Lens-Mounted Mirrors
A different type of eyewear bike mirrors is that mounted directly on the lens of your glasses. These micro-mirrors attach on the inside of your cycling glasses and use your peripheral vision to provide you with a more or less accurate image of what’s going on behind you.
The lens-mounted mirrors are awkward to use above all because of their position. Although they usually have a swivel base that allows for some fine adjustments, these mirrors will still make you look at them from an unnatural angle.
The main advantage is that they are small, easy to apply on any glasses and discreet. You will not have to walk into a shop looking like some sort of weird alien or worry about the safety of your cycling mirror.
However, you should keep in mind that lens-mounted mirrors are not for you if you need prescription glasses. Because the image delivered by the mirror will not pass through your glasses first, you will not be able to see it clearly.
Moreover, these mirrors don’t work with wrap-around sunglasses. The reason is simple, if the vision is blocked by your accessories, you won’t be able to see anything.
5. Arm Mirrors
Last but not least, some manufacturers propose alternative models of bike mirrors that attach directly to your arm with a Velcro strap.
Many cyclists find these mirrors difficult to use at first, but once you get used to them and find the right angle and position, they are probably the most convenient to use.
Arm mirrors don’t need anything else to attach other than your arm, a great thing if you use multiple helmets and multiple bikes. They are also less awkward to use than the eyewear and lens-mounted models. There aren’t specific disadvantages in this case; however, it is true that you might need some time to get used to using them.
How To Choose A Bike Mirror
Deciding which model is best for you is hardly enough when it comes to choosing a bike mirror. What material should it be made of? What shape should it have? What about the lens? All these are questions you should ask before making a purchase.
Choosing a sturdy and reliable mirror is essential. Keep in mind that this gear will absorb some of the vibrations and a delicate model might break or become loose in no time.
Most bike mirrors are made of plastic although the most expensive models are made of carbon fiber or other resistant materials. For the handlebar mirrors, it is recommended to choose the ones made of carbon fiber.
If you decided to opt for a model that mounts on your helmet or eyewear, make sure the rod is made of steel or other durable material.
The material of the lens is also important. Some manufacturers propose lenses made of high-quality plastic or resin, yet they will scratch and lose the clarity with the time. The best option is to choose a mirror made of glass as it will maintain its properties longer.
The shape of the mirror is another aspect to consider. You will be able to choose between round, oval, and rectangular models.
The round models are usually used for the eyewear mirrors and they provide the smallest field of view. Nonetheless, they are also the most lightweight because of their small dimensions.
Oval mirrors are preferred by those who search for a handlebar or helmet mirror. They are bigger than the round ones and, consequently, provide a wider field of view. They are also perfectly shaped to allow you to see the street behind from multiple positions.
The rectangular mirrors are rarely used nowadays, although they are the largest. However, some manufacturers still produce rectangular handlebar or helmet mirrors.
The type of the mirror also weighs in the decision. When choosing the right type of model you should consider your habits and preferences.
Handlebar mirrors are great if you never leave your bike unsupervised, but thieves can easily rob them if your bike is unattended.
Helmet and eyewear mirrors will stay with you at all times but you might feel uncomfortable using them. In the case of eyewear models, you will even be forced to wear cycling glasses even if you don’t want to.
Type Of Lens
The last thing to consider is the type of lens. Mirrors can have two types of lenses, which are convex and flat.
From my experience, I can say flat mirrors are the best, as they provide undistorted images of the street behind you. With a flat mirror, you will be able to appreciate the distances with more accuracy.
On the other hand, convex mirrors provide a wider rear image that will allow you to see more elements. Appreciating distances might be trickier, but if you’re used to using a convex rear-view mirror on your vehicle, then you might like this type of lens more.
How To Use Bike Mirrors
By now you should have decided which bike mirror to buy. Therefore, let’s see how to use it.
- Mount the mirror: the first step is to mount the mirror to the appropriate support, be it the handlebar, a helmet or your arm.
- Adjust the view: all bike mirrors are adjustable and you should position it in a way that allows you to see the road behind you without hassle.
- Check the mirror: every time you want to change direction or make a surpass, check the mirror and see if you can maneuver your bike safely.
Bike mirrors are essential if you use your bike mainly to commute. They are also useful in many other situations, and a bike mirror should be used by all cyclists as a measure of traffic safety.
With so many models available on the market, finding the right mirror for you should be easy. The best thing to do is to check them all and see which one fits better with your personality and cycling style. Regardless of your choice, you will soon learn to appreciate the advantages bike mirrors bring!