Pros: Easy to install
Easy to adjust
Holds well under most conditions
Cons: Prone to misalignment or damage if the bike falls over
I usually prefer riding all of my bicycles off paved streets and highways. Traffic is heavy most days, and even in my supposedly “bike-friendly” city, some motorists come too close to me for comfort. For those times when I must ride a paved road in order to get to a bike path or trail, it would be nice to have a view of what’s coming up behind me. After a short and unsatisfactory attempt at using a traditional rear-view bike mirror that mounted to a collar on the handlebar, I decided on the Blackburn MTN (Mountain) Mirror.
Design and Features
The Mountain Mirror is essentially a bar-end mirror, designed to mount on the end of any flat or riser handlebar commonly used on mountain bikes, hybrids, and commuter bicycles. As they protrude several inches from the end of the handlebar, bar-end mirrors typically have a better view of objects coming up from behind, at the risk of being more easily damaged in the event of a fall.
What is unconventional about the Mountain Mirror compared to other bar-end designs is its method of attachment to the handlebar. Instead of using an internal plastic sleeve that fits inside the end of the bar, the Mountain Mirror uses a skeletonized plastic frame that clamps to the outside of the existing bar and grip. A 1.5-inch-wide Velcro strap holds the mirror and frame to the grip. Fine adjustments can be made to the mirror thanks to a ball swivel connecting the mirror to the mounting frame. The mirror itself is convex and oval in shape, and measures 2.25 inches tall by 3.875 inches, while the overall length of mirror and mount is 8.5 inches.
I first attached the Mountain Mirror to the left-side grip of the riser bar on one of my full-suspension mountain bikes. This bike uses a handlebar with a standard 0.8750-inch measurement at its end; with grip installed, the diameter is about one inch. The Velcro strap held the mirror securely to the grip once attached, and there was no need to cut or modify the existing rubber hand grip. The skeletonized mirror grip frame works particularly well on dual-density mountain bike grips that have a bit of tackiness to them – this appears to keep the mirror from slipping out of position, while reducing vibration.
Operation and Use
On the street, the mirror was stable enough to permit a good view of cars and trucks coming up behind me. Mounted on the end of the handlebar grip, the Mountain Mirror doesn’t need an extra-long mounting arm, and the short stalk contributes to its stability.
On unpaved trails, the mirror stayed in position over the bumps and jolts of a rocky desert trail. Although it got a bit dusty, the mirror was still usable, and a rubber boot thoughtfully covers the swivel connection to prevent sand and grit from gumming up the ball joint. I don’t think of a rear-view mirror as being that useful off-pavement, but on heavily-trafficked trails it could be a help to see that ATV or motocross rider coming up fast behind you.
I then transferred the Mountain Mirror to the left-side handlebar grip of my Surly 1x1 motorized bicycle, which goes quite a bit faster than my mountain bikes. Although the Surly’s handlebar grip featured a palm swell and less tacky material, the mirror still installed quite securely with its Velcro strap. Over the course of a two-hour ride on the pavement, it moved only a little from its original position. I did not have to readjust the Velcro strap, as any small movement was easily adjusted by rotating the mirror’s ball joint to compensate.
After using the Mountain Mirror for awhile, one interesting side benefit is that overtaking car and truck drivers now tend to give me a bit more room when passing. I’m not sure what that should be so, but it’s welcome all the same. It’s always an advantage to see what’s coming up behind you, as you can move to the shoulder or take other precautions if the passing driver doesn’t appear to notice your bicycle.
As the Mountain Mirror is a bar-end design, it is of course prone to being damaged or knocked out of alignment if the bicycle falls over on its side. Frankly, I don’t have many accidents like these, but it’s something to consider. Though a fall would certainly knock the Mountain Mirror out of alignment, the fact that it is mounted on a ball swivel and doesn’t use an internal plastic sleeve might help it survive better than a standard bar-end mounted mirror.
While it may not fit the handlebars of every bicycle, mountain bikers and others with bikes using flat or riser bars handlebars should try the Blackburn MTN Mountain Mirror. It’s a simple and clever design that works well and significantly improves safety on the street.
©2012 Glen Johnson