How Motorcycle Mirrors Work: A Comprehensive Guide

Motorcycle mirrors are a safety device essential to the operation of the motorcycle. The mirror is typically attached to the frame or handlebars, but may also be mounted on a helmet, top-box, or other part of the bike. These mirrors are made of glass and sometimes plastic.

Motorcycle mirrors may be fixed or adjustable, convex or concave, and offer different degrees of magnification. They can also be designed for use in day or night driving conditions. Here’s how they work!

The Function of Motorcycle Mirrors

The primary purpose of motorcycle mirrors is to allow the driver of the vehicle to see the approaching motorcycle, by reflecting the light of the reflected vision from the motorcycle to the driver’s eyes. Motorcycle mirrors will also magnify the image, to help with vision in low-light conditions or darkness. Another use is to protect the eyes from debris thrown up by the vehicle as it passes, a process called Ray Deprivation.

A particularly useful function of the mirrors is as a brake light, which helps the driver identify the motorcycle. Motorcycle mirrors are a necessity, because motorcycles cannot provide a clear field of vision when traveling at speed. However, they also can add considerable complexity to an otherwise simple motorcycle setup.

Why Use Motorcycle Mirrors?

Mirrors provide a clear field of view and may reduce the risk of losing control of the motorcycle. This may provide a feeling of security for the rider when riding on the road. Mirrors reduce the amount of glare that is received by the rider’s eyes, especially on bright, sunny days. The mirror also minimizes glare when the bike is stopped in traffic.

Motorcycle mirrors are also designed to provide improved safety for the rider in wet weather conditions.  The rider must use mirrors properly.

• Observe the mirrors’ marking system when setting up the motorcycle. Make sure the mirrors are properly placed. Make sure to allow room for the mirror to fully retract.

• When parking the motorcycle, always park in a smooth and safe area.

Types of Mirrors

Adjustable Motorcycle Mirrors Adjustable mirrors use reflectors and a camera to provide zoom lenses. In this arrangement, the mirror can be adjusted to magnify the view or reduce it to the same degree as would be achieved using the lens of a camera.

As the mirror is designed to have the same size and magnification across the entire angle of view, the difference in zoom provided by the camera is minimized. Convex Motorcycle Mirrors Convex mirrors have a large or flat convex surface and are designed to reduce or eliminate view obstruction.

This eliminates much of the distortion that is typically created by convex mirrors and greatly increases clarity, but also eliminates the viewing angle. The opposite effect can be achieved by concave mirrors by tilting the lens up or down.

Adjustable and Fixed-Position Mirrors

Most motorcycles have adjustable bike mirrors, which means the mirror moves to a specific angle as the rider turns the handlebars. This allows the rider to tilt the mirror forward or backward to see behind them and/or in front of them.

Fixed-Position Mirrors In some motorcycles, like the Ninja 650, fixed-position mirrors only tilt forward, not backward. In these cases, the mirror does not offer the same degrees of visibility of an adjustable mirror.

Motorcycle mirrors are available as an accessory and are relatively inexpensive. An inexpensive set of universal mirrors will last a long time and cost under $30. A couple of high-end motorcycles offer custom-built mirrors made from exotic materials such as carbon fiber, wood, or titanium.

Convex and Concave Mirrors

Most motorcycle mirrors have a convex or concave design. The convex mirror is a low-magnification angle rear view mirror. Most rear view mirrors, on cars, have a convex shape. That’s why the car driver usually looks at the sides of their own vehicle, rather than at the road ahead of them.

The convex mirror is better for viewing the area behind you when you are in the corner of a turn, or approaching a curb. Convex mirrors have a lower field of view than the high-field-of-view mirrors, which is why you typically see more cars at intersections when a convex mirror is attached to a bike.

The convex mirror is also best for riders who are interested in maintaining a more competitive distance from other traffic. A convex mirror is not useful in other circumstances.

Related: Best Bike Mirrors (Reviewed 2021)

How to Install Motorcycle Mirrors Properly

When installing a new motorcycle mirror, check your mirrors and hand guard for damage. If any damage is found, you may need to find a reliable motorcycle specialist to repair the mirror or work around it. If a mirror is in good condition, you can install it on the motorcycle yourself using these simple steps. 1. Choose the best mirror for your motorcycle.

For all bikes, the best mirrors are those with a concave mirror. When you want to be able to see straight ahead, you want a concave mirror. A convex mirror focuses light in front of the bike and is typically used in low light situations or on bumpy surfaces. 2. Determine the size of the motorcycle.

When Do I Need to Replace My Motorcycle Mirror?

According to a study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, riders hit an object up to approximately 21 feet (6.1 m) away while looking through the windshield of their motorcycle. In most cases, the object is less than 1.2 feet (0.43 m) from the mirror when the crash occurs. Of those surveyed, 70% of motorcycle crashes occurred while the rider was looking at the road ahead.

Also, the chances of crashing while the mirror is within your field of view are higher, because you may not know that you’re taking a turn or approaching an object until it’s too late.  The most common sign of a motorcycle mirror that is not working correctly is that the light (or reflector) is blurred, with an obvious color shift and uneven image.


The mirrors serve to provide a wide view, behind and beside the motorcycle, of the traffic ahead. The wider view the mirrors provide increases the driver’s ability to anticipate the speed, distance and direction of other vehicles. The mirrors are used both to see directly in front of the bike, and to detect objects in the periphery of the vehicle’s vision.

The lenses reflect incoming light to the mirror’s outer surface. As the motorcycle moves, the reflected light reflects to the viewer’s eye, creating a crisper image of what is ahead. The result is a more complete picture of what the driver can expect to see.

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