Author Topic: Looking Backward  (Read 3317 times)

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Offline bigjim

Looking Backward
« on: April 02, 2008, 05:49:45 pm »
I looked at the "Mirrors" discussion in "Gear Talk" and I do not see the kind of discussion I present here.  This is an important issue and worthy of "general discussion".  

In 2006 I sent most of the following in a letter to the editor of Adventure Cycling addressed to John Schubert but I never received a reply or saw it mentioned on the website or in the magazine.  As riders now prepare for a summer season of riding, and as I came across my old email, I thought I would try to start a discussion on the topic.  

I am a long time bicycle commuter (now retired) and I did the TransAm east to west in 2005.

While commuting and in all other riding that I do, including the cross country ride, I have found my glasses or helmet mounted, flat, 1 inch or so mirror to be almost indispensable. Some of the reasons I like such a mirror are:

1.  No false positives:  If you could have a medical test that never gave you a false positive in indicating a potentially serious disease, would it be worthwhile to have it?  I think so.  No matter how you misuse a rear view mirror, if there is a car visible in it, you have one more piece of information about your environment that  you can use in your effort to continue on your ride safely.  

2.  Wide view of what's behind you (to disagree with John Forester in his book Effective Cycling): A quick sweep of the head, about what you would do if you didn't have a mirror gives you a look all across the road behind you, including the area to your right.  Your normal quick view can be done with about a 45 deg turn of the head for the kind of mirror that I use.  This should be enough to accomplish John Forester's interest in alerting "the drivers, because they see your head turn."  With the kind of mirror that I use estimates of distance and speed are not as severely impaired as with a convex mirror such as the ones usually mounted on a handlebar.  

3. Easier to use your hearing as an indicator of traffic coming from behind: Hearing is another sense that does not produce a false positive: if you hear a car or truck, it is really there.  Don't trust a negative result, though: those hybrids are real quiet.  I find a quick mirror check just after a car passes to be very helpful in knowing if there is a vehicle coming up from behind that you either didn't see or can't hear because of the passing one.

4.  Just as when driving a car, the continual awareness of traffic both front and rear is important:  I cannot see how the various arguments about possible misuse of a mirror while bicycling would be any different if applied to driving a car.  For instance: "Scanning the mirror can be a distraction from the more urgent task of scanning the road ahead of you." can equally apply to driving a car.  Some of the mirrors drivers use are convex and therefore objects are closer than they appear.  (The best take on this was in the movie Jurassic Park where a convex mirror on a car had the warning Caution: objects in mirror are larger than they appear.)

Regarding some of the comments published in 2006 in Adventure Cycling": I don't believe you can effectively use binocular vision when looking sideways from both eyes as you must do when looking backward while turning your head.  Think about it: your eyes are looking as far as they can to one side; draw a picture and note how effectively close together they are, thus reducing your binocular distance estimating ability.  Why would one think that a mirrored cyclist was concentrating in the wrong direction any more than you would feel that a mirrored driver was doing so?  I have John Foresters book and lived by his advice on riding in traffic when I commuted regularly but I never did agree with his conclusions regarding the use of a mirror.  As I stated above, my use of a mirror still requires me to turn my head, though not as far as I would to get a full view with both eyes.  I invite any rider who doesnt use a mirror to check some time just how often the rearward glance actually provides a look with both eyes directly behind you.   Since I still have my peripheral vision and the mirror only covers a small solid angle of my visual field, I do not feel my forward vision is seriously compromised.  As far as judging closing speed, Im convinced that the bicyclist with a flat mirror will be judging it the same way as a driver, by how rapidly the approaching vehicle is changing apparent size.  Check in a car sometime and see just how often you are looking at an object in your mirror with just one eye.  

I had occasion to observe riders on the TransAm who didnt have mirrors and who, because they otherwise were not paying attention, were surprised by vehicles approaching from the rear.  This surprise can be evidenced by a startled reaction or by not being prepared for a gust of wind.  

To sum up my position: I want as much information about my environment as is possibly available to help me make decisions about how I am going to approach the many situations that arise while cycling (or doing anything else in life).  The little mirror attached to my eyeglasses or helmet provides some of that information and is well worth the little bit of fussing around and understanding of its limitations that is required to be a safer rider.

