RearViz Mirror Review
Words by Ed Owen
RearViz Mirror Doesn’t Signal Satisfying Manoeuvre for our London Cycle Commuter
The recent spate of cycling deaths show that those on a bike need to be aware and alert in the city. The RearViz arm-mounted mirror is one device that aims to help and there’s no better test for such a device than in the London rush hour…
Cycling in the city can be a hazardous activity. The recent spate of deaths on the streets of London show this in the most stark terms. New gadgets to help cyclists stay safe on the road should be applauded, particularly as new research shows that hi-viz clothing and other ways to make cyclists conspicuous may be useless – see www.bath.ac.uk/news/2013/11/26/overtaking-cyclists.
One of the latest is the RearViz, an Australian invention that fixes a convex mirror onto a chunky wristband, reminiscent of the watch cartoon character Ben 10 uses, to allow the cyclist to see behind. There are already mirrors on the market, most of which attach to the handlebars and are often small versions of the kinds of mirrors used on cars, so rather cumbersome; the RearViz is much more unobtrusive.
RearViz attaches to the wrist, forearm or above your elbow with a sturdy velcro tightener. You open the convex mirror, which gives the wearer the appearance of having a vestigial wing, and rotate the mirror to give a view behind. I should point out that some bicycles will not be suited to the RearViz, as the riding position will not allow the angles needed for a good rear view.
The RearViz attached OK, but then needed considerable fiddling to give a decent view behind before slipping down. On again, and more fiddling gave me the sight of a taxi passing me. Victory. But the mirror, at half an arms length away, is very small indeed and to maintain a sense of what the traffic behind is doing requires far too much scrutiny and so not enough time looking at the road. Because the thing is on your arm, you have to look away to see what might be coming; if, that is, you can get any sense out of the tiny mirror in the first place.
Attached above the elbow, the RearViz is better as the bulge of the elbow prevents slipping and it’s closer to your face, but two problems persist. One, the head tilt needed to look into the mirror is still about half that needed to turn your head around to see behind. Second, the convex mirror distorts in such a way that while you can see cars behind, they don’t appear to be moving until they are much closer. In the city, where traffic is heavy, this is not a help but would be better where traffic is light where you could see traffic approaching.
Developed in sunny Australia, models on the website wear the things on their naked forearms. On a freezing city commute in London this is not practical, and the addition of clothing does seem to make attachment to the arm an issue.
While there are many cycling mirrors on the market, competing with RearViz is the behaviour of looking over your shoulder to see the traffic for yourself, which is both free and completely reliable. While wearing the RearViz I resorted to doing this anyway because I could not tell whether another vehicle had crept up behind me while I looked where I was going – RearViz leaves a gaping blind-spot.
The RearViz website extols the virtues of the device as much as a fashion accessory as a safety gizmo. If the kinds of chunky straps joggers use to hold their iPods are fashionable then this is too, perhaps. Personally, I don’t see a Jean-Paul Gaultier variant on the market any time soon.
The biggest safety issue with the device is that it might actually give some riders a false sense of security. You have a mirror on your arm, and you might trust it to show you what is going on behind. The blind spot ensures that to move safely in traffic or make a turn, a look behind would be essential anyway, making the RearViz basically redundant, and a potential hazard to move relying on the RearViz alone.
Overall, if you are considering a mirror, then the best idea would be to get the kinds of mirrors a Mod might attach to a Lambretta – at least then you can see ahead and behind at the same time. There are also some good helmet-mounted models that while small are so close to your eye, Google Glass-style, that they may work well too.
To be fair, many of the images used on the company’s website show people heavily clad in lycra apparently engaged in competitive cycling. Maybe here it could be of use, if you could see another cyclist coming up from behind, so you could manoeuvre to counter-attack. Or something. But this is a rather niche area (and we doubt this would ever become UCI legal).
Overall, if you are considering a mirror for commuting, consider a different one; RearViz is probably better for non-urban riding.