Like helmets, bike mirrors are somewhat controversial. Many cyclists think mirrors are useless and goofy looking. Others never ride without a mirror. This guide answers the question, do I need a bike mirror? To answer that question, I’ll list the pros and cons of bike mirrors. I’ll also outline the three different types of bike mirrors and explain the benefits and drawbacks of each design. In this guide, we’ll cover handlebar-mounted mirrors, helmet-mounted mirrors, eyeglass-mounted mirrors, and more. I’ll also share a few bike mirror recommendations.
Whether or not you need a bike mirror really comes down to the type of cycling you do and your personal preference. Most cyclists can benefit from using a mirror. For others, mirrors are unnecessary. Hopefully, this guide helps you decide whether or not you need a bike mirror.
Table of Contents
- What is a Bike Mirror?
- Pros and Cons of Bike Mirrors
- Handlebar Mirrors
- Helmet Mirrors
- Eyeglass Mirrors
- Other types of cycling mirrors
- How to Choose a Cycling Miror
- Bike Mirror Recommendations
What is a Bike Mirror?
A bike mirror is a rearview mirror used for cycling. It allows you to look behind yourself and keep an eye on approaching traffic without physically turning your head and looking behind you. It works just like a rearview mirror on a car.
Bike mirrors are available in a number of different designs. They can mount to the handlebars, your helmet, or your eyeglasses. The mirror is mounted in a frame, which attaches to your bike, helmet, or glasses. Handlebar mirrors clamp to the flat section of the bars or on the bar ends. Helmet and eyeglass mounted mirrors clip in place on your helmet or glasses.
Most bike mirrors have a convex shape. This gives you a wide field of view, allowing you to see the whole road with only a single mirror. The mirror size depends on the mounting location. Handlebar mirrors usually measure 3-4″ across. Helmet mirrors usually measure 2-2.5″ across. Eyeglass mirrors usually measure 1-1.5″ across.
Bike mirrors are fully adjustable. A series of hinges or a ball and socket joint allows you to change the angle of the mirror for the best view of the road behind. Some mirrors can be moved closer and further from your eye as well.
Cars have come standard with mirrors since the 1920s. Bikes never come with mirrors. If you want to use a cycling mirror, you’ll have to buy it aftermarket. Mirrors are popular among recumbent riders, commuters, bicycle tourists, and older cyclists. Most mountain bikers and road cyclists don’t use mirrors.
Pros and Cons of Bike Mirrors
A bike mirror can be a great safety feature. At the same time, it isn’t always necessary. In this section, I’ll list the pros and cons of cycling mirrors.
Pros of Bike Mirrors
- A cycling mirror improves safety- This is the main reason cyclists choose to use a mirror. The mirror allows you to easily keep an eye on what’s going on behind you. If you see that a driver is approaching a little too close, you can move over and get out of the way. In a worst-case scenario, you can bail off your bike if a vehicle looks like it’s going to hit you. If a large, fast-moving truck is going to pass you, you can brace for the turbulence. You can see a quiet vehicle, such as an EV, approaching before you can hear it. You won’t be surprised by a vehicle suddenly passing. In addition, you can keep an eye on other cyclists approaching while you’re riding in a bike lane or on a bike path. You won’t be surprised by a faster cyclist speeding past you. A mirror can also help you keep an eye out for pedestrians. You’re less likely to be involved in a collision when you can see what’s going on behind you. This is the reason that all cars must have rearview mirrors to be considered street legal in most of the world. Mirrors are an important safety feature.
- A mirror allows you to look behind yourself without turning your head- This makes riding easier and more comfortable. To look behind yourself, you just need to move your eyes. You don’t have to turn your head. This allows you to check what’s going on behind you more easily and more frequently. You don’t have to head check every time you hear a car approaching. While riding through traffic, you can glance behind yourself every couple of seconds if you need to.
- You won’t swerve when looking behind you when you use a mirror- When you turn your head to look over your shoulder, you naturally tend to steer in the direction you’re looking. This is almost unavoidable. It’s difficult to overcome. When you’re riding down a crowded path or next to traffic, looking behind you can be dangerous. You could accidentally veer off into traffic or into a person. With a mirror, you can just glance over to your left and see what’s going on behind you then quickly focus back on the road ahead. You won’t lose your line.
- Mirrors allow people with mobility issues to ride a bike- Older cyclists and those with back or neck issues can have trouble turning their head around to look behind themselves. These cyclists can benefit from using a mirror. A bike mirror allows those with limited mobility to look behind themselves without having to physically turn their bodies around. Mirrors make cycling more accessible. In some cases, mirrors make it possible for some people to ride, who otherwise wouldn’t be able to.
- Cycling mirrors reduce stress- Approaching traffic causes stress while cycling. You never know when a car is going to pass too close or even hit you. This thought is in the back of every cyclist’s mind every time a car passes. While riding on a busy road, you can’t physically turn around and watch every single car pass. You have to trust that the drivers see you and won’t hit you. With a mirror, you can easily glance at the mirror and keep an eye on the traffic behind you. This greatly reduces stress. For me, using a mirror is worth it for peace of mind.
- A mirror makes cycling with friends or in a group easier- You can look in the mirror to keep an eye on your friends. If they’re falling behind, you can slow down a bit to let them catch up with you. If they stop due to a mechanical problem, you can stop too and help them out. When they signal you to pull over, you can see their signal.
- You can look behind you and in front of you at almost the same time- All you have to do to change your view from the front to the back is move your eyes. This takes a fraction of a second if your mirror is properly placed. Your eyes can adjust quickly. Your eyes stay on the road most of the time. Having to move your head to look behind you and then move it back around takes much longer. When you turn your head to look around, your eyes are off the road for more time.
