Review: BIKE-EYE  - 'the Bicycle mirror with a different point of view!'

The events of last week that saw both Bradley Wiggins and Shane Sutton involved in accidents whilst out riding were a telling reminder to us all that no matter how experienced or how good your bike handling, an accident can occur at any moment on a ride, often quite unexpectedly.

One aspect of the ensuing debate about the vulnerability of cyclists sharing roads with motorists was how we, as cyclists, might reduce our chances of becoming yet another statistic.

Adequate lighting  and reflective clothing were obviously high up on the agenda, but there was also a strong argument for cyclists to 'see' as well as 'be seen'.   Making eye contact with both motorists and pedestrians were cited as examples of this and also using mirrors to ensure you had had good all round vision.

Now, to many cyclists, the very thought of using a mirror is abhorrent!  Even the mere suggestion would lead the more style conscious cyclist to visibly recoil and hiss like a vampire confronted by garlic.

Fortunately, salvation comes in the form of Bike-Eye, which is an unobtrusive, slim-line mirror that provides the cyclist with just that little bit more of awareness of his or her position on the road in relation to other road users approaching from behind.  Without compromising your image.

 

Compatible with most bike frames, the Bike-Eyes's  USP is its position on the bike frame - the optimum position being when mounted on the down-tube, though the top tube is another option. It is therefore relatively out of sight and the flat, scratch resistant mirror offers a view between your inside leg and the bike frame by glancing downwards*.  True, the view may not be as clear as the car wing mirror inspired appendages you see poking out from the handlebars of some cyclists, but if you do wish to retain your 'bike cool' whilst improving your lines of sight,  then Bike-Eye is a viable option.

I'd never used a mirror before using Bike-Eye.  I commuted in London for 8 years and regard myself as  fortunate that I only had two minor accidents, both involving pedestrians. I put my longevity down to a bit of good luck,  but I also set out on my commute with the assumption that both moving and static objects were going to attempt to knock me off my bike throughout my journey and would come at me at all angles. In short, I road with caution and tried to keep my vision as close to 360 degrees as possible.

Even after using Bike-Eye for a few rides I am warming to the benefits of using a mirror, but I have to admit that it takes some getting used to. Firstly, old habits die hard:  I found myself constantly turning my neck to check for traffic, forgetting the visual aid below me and when I did glance down at the mirror, I had a tendency to linger on the reflection, which almost resulted in me hitting the kerb (I had to smile at the irony).  

The position of the mirror on the down tube does, however, mean that your view is compromised by the rotation of your leg, Even when angled correctly,  the optimum viewpoint is at the top of your rotation when your leg is as its highest. Saying that,  I adapted to this relatively quickly and soon found I was glancing down in conjunction with my upward pedal stroke. A brief freewheel also gives you a extra second to scan the road behind too.

The inventor of Bike-Eye, Tony McGuinness, honed the design and  mounting position whilst time-trialling around his hometown of Milton Keynes.  He would never contend that his product is going to stop you being hit by a car from behind. Likewise, he is keen to stress the need to look over ones shoulder before manoeuvring.  What Tony does believe, and he is an experienced cyclist, is that his mirror provides you with more awareness of what lurks behind.  

On a solo training ride, I soon found that  using Bike-Eye aided me in keeping a safer  position on the road . On one particularly long straight where cars have a tendency to speed - a cyclist was killed on the very road this summer -  I could see vehicles well back in the distance, which made me more prepared for their approach. I can't say I felt any less vulnerable, but I did ride closer to the verge as they approached and a little further out as I approached the blind bend at the end of the road. Glancing over my shoulder was no longer a necessity in this scenario.

Knowing what is behind you can often be as important as knowing what is in front of you. Knowledge is power, right?  OK, I admit that Bradley Wiggins would not have benefited by having a rear-view mirror protruding from his Pinarello Dogma last Wednesday, but knowing what is approaching you from behind can really benefit your safety, so it is surprising that so few cyclists use a mirror of any sort.  Maybe there needs to be a fundamental change in mindset and any debate about cyclists safety will inevitably include what cyclists can do to make their journey a safer one. And as Tony McGuinness points out - not so long ago no one wore helmets, now you rarely see a cyclist without one.

