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:
- First of all, why is it important to adjust your mirrors?
- Secondly, why would you not need or want to adjust your
- Finally, what criteria should be used to adjust your
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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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
Ride Safe. Ride Aware.