- Cycle mirrors have no blind spots- If you use a mirror that is mounted to your helmet or glasses, you can move your head from left to right just a few degrees and scan the entire road behind you from curb to curb. There are no blind spots. In most cases, you don’t have to head check before maneuvering if you don’t want to. You can see everything behind you. It’s important to note that handlebar-mounted mirrors do usually have blind spots. If you use one of those, you will still want to head check to make sure you didn’t miss anything. It’s a good idea to do a quick head check anyway, regardless of the mirror you use. Just to be safe.
- A cycling mirror allows you to use more of the road- While cycling, you spend most of your time riding on the road shoulder or in bike lanes. With a mirror, you can use the vehicle lane part of the time. You can simply look in the mirror to confirm that there is no traffic behind you then take the lane. When you spot a vehicle approaching, you can move out of the way. This comes in handy when the shoulder is in poor condition or covered in debris. You can more easily avoid ruts or potholes. You’re also less likely to get a flat. While cycling in the winter, you might have to take a lane when the shoulder is covered in snow and ice. Being able to ride in the road is also nice while descending a hill at high speeds. You can ride faster when you take the whole lane because you have more room to maneuver the bike. Of course, you’ll only want to do this while traffic is light.
- You’ll stay more aware of your surroundings while using a cycling mirror- The mirror doesn’t just help you keep an eye on traffic. You can also use the mirror to watch for other cyclists approaching behind you. The mirror can help you keep an eye on stray dogs chasing you. If a piece of luggage or gear falls off of your bike, you might notice it on the road in the mirror. If someone is following you, you’re more likely to notice. When someone signals to you, you might see them in the mirror.
- Bike mirrors are cheap- You can buy a decent cycling mirror for $10-$20. This is cheap enough that most cyclists can afford to buy one just to try it out. If you drop your bike and your mirror breaks, it’s not a big deal. You can buy a replacement without breaking the bank. If you ride regularly, it’s a good idea to have a mirror, even if you don’t use it for every ride. There are plenty of situations where a mirror comes in handy.
- Mirrors are helpful for those who wear glasses- If you wear prescription glasses, you may have to turn your head further to look behind you. This is necessary so you can look through the lens rather than outside of it. This is important for nearsighted cyclists. If you turn your head and look at the road behind through the side of your glasses, your view will be blurry. How far you have to turn your head depends on the style of glasses you wear and your prescription. A mirror makes riding much easier because you don’t have to move your head to see behind you. You can easily look at the mirror through your glasses and see a clear image of the road behind.
- A mirror improves comfort- Turning your neck and back to look behind yourself is uncomfortable. Even if you’re in good physical condition. A mirror allows you to keep your head and neck straight and still keep an eye on the road behind you.
- A mirror can make your bike street legal- In some jurisdictions, ebikes are required by law to have mirrors because they are considered motor vehicles. In this case, a mirror is a necessary piece of gear. Without a mirror, your ebike may not be road legal.
- A mirror makes it easier to ride a recumbent bike- Due to the leaned-back riding position of most recumbent bikes, it’s difficult to turn around and look behind you while riding a recumbent. A mirror is almost a necessity to ride some types of recumbent bikes safely. For more info, check out my guide to recumbents.
Cons of Bike Mirrors
- Bike mirrors add weight- An average handlebar mirror weighs around 4-6 ounces (113-170 grams. A lightweight helmet or eyeglass mirror weighs around 0.3-2 ounces (9-57 grams). If you really want to keep your bike as light as possible, you won’t want to use a cycling mirror. It is an optional piece of gear. Most competitive cyclists and road cyclists never use a mirror due to the extra weight. For commuters and recreational riders, a few extra ounces isn’t a big deal.
- Bike mirrors add drag- The mirror sticks out to the side and creates wind resistance. A large handlebar mirror will create more drag than a smaller helmet or eyeglass mirror. At speeds below around 10mph, the extra drag isn’t really an issue. At higher speeds, aerodynamics become an important consideration. Competitive riders and many road riders don’t use bike mirrors for this reason. They reduce efficiency. For commuters and recreational riders, the little bit of drag that a mirror creates is not an issue.
- Mirrors can vibrate while you ride- This is common while riding rough surfaces or off-road. The vibration of the mirror can distort the image of the road or even make the mirror useless. Helmet mirrors and handlebar mirrors tend to vibrate more than eyeglass mirrors. To solve this issue, some mirrors include a built-in damping system to reduce vibration. This is usually a rubber washer in the frame that absorbs some of the vibrations. If your bike has a good suspension system or soft tires, that will also help to reduce vibration. Some mirrors are simply useless when the road gets rough. If you plan to use the mirror while riding gravel roads or off-road, you’re better off with an eyeglass mirror.
- You lose some communication with drivers when you use a bike mirror- This is a common argument against the use of cycling mirrors. When crossing in front of traffic without a mirror, you have to turn your head and look at the driver behind you. The act of turning your head can communicate to the driver that you plan to turn or make some type of maneuver. Drivers subconsciously pay more attention to your head than any other part of your body. You can also make eye contact with the driver when you turn to look at them. This helps to ensure that they see you. You’re looking right at one another. When the driver can see the whites of your eyes, they know you’re there. Subconsciously, drivers don’t think of cyclists as people. They think of them as vehicles. When you use a mirror, you lose this communication with drivers. You look into the mirror instead of directly at the driver. When you don’t turn your head, the driver will assume that you’re going to continue on your path straight ahead. They won’t expect you to change direction. If the driver isn’t paying attention, they could hit you. You also don’t look at the driver in the eyes when you use a mirror. You have no way of verifying whether or not they see you. One solution is to use your hands to signal what you’re going to do so drivers can anticipate your maneuvers. It is also good practice to always turn your head and make eye contact with the driver before turning in front of traffic, even when you use a mirror. Some believe that having to turn your head defeats the purpose of using a mirror in the first place.
