Helmet Mirrors, Classic Television and Voyeurism

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.

BluesCat's Collection of Helmet Mirrors
BluesCat’s Collection of Helmet Mirrors

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.

Cycleaware Reflex Helmet Mirror
Cycleaware Reflex Helmet Mirror

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.)

I have two Third Eye ® helmet mirrors: a Foam Helmet Mirror and a Pro Mirror.

Third Eye Foam Helmet Mount Bicycle Mirror
Third Eye Foam Helmet Mount Bicycle Mirror

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.

Third Eye Pro Helmet Bicycle Mirror
Third Eye Pro Helmet Bicycle Mirror

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.)

HubBub Helmet Mirror
The HubBub Helmet Mirror stays adjusted

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.

BluesCatBluesCat 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.

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15 thoughts on “Helmet Mirrors, Classic Television and Voyeurism”

  1. Al says:

    When the cycleaware joint get loose, wrap it with a small wire tie.

    1. Ted Johnson says:

      I had one like that once. I’m not sure if it was a Cycleaware, but I dripped some Welch’s Grape Soda into the joint and that gummed it sufficiently to keep it adjusted.

      I was on a short bike tour, at a rest stop somewhere west of Jacksonville, wondering what to do about that infernal mirror. The solution was right in my hand.

  2. Chip Olson says:

    I dislike helmet mirrors, because I wear glasses, and it’s tricky to adjust a helmet mirror so that it’s in my corrected field of vision but doesn’t obstruct my forward view. And every one I’ve tried (including the Third Eye Pro) gets knocked out of said tricky adjustment really easily.

    I find my handlebar mirror indispensable for urban riding, however. 90% of the time, what I need out of a mirror is one bit: Car Behind Me or No Car Behind Me, a task it handles admirably.

  3. mwmike says:

    Somebody needs to invent a tiny mirror mount for those of us who don’t wear styrofoam on our heads.

  4. BluesCat says:

    Ted – I’ll bet cheap hairspray would work too, and wouldn’t attract bees, flies and ants to your tasty smelling grape soda seasoned helmet mirror. Cheap hairspray also works great if your grips keep working their way off your handlebars; simply take the grips off and spritz the bar with a quick hit of the hairspray; the wet hairspray will act as a lubricant to allow you to twist the grips back on easily and when it dries it stays very tacky and will keep those grips in place.

    mwmike – Third Eye makes what they call the Eyeglass Mirror, which fits on the bow of your sunglasses or most eyeglasses. If you don’t wear eyeglasses, and you should NEVER wear your sunglasses at night, you could get a light pair of safety glasses and wear the mirror on those.

    Chip – As a fellow eyeglass wearer for almost 50 years, I feel your pain about the problems they sometimes present in your life. Heck, I could go on for PARAGRAPHS about just the solutions I’ve thought up for riding while wearing eyeglasses. Hey! Sounds like a seed idea for another article!

  5. Gordon L Belyea says:

    Not being a helmet wearer, and not able to get a standard bar end or clamp on mirror for the standard bars on my Batavus that didn’t end up dangling loosely in the breeze, I’ve bought a mirror that fits on to the left arm of my glasses. It uses three tines on a boom holding the mirror that grasp both sides of the arm – it can be switched between glasses, bent slightly to align, and its ball & socket mirror adjuster is still tight after 6 mos daily use.

    It does suffer from the drawback that I am unable to look directly behind me without turning my head slightly – adjustments of the mirror itself yield either my fuzzy cheek or the sidewalk on the far side of the road! However, with practice I can give a quick nod to bring approaching traffic into view. As well, the helmet mirror has the advantage of being easily turned to view merging traffic from the off side.

    Anyhow, I’ve been quite happy with my glasses-mounted unit, which I picked up from our local sports store.

  6. Eric W says:

    Plus one for the glasses mirror. I move it from clear night glasses to grey safety glasses often. Actually, I miss it when I’m off the bike!

    I have the Third Eye one. The little plastic three armed clip that attaches the ball and socket arm to the glasses frame has broken. I splinted it with glue and plastic to no avail – there’s a lot of force holding it on and it just comes loose. Now I’m thinking pipe cleaner like wrap to hold it on. Any ideas?

    A helmet mirror won’t survive in my urban environment – I take my helmet off and on frequently and I just hang it somewhere. That mirror isn’t likely to stay on nor aligned.

    Handlebar mirrors don’t seem to stay on nor stay in focus due to vibration on my cyclocross commuter. The last one just left as I was riding…

    And I’ve put rubber cement into a car mirror that is too loose. This works fine below 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Unhappily, it becomes a lubricant at 90 – 100. Not useful when it’s hot! Make it worse. Try the hairspray above.

  7. BluesCat says:

    Eric W – You can get replacement parts for your Third Eye Mirror at Third Eye Mirror Repair.

    Pretty cheap too: $2 plus $4 shipping. Now, mind you, I’ve never had to use this service, so you’ll have to tell us how it works out for you.

  8. BluesCat says:

    Hey! And here’s another thing I discovered when I visited the Third Eye Mirror Repair site.

    They have replacement Dual Lock for the Foam Helmet Mirror for REALLY cheap: you just stuff a dollar bill into an envelope, along with an SASE, include a note telling them what the buck is for and mail it off to the address there on the site.

  9. bjorke says:

    I’m always surprised that no one seems to know that Bell makes a flip mirror for their commuter helmets. I have one and LOVE it. It survives on and off and tossing around because it pivots up to tuck into the shape of the helmet. Check it out.

  10. BluesCat says:

    bjorke – Pretty neat, and you’re right: I did not know about this.

    Too bad they don’t make one that’ll fit on my Specialized and Trek helmets.

  11. armando says:

    Took a small chance on the messenger mirror and it is great! And cheap!

  12. Dr. M says:

    I have a stealthy mirror that pops on to the end of my handlebar.
    That’s it. I can imagine being even more distracted by trying to adjust
    something on my helmet. You are on a recumbent bicycle so you need
    a helmet mirror. I get that.

    Just as important is to be seen from behind. I’ve started riding with this
    super bright Daytime Red tail light from DiNotte Lighting. You only get about
    4 hours run time but seriously, cars DO see you and give you a very wide
    passing. I have it on both my road bikes now. Big difference.

  13. I guess these little mirrors are better than the old granny ones on the handle bars. I think something using googleglass would be really nice.

  14. plh says:

    I wear glasses like Chip Olson several comments up so I use the Take-A-Look Mirror from Paceline.
    Adjustment is simple so when I take it off I stow it flat. When I put it on & adjust it, it stays put. I commute each day so I am very devoted to it. I feel like am blind without it.

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