CAUTION: Never rely on your mirror(s) when pulling into traffic or changing lanes. Use you mirror to “keep an eye” on the situation to the rear. Before changing lanes (or turning), scan … and then scan again.
The need for mirrors … With increased age comes decreased head/neck rotational ability. The remedy is good bicycle mirrors.
The hands-down best for flat-bars is the THIRD EYE MIRROR ($10-12 Amazon). Key features of the Third Eye Mirror are ease of adjustment, resistance to going out of adjustment, and lifetime guarantee – even if your mirror breaks from a fall or other incident. This is a quality glass mirror with plastic mountings, so a tip over is likely terminal.
For “North Road” bars, a modified SUNLITE HEAVY DUTY MIRROR ($11.77 – 2013) works well and looks great – giving that “king of the road” feel. (Be certain of the model you are ordering as there are a bunch of poorly engineered (i.e., lower quality) “Sunlites” out there.) For drop bars, the MOUNTAIN MIRRYCLE ($12-18 Amazon) which is oddly marketed for flat bars – wrong choice) works well. This is a drop-bar mirror. It has good optics and holds its adjustment well. A 3 mm hex wrench (included) is needed for installation and basic adjustment.
Now the catch – what about a bicycle with bar-end shifters?
Here’s a report on some options:
The BIKE-EYE mounts at the head tube/top tube junction using zip ties. Since the entire mirror body is fixed, the only adjustment is up and down meaning that the rear view is a narrow slot between the bicycle frame (and whatever accessories extend beyond the frame and the rider’s left leg (assuming a roadside mounting). The optical quality is good and the vibration minimal. And that summarizes the good points. Unless you are interested in a long-term study of your inner thigh, calf and knee, this mirror has little value. In a pace line, a rider could keep track of those to the rear. For an assist in keeping track of traffic, not so good. Relying on this mirror to monitor on-coming motor vehicles in the near lane would be a dangerous error.
The ULTA LIGHT BIKE MIRROR ($24 Adventure Cycling) is, in fact, light (2 ozs.) and has a parabolic lens for a nice wide look of goings on to the rear. Set up is a series of experiments consisting of adjustment to the hose-clamp-style mounting clamp and the ball-and-socket mirror adjustment. The ball-and-socket has about 80 degrees of adjustment but it entire mirror has to be moved back and forth and around the drop bars to get the basic position – lots of tweaking required. For drop bars (the point of this article), the clamp chews up the bar tape while doing adjustments at the ball joint (e.g., a mid-ride tweak of the mirror). Both screw heads take some hunting for a screw driver tip that fits. For on-the-road adjustment, a screwdriver is generally required. (The ball-and-socket 4 mm screw dropped off somewhere between Albany and Buffalo, so the mirror went into retirement.) For an Ortlieb product, it seems below standard.
The BLACKBURN ROAD MIRROR ($18 Amazon) mounts on the brake hood with a hook-and-loop strap – unique. The mirror has good optics and is easy to mount and adjust. It’s not a “bolt on” so it’s more theft prone than most. This was the mirror suggested by the bicycle manufacturer and, of the three, it’s the best. The downside is inability to hold a setting. No matter how hard one cranks on the lock ring, it needs almost constant re-adjustment – say, every 15 minutes. This complaint was voiced by reviewers on Amazon. Maybe someday, it’ll stop moving out of adjustment …
Helmet Mirrors – if that’s your thing fine but they are fragile and require your wearing your helmet all the time. A benefit is the need to buy only one as opposed to many bicycle-specific mounted mirrors.
SOURCE: Except for the ULTRA-LIGHT and the SUNLITE, all the above mirrors are available at local bicycle shops. The Amazon price notations are for reference only.