- Bike mirrors go out of adjustment easily- It’s easy to knock the mirror against something or hit it with your hand and move it out of adjustment. If you’re using a handlebar-mounted mirror, it’s easy to move the mirror slightly when you lean the bike up against a wall or a tree. If you’re using a helmet-mounted mirror, you can move the mirror out of adjustment when you sit your helmet down. When this happens, you’ll have to sit on your bike and move the mirror back into position. This isn’t a big deal but it is kind of annoying. Particularly if you have to do it multiple times during your ride.
- Your mirror can ice or fog up and become useless- If you ride during the winter, your mirror can get covered in frost. This is common with handlebar mirrors. In humid environments, the mirror can get covered in condensation. This is common on helmet and eyeglass mirrors. Condensation occurs when warm, moist air meets a cool surface. When you walk from an air-conditioned building into the warm and humid outside air, moisture condenses on your mirror and fogs it up. You can wipe the mirror clean with your hand but it is kind of annoying.
- A mirror is an optional piece of gear- If you’re a skilled cyclist, you probably don’t need a mirror. Skilled cyclists can look behind themselves quickly without swerving. They can listen for traffic approaching behind them. They know how to take the lane when necessary and when to get out of the way. Skilled cyclists develop a sense for these things.
- Mirrors are unnecessary in some situations- Mountain bikers usually have no use for a mirror because they don’t ride in traffic. While riding on a trail through a forest, you have no need to look behind yourself. You just look ahead. Some cities have excellent cycling infrastructure that separates cyclists from cars with physical barriers. If you live in one of these cities, you may not need a mirror because you rarely have to ride in traffic. Maybe you ride exclusively on bike paths, boardwalks, or trails. In this case, you don’t need a mirror.
- Bike mirrors look goofy- Many cyclists don’t use mirrors for aesthetic reasons. Mirrors look kind of lame. They can make a sleek road bike look like a commuter bike. A helmet or eyeglass mirror makes you look like a cycling nerd. Some riders associate mirrors with older cyclists. Mirrors aren’t cool. Some mirrors are better looking than others. For example, a small bar-end mirror looks much better than a large mirror sticking up from the handlebars.
- You may have to turn your head and look behind you, even when using a mirror- Some mirrors have blind spots. This is often the case with handlebar-mounted mirrors. They can’t show you the whole road behind because the mirror is small and is fixed on the handlebar. You can’t turn your handlebar to move the mirror because that would turn the bike. This means you’ll have to turn your head and look behind you before you move into a lane. You can’t trust the mirror 100%. Some cyclists believe that having to look behind defeats the purpose of the mirror. Personally, I don’t mind doing a quick head check once in a while. I feel safer actually turning my head and looking rather than relying on the mirror. It’s important to note that helmet and eyeglass mirrors usually don’t have blind spots. This is because you can move the mirror by moving your head. Moving your head just a few degrees allows you to scan the entire road behind. Many cyclists still do a head check, just to be safe. Actually looking feels safer, for some reason. Probably because we’re used to having a blind spot while driving.
- Mirrors are fragile- Most cycling mirrors are made of glass. If your bike falls over or if you drop your bike, your mirror can get broken or the frame can bend. Your mirror could also knock against something or get caught on something while riding and get broken. The mirror sticks out to the side further than your handlebars. A helmet or eyeglass mirror could fall off onto the road and break. Some mirrors are even designed to break away during an accident to prevent injury. Mirrors break more frequently while mountain biking than road biking because there are more obstacles to deal with. Luckily, cycling mirrors are inexpensive to replace. If you break a mirror, you can buy a new one for $20 or less.
- A bike mirror could cause injury during an accident- Some cyclists fear that the frame of an eyeglass or helmet mirror could cause the loss of an eye during an accident. If you hit the ground just right, the mirror or a part of the frame could potentially hit your eye. Alternatively, the frame could catch on your ear and cut or tear your skin. I’ll admit, this horrific thought has crossed my mind while riding with my eyeglasses mirror. It would be a horrible way to lose an eye. I have never heard of any injuries being caused by cycling mirrors and have not been able to find any documented cases either. That said, I imagine it is possible. It’s important to note that the frame holding the mirror does not sit right in front of your eye. It sits off to the side of your face. If the mirror hit the ground, it would most likely break away from your glasses or helmet. Some mirrors are designed to detach or break away if they hit something too hard. Your glasses and helmet could also provide some protection.
- A mirror takes up valuable space on your handlebars- There is only so much room to mount accessories to your handlebars. For example, you might want to mount your phone, a cycling computer, a GPS, a headlight, a bell, a handlebar bag, a Bluetooth speaker, etc. A mirror takes up valuable space that you might need for other accessories. Generally, flat bars offer more space for mounting gear than drop bars. If you don’t have space to mount a mirror on your handlebars, the solution is to use a helmet or eyeglass mounted mirror.
- Some riders find a mirror to be distracting- Some cyclists tend to spend too much time looking at the mirror instead of watching the road ahead. If you’re not looking ahead, you could crash into something. The mirror can be a distraction. I had this problem when I first started using a cycling mirror. I watched every car pass to ensure it wasn’t approaching too close. Quicky, I realized that I was paying too much attention to what was behind me. After a week or so, I got used to the mirror and it became less distracting. Now, I really dislike riding in traffic without a mirror. I would argue that having to turn around to look behind you is more distracting than simply looking into the mirror.
- Bike mirrors cost money- On average, bike mirrors cost $10-$20. If you’re on an extremely tight budget, a mirror might not be worth the expense. You may be better off saving that money for bike maintenance. You can always add a mirror later down the road when you have some more money saved up.
Types of Cycling Mirrors
There are three common cycling mirror designs. These include the handlebar mirror, helmet mirror, and eyeglass mirror. A couple of less common designs also exist including the lens mirror and rearview camera.
The best cycling mirror for you comes down to the type of riding you do and your personal preference. All cycling mirrors serve the same purpose. One design may work better than the others under certain conditions. In this section, I’ll outline each type of bike mirror and list a few pros and cons of each.
