Cycling in Hindsight

Posted: May 4, 2013 in Bike, Equipment
Tags: , ,

I have recently acquired a new piece of equipment that has instantly become integral to my training plan this year and no doubt, will become a source of debate on our next group ride but, first, a little background.

A few seasons ago, a member of my TryForce group – let’s call him, Doug –  showed up to one of our organized group rides with this odd piece of equipment affixed to his sunglasses and was instantly on the receiving end of a flurry of good-natured ribbing from the rest of us.  Now, Doug is an accomplished cyclist and Ironman and someone who I hold in high regard and yet, just showing up with this weird thingamabob as part of his riding kit, was not, well, shall we say, immediately understood.  So, apparently, both roadies and triathletes alike tend to frown on using gizmos of this nature – this gizmo specifically.  And seeing as how triathletes are like the Batman of the athletic world in that they lust after and collect all types of crap, I found it surprising that anyone would actively voice such doubt about it.  After all, we’re talking about people here who will willingly wear aero helmets with tight, form fitting clothes so that they look almost alien-like as they cruise along on their customized $10,000 carbon fiber rocket ships.  So where this instant skepticism comes from I have no idea.  I felt for Doug, but I didn’t instantly run out and buy one for myself either…until this year.

In case, you haven’t figured it out, I’m talking about a helmet mounted rear view mirror for cycling.  I know, I know – *gasp* – you don’t actually wear one of those things do you?!  Horror of all horrors!  Well, yes, I do…now.  And I love it.  It’s actually mounted on the frame of my sunglasses and enables me to see what moolyak in a Dodge Caravan (sorry, Saskia) might be careening towards me from behind.  I think of it now as my ‘advance warning system’ while I’m out riding.  I mean, if rear view mirrors are mandatory for all other modes of vehicular transport, what’s the big deal on a bicycle?

So where does all this controversy come from in the first place?  Do people consider it unnecessary or, maybe, feel that it’s just plain dorky?  I dunno really.  I’m not into cycling or triathlon to be fashionable, so that particular argument is lost on me.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I get that you can just look over your shoulder and when you’re out riding alone I still tend to follow this practice and leave the mirror at home but, when I’m out riding with either Kelly as we train four our epic 940k cycle ride this summer, or the kid as she prepares for her first kids triathlon in July, I prefer to know what’s going on in all directions all the time.  And considering some of the close calls I had last year while training for my Ironman, well, these are just chances I’m not willing to take with my family.  So if wearing a rear view mirror while cycling qualifies me as a pedaling faux pas, then so be it.

Where we live now, there are very few sidewalks and so, when I’m out riding with my eight-year-old, we have little choice but to ride out in the street.  Now, we do live out in the country, but that doesn’t also mean that everyone drives slowly and respectfully – far from actually.  It’s true, some bumpkin driving a farm truck down rural routes is every bit as likely to not give a shit for my safety as that moron driving within city limits. An idiot driver is an idiot driver and statistics have shown that idiot drivers tend to strike from behind.  The idiots.

Now, I understand the valid arguments against the use of mirrors, the most common being that they distract the rider from the road in front of them.  But, like I said before, idiots tend to creep up from behind.  The other rationale is that they may tempt a rider to be lazy and take a lane without actually turning to look over their shoulder.  I don’t buy the distraction argument—there are so many things that constantly distract us on the road, I don’t believe adding a mirror to the mix significantly changes the equation.  And while I agree that a rider should always look over their shoulder before taking a lane (and I do), there’s no reason why adding a mirror will necessarily cause a diligent cyclist to suddenly drop their guard.  Basically, when it comes to being safe and keeping my family safe, I welcome any opportunity to see the greater world at large beyond what’s immediately in front of me.

Now, I admit that a mirror does take a little getting used to but, as it turns out, there are several other uses for this miraculous device that I hadn’t anticipated.  For example, I can use it to check and reapply my makeup, use it to clip my nose hair, send signals to aircraft flying overhead should I ever become totally stranded and lost in the wild and, if I position it just right, I can usually catch a glimpse of my girlfriend jubblies on the off chance she’s riding behind me.  And THAT, right there, makes it worth its weight in gold, folks.

So should you or shouldn’t you?  I don’t really care and I’m not about to suggest if you should or shouldn’t.  It’s a personal choice.  When I’m on my own, that’s one thing but when I’m not, I’m making the decision that provides as much safety as possible for us to enjoy ourselves by recognizing those unseen dangers that might be coming up from behind at 80kph.  And for only $9.50 at Mountain Equipment Co-op, who can afford not to?

  1. Kelly says:

    I’m not necessarily shocked that’s what you’re looking at while I’m behind you, knowing what *I’m* looking at when I’m behind you lol 🙂 And well, it’s good for your health x2 that way, right ???

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