Rear View Mirrors

A word of safety advise for all riding RAGBRAI, get a rear view mirror and check it before moving left to make sure it’s clear. You won’t drive a car without a mirror and checking it before switching lanes of travel on a freeway. So why do it on a bike? I have one of those geeky little ones on my sun glasses but better geek then getting in a crash.

Mirrors beat trying to crank your neck around to check, especially for those of us who are older and less flexible.

21 Replies

dc7603 Cunningham, August 11, 2016 at 9:11 am

I bought one of those oval shaped ones that plugs into the end of my bars (left bar) so as I’m riding I can glance over and always know what or who is coming up behind me. No one piece of cycling equipment has given me more peace of mind in the saddle than that little $10 mirror. All cyclist should have one.


Juan Medium Moose, August 11, 2016 at 1:20 pm

@dc7603 : I also have one that plugs into the handlebars. It’s on the drop bar, so I have to look down to see back. There is still a blind spot up close to me, just as in a car, and I bang my knee on it sometimes, but I am still very glad to have it. As you say, it gives me great peace of mind.

I recommend a mirror with good reflective properties. I’ve tried some that make it seem as though you’re looking at the world behind you through a soup bowl. Get a good one. It’s worth-while.


Sandaltan ., August 11, 2016 at 5:08 pm

Handlebar mirror on the left and a Take-a-Look mirror mounted upsidedown on the right side of my glasses. Don’t leave home without ’em.



SFC JKL 2, August 11, 2016 at 8:59 pm

A must if you are going to be playing in traffic. It’s kept me from getting hit on a couple of occasions. I’ve seen some that attach to your helmet. Your helmet moves and isn’t a good mounting point. I like the one on my glasses better than the handlebar mount because I can move my head to see 180 degrees behind me if I have to.


LawnchairMan, August 14, 2016 at 10:42 pm

Slower riders are supposed to stay to the right. How do you know unless you keep tabs on what’s behind you? When I see someone coming up in my mirror I know I’m not the fast one, and move over. (Unless I am already as right as possible.) Mirrors are a must in my opinion!

Last year I crashed and had to be sagged. There was an idiot casually riding to the left of the yellow line. He was oblivious to the sag vehicle behind him for about a quarter mile, even with others yelling “Car back”. It’s your duty to know what is going on around you. You can’t zone out. You have to know when to move to a safer position for you, or for others who need more help. Either turn your head or use a mirror. Either way, keep checking your 6. Please make it safer for all of us.


HillsAngels1, August 15, 2016 at 7:53 am

BOTTLE CAP RANDY has the best mirrors that hook to your sun glasses. There made out of beer or pop bottle caps his email is I don’t leave home with out 1


Michrider !!!, August 15, 2016 at 4:40 pm

HillsAngels1: BOTTLE CAP RANDY has the best mirrors that hook to your sun glasses. There made out of beer or pop bottle caps his email is I don’t leave home with out 1

B.C.R. makes the best!!! His beer ain’t bad either!!!

BTW, RAGBRAI don’t care!!!


KenH, August 16, 2016 at 9:59 am

“He was oblivious to the sag vehicle behind him for about a quarter mile, even with others yelling “Car back”.”

There is a possibility that did not occur to me until this year as I passed another rider. It is a possibility that makes all the Ride Right chatter ineffective in some cases and I don’t know how to fix that.

The rider I passed this year had a sign on the back of her bike.

The sign said “Deaf Rider”….

I would not assume that they all have signs on the back of their bikes but it would be helpful if they did. Then we’d know that we’d have to do something besides scream to alert them to trouble. Of course we should also realize in advance that they will be there and come up with some other way to communicate with all riders, no?

Yeah, I never leave home without a mirror. I recommend them to all and I check mine frequently on RAGBRAI. Doesn’t always help. Several times this year, like every year, I checked the mirror, no one is there, and I start to move left only to hear a panicked call of “on your left” from behind me where there is now a rider behind me.

Very mysterious how riders can materialize out of thin air! The only possibility is that they were one of those riders who weave through traffic and when I looked they were behind me to the right and possibly obscured by the other riders they were weaving through.


LawnchairMan, August 18, 2016 at 11:25 am

Hi Ken,

I have seen your comments about deaf riders. If the guy ahead of me was deaf he had NO business riding to the left of the yellow line. I am very careful to check my mirrors on a regular basis, and especially when I am about to change my line. A deaf person would have to be even more cautious. I should think a deaf person, on the wrong side of the road, would have been the first to see the sag vehicle coming up behind him.

I started using a bright flashing headlight in the daytime after a couple of crashes with cars. The drivers said they didn’t see me. So, if we have deaf riders at RAGBRAI, all of us should have flashing headlights. Then, assuming the deaf rider checks his mirrors, he would know when riders approach from behind. We have a deaf rider in our club, and he was not surprised when I joined him at a traffic light.

I have a mirror on either side of my handlebar. That way I can watch to the rear on both sides of me. Even then, I know I have blind spots. I have to scan with slight steering wobbles, and even then I’m not completely sure. I have even grabbed my mirror to turn it in or out to check for traffic I think I have missed. I agree that a rider could come up quickly from behind another rider, so that is why I always double check to the direction I am turning before I make my move.

You are correct that mirrors don’t always help. I try to use all of my senses that I can. I listen for cars, bicycle noises, or warnings from cyclists. I notice smells of exhaust or burning rubber, even body odor. I hope I don’t need to use touch or taste, but sight is what I depend on the most. I not only use my mirrors, but look for clues like shadows of a cyclist near me, or slight movements up the line that might mean a hazard coming up. It’s a very active process. With so many other riders around us, we can’t zone out. We have to stay alert.