Handlebar Bike Mirrors
As the name suggests handlebar mirrors attach to the bike’s handlebars. The mirror is mounted in a frame. One end of the frame attaches to the handlebars with some kind of clamp system. Some models clamp around the handlebars and some clamp into the bar end. The other end of the frame has a hinge or pivot system that allows you to adjust the position of the mirror. A stem runs from the clamp to the pivot. The stem positions the mirror so it sticks out to the side further than the widest part of your body. This way, you don’t block your own view. Handlebar mirrors usually measure 3-4” in diameter. The mirror is convex so you can see more of the road behind you.
Most cyclists mount one mirror on the left side of the handlebars (or the right if you live in left-hand drive country). Some cyclists mount a mirror to each side of their handlebars for a better view of the road behind. This can be helpful because handlebar mounted mirrors have blind spots. A two mirror setup is common on ebikes.
Most cyclists position their mirror above the handlebars. It is also possible to position the mirror below the handlebars. This position makes the mirror less noticeable but also less convenient to use. You may have to move your arm out of the way so you can look in the mirror if it’s mounted down low. You can also mount the mirror out to the side, as an extension of the handlebars. This makes the bike wider but can make the mirror less noticeable.
A number of different handlebar mirror designs exist. The most common style mounts to the bar end. To install these mirrors, you remove the bar-end plug or cut a hole in the end of your grip. You then slot a cylindrical piece of the mirror frame inside of the end of the handlebar. A clamping mechanism expands when tightened to holds the mirror in place in the bar end. You tighten the clamp with an Allen wrench.
Another common design of handlebar mirror uses a ring-style clamp that attaches around the outside of the handlebars. The clamp is designed to attach around a range of different handlebar sizes. These mirrors usually attach next to the brake levers. They can also be mounted at the end of the handlebars. This would require you to move your grip in. The clamp tightens with a couple of bolts. Some handlebar mirrors simply attach with hook and loop or zip ties. These models are designed to be easily removable.
Drop bar specific mirrors also exist. These can attach either to the top of the brake hood or to the bar end. Some ring clamp models also attach to the flats of drop bars.
Some handlebar mirrors are designed to be easily removable. The mirror detaches from the frame. The frame stays attached to the bike and folds away when not in use. Some are designed to be easily moved from one bike to another.
Benefits of Handlebar Mirrors
You can use a handlebar mirror without having to wear a helmet or eyeglasses because it mounts to your bike. When you get off of your bike to walk into a store or restaurant, you don’t have a goofy-looking mirror sitting next to your face. The mirror always stays fixed to your bike. This works well if you always ride the same bike.
Handlebar mirrors can also be less distracting. The mirror doesn’t block your field of view at all because it is mounted low and out of the way. You have a clear view of the road ahead at all times. When you want to look behind you, you just glance down and to your left.
Handlebar mirrors are also larger than helmet or eyeglass mirrors. Many models measure 4-5” across. Larger models are also available. The large mirror is easy to view. You won’t get a headache from trying to focus on a postage stamp sized mirror that’s a few inches from your eye.
They can be more durable as well. Some handlebar mirrors feature a sturdy metal frame that can survive an accident. Many are made from shatter-resistant glass. They tend to last longer. Of course, they’re not indestructible.
Drawbacks of Handlebar Mirrors
Handlebar mirrors are probably the least convenient type of bike mirror. There are lots of drawbacks. First, you have to buy a separate mirror for each bike because most handlebar mirrors are not easy to transfer from bike to bike. They are bolted in place. The cost adds up if you have multiple bikes. There are models that attach with hook and loop. These can be easily moved between bikes.
Another problem is that your mirror isn’t always pointed in the correct direction to give you a clear view of the road behind. While looking at your handlebar mirror, your view depends on the direction that your handlebars are pointed. When you’re riding straight, you’ll get a good view of the road behind. When you’re turning, your mirror may show you a useless view of the side of the road. In order to change your view, you need to turn your handlebars. In many situations, you can’t move you’re your handlebars. You would ride off the road or into traffic. With a helmet or eyeglass mirror, you can simply turn your head to scan the entire road behind you.
Handlebar mirrors are also larger and heavier than helmet or eyeglass mirrors. The mirror needs to be larger because it sits further from your eyes. The larger mirror also needs a larger and heavier frame to support it. This adds extra weight which slows you down. The larger size of the mirror also creates more drag, which reduces efficiency.
Handlebar mirrors can also be fragile. If you drop your bike or ride too close to something and hit the mirror, it can easily get cracked. The frame can also get bent or broken. One solution is to mount the mirror so it doesn’t extend past the end of your handlebar. This way, if you drop your bike, the mirror doesn’t touch the ground. The handlebar protects it. You can only do this if you use wide flat bars. otherwise, your body will block your view.
It’s also easy to knock a handlebar mirror out of adjustment. If you walk by your bike and hit the mirror, you have to readjust it. If someone bumps into your mirror while your bike is locked up at a bike rack, you have to readjust it. This gets annoying.
Another drawback is that handlebar mirrors make the bike wider. In most cases, the mirror sticks out further than the widest part of your body so you don’t block your own view. You can’t ride through as narrow of gaps with a handlebar mirror mounted. Some models can be folded in while riding through narrow sections.
You also can’t lean the bike up against anything on the mirror side because the mirror sticks out too far. I find this particularly annoying. If your bike is facing the wrong direction, you’ll have to turn it around.
Bumps and vibrations can also be a problem with handlebar mirrors. Bumps from the road can transmit into the mirror. When the mirror is shaking or vibrating, the image gets distorted. On a particularly rough road, the mirror may become useless.
In order to use a handlebar mirror, you do have to look away from the road momentarily. You need to move your head down and to the left. If you mount your mirror below the handlebars, you may have to move your arm out of the way to see the mirror. You can’t just move your eyes to look behind you like you can with helmet and eyeglass mirrors. Still, this is much quicker than turning around to look behind you.
