Unlike some of the smug writers around here (you know who you are), I’m a TV addict. Especially of old, black-and-white science fiction shows or spy shows.
I am so addicted that whenever I look into my helmet mounted rear-view mirror, I immediately hear the creepy, double guitars of Etrange No. 3 and …
(He, he! And now you will too! Forever!)
You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension: a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into… the Twilight Zone.
The world in the rear-view mirror really is a Twilight Zone. People are driving on the wrong side of the road. Cars have their steering wheels on the wrong side, too. Guys and gals have the buttons of their shirts on the wrong side. Everybody wears their wedding ring on the wrong hand.
I’ve mentioned before that a rear-view mirror is a standard, necessary piece of equipment for me if I’m riding long distances, or if my ride of any distance involves mixing it up with motorized traffic.
On my recumbent, the laid back riding position makes it much more difficult to look behind me, and since I cannot spin my head around a la Linda Blair in The Exorcist, I require a rear-view mirror.
I’ve also said that I prefer helmet mirrors over handlebar mirrors. Rotating my head to get a more panoramic view of what is behind me, or next to me in my blind spot, is a lot easier than leaning around in the saddle to change my viewing angle.
The view in handlebar mirrors also seem to be a lot more jittery if I’m riding on high pressure tires or a bike without a front suspension. I’ve acquired a collection of helmet mirrors. They all work pretty well, and have interesting personalities and quirks.
The most exotic, alien antenna-like mirror I have is probably the Cycleaware Reflex Helmet Mirror.
The Reflex arm is a stout, Kraton covered wire attached to a turret which is has an adhesive strip on the bottom. You peel off the protective sheet of the adhesive and place the turret just above the rim on the left hand side of the helmet. The turret and arm stay adjusted and don’t vibrate much at all in the wind.
You bend the arm around, like the arms on a Gumby doll, in order to position it properly forward of your left eye and temple. You then fine tune the view to the rear by twisting and tilting the mirror in its ball-and-socket joint on the end of the arm. The mirror itself is oval, which allows me to see down closer to the ground to the rear of the bike. (I can know exactly where that obnoxious little Chihuahua is as he is running up behind me, preparing to take a chunk out of my ankle.)
The Foam Helmet mirror attaches to the outside of the helmet rim using a Velcro-like product called Dual Lock.
Velcro attachments lead to too much vibration in the mirror; there is just too much play between the hooks and loops of Velcro to keep the mirror steady.
Dual Lock is a 3M product which consists of an adhesive backed sheet of plastic covered with a field of tiny, mushroom shaped posts called “stems.” A sheet of stems is fastened to the bottom of the rim and is bent around to the outside of the rim in an “L” shape. An “L” shaped plastic bracket attached to the mirror arm has a sheet of stems attached to the inner face. The bracket stem sheet is pressed against the opposing rim stem sheet and the little mushroom heads lock together so that the connection is almost like a solid piece of plastic.
The Foam Helmet mirror has a straight plastic arm attached with ball-and-socket joints to the “L” bracket on one end and the mirror on the other. Like the Cycleaware Reflex, you adjust the mirror so that it is just forward of your left eye and temple, and fine tune the view by twisting and tilting the mirror.
Although I don’t think you’re supposed to, I’ve been successful with moving my Foam Helmet Mirror from one helmet to another. I carefully pried the mushroom heads apart and peeled the stem sheet off the rim of the helmet. I attached the rim sheet to the new helmet with a couple of drops of Super Glue, and when it had set up I carefully pressed the bracket stem sheet against it.
Some of the little stems were damaged in the disconnect/reconnect process, but not enough to compromise the attachment. When I move the mirror to the next helmet, I’m probably going to have to peel the stem sheet off the bracket and get a new set of stem sheets for the rim and the bracket; Dual Lock can be found at a lot of hardware stores or online.
The Pro Mirror has an oval plate which — unlike the Cycleaware Reflex and the Third Eye Foam Helmet mirrors — can be attached to the INSIDE of the helmet body, just above the rim, if you so desire. Third Eye provides two double-sided oval gum pads; one for a backup in case you have to move the mirror to another helmet or if you make a mistake in your initial mirror location. The Pro Mirror has a straight arm and is adjusted just like its Foam Helmet Mirror cousin.
The Third Eye mirrors are round, with the Pro Mirror about one-third larger in diameter than the Foam Helmet Mirror. While this provides a field of view, vertically, less than the Cycleaware Reflex, the Third Eye mirrors can be tweaked very quickly to give you a view closer to the ground or side by side. (This means if I hear that yapping Killer Chihuahua gaining on me, I can adjust the mirror so I can see him and time my kick perfectly while still being able to glance up the road ahead.)
This brings up another, hotly debated subject about helmet mirrors. Some folks don’t like mirrors which can be adjusted quickly, because it means they also can knock them out of adjustment easily.
(Hmmm, I think I recall somebody here on Commute by Bike who was really peeved because his helmet mirror went all out of adjustment when he stuffed it into his backpack or panniers or something like that.)
I’m of the camp that likes to be able to tap my mirror to a new adjustment so I can see closer to the ground (for the aforementioned Barking Rat), or closer in behind me (to keep an eye on that roadie or Fixie rider blazing up from behind), or further out to the side (to study the backside of that cute gal in the bikini top as she pedals her cruiser in the other direction on the opposite side of the street — hey, we all have our own priorities), all the while being able to look straight up the road without turning my head from side to side.
I’ve learned that, with a little practice, I can bump my mirror for a good look, whistle, and bump it back to the original adjustment before she can even turn around to either glare or smile at me.
I’ve heard that some folks have a problem with the mirror ball-and-socket loosening up over time. Even with the frequent, lecherous adjustments I’ve made to my mirrors, I’ve never experienced that problem, but let me relate what Third Eye and some pundits have told me. Third Eye says you simply press the ball deeper into the socket and the joint will firm up. If your mirror isn’t a Third Eye, I’ve heard that putting a drop of rubber cement on the joint will accomplish the same thing.
BluesCat is a resident of Phoenix, Arizona, who originally returned to bicycling in 2002 in order to help his son get the Boy Scout Cycling merit badge. His bikes sat idle until the summer of 2008 when gas prices spiked at over $4.00 per gallon. Since then, he has become active cycling, day-touring, commuting by bike, blogging (azbluescat.blogspot.com) and giving grief to the forum editors in the on-line cycling community.