Are you aware of the major differences between mirrors?
"Mirrors? I think they're okay for just seeing what's behind."
This sort of thinking is a big mistake. Riders get many types of information from their mirrors, and all are important.
"All mirrors are pretty much the same, no matter who makes them."
If you believe this, then you're also making a big mistake. Some mirrors are easy to view and some are not, and this can depend on both manufacturer and model.
In this chapter, we'd like to confirm just how particular Honda is about mirror visibility, and come to understand some of the aspects of performance that are not so easily described in catalogs. Aspects of performance that make riding more enjoyable.
As rider and journalist Tsutomu Matsui discovered, "Mirror visibility should also be an important concern when buying a motorcycle."
Just being able to see correctly…
That's where their value lies.
Are you aware of the major differences between mirrors?
The information we get from our mirrors - When riding a motorcycle, this source of information is often just as important as the view ahead.
Like that 'view,' I think that a mirror's usability and range of adjustment also factor in among the many important performance features riders rely on.
Mirrors can be round, square, or other shapes, and mounted in many different ways, from handlebar-mounted types to those attached directly to a fairing or cowl. A wide range of types and styles are also available, but one truth remains: Easy-to-see mirrors make one's riding experience richer and more enjoyable.
Although some aftermarket mirrors might look cool or be designed with an emphasis on styling, mirrors that give an unsatisfactory view of what's behind are more stress-inducing than most people imagine. My feeling, based on many years of riding experience, is that riders should focus more on a mirror's degree of visibility than its physical appearance or how cool it looks.
So, what are the standards for this 'Degree of Visibility'?
Most countries have laws governing the safety aspects of vehicles using public roads. In Japan, for instance, many items related to motorcycle rearview mirrors, including mirror surface area, degree of visibility, adjustment ease, and collision safety, etc. are strictly regulated. Rules, of course, differ from country to country, but any motorcycle sold in an authorized dealership has met all such local legal requirements.
It therefore follows that every new bike from around the world that I've ever encountered complies with these standards. However, as noted earlier, depending on make and model, some mirrors are 'easy-to-see,' and others are not. I think this gives a clear understanding of a manufacturer's basic philosophy.
In this chapter, I've set out to reconfirm this important part of design philosophy.
In the City
Like most people, I use various forms of transportation to move comfortably through the city. In my early teens, I used to ride everywhere by bicycle. As someone who started riding motorcycles at the age of 17, I find the motorcycle's range of mobility and comfort to be its primary sources of enjoyment, and things that I can't compromise on.
Cities are populated by people of many ages who use many means of transport for innumerable reasons. People ride bicycles, drive cars, or walk as well. Cities have always been bustling societies of mixed movement. For this reason among many, good rearward visibility is often just as important as keeping a steady eye on the road ahead.
Even when changing lanes to keep a safe distance from pedestrians, the rearward visibility of the mirrors plays a crucial part in allowing me to instantly make my decision to move.
It's interesting that at first glance mirrors all look pretty much the same. However, the degree of visibility they provide can differ greatly from vehicle to vehicle. What's the situation with, for instance, a scooter made to get around the city, like the Honda PCX with its relaxed riding position? The PCX's mirrors provide an ample visual field, and when on the move their clear visibility is almost completely unaffected by vibration. Critical visual information is there at a glance, from edge to edge across both mirrors, and the images reflected provide a good sense of the distance to following vehicles. I was especially pleased by how easy they were to adjust, and my level of satisfaction with these mirrors was high in all respects.
The PCX also delivers up an impressive degree of luxurious riding comfort for a 125cc class scooter, and seats two easily. I cruised the streets in the vicinity of my home with one of my family riding on back. This precious bit of time together brought smiles to both our faces. Even then, the wide range of clear visibility offered by the PCX's mirrors enabled me to enjoy this comfortable ride with complete peace-of-mind. Also, when carrying passengers, it certainly doesn't hurt to be able to see their faces, and really all mirrors should do this.
The SH Mode is another lively scooter for getting around town, and I could feel my back straighten up whenever I climbed aboard. From this upright posture, I felt like I was looking down a bit toward the mirrors. However my arms never came into reflected view, even when leaning close to the mirrors. Their degree of visibility was exactly what I expected. Just a quick glance was enough to let me see what I needed.
Also, because the mirrors were so close, it only took a slight turn of the head to widen the field of view and keep an eye on traffic conditions behind and around me. The degree of visibility these mirrors offered was crisp and clear, and remarkably good.
Honda has a long, proud history of making slim big-wheeled scooters with upright riding positions, going back to the SH50 first introduced on the streets of Europe in 1993. On other Italian-made models I've ridden, the mirror stays are often long, and while they're easy to see with when stopped, on the move their inherent vibration makes for viewing difficult. However, both the PCX and SH Mode were thankfully free from these problems.
I also tried out the 250cc-class Forza scooter and CRF250L dual-sport bike. The Forza's big scooter mirrors were virtually unaffected by vibration, and I could see no significant difference in distance perception between vehicles approaching from behind and their reflected images in the mirrors.
While checking these points, something occurred to me. While we motorcycle journalists readily note a bike's equipment, storage space and other features when writing our articles, we should really provide more feedback on the quality of the mirrors and their degree of visibility. One reason is that Honda's deep interest in achieving such a high degree of visibility in their mirrors seems extraordinary compared to other manufacturers.
The Touring Scene
When traveling long distances, a motorcycle makes everything you see around you all the more impressive. Although there may stretches of monotonous scenery, there are also times and scenes, like clouds in the sky, that remain vivid deep in your heart.
