That Dorky Mirror Saved My Life

OK, I admit that this is a misleading headline.  I was skimming through some news articles and started reading one where the headline had little to do with the article’s contents.  I thought I would try the eye drawing trick…

Jonathan and Jim Just Before Iowa Hill
I have been cycling with a rear-view mirror for several years and I believe it is one of the best safety enhancements I use while cycling.  The other day, another rider and I had fallen off the back of the main group by a few hundred meters.  I was doing everything I could to catch back up and was on a slight descent that let me carry some good speed.  A left turn was approaching and I was fixated on the approach because I would be going fast and I was looking out for debris in the turn.

While I was absorbed with making the turn and catching back up with the main group, I hadn’t realized a car was approaching from behind (I didn’t hear it) and it was about to pass me.  As I was about to start the turn I did a routine check by glancing in my rear-view mirror and spotted the car. Fortunately, I have developed a habit of checking my mirror when turning.

If I had not had that mirror, I doubt I would have looked over my shoulder and noticed the car.   The result would have been a bad crash and it would have been my fault.  So yeah, that dorky mirror helped me avoid an accident.

Many riders use a mirror.  There are ones that mount on sunglasses (what I use), helmet mounted and even ones that mount on the end of your handlebars.  I prefer the first two as I can move my head left to right and scan a wide area behind me.

The mirror provides a major boost to situational awareness.  The 180 degrees of view behind you is now available and can provide a greater insight to your ride environment..  You can see cars approaching, evaluate how tight the riders behind you are aligned and maybe even gain a little satisfaction in watching a few riders drop behind you on a climb. On the rare times I forget my mirror, I feel awkward and partially blind.

I had the opportunity to talk to Chris Mumma, one of the most prolific riders in Cycle Folsom, about his experience with a mirror. Chris says, "a mirror has become an integral part of my cycling and I feel naked without it."  After a review of our shared experiences with a mirror, he talked of an instance where the mirror was invaluable in preventing a accident.  Chris added, "I was riding a performance ride and we were overtaking a slower rider (not a Cycle Folsom rider) and a rider behind me neglected to follow the paceline, attempting to pass on the left into traffic. Fortunately, I was able to spot him before we collided. "

Give a mirror a try.  It might not "look pro", but it will open up your range of views and increase your situational awareness.


  1. For me riding without my mirror is like swimming with your clothes on. It can be done but just feels wrong.

  2. Dave, I agree. You miss all that extra visibility and awareness the mirror provides when you forget to wear it.