Jim Hammond
Sisters, OR




Offline DaveB

Looking Backward
« Reply #1 on: April 02, 2008, 11:55:33 pm »
I agree 100% with the use of mirrors and have them on all of my bikes.  

I like your comment on "no false positives".  If you see it it REALLY is there.  I also agree that a negative finding isn't always indicative of nothing there.  

However, mirror choices are a bit like saddle choices, one size doesn't fit all.  I tried all of the available helmet and eyeglass mounted mirrors several times and never got used to them.  

After trying every alternative I could think of, I settled on the Third Eye bar end mirror.  It's very stable and, at 3" in diameter and slightly convex, it gives a wide view.  And, yes, objects in the mirror are larger (and closer) then they appear but you learn to compensate for that quite quickly.  This mirror has the further advantage of always being in the same place. so you can quickly glance at it for an update.  

I install them in the left end of my drop bars for riding here or in Europe and move them to the right side when riding in the UK or Japan.  Their one disadvantage is that they precludes the use of bar-end shifters.   Not a problem for me.


Offline bigjim

Looking Backward
« Reply #2 on: April 03, 2008, 12:48:53 am »
To each his own on type of mirror.  The one time I tried a mirror on the handlebar, it was not on a long enough extension for me to see where I wanted to see.  Broadly speaking, it was probably my fault.

Thanks for the comment.


Offline staehpj1

Looking Backward
« Reply #3 on: April 03, 2008, 10:17:41 am »
Nice letter.  Lots of good info.  However I am not among the mirror using camp.  I tend to use my ears a lot and when in areas where I can't rely on that, I just assume there is a car about to overtake unless I know otherwise.

In most situations I am a believer in just being predictable and holding a steady line as close to the gutter as is practical unless in a situation where I feel safer taking the lane.  So, I do the same whether there is a car overtaking or not.

I hear folks claim that they have had to run off into the ditch to keep from being run over by an overtaking vehicle.  I don't get this.  If I ran off the road every time an overtaking car looked like it was going to hit me, I probably would have broken my neck by now.  Around here the more aggressive drivers often swing around at the last second.  I prefer for them to not assume I know they are there.

I am not knocking mirror usage by others, but I will continue to opt out.


Offline DaveB

Looking Backward
« Reply #4 on: April 03, 2008, 10:38:44 am »
I hear folks claim that they have had to run off into the ditch to keep from being run over by an overtaking vehicle.  I don't get this.
I never understood it either.  If you can tell the car is really going to hit you it's already too close to do much anyway.  I've always assumed the people who claim this just panicked and rode into the ditch unnecessarily. The car driver was either surprised or entertained by their reaction.  


Offline jinx

Looking Backward
« Reply #5 on: April 03, 2008, 05:24:20 pm »
I'm also a firm believer in mirrors especially now that I'm a little older and just not as quick as I used to be regarding my surroundings. When operating any vehicle, you can't have too much information on what's happening around you.

I have a 4 inch mirror on a 1/4" threaded rod mount in a hole I drilled through my left bar end. It's very stable with a good rear view comparable to the mirror on my car.

And I use it just like I use my car mirror. If something is approaching and it doesn't look or feel right, I will get out of the way.

Being out on the road in heavy traffic is the one thing that makes me feel most vulnerable. Having a good rear-view mirror provides me a little extra comfort.  


Offline Carl

Looking Backward
« Reply #6 on: April 04, 2008, 12:25:34 am »
I ride with a Blackburn mirror strapped to the hood of the brake lever and wouldn't go out without it now. But I've tried a helmet mirror several times and could never them to work...always had trouble focusing and in lining them up with what I wanted to see.  How long have others found its taken to get used to them? Also, are all brands the same?
Thanks.
...Carl


Offline RussellSeaton

Looking Backward
« Reply #7 on: April 04, 2008, 10:04:58 am »
I use the Bike Peddler Take A Look mirror.  Sold at Colorado Cyclist and in local bike shops.  Clips onto the arm of my plastic prescription insert sunglasses.  Won't work if you use normal metal framed prescription eyeglasses.  I switch the Take A Look mirror between the dark lens frame and the clear lens frame once or twice a week.  Wash the prescription insert and the frame with mirror attached in the sink 3-4-5-6-7 times a week.  After every ride.  The mirror holds its position very well.  Seems to go into the right spot when switching from frame to frame.  Any adjustment takes a second or two while riding.  Just move the mirror a tiny bit with your left hand.

