Friday, December 26, 2008

Three Mirrors..back to back to back!

For mirror users, this should be an interesting post. I've been doing a test of three great cycling mirrors the last few days (from L-R: Take A Look Mirror, CycleAware Reflex Mirror , Efficient Velo Tools' Safe Zone mirror).

The Take A Look and Cycle Aware mirrors are fairly common and can be purchased at many LBS's and even REI. The EVT/BicycleToolMaker Safe Zone mirror isn't so common, but it is really an interesting and great mirror.

Take A Look Mirror
The TAL mirror is the first mirror I ever owned. It's simple to use and very robust. The mirror clips on to the arms of your sunglasses and stays on with a pretty strong friction fit. From there the mirror swivels and you can also bend the arms (usually not necessary) to get it in the right spot. It is relatively light weight and after a few hours of use, you hardly notice it.

The TAL is a great mirror and really, my only gripe is that you have to be wearing sunglasses/glasses to use it. If you have dark shades and you commute at night, it either means forgoing a mirror completely or getting shades with replaceable lenses. I have lost two of these because I have a terrible habit of misplacing my sunglasses.

CycleAware Reflex Mirror
The CA mirror solved my mirrorless situation due to misplacing my sunglasses. For me, I prefer helmet mounted mirrors since I always ride with a helmet. I don't have to fiddle with changing lenses on glasses (that I have a feeling I will ultimately lose :).

With the CA mirror you have to semi-permanently adhere a ball-joint attachment to the side of your helmet. The arm (the socket end of the joint) snaps on to the adhered portion. From there, the mirror can be rotated on the joint or you can articulate the arm of the mirror or you can also articulate the little ball joint on the mirror itself.

Of the three, the CA mirror is the most easiest to finely tune. There are lots of points of adjustment, but at the same time that means lots of points of potential failure. For one, the included adhesive doesn't last very long. I usually sand down the helmet and use Super Glue and a C-clamp to make sure it doesn't pop off.

Also, over time, the various plastic ball joints wear and don't quite hold their positions like they use to. To solve this, CA, sells a replaceable parts kit for their mirror.

Another issue that some may have with the CA mirror is that it is vertically oriented and not horizontally oriented (like the TAL mirror). Going from a TAL to the CA takes some adjustment because of this, but you'll cope.

With all these issues, it is still a fine mirror and I have used one with great success for almost two years.

EVT Safe Zone Mirror

That leads us to the EVT Safe Zone Mirror. The EVT mirror is easily the largest mirror of the three. This is the HD of bicycle mirrors! You don't have to worry about orientation because it's round and it's HUGE. Now for some, me included, this can be a bit strange at first. Surely, something that big in front of your face has to cause a big blind spot. I've found in the few weeks I've been testing the mirror that your eyes adjust and you can see "through" the mirror, so to speak.

If you can get over the size and Alien-esque lock-line articulating arm, the view is fantastic!

Mounting can be a little finicky, depending on your helmet. Unlike the CA mirror that uses adhesives, the way you mount the EVT mirror is by using zip ties. There is a large spine with slots and you run ties through the slots and through the vents of your helmet. It took me about two different set-ups to find one that I liked best.

The CA allows you to place it exactly where you need it. The EVT gives you a stronger mount, but you may or may not be able to get it exactly where you want it depending on your helmet's vent pattern (won't work on Nutcase helmets).

You adjust the mirror by 1)using the palm of your hand to move the mirror 2) using your free hand to hold your helmet still. This is necessary because the articulating arm has a pretty tight friction fit. With the CA, I can usually just position it with two fingers. The EVT is a two handed affair, but this is good in the long run because the darn thing won't ever be shaken out of place. This has to be one of the most robust bicycling mirrors on the market.

Now, this great view and sturdy build come at a price. The EVT retails for around $40, about double the price of the other mirrors and it isn't widely available yet (the inventor encourages you to encourage your LBS to carry it). However, it should be the last helmet mirror you would ever need to buy for a long time. I'll write another longer term follow-up after a few more months of use to see if the friction fit is still as tight.


Rat Trap Press said...

I was thinking about buying a Take A Look mirror. I was also looking at this

RussRoca said...

I prefer helmet mirrors over bicycle mounted mirrors for one main can scan effortlessly with a head-mounted mirror at any time and at any angle without altering the steering of the bike.

Also, with a head-mounted mirror you can multi-task quickly with what is ahead and behind you (by adjusting your focus), since you're not looking DOWN at bike mounted mirror...

That said, some people may be weirded out by the mirror five inches in front of their DOES take some getting use to, but I definitely feel more aware of what is going on with the mirror....

Parker said...

I used the Take A Look eyeglass-mounted mirrors for years, and liked them. I've used the EVT for a couple of years now (my LBS carries them), and like it even better. It mounts solidly to my Bell Metro helmet, and its adjustment stays put.

ksteinhoff said...

I'm a big fan of Chuck Harris helmet mirrors. Here's a full review with pictures from the first part of the month.

Chuck Harris review

I've had folks tell me that they can't focus on a helmet mirror or that it blocks their vision, but I've never had that problem.

I DO sometimes find myself walking down the hall glancing into my non-existent mirror because I'm so used to using it.

Seattle Yarper said...

I discovered an issue with helmet mounted mirrors that I've never seen mentioned anywhere, including here. I bought the CA mirror, and it seems like a good product, but I ride in the drops and have a big messenger bag. The result of which is that the view over my left shoulder is completely obstructed, making the mirror useless for me. Word to the wise: helmet mirrors may not work if you use a big messenger bag or backpack.

baldsue said...

I bought the EVT mirror and I'm loving it. Took a while to get it adjusted but now I can't imagine riding without it. I'm converted. Used to ride with handlebar mirror.

Wayne Myer said...

The backpack is indeed an issue. When I use a Timbuk2 messenger backpack, my view behind is somewhat obscured. But a mirror is no substitute for looking back, anyway.

Regarding the ball joint wearing out, there is a fix for this. Take the ball joint apart and put a drop of CA glue on the ball or in the socket. Spread it out a little. Let dry completely. Reassemble. The ball joint is better than new. It might need a little manipulation at first to smooth out the movement. But then it works like a charm.