Stayin’ Safe: Proper Motorcycle Mirror Positioning

Most riders position their mirrors to provide the same rearward view, resulting in a duplicated image and a much narrower overall view. By angling mirrors outward, the rider can expand and optimize the rearward view while still seeing everything behind.
Most riders position their mirrors to provide the same rearward view, resulting in a duplicated image and a much narrower overall view. By angling mirrors outward, the rider can expand and optimize the rearward view while still seeing everything behind. Illustration by Kimberly Chapman.

You wouldn’t ride with a blindfold on. Nor would you ride with blinders to obscure your peripheral vision (like horses wear). Yet, many riders keep their right and left mirrors adjusted in a way that provides the narrowest view (including an excellent view of their elbows). 

Next time you hop aboard your bike, and before you pull away, take a careful look into each mirror. What do you see? Is the view in the left mirror virtually the same as the view in the right mirror? How much of the scene behind you can you see in both mirrors? If the scene is largely duplicated by each, try angling both mirrors outward to expand the width of your overall view. The ideal adjustment allows you to see a vehicle directly behind in either mirror but with minimal overlap of that image. You should have a distinctly different view to the outside of the mirror now as well. The left mirror should reveal more of the space adjacent to your bike on the left (where cars pass), and the right mirror should expand the view of the space to the right of your bike (where merging vehicles appear from), significantly expanding your total rearward view. 

While we’re talking mirrors, it’s a good time to consider what other drivers see. Car drivers have a rearview mirror mounted on the windshield that provides exactly what the name suggests: a rear view. Cars also have two side-view mirrors mounted to the outside of the vehicle on the right and left side. Unfortunately, despite the name, those mirrors are typically adjusted inward to take in the same rearward view as the inside mirror. That means that vehicles—including our motorcycles—are easily obscured from the driver’s view. Be aware as you ride alongside other vehicles; if you can’t see their reflection in the mirror, they can’t see you! 

2 COMMENTS

  1. Awesome advice, I read about this years ago and have learned to angle my mirrors on both my cars and motorcycles out as you described and I am now more aware of vehicles coming along side me, or when changing lanes. I wonder why this isn’t taught in drivers education ? It may be but I see a lot of people driving with their mirrors pointing straight back

  2. Excellent advice. It is always good to get a quick view of your surroundings before turning your head to see what it’s like before changing lanes or to check your escape route when you see a potential hazard developing in front of you.
    I adjust the side mirrors on my car to see the front of a vehicle just as I can see the vehicle leaving the rear view mirror. The vehicle appears in my peripheral vision as it leaves my side mirror.
    And, as always, turn your head to confirm before changing lanes. Riding safely is a must in today’s world of texting while driving. Watch out for the other guy, he may not be watching out for you.

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