Helmet Mounted Bike Mirror
As the name suggests, a helmet mirror mounts to your helmet. The mirror is mounted on a frame. One end attaches to your helmet. The mirror attaches to the other end. A stem holds the mirror about 5-8” away from your face. There is also a built-in hinge or pivot system that allows you to adjust the angle of the mirror.
A number of different helmet mirror attachment systems exist. Most helmet mirrors attach with some type of adhesive. You simply stick or glue the base of the mirror frame onto a smooth, flat spot on the side of your helmet’s outer shell. Some helmet mirrors attach to the hard shell of the helmet with a clamp system. They usually clamp around the vents. You tighten a bolt to secure the mirror to the helmet. Some helmet mirrors attach to the vents on the top of the helmet with some kind of clips, zip ties, or hook and loop attachment system. Some models actually screw into the outer shell of the helmet.
The helmet mirror should be positioned to the left or right of your eye. If you ride in a right-hand drive country, the mirror should sit next to your left eye. If you ride in a left-hand drive country it should sit next to your right eye.
The mirror should sit outside of your line of sight so it doesn’t block your view of the road ahead. You shouldn’t see your helmet, balaclava, or hood in the mirror. In some situations, you may be able to see your shoulder or hair in the mirror if you have long hair.
Benefits of Helmet Mirrors
With a helmet mirror, you can scan the entire road behind you by simply turning your head 10-20 degrees. This allows you to see from curb to curb. There are no blind spots. You basically have a 360° view all around you. This isn’t possible with a handlebar mirror.
You can also use the same helmet mirror with all of your bikes. As long as you always wear the same helmet, the mirror will always be with you, regardless of which bike you ride. This adds versatility. You only need to buy one mirror.
For this reason, helmet mirrors are a great choice for those who ride multiple bikes. If you use multiple helmets, you’ll want to choose a removable helmet mirror that attaches with clips or hook and loop. These can be easily moved between helmets.
Helmet mirrors are also lighter and more compact than handlebar-mounted mirrors. Most models weigh less than half an ounce (15 grams). The mirror itself is also smaller than a handlebar mirror because it sits closer to your eye. Most are only about 2” (50mm) in diameter. The smaller mirror creates less air resistance. Helmet mirrors also tend to be slightly cheaper than handlebar mirrors.
Helmet mirrors also don’t suffer from vibration quite as much as handlebar mirrors. The mirror stays relatively stable. Your body provides some shock absorption.
Drawbacks of Helmet Mirrors
Some helmet mirrors sit too close to your eye. This can be distracting. For example, maybe you spot a car in the mirror out of the corner of your eye. Your brain might think the car is in front of you for a split second. Ideally, the mirror should sit at least 5 inches away from your eye. It should also sit off to the side so it’s not directly in your line of site.
Durability can also be an issue with helmet mirrors. If the mirror attaches with adhesive, the adhesive can weaken with time. Moisture from the environment and hot and cold temperatures can also cause it to loosen. Eventually, the mirror will fall off. When this happens, you’ll have to glue the mirror back on or buy a new one. The mirror could also break when it falls.
Many helmet mirrors have a ball and socket joint that allows you to adjust the angle of the mirror. Over time, this joint can loosen. When this happens, the mirror may move out of adjustment under its own weight. While riding on rough terrain, the mirror can start flopping around. This is annoying. You’ll usually have to buy a new mirror when the joint wears out. Sometimes it can be tightened.
You also have to be a little more careful with your helmet when a mirror is attached. You can’t just stuff it into a backpack or toss it down on a chair. The mirror’s frame could get damaged. Of course, if you drop your helmet, the mirror could crack.
You have to be careful when setting your helmet down. If you set your helmet on the mirror or bump the mirror, it can easily go out of adjustment. Having to reposition the mirror every time you ride is annoying.
It can also be difficult to achieve consistent mirror placement with a helmet-mounted mirror. This is because your helmet doesn’t isn’t always positioned on your head the exact same way. For example, maybe you place the helmet a bit further back or further forward while putting it on. This can place your mirror too high or too low. Maybe you hit a bump and your helmet shifts forward on your head. This can tilt the mirror down. If your helmet moves a little bit, the mirror can move out of view. Your helmet has to fit perfectly. Otherwise, you’ll need to adjust the mirror every time you put your helmet on.
Vibration can also be a problem with helmet mirrors while riding particularly rough terrain. Vibration can distort the image in the mirror and make it useless. In most cases, your body provides enough shock absorption to prevent the mirror from vibration excessively.
Your clothing and hair can also block your view. For example, on a windy day, your hood, balaclava, or scarf could blow to the side and get in the way. If you have long hair, it can get in the way and block your view.
Eyeglasses Cycling Mirrors
Eyeglasses mirrors attach to your glasses. The mirror is mounted on a wire frame. One end of the wire frame attaches to the temple of your glasses. The other end holds the mirror. The wire stem holds the mirror just 2-3.5 inches (50-85mm) from your eye. There is a pivot point where the mirror attaches to the frame where you can adjust the angle of the mirror.
Eyeglass mirrors are small and lightweight. On most models, the mirror measures around an inch high and an inch and a half across (around 25x38mm). The small mirror doesn’t create much air resistance They are also incredibly lightweight. Helmet mirrors can weigh as little as 0.3oz or 9 grams.
Most eyeglasses mirrors attach to your glasses with a 3 point attachment system. There is a row of 3 prongs that stick out of the wire frame. The frame bends slightly so the two outer prongs sit on the outside of the temple of the glasses and the inner prong sits on the inside. Tension created by flexing the wire holds the frame in place.
The prongs usually have rubber covers. These prevent the prongs from scratching your glasses frames. They also help to dampen vibrations. They also create some friction, which helps prevent the frame from shifting on your glasses.
You can attach an eyeglasses mirror to pretty much any type of glasses. If you don’t wear prescription glasses, you can mount the mirror to sunglasses or cycling goggles. Some cyclists attach their eyeglasses mirror to the visor of their helmet instead. This can work well if you don’t wear glasses.