Not sure what there is to get used to.  You briefly look left and see what is in the mirror.  Do you get used to using an outside side mirror when driving a car?

http://www.coloradocyclist.com/product/item/BPPYLZJ7




Offline DaveB

Looking Backward
« Reply #8 on: April 04, 2008, 11:30:08 am »
Not sure what there is to get used to.  You briefly look left and see what is in the mirror.  Do you get used to using an outside side mirror when driving a car?
I don't know either but I was never able to use one comfortably.  I wear precription glasses and it seemed I was either looking outside my glasses and the image was blurred or the frame got in the way of the mirror.  I adjusted them every-which-way and never got comfortable using one.

Sure I use an outside mirror on my car.  Maybe if the eyeglass mirror was 6" square I'd be able to ues it too.   ;)


Offline freightbike

Looking Backward
« Reply #9 on: April 05, 2008, 01:44:21 am »
I use a helmet mounted mirror. Keeps me wearing a helmet. Helmet makers should do a better job of locating a mounting spot for them. The flip down mirror on the bell metro is a joke. Mirrors on helmets can get in the way though, like when using a helmet cover. Or the way they hang off and get mangled by stuff. To me it's very instinctual to use my mirror. Part of that may be because I'am often one of those big trucks that pass by. I can do a sweep behind me to check on trafic merging in on an on or off ramp. I think mirrors should be mandatory on group rides so one can see other bikers coming up behind you when you are changing lanes, stopping, etc. Helmet mirrors are also better at keeping rain and snow from obscuring the view. One big problem I have with them is when it's necessary to change positions say from my upright bars to my aero bars so I mount a mirracycle mirror to the end of my bars so I can glance down with out craining my neck. But the helmet mount is always usefull if I feel a need for a better look just the same.
 I suppose one advantage to not having a mirror is that you would be really loose and relaxed when the car hits you! These days with folks yakking away on cell phones, texting and my favorite, driving on the shoulder with a laptop computer on the seat going through ones E-mails. I can't imagine not being aware and involved with what's happening with the flow of passing traffic.

May the wind at your back always smell like home.
                  MORG

This message was edited by freightbike on 4-9-08 @ 5:41 PM
May the wind at your back always smell like home.
                  MORG

Offline Fred Hiltz

Looking Backward
« Reply #10 on: April 05, 2008, 08:05:48 am »
Quote

Sure I use an outside mirror on my car.  Maybe if the eyeglass mirror was 6" square I'd be able to use it too.

I think DaveB is joking, but just in case a newcomer believes this, note that a 3/4" mirror mounted four to six inches from your eye has a somewhat larger field of view than a car's outside mirror, assuming both are flat glass.

Fred


Offline DaveB

Looking Backward
« Reply #11 on: April 05, 2008, 12:08:47 pm »
I think DaveB is joking, but just in case a newcomer believes this, note that a 3/4" mirror mounted four to six inches from your eye has a somewhat larger field of view than a car's outside mirror, assuming both are flat glass.

Sure, I was joking.  My problem is that I could never find a good spot for an eyeglass or helmet mirror where my own glasses didn't interfer with its easy use.  The inherent field of view is no problem, just positioning it so I could use it.

As noted YMMV.  


Offline bigjim

Looking Backward
« Reply #12 on: April 05, 2008, 12:16:00 pm »
When I figure out how to use the typesetting features of this forum, I will underline for emphasis words in my original post such as "flat" and "eyeglass or helmet mounted".  As I also tried to get across: almost any mirror, when used properly, will make one a safer rider.

My favorite is one made by CatEye that clips on my eyeglasses.  Unfortunately, the part that does all the clipping breaks easily and I must have 4 or 5 broken ones in my garage.  CatEye will replace them for 6 or 7 dollars but I have never tried sending them back.  I have a couple of others that I like and I will reply in a day or two when I check the brand on them.