Besides giving riders an easy way to check rearward visibility, I've come to feel that mirrors also play an important role in touring by functioning as a sort of camera of the heart; helping me capture scenes that I might have missed while focusing on the road ahead, and allowing them to unfold in a profoundly inspiring manner.
In this way, the GL1800 Gold Wing's mirrors are superb. They not only perform the basic job of providing clear and wide-ranging rearward visibility, whatever the speed, but also allow the rider to instantly take in the scenery behind as it fades into the distance. It goes without saying that the Wing's mirrors are superbly made for the purpose of enjoying that rearward scenery. Their size and reflectivity offer just such a sense of spaciousness. In a sense, they stand out as the world's No. 1 touring mirrors.
While planning a bike comparison article like those often run in motorcycle magazines, I had the pleasure of riding the Gold Wing together with several other bikes of the same class. Riding together, it's easy to maintain a comfortable distance between bikes, and also to check to see if all are riding in formation. As I thought, the Gold Wing's mirrors really seem to be designed with various points of view in mind, and their creator's designer philosophy really stands out in these parts.
It was interesting to note how significantly the VFR1200F differs in style from the other bikes we were testing, even though they all qualified as tourers. Compact and stylish, its aerodynamic styling blends in well with its overall design. Yet, its mirrors aren't particularly small in size, at least as viewed from the rider's seat. The mirror surfaces aren't very tall, but are quite wide, so there's no sense of narrowness visible in their field of view. The positioning of the mirrors and their stays are excellent, achieving both cool styling and superb viewing ease; ideal for a bike designed to carry a rider long hours on an expressway leaned forward into the wind.
Whether wearing a thick winter jacket or a more tightly fitting leather jacket, visibility in both mirrors was excellent, and never compromised. I was also happy to find that they're easy to adjust. Speeding down the expressway, these mirrors really shine, providing an easy reading of rearward conditions that's a notable feature.
Among the other riding machines in this class made by other manufacturers, some seemed to be highly susceptible to engine vibration, and their blurred mirrors showed it. I couldn't help wondering why it was that none of the Honda models we tried suffered from this problem. This is a difference from their competition that really can't be seen in a photo, or detected on a showroom floor.
Some time ago I posed this question to one of Honda's development engineers, and he answered, "Honda has strict rules regarding mirror visibility, so I'm sure that our mirrors are a step above those of our rivals." However, this is something never covered in their catalogs, not to mention on the web site. Sometimes I think they ought to mount a pair of mirrors on the new RC213V racer at a MotoGP exhibition in order to demonstrate their visual performance, rather than simply stating, "These mirrors are good."
Sports Bike Mirrors Designed to Overcome a Difficult Problem
Sports bikes are styled to cut cleanly and smoothly through the air with a sensation of speed that mimics the racing machines, so their owners often prefer mirrors that are as small and unobtrusive as possible. I've had plenty of experience riding bikes like this. One I recall was certainly cool to look at, but I had to take my hand off the bars in order to see anything in the mirrors. Another forced me to contort my arms in order to use the mirrors. On bikes like these, even changing arm positions often doesn't improve the limited rearward visibility their mirrors provide, adding considerable unease to every ride.
Riding on winding roads while in the forward crouch common to sports bikes, you feel as though you're part of the machine. While enjoying this feeling of performance, the effort you have to make to see anything in the mirror, or just turn your head around to look, really takes away from that pleasant feeling. Since I'm not the only one using the road, I'm always concerned about who or what is behind me, no matter where I'm riding. Because of this, I feel it's important to be able to have that important information at a glance. Of course, even if the mirrors are easy to see with, if their stays are ugly stumps, I can't really recommend that either.
In this respect, I found the CBR600RR's mirrors to be highly functional, offering a clear view through the twisties of a winding mountain road. The road I was tracing seemed to reverse itself in the mirrors, and the stays, I have to say, were beautifully designed. The adjustment range for these mirrors was also quite wide, and I was able to find the best positioning for whatever riding I was doing in a very short time.
The winding road I took is quite a long ways from home, so I took the roads leading there in touring bike style. In town, at the foot of the mountain pass, I maneuvered through crowded city streets like I was riding a scooter, sharing the road with cars and pedestrians. Cool practicality is of the utmost importance in these situations.
From time to time, certain super sports machines become benchmarks of their class. Clear yardsticks of circuit speed or best operation in a complete package, etc. If mirrors were ever to become a point of comparison with its rivals, I think the CBR's mirrors would obviously be the benchmark. I came to this conclusion while riding a rival machine, when I suddenly felt that the view from its mirrors "just isn't the same."
In this way, I came to more clearly understand that all Honda mirrors have been carefully developed through meticulous study of user tastes and requirements. Position, adjustment ease, wide rearward visibility and ease of reading traffic conditions - these are the features you turn to whenever you ride a bike you've bought. As distinct from the catalog specifications as other factors you compare before buying, such as handling, engine power characteristics, parts quality, the complete package, etc. I'm sure few people even consider mirror visibility, never mind make it a priority when buying a bike.
I used to be one of those who never based my purchase on the mirrors. However, I now know from experience that the degree of rearward visibility available while riding has a big influence on my overall riding enjoyment. Mirrors that provide excellent viewing ease greatly expand the pleasure of motorcycle riding. How important is mirror visibility? - I verified this again as an experienced rider, and firmly believe it to be vital.
From the results of my investigation, I can strongly recommend Honda's mirrors. And I also recommend that you take the time to evaluate Honda's motorcycles again from the perspective of their rearview mirrors. Doing so is easy. Just visit a dealership and sit on a bike. A dialog about the high performance Honda has to offer will soon begin.
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