On their website, Bike-Eye extol the virtues of their mirror - useful, they claim, when riding in groups to keep an eye on your fellow riders.  Personally,  I would need to feel far more comfortable using the mirrors when cycling in close proximity to other cyclists, especially at speed. My initial tendency to look down for too long could prove highly dangerous in a group situation. Incidentally, I know a few cyclists who would up the tempo if they glimpsed someone blowing off the back!

My preconception of road testing Bike-Eye was that it would be most effective in built up areas, especially when negotiating congested traffic.  Whilst it does save you having to glance round, I am  not certain that  relying on a mirror in this situation is necessarily a good  thing.  I've always felt that glancing back at motorists make them aware that you are aware of them  - the eye contact principal.  Also, before making a manoeuvre on a busy road, overtaking a parked car for example, or moving out to take a right turn, a mirror is not as safe as glancing back down the road. McGuinness agrees - Bike-Eye is not  a substitute for that all important 'lifesaver look' but it is all about increasing your awareness. In that, Bike-Eye succeeds.

Good awareness of other road users is paramount for the cyclist, especially in urban areas.

What came as a surprise was the reassurance the mirror gave me on the training ride - alone on quieter roads where cars can often catch you unaware. That is where I can already see myself utilising it on a regular basis.

I  first encountered Bike-Eye at the Cycle Show at the NEC and the company was one of the many examples of a small British firm producing an innovative product in a highly competitive, multi-national industry. It's a clever, well made and well thought out device that may persuade a few more cyclists to consider using a mirror. Many will, however, remain unconvinced  - both about the alleged benefits and over considerations of style. What would it take to change that mindset? Well, the sight of  Mark Cavendish sprinting to the line then  glancing down at his Bike-Eye to  see if Andre Greipel is on his wheel might just do the trick!   

Pros: Unobtrusive, easy to fit and adapts to most frames. Can be used on both left and right hand side. Good vision and low vibration. Provides reassurance and greater awareness. Reduces the need to turn your head round 180 degrees, when a quick glance down will suffice. Choice of two sizes - 35mm x 95mm and 49mm x 95mm.

Cons: View only clear for about a third of the pedal stroke. View obsucred if using some panniers/childseats (see note below). Despite the flexibility of the plastic mount, it does not fit so well to more teardrop profile frames (but is that Bike-Eyes target audience anyway?!)

Bike-Eye is available directly from bike-eye.com and selected stockists, including Halfords. RRP: £15.95

For more information about the product visit the Bike-Eye website, which includes video footage of Bike-Eye on the road and a demonstration of how to fit the mount to your bike.

Pictures courtesy of Bike-Eye. Review by Dave Nash

* Bike-Eye are keen to point out that 'wide Carradice style saddle bags, child seats and some pannier set-up’s could block the view through the mirror. Panniers are dependent on how high they are mounted in relation to the mirrors location and frame size: for instance, if the panniers were set high on a small frame with the mirror located in the conventional position then pannier bags may block the line of view. In  this scenario it may improve the situation if the mirror was located on the top tube. An alternative, if only one bag is used, is to mount it on the kerb side leaving a free viewing pathway, obviously a full touring set with a top bag on a rear pannier would definitely block the line of view! '

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Comment by Giles Pargiter on November 21, 2012 at 1:45

Hi Dave, I completely accept your point about comparing the mirrors to another "safety" product and also your point about how views do change over time. However (also referring you to my reply to Andy), unfortunately it appears that evidence that helmets actually increase safety is not evidenced. Also that ideas towards a lot of these things change on the basis of false risk appraisal, based on emotion, or other vested interest rather than evidenced fact.

