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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