Sunday, August 12, 2012

New From Flashblog R&D

Greetings!  Flash here with a question for you... where is my signature helmet mirror in the above photo?  (taken yesterday by Bruce Bothwell, see his link in the right hand column)  Correct!  I'm not using the helm mirror, if you look very closely at the enlargement (click the pic) you will notice a small black something just to the side of my glasses.  That something is a small rearview mirror I created from some simple parts, parts...when combined, create a complex and accurate optical tool I call.... FLASHBACK!  My riding buddy Sri thought that was pretty rich and had a good laugh when I told him what it was called.  Runner up name was Flashbackwards which I like because is sounds a lot like assbackwards, a great descriptive

Please read my previous post all about my philosophy on helmet mirrors so I don't have to repeat myself and I can just move along.  Thank you.

As good as the CycleAware mirror is, over time I've come to find some small drawbacks.

1.  the viewing image, thus the mirror itself, is larger than it needs to be---its like having a car door mirror a foot in diameter
2.  the large size blocks some of my forward view of the world, the 10 o'clock position mostly and I've come to find this distracting and annoying.
3.  removing the helmet and putting it back on would invariably disturb the precise setting of the mirror, resulting in adjustments often.
4. the helmet mirror is dorky looking as it looks like an add-on appendage, which it is

I wondered if a small mirror could do an adequate job and solve these issues, so I set off to the craft store and purchased some half inch round mirrors.  I cut a length of hardware store generic wire off the spool, straightened it, filed the ends smooth and round, hammered flat some attachment points, and epoxied one end to the backside of a mirror.  When that was dry, I started bending the wire into approximate shape before test riding with it.

In this view its apparent the mirror lines up with the glasses eyepiece, but the scant sideways angle of the mirror shows me whats behind when I slightly turn my head to the left.  

Attachment is via 2 rubber bands made from discarded bike tubes, this allows some up and down adjustment of the mirror.  Also, the mirror is easily removed and installed.  The design as-is would only work with wide earpieces.  The large bend up of the forward wire just sort of happened organically.  The Z bend along the side keeps the wire, and thus the mirror, from rotating.

The critical thing is the bend adjustment obliquely to the plane of my forward vision.  It took me several rides with much stopping and bending (with pliers as the wire is stiff) to get just the right angle.  When properly aligned, what I see is the top of my left shoulder in the lower portion of the rearview mirror with the road behind me.  This setting only works with my road bikes with my neck bent back.  So when used while riding my Dutch bike where I sit bolt upright, my neck is relaxed, so what is see is the sky behind me.  Great for plane spotting!

So I would call this mirror a "pro" mirror, not for beginning mirror users.  Its for someone ( already adept at larger mirror use, so can adapt easily to a smaller view where less visual information is coming in.

 Flashback at left, at right is the CycleAware helmet mirror I have been using.  Flashback is the essence of minimalism as well as keeping it simple and ridiculously cheap.

This little mirror passes all my tests, as I've used it both solo and leading group rides.  Another plus is on fast downhills, it holds its position under assault from the windstream, unlike the helm mirror which actually can get blown out of alignment.  I've already gotten one request from a rider in our club to make one for her, and I've gotten lots of curious questions about this gadget, so I think the gestalt of the roadie community is very open to something like this.

Thanks for reading, ride safe, and CHECK YOUR SIX!



  1. I like your simple design. I just lost a similar one that was made for me at a bike show over 20 years ago. I am concerned about the mirrors you bought at a craft store though. They need to be plastic. Are they glass? Glass is a safety hazard and dangerous in a crash.

  2. Dear Anon, I think they are glass. Thank you for your concern- you make a good point. However, if I suffer a face plant sufficient to break the mirror then I have much larger problems to worry about than getting a superficial cut. Note also that the rubber band mounting system should absorb any crash allowing the mirror to push back along the side of my head.