Comment by Giles Pargiter on November 21, 2012 at 1:26

Hi Andy, I found the stats intensely interesting as well. It is fairly easy to find "psuedo" research, with prejudiced data sets and improper statistical analysis. However their is some good peer reviewed research out their. The comment that I made concerning tennis comes from a peer reviewed paper comparing injuries in a large number of sports and the comment concerning head injuries while driving, should have said while traveling in a car (driving or not) and occurs from violent strikes to the door pillar in particular but also the windows and other parts, during the violent motion of a car accident. I quoted them from memory and foolishly have not kept the links. They may need an account or else pay dollars for viewing rights. I have not got the time right now to search for them (I have a research paper on a completely different subject to review by lunch tomorrow at the latest).

However, this link is a good beginning and should lead you to others; http://www.cyclehelmets.org/1139.html

The CTC also has a section on the subject with links to a great raft of "pseudo" research but also some peer reviewed papers - if you can log in to them. I think it was via links from there that I found the information in my other post.


Hope that helps.

Comment by Andy Dawson on November 20, 2012 at 19:53

Tracy, I think you're right but I wouldn't expect any rear view mirror to replace other safety habits a rider has - it's just complementary.

I used to ride motorbikes and was taught to always use mirrors and to turn my head when necessary. However, always to minimise the time taken looking behind; when one is looking backwards, a lot if distance is travelled forwards effectively blind! Obviously not such a great distance on a bicycle relatively speaking but I think the principle is the same.

Comment by Tracy Bishton on November 20, 2012 at 18:17

Surely, like any othr rear view mirror, it has blind spots! Also by actually looking behind (by turning your head) the driver of the vehicle behind knows that you know that the vehicle is there.

Comment by Dave Nash on November 20, 2012 at 16:11

'However it really is not a good idea to compare it to wearing a helmet'

Giles, neither myself in the review above, nor the manufacturers of  Bike-Eye, actually do 'compare it to wearing a helmet'.  Both Tony McGuinness and myself are alluding to the fact that what was once not the norm can, over time, become commonplace if there is a shift in thinking. I could just as easily have said carbon frames, rear deraileurs or any other development in the history of cycling that was initially championed by just a few individuals. In the context of cycling safety, however,  a comparison with another product to do with safety was preferable. 

Like Andy, I am looking forward to your stats to back up your claims. The tennis one especially.

 

 

 

Comment by Andy Dawson on November 20, 2012 at 14:40

"you are far more likely to suffer a head injury while driving a car"

Giles, this is an Interesting claim - do you have a link or source to this research?

From my own recent experience, I fell while wearing a helmet. I'm know I was riding at about 18mph but by the time I hit the deck, I reckon it was far less than that (5mph?). I suffered a broken collarbone, gravel rash and bruising to the side of my head. When my helmet was returned to me, it was split in 2 places. Only small splits of about 1cm but enough to show it had done its job.

I feel that I'm less likely to have an accident in a car than while riding (I have no stats to back this up), however, even if I did have a similar bump at 5mph, I struggle to see that given a car's metal shell, its ability to absorb some crash shock via crumple zones and an airbag and seat belt, that I would have been more likely to suffer a head injury whilst driving. 

Obviously, at the much higher speeds a car can achieve, the situation would be changed somewhat which is why I'm interested in those stats!

Comment by Gary Sunbeam on November 20, 2012 at 10:13
Too easily stolen, since its fixers are placcy straps: cuttable with a knife, tin-opener, ciggy lighter. Plus, its placing is a bit minimal. Should be on a handle-bar, just up from the grip or plugged in the end.
Comment by Giles Pargiter on November 16, 2012 at 2:11

Mostly a good article. One can easily see the advantage of using a mirror especially in heavy traffic. However it really is not a good idea to compare it to wearing a helmet; a thing which is based on a completely false risk appraisal - you are far more likely to suffer a head injury while driving a car  - or a serious injury while playing tennis.

Comment by Capt. H.P.Harper on November 14, 2012 at 18:26

I have a smaller unit which fits into the end of the handle bar, good idea but you must remember to look at the road ahead too!

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