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I am wanting to get a mirror for my bicycle, but the obvious mount points are already occupied (bar-end shifters, aero brake levers). There is some appeal to the Take A Look or a helmet-mounted mirror, but I am concerned about safety. It seems that a mirror hanging out near my eye may have the propensity to be jammed into my eye or some other part of my face or head in the event of a fall.

What happens to a head-mounted mirror when the rider falls? Do they flex or break in some helpful way? Are my fears well-founded or overblown?

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Frankly, I've been using helmet-mounted mirrors for about 30 years, and have never had cause to be concerned about this issue. (I tried bar-mounted mirrors and found them deficient in several ways.) –  Daniel R Hicks Mar 23 '13 at 22:42
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Impact resistant sunglasses or safety goggles will go a long way to mitigate dangers of stray mirror parts damaging your eyes. –  Benzo Mar 25 '13 at 20:16
    
I'd think even regular (polycarbonate) glasses would work for that purpose, though I don't think its a problem that occurs with any reasonable probability. –  Batman Dec 9 '13 at 19:30
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You have a far, far bigger hazard from getting a tree limb in the eye. –  Daniel R Hicks Dec 10 '13 at 23:49
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6 Answers

I would say that there's not much more concern of the mirror gouging your eye out than your glasses in the event of an accident. Ultimately I think if you did a risk/benefit assessment of having a mirror, you'd come out in the black.
For most cycling mirrors I'd say that the mounting point is going to give way before anything breaks and becomes dangerous. If you're truly concerned, have a look at this question where I tried to put together an exhaustive list of cycling mirror options.

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- I read in his opening sentence that he is using bar end shifters. That leaves a bar end mirror out of the question. –  User 6159 Mar 24 '13 at 14:00
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I guess I read it too quickly. I will update my answer accordingly. –  joelmdev Mar 24 '13 at 20:04
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I have used a bar-end mounted mirror for about one high-mileage year in the past, and have for the last year switched to helmet mounted.

I will not consider the merit of handlebar vs. helmet mounted in detail, but I can say I would never have used the handlebar mounted one in the first place, if I knew how much, MUCH better, by so much far, the helmet mounted ones are.

I have considered your safety question some times, but honestly, in the event of a real fall with head hitting the ground, there are so much more sources of injury than the mirror (most of them are from the bike itself), that I prefer to just forget about it as a "hypothetical, unfounded fear".

That said, my mirror is a cheap, round, flat glass mirror one, those you buy for one dollar, with two plastic hinges. A friend of mine "convinced" me to use it, and he attached the mirror himself, with zip ties, to drilled holes on the helmet cap. Here it is:

enter image description here

The final result is ugly, I know, but it works incredibly well with no issues so far. And the helmet (the only one I have) is itself a beater.

Now regarding SAFETY, when I take a look at the picture you posted, and considering my current experience, I think:

  1. That metal wire REALLY feels dangerous. It's a thin, penetrating METAL part instead of a blunt, bulky, round-tipped plastic shaft.
  2. The mirror itself is a tiny piece of glass. It doesn't even have to shatter to fit inside the eye orbit.
  3. The whole system contains only very hard and damaging materials. No bulky plastic "paddings".

One important difference between "mine" and "yours" is that "mine" is a helmet mounted mirror, and "yours" is a glasses-mounted one. The former stays further from the eye itself, so it needs to have a wider glass to provide a good viewing angle. The glasses mounted one can be smaller, and needs to be lighter to be comfortable.

I think each one is a matter of personal preference, and in either case the very real and sure benefits far outweight the hypothesized risk, but using a helmed-mounted mirror is helpful if you have one helmet but a lot of glasses, and I think it is better to have the extra weight supported by the whole helmet/head interface than only by the glasses/head interface (that is, only the nose and the ears).

Hope this helps!

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I use an eyeglass mounted mirror (I use the "Take a look" mirror, I highly recommend it), and the only time I was in an accident with it, it popped off my glasses without gouging me in the eye. Any up/down motion of the mirror is going to make it pop right off of the glasses, lateral side-to-side motion will likely just bend the metal shaft. If my face hits the ground with enough force to shatter the glass mirror, I'm already looking at some significant facial injuries so I'm not too concerned with the mirror making things worse -- small shards of glass sound only marginally worse than smacking my face on pavement.

It would take a freak accident to get it to shift around such that it would poke me in the eye given that the end of the mirror shaft is behind the bony part of my eye socket. Plus, the polycarbonate lenses of my sunglasses shield my entire eye plus a bit of wraparound to the side, giving me some protection from the mirror. That doesn't mean that there's no risk at all, but I feel that the enhanced safety I get from the mirror is worth the tradeoff of increased risk of injury in an accident.

I've tried some helmet mounted mirrors but found that my helmet shifted around enough to be annoying, my sunglasses don't shift, so the eyeglass mounted mirror is always in exactly the same place.