The eyeglass mirror is usually positioned either at eye level or slightly above and just off to the side. It should sit just far enough to the side that you can’t see your helmet in the mirror.
Benefits of Eyeglass Cycling Mirrors
These mirrors give you the best view of the road of any cycling mirror. You can turn your head 10-20° from side to side for a complete view of the road behind you. It’s easy to scan from one curb to the other. There are no blind spots.
Eyeglasses mirrors also tend to vibrate less than other mirror types. Your body, your glasses, and the mirror’s frame absorb vibrations. The view is usually clear enough to read the license plates of approaching vehicles.
The mirror position is also ideal. All you have to do to look behind you is move your eyes slightly to the left. You don’t have to move your head at all to look behind you.
Eyeglasses mirrors are also easy to attach and detach. They can be installed on pretty much any type of glasses in seconds. You can easily transfer them between your regular glasses and sunglasses. You may even be able to attach an eyeglass mirror to your helmet’s visor. They are very versatile.
The mirror also forces you to wear glasses while you cycle. Glasses can protect your eyes from bugs, dust, and other debris flying in while you ride. Sunglasses protect your eyes from harmful UV rays. It’s always a good idea to wear glasses while cycling to protect your eyes.
Eyeblass mirrors are also very compact and lightweight. They are the lightest and smallest of all cycling mirrors. When you don’t need the mirror, you can easily remove it and store it in your backpack or cycling luggage.
Drawbacks of Eyeglass Cycling Mirrors
Because eyeglass mirrors sit so close to your eye, you may sometimes see part of your clothing in the mirror. For example, if you’re wearing a jacket with a hood or a scarf, it can sometimes fly into your view. If you have long hair, you may sometimes see it blowing around in the mirror. Usually, you can turn your head slightly to get a clear view. In some cases, you might have to adjust the mirror slightly. In some rare situations, you may need to physically turn your head and look behind you if you can’t get a clear view.
Some cyclists find that eyeglasses mirrors sit too close to their eye. This can be annoying. You may see something in the mirror out of your peripheral vision and subconsciously think it’s in front of you. It can also cause headaches in some cyclists. Eyeglasses mirrors can take some time to get used to.
Eyeglasses mirrors can also be a bit flimsy. They can easily get knocked out of adjustment. Sometimes the attachment system doesn’t hold the mirror securely on your glasses. If you hit a bump the mirror can get knocked out of adjustment. A strong gust of wind cold even move the mirror out of adjustment. One solution is to use a zip tie to hold it in place. Of course, this makes the mirror harder to remove and install.
Eyeglass mirrors also tend to look the goofiest of all cycling mirrors. You’ll look like a total cycling nerd if you wear one of these.
A Few More Cycling Mirror Options
Handlebar, helmet, and eyeglasses mirrors are, by far, the most common types of cycling mirrors. A few less common options to consider include:
Wrist Mounted Bike Mirror
Wrist mirrors mount to your wrist with a thick band, kind of like a large watch. The band usually attaches with hook and loop. The mirror folds down flat against the top of your wrist when not in use.
When you’re ready to use the mirror, you simply flip it up toward your hand so it sits perpendicular to your wrist. You can adjust the position of the mirror by rotating the base, where the mirror meets the band.
These mirrors only work on bikes with handlebars that place your hands wider than your body, such as flat handlebars. You can’t really use wrist mirrors with narrow drop bars because your body will block your view in the mirror.
The handlebars also need to be at the right height. If they’re too low or too high, you might not get a clear view of the traffic behind. It is possible to adjust these mirrors up and down slightly to accommodate different handlebar heights.
These can work well for those who ride mixed terrain. For example, maybe you ride a couple of miles on road from your house to a mountain bike trail then ride off-road. You can wear the wrist mirror during your road ride and then take it off or fold it down when you arrive at the trail.
These mirrors don’t provide the best view of the road. You may have to adjust your wrist to get a clear view behind you. When you turn the handlebars, the mirror points in the wrong direction. It’s also easy to move the mirror out of adjustment. Vibrations can also be an issue.
On Lens Mirror
An on lens mirror is a tiny mirror that you mount directly onto the inside of your glasses lens. The mirror is mounted to an adjustable base that allows you to position the angle. The mirror attaches to your glasses lens with a small adhesive pad on the back of the base. The tiny mirror must be of extremely high quality so you can get a clear view of the raod.
The biggest benefit of on lens mirrors is that they are not noticeable. The mirror is completely hidden by your sunglasses. If your glasses are completely dark, nobody will know you’re even wearing it. This is great for cyclists who are embarrassed to use a cycling mirror.
On lens mirrors are also incredibly lightweight. They’re tiny. They only weigh a couple of grams. The mirror also does not add any additional drag because it sits behind your glasses.
On lens mirrors work best for cyclists who wear sunglasses and those who do not need correction for distance vision. If you are nearsighted, you could wear contact lenses and mount the mirror in non-prescription sunglasses.
These mirrors pair best with wide glasses with large lenses. Ideally, the lens should extend about as wide as your ears. This way, your face doesn’t block your view. These mirrors do not work with wraparound sunglasses.
These mirrors don’t work for everyone. For example, on lens mirrors will not work for those who use prescription glasses to correct nearsightedness. This is because the image reflected in the mirror does not pass through the glasses’ lens. The mirror is mounted on the inside of the lens. If your distance vision is blurry, the image in the mirror will be blurry.
Another drawback to on lens mirrors is that you will have to turn your head to use the mirror. This is because your head blocks your view while looking straight ahead. If you turn your head about 45°, you can get a pretty good view of the road behind. This means you have to your head further than you would with a helmet or eyeglass mirror. You will also have to perform a head check while wearing an eyeglass mirror. There are blind spots. Again, your head blocks part of your view.