In 2007 I was near a lady rider who had apparently fixated on the white line at the edge of the road. Ahead of her a cyclist pulled off the road, but had enough of his rear wheel sticking over the line. The cyclists crashed, but were OK. The guy didn’t pull his bike all the way off the road, and the lady wasn’t actively watching. Again, my main point is that we have to stay alert!

Ken, even though I have addressed this to you, I do not mean to say that you are not vigilant. I know you are a veteran RAGBRAIer, and know what to look for. I just want to share for others who may be new to riding in large groups. Sometimes we have to take up the slack for the novice or careless riders.


KenH, August 18, 2016 at 4:00 pm

Good points but remember that deaf riders can be newbies too. I’d like to see us be aware that they are there and do what we can to make the ride safe and pleasant for them. I’ve also got this crazy notion that it would be fun to share the ride with a blind person. On a tandem of course.

I think it is easy for all of us to get fixated on things just in front of us. It pays to look well ahead frequently because trouble well ahead of you will trigger a cascade of avoidance maneuvers that quickly affect the riders just in front of you!


Michrider !!!, August 20, 2016 at 6:24 am

KenH: The rider I passed this year had a sign on the back of her bike.
The sign said “Deaf Rider”….
I would not assume that they all have signs on the back of their bikes but it would be helpful if they did. Then we’d know that we’d have to do something besides scream to alert them to trouble. Of course we should also realize in advance that they will be there and come up with some other way to communicate with all riders, no?

Ken, what do you suggest riders do???


Brian Wallenburg, August 20, 2016 at 1:41 pm

I’m deaf to loud, obnoxious riders… I’ve never knowingly rode with a deaf person, but I can only imagine they would like to be treated like anyone else on the road. No special treatment.


T. Gap Woo, August 21, 2016 at 1:35 pm

As a rider who wears TWO hearing aids, I speak from personal experience. Without my aids, I am as deaf as the proverbial door nail.

Brian Wallenburg you are right! I do not expect special, preferential or any other type of treatment (good, bad or indifferent) just because I am hearing challenged. I have learned to adapt my challenge to whatever situation presents itself.

While riding, I keep the volume controls set low enough to minimize wind noise, but not so low that I can’t hear other riders’ calls.

I also avoid super-soakers and misting tunnels, which would short out my aids. A wide-brimmed hat under my helmet keeps rainwater out.

I carry extra batteries and use a hearing aid drying kit every night.

During the ride, I make extensive use of mirrors. A helmet mirror on the left and a handlebar mirror on the right covers just about everything. A quick glance at each mirror, along with observation of traffic movements and patterns ahead, provides enough information to enable me to Ride Right.

There are no easy answers to Michrider’s question “What do you suggest riders do?” I cannot justify having other riders ahead of me taking their eyes off the road to turn around to warn me of a car back or ahead, thus risking a greater catastrophe. I guess it comes down to riders, hearing-challenged and otherwise, taking personal responsibility for their own safety and well-being.

See you along the I-O-Way in 2017.


KenH, August 22, 2016 at 12:25 pm

I am not suggesting that we treat deaf riders any differently than riders with perfect hearing, I am suggesting that we treat them the same: communicate with them! I don’t have all the answers either, if I did I would have given them. The value, assuming there is one, of forums like this is that ideas can be shared, discussed, and improved. And implemented, if the Register happens to be listening….

Truly deaf riders won’t hear our chatter but they can see our hand signs. There are signs for turning (which could be used for rider on/off as well) and for stopping/slowing and for rumbles. People point at down at road hazards as they pass them and some people point down at about a 45 degree angle left or right to indicate that they are moving over.

Personally I feel that “on your left/right” are nearly useless in the dense traffic that often typifies RAGBRAI and they are also frequently used not as a courtesy as they are intended, but to justify (in the minds of those who use them) bad behavior by riders who feel that the ride owes them a clear path to ride as fast as they are able. And of course they do nothing at all for deaf riders.

I would propose that we ban the use of on your left/right! Instead I would suggest that the Ride Right powers that be make it a rule that you always yield the right of way to the rider in front of you. If that means you use your brakes going uphill (as I have to do once a twice a day on this ride) then that’s what you do. Wait until it is safe to pass. It is rarely more than a minute or two and when it is you should not be passing anyway.

Instead of on your left/right I would suggest that we all point down at an angle left or right to indicate to those behind us that we intend to move over. This puts the slower rider in control as they should, in my opinion, be and it works for the deaf as well as for the rest of us. One possible problem with this is that it could be confused with pointing out a road hazard. Maybe there is a sign that could be used in its place or maybe when you are pointing at a road hazard you would point with your index finger and when you are moving over you could use a flat palm facing backwards.

One bit of RAGBRAI chatter that we have to keep is car up/back because it gives advance warning to those who cannot yet see the car. But we need a hand sign to indicate that to deaf riders. Currently they get no information about this. And we can keep all the chatter (except on your left/right) as long as we give the hand signs too.

That is what I would do, had I the power to do anything. If you have other/better ideas they are great too. Obviously we don’t want to turn the ride into a mime convention on wheels but a modest increase in the use of hand signs would be of benefit to deaf riders and it would show them no more courtesy than we hearing riders commonly extend to each other.


Nico ZZZ, August 22, 2016 at 2:23 pm

Some of the riders coming up from behind on my left would say my name (on my RAGBRAI license plate) or say: “On your left Colombia” when I was wearing my Colombia jersey. I appreciated that type of heads up over the generic “on your left!” I also have a mirror so was rarely surprised by anyone.


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