October 2001 Safety Thoughts

Are You Blind?

by Dave Hansen, Safety Officer

Recently I went for a "pick-up" ride with several friends. Unusual for me, I found myself in the middle of the group, rather than the lead or end bike position as I normally am. One of the first things I did after we got formed up & moving was to adjust my mirrors so I could clearly see the riders to my rear & (especially) offset rear. This got me thinking; I don't often see many of our group riders adjusting their mirrors on a ride. Why is that?

To address the issue of mirrors and their use, I'll try to answer the following three questions:

Before I try to answer these questions, let me say that you should really have you mirrors adjusted before you ride. Making adjustments while actually riding can be distracting and could cause loss of control. If you are in any way uncomfortable or unsure about making adjustments while moving, use a "try & see" approach, making your adjustments while stopped & seeing how closely adjusted they are when moving, making additional adjustments the next time you stop.

  1. One of the most important tools in riding safely is your ability to both se e & recognize hazards, then react appropriately to deal with those hazards. This requires you to scan in all directions & particularly in those directions that have objects moving toward you (or you toward them, if you will). Your mirrors are your tools to identifying hazards behind you. If you want to see & recognize hazards behind you, you need to have your mirrors adjusted properly to allow you to see these hazards.
  2. Now that we know it's important to see hazards behind us & we've made initial adjustments to our mirrors that allow us to see behind us, why would any further adjustment be needed? Well, if you always rode at the same speed and always had the same hazards (bikes?) following behind you at the same distance & at the same angle, you probably won't need further adjustments. But if you ride in the real world, you know that the dynamics of riding (& group riding) will mean following distances change with speed. Remember the 1-second stagger, 2 seconds behind rule causes distance between riders to change with speed and as the following distances change, so too does the angle between you, your mirror & the bikes behind you. Unless you have an extremely wide-angle mirror, no given adjustment position will be right for every riding condition.
  3. So then what criteria should be used to adjust your mirrors? Know the general route for the ride & the speeds you plan to ride at. Once up to that speed, check & adjust your mirrors as required in order to make sure the following and offset following bikes are clearly visible in your mirrors while still being able to scan the rest of the roadway behind you.

This should provide you with tools specifically tuned to help you see & recognize hazards behind you. Just remember to "retune" those tools when a change in riding conditions warrants.

Ride Safe. Ride Aware.

Words of Safety