You will probably want to buy a special pair of glasses that you only use for cycling if you use one of these mirrors. It’s not easy to detach and re-attach. You won’t want to walk around with it stuck to your regular prescription glasses or your favorite sunglasses.
On lense mirrors are ideal for those who want to use a cycling mirror but don’t want to be seen using a cycling mirror. Many road cyclists fall into this category. They also work well for older cyclists and those with neck issues who have trouble turning their head all the way to look behind them. Recumbent riders can also benefit from on lens mirrors.
These mirrors are a bit hit or miss. They work well for some cyclists but are useless for others. The efficacy of an on-lens mirror depends on the shape of your glasses and the shape of your head and your eye placement. If you wear large glasses with flat lenses and your eyes are set far apart, these mirrors can be very effective. If you wear wraparound glasses or if your eyes are narrow-set, these mirrors are pretty much useless.
These mirrors do take a bit of trial and error to properly adjust. There’s a learning curve. If you decide to try one out, play around with it for a bit before giving up on it.
These work just like the rearview camera on your car. You mount a small backward-facing camera to your seat post and a small monitor to your handlebars. The monitor displays the view from the camera in real-time.
The camera features an ultra-wide-angle lens that allows you to see the whole road behind you. The monitor typically measures around 4” across diagonally. The system is powered by a battery that is usually built into the monitor unit. A wire runs from the monitor to the camera. Some models operate wirelessly.
This is a cool technology but does feel kind of gimmicky. There are several drawbacks to rearview cameras. First, the system is usually water resistant but not waterproof. You have to be careful about leaving your bike in the rain. The system also needs to be charged regularly because it is powered by a battery. If the battery dies, it’s useless. The monitor can also be difficult to see if the sunlight is too bright or if there is a glare. Rearview cameras are also significantly more expensive than regular bike mirrors. They add needless complexity. A rearview camera might make sense on an ebike if the system could be wired into the bike’s battery.
Considerations When Choosing a Bike Mirror
The ideal type of cycling mirror for you depends on the type of riding you do, where you ride, and your personal preference. When choosing a mirror, you’ll want to consider:
- Mirror surface shape (flat vs convex vs super convex)- Most bike mirrors are convex. This shape gives you a larger field of view. Some mirrors are more convex than others. If you regularly ride in areas with wide streets and lots of traffic, a more convex mirror is preferable. These give you a wide field of view, allowing you to see more of the road behind. Super convex mirrors also exist. These offer an even wider field of view. The drawback of convex and super convex mirrors is that you can only see things that are relatively close behind you. You can’t see things that are far away. Objects in the mirror are also closer than they appear. If you ride in areas with little traffic or fast-moving traffic, a flatter mirror may be better. A flatter mirror allows you to better see things in the distance. This allows you to see vehicles approaching from further away. The drawback is that the field of view is smaller. You can’t see as much of the road. There are compromises to make.
- Mirror materials- Quality mirrors are shatter-resistant and scratch-resistant. They also come with an anti-glare coating. The image will be clear and reliable. Lower-end mirrors are made from cheaper glass that breaks more easily. The image might not be as clear.
- Frame material- Most cycling mirror frames are made from plastic and metal parts. The mirror should be durable enough to survive a drop without breaking. The pivot point needs to be stiff enough to hold the mirror in place even while riding over bumps and in heavy wind. Some eyeglass and helmet-mounted mirror frames are fragile by design. They are designed to break away in the event of an accident so the frame doesn’t hit you and cause an injury. This can be a nice feature if you’re worried about your mirror hitting your eye if you crash. These mirrors aren’t as durable.
- Mirror size- The ideal mirror size depends on how close the mirror sits to your eye. A mirror that sits close to your eye can be smaller than a mirror that sits further from your eye. For handlebar mirrors, a mirror that measures 3-4” across is a good size. For helmet mirrors, a mirror that measures 2-2.5” across works well. With eyeglass mirrors, a mirror that measures 1.2-1.5” across is a good size.
- Price- Most bike mirrors cost $15-$20. Higher-end models cost around $50. For most cyclists, it’s not really worth it to spend much money on a mirror because mirrors are easy to break. Chances are, you’ll have to replace your mirror once in a while, even if you’re careful.
- Adjustment- The mirror should be fully adjustable so you can position it where you need it. Most mirrors have a ball joint that allows you to adjust the angle up and down and left and right. Some eyeglass and helmet mirrors have another adjustment point that allows you to move the mirror closer or further from your face. Sometimes the stem is flexible and you can adjust it however you like. The adjustment points should feel stiff and durable. If the hinges wear out, your mirror will go out of adjustment easily.
- Attachment systems and ease of installation- Pretty much all cycling mirrors are easy to install. If you’re going with a handlebar mirror, try to choose a model that won’t require any permanent modification to your bike to install. For example, if you would have to cut the ends of your grips off to install a bar end mirror, consider choosing a mirror that clamps next to the brake lever instead. If you ride multiple bikes, you’re probably better off going with a helmet or eyeglass mirror. This way, you won’t have to transfer the mirror or buy multiple mirrors. Try to avoid mirrors that use adhesive or hook and loop as an attachment system. These mirrors tend to fall off easily. Mirrors that clamp in place or attach with zip-ties are more secure.
- Mirror shape- Cycling mirrors come in round and rectangular options. The mirror shape is a matter of personal preference. Some cyclists prefer the look of one shape over the other.
Bike Mirror Recommendations
There are a wide range of cycling mirrors on the market. Some are better than others. In this section, I’ll outline a few of the best options to consider.
This mirror is designed to clamp onto both eyeglasses and helmet visors. It attaches securely with a three-point attachment system. The attachment points are covered in rubber sleeves that help to dampen vibrations. The mirror features three pivot points for adjustability. It can attach to either the left or right side.
This mirror is available in two sizes. The compact size has a 50mm arm and a mirror size of 20mm x 37mm. The normal size has an 85mm arm and a mirror size of 28mm x 37mm. I like the larger size.