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-1 for one anecdotal experience, discounting eye injuries because there will be other facial injuries, and a lot of unfounded assumptions about what will happen in a crash. I spent 15 years in EMS and quite often found myself utterly baffled by how the damage I saw in crashes could occur. Really strange things happen when people, cars and bicycles get hurled into other solid objects. So I wouldn't dismiss concerns about having wire and breakable plastic near my eyes in a crash. –  Carey Gregory Apr 9 '13 at 17:34
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By all means, post a links to published safety statistics for helmet and eyeglass mounted mirrors, I've searched and couldn't find any. In your 15 years in EMS, how many eye injuries have you found caused by mirrors? I'll edit my answer to say that there's still some risk. –  Johnny Apr 9 '13 at 18:06
    
I doubt that mirrors are a common source of injury, but having wire and hard plastic near your eyes obviously increases risk. I simply disagree with your dismissal of those risks. –  Carey Gregory Apr 9 '13 at 18:24
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My Surly LHT has bar end shifters on drops like the OP. I tried helmet mounted mirrors for a year and found them annoying creating blind spots in the front and finicky to adjust. The blind spots made the helmet mount unsafe to some degree. I had to adjust the helmet mirror every time I rode and the view (perspective) was always a little different from before and I found that unsafe as well because I'd have to hunt around to see if there was a car in a blind spot. I hoped over time I'd get comfortable with the helmet mount mirror but that never happened for me. With the Bar End shifters, I didn't seem to have any alternative to the helmet mount so I put up with them. Like the OP, I was originally concerned that somehow that thing that hung out in front of my eye might hurt me. Several Google searches revealed no reported incidents so I believe my fears were unfounded.

Eventually, I solved my problem by mounting a Mirrycle mirror the drop of my left side. The mirror has excellent vision with the same perspective every time and the blind spot is gone.

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The question's about safety, not about your choice/recommendation of mirror types. –  Jefromi Mar 24 '13 at 14:36
    
@jefromi I said I found BLIND spots on the helmet mirrors. The OP had bar end shifters and I told him how I solved the problem without a helmet mirror. Each of the other answers shared their preverences and/or alternatives. Why pick on me? –  User 6159 Mar 25 '13 at 17:07
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Let me clarify: the question is about safety specifically in terms of injury during falls, not the degree of additional safety afforded by the field of view the mirror (e.g. presence of blind spots). I'm not picking on you, merely saying that you have not addressed the core of the question, which both of the other answers do address. As you say, they do also discuss preferences and alternatives, but importantly they answer the actual question. –  Jefromi Mar 25 '13 at 17:29
    
Note that while the title summarizes it as "how safe are they?" the entire body of the question (except "I can't use bar-end mirrors") is about safety in case of falls. –  Jefromi Mar 25 '13 at 17:36
    
@Jefromi,thanks for the feedback. I changed my response based on it. –  User 6159 Mar 28 '13 at 2:04
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I have been using a Take-A-Look mirror for as long as I can remember, perhaps 8 years. I have piled up more than once with no ill effect. At least not from the mirror. Last time, this past Father's Day, was the worst in terms of personal injury, with me being carted off to the hospital. No broken bones or permanent injuries thank God!
That said, about my Take-A-Look: I never lost consciousness and heard my helmet hit the pavement with a mighty thwack! yet the Take-A-Look stayed put, it being inside the protective circle formed by the helmet! Think about it: if the mirror is mounted on the OUTSIDE of the helmet, it may break resulting in broken pieces of plastic(just as dangerous as metal, as far as your eyes are concerned) and glass being thrown into the mix of your personal accident. The Take-A-Look is, if not INSIDE the helmet, in a position so that the helmet may keep it from hitting the road, so the helmet may protect you in that respect. Also as Jonny says it pops of easily. I can also say it is not easily broken. I know this because I am rather hard on such things.
If, however, you are not wearing a helmet, then God protect you! (But that's another thread...)

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I've never felt mirrors served much of a purpose. Mirrors seem like more of a distraction than anything else. Not only are they extremely small and probably have a very limited field of vision, but they also block that part of your forward vision field. Also, you should be comfortable moving around in your saddle, looking behind you, bunny hopping broken glass, fast stops, no hands. All those things contribute to what is exciting about riding.

I have never ridden with one and have never even felt that there was a blind spot somewhere to justify it. A simple head turn can satisfy my situational awareness concerns about what is behind me. Hearing is another thing that provides great feedback from your surroundings. You can feel cars behind you, too.

Bikes and the cycling community are notorious for gimmicky gadgets. Take those bar-ends on MTB as a prime example. No pros use mirrors or bar-ends.

Cycling, at least to me, is just as much a mental workout as a physical one. I want to be super concentrated on the ride. I just feel a mirror would take away from that.

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Mirrors are gimmicky. I've never understood why they put them on cars and motorcycles. And regarding bar ends, I've always thought World Champion Nino Schurter and the rest of the pros that use bar ends were a bunch of hacks anyway ;) –  joelmdev Mar 29 '13 at 13:14
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