This helmet mounted mirror is easy to install and adjust. It features a large 2.25” mirror with a convex shape. This gives the mirror a large field of view.
The mirror attaches securely to the vents of the helmet with zip-ties. It is sturdy and stays in place. A flexible stock allows you to easily adjust the mirror into any position. You can easily move the mirror closer or further from your eye. The flexible stock also helps to dampen vibrations. This mirror offers excellent build quality and a 5 year warranty.
This bar end handlebar mirror mounts in minutes. It features three pivot points, allowing you to easily position the mirror at any angle. The round mirror measures 3” in diameter. It has a convex shape for a wide field of view. This mirror fits handlebars with an inside diameter measuring 13.75mm – 22.5mm. It tightens in place with a clamp mechanism with a single bolt.
This is the first cycling mirror I bought. If you’re looking for a handlebar mirror, I recommend it. It’s easy to mount and offers a clear view of the road behind. It’s also surprisingly durable. I have dropped my fully loaded touring bike on this mirror several times and it still hasn’t broken. The frame is bent slightly but the mirror remains perfectly usable. For more info, check out my full review of the Mirrycle here.
This handlebar mounted mirror is made from automotive-grade glass that is shatterproof and anti-glare. It is slightly convex for a wider field of view. This mirror attaches to the handlebars with a simple clamp mechanism. All you need to install it is a 5mm hex key. There are multiple pivot points that allow you to adjust the mirror to any position you choose.
The mirror can be mounted either above or below the handlebars. It is compatible with handlebars with an outside diameter of 21-26mm. It is not compatible with drop bars.
This on-lens mirror attaches directly to the lens of your glasses. It’s small and pretty much invisible if your glasses are dark. The mirror is high quality and offers a clear view. This style of mirror certainly isn’t for everyone but this is a good one if you like on-lens mirrors.
Who Needs a Bike Mirror?
Bike mirrors are great for anyone who rides near traffic, such as commuters, urban cyclists, and recreational riders. A mirror makes it so much easier to keep an eye on cars approaching from behind. You can look at the traffic conditions behind you frequently without having to turn around and take the lane or move out of the way depending on the situation. This allows you to stay more aware of what’s going on around you, improving safety.
Cyclists with reduced mobility can also benefit from using a bike mirror. The mirror allows you to easily look behind you without having to turn around. Cycling mirrors are also great for those with neck or back pain. A mirror can allow people to ride who otherwise wouldn’t be able to.
Those who ride in a group with friends can also benefit from using a mirror. It’s easy to glance at your mirror to make sure your friends are keeping up. If one person stops for whatever reason, you can stop too.
Recumbent bike riders also need a mirror in most cases. Due to the design of recumbent bikes, it can be hard to turn around and look behind. A mirror solves this common issue.
Those who feel afraid while riding near traffic will also benefit from using a mirror. With a mirror, you can keep an eye on approaching cars. This brings peace of mind. This is one of the main reasons I use a mirror. I don’t trust drivers.
Who Doesn’t Need a Bike Mirror?
Those who ride off-road, such as mountain bikers and gravel riders, usually don’t need a mirror. When riding off-road, you don’t have to look behind yourself frequently because there is no traffic. A mirror is unnecessary. Mirrors also get broken easily while riding off-road. The mirror could get hung up on a tree branch. It could crack if you fall off your bike. It’s usually not worth it.
Competitive cyclists also don’t need a bike mirror. A mirror would just add unnecessary weight and drag that slows you down. In a race, every bit of efficiency is important. Every fraction of a second counts.
Those who care about looks might also prefer not to use a bike mirror. There is no denying that cycling mirrors look goofy. They are associated with cycling nerds and older cyclists.
My Experience with Cycling Mirrors
I installed a handlebar mirror on my bike before my first bicycle tour. I wanted to be able to see traffic approaching me while riding on narrow country roads and along a few highway sections. Before that trip, I had never used a cycling mirror.
For the first couple of days, the mirror was a bit of a distraction. I kept looking in the mirror to watch every car pass me. After a couple of days, I got used to the mirror being there. I found that I could quickly glance at it whenever I heard a car getting close. After getting used to it, I don’t know how I cycled without a mirror for so many years. It made me feel so much safer. It also brought peace of mind. I no longer had to trust drivers as they passed.
My handlebar mirror worked well but it wasn’t perfect. The biggest annoyance was that it would always go out of adjustment. Almost every time I rode the bike, I would knock the mirror against something or bump it while walking the bike then have to re-adjust it. There was also a blind spot. I had to look behind me while crossing in front of traffic. Vibrations were an issue while riding off-road.
I ended up dropping the bike and breaking the handlebar mirror. It survived several drops then eventually failed. When replacing my mirror, I decided to go with an eyeglass mirror instead. I usually attach it to the visor of my helmet. Sometimes I attach it to my glasses.
My favorite feature of the eyeglass mirror is having the ability to scan the road behind me by turning my head. It almost becomes second nature. I have a 360° view of the road. There really is no blind spot. I usually still do a head check, just to be safe.
These days, I almost always ride with an eyeglass mirror when I’m riding on the road. I also have a handlebar mirror mounted on my touring bike. While riding off-road, on bike paths, or in a place with very little traffic, I don’t use a mirror.
Final Thoughts About Bike Mirrors
A bike mirror is an excellent safety feature to add to your bike. Everyone who rides near traffic can benefit from a using mirror. The mirror helps you stay more aware of your surroundings. You can check on approaching traffic more frequently. A mirror also improves comfort. You’re not constantly having to turn your head to look behind you. You can just move your eyes. This makes riding easier on your neck. Cycling mirrors are also affordable for almost every cyclist. You can buy a decent mirror for less than $20 and install it in minutes. For me, the benefits of cycling mirrors outweigh the drawbacks.
Do you use a bike mirror? Share your experience in the comments below!
More from Where The Road Forks