When riding motorcycles, your vision is super-crucial to your defense. What you see may jump out and bite you, let alone what you don’t, so being able to see as much as possible is important. You already have a good view of what’s in front of you, which means your mirrors are your best resource when it comes to spotting potential hazards out of your immediate field of vision. Here’s a quick look at how to adjust your motorcycle mirrors so that you get the best out of them.
Before adjusting your mirrors, quickly review your posture and (if needed) riding position. It may not make a tremendous difference in your field of vision, but it will optimize not only your mirror positioning, but it will ensure a level of comfort that will help you keep more attention on other things while you are riding. Ideally, you want to prevent slouching. That is, always keep your back straight, even if you are riding a sport bike. In general, stay seated in the center of your motorcycle seat. Leave some space in front of and behind you and only shift in your seat while turning and braking (or accelerating really, really hard, if you happen to be doing so for whatever reason). Obviously, your posture depends on the type of motorcycle you ride to some extent, but you generally want to keep yourself straight and centered.
Mirrors will either be mounted to a motorcycle’s handlebars or front fairing. In the latter case, you have no say in the initial positioning of the mirrors, but in the former case, you have a bit of leeway. The stalks of handlebar-mounted mirrors are held in place with an adjusting nut. It’s fine to start out with them as they are – they are probably adjusted to a reasonable extent from factory (or by the last user, if you’ve just bought a used bike). Make sure the mirrors themselves move freely, but are not so loose that they will move with the wind.
Sit on your bike, bring it to an upright position, and point the front wheel straight ahead. It is generally recommended that you adjust your mirrors so that just the very tops of your shoulders and elbows are shown. If your stalk-mounted mirrors prevent this, then loosen the adjusting nut, rotate the stalk outwards or inwards slightly as needed, and tighten the nut back up. If you have fairing mounted mirrors, you obviously don’t need to do this and you can just concentrate on fine-tuning. Dial in your baseline adjustment, because you’ll most likely need to perform minor adjustments while stopped in traffic out on the road. It’s a bit of a safety balancing act, but it’s certainly not out of the question.
You want to see the road behind and to either side of you in the vast majority of your mirrors. Do not adjust your mirrors high. You’ll want to see vehicle grills and headlights first and foremost, not roofs. Therefore, if you find that seeing the very tops of your shoulders means your mirrors look high, then adjust them down. Many people adjust their mirrors so that the view converges behind them as much as possible, but others recommend adjusting your mirrors so that you see what’s coming up in adjacent lanes.
Aftermarket mirrors are often a stylistic choice, but if you feel as if you can get a better view from a set of aftermarket mirrors, then you should definitely explore them as a functional option. You may also be interested in blind spot mirrors. These convex mirror additions give you a slightly wider view of what’s going on behind you, so if you think you can live with about one and a half or so fewer square inches of space on each of your stock mirrors (provided they are large enough!), then you might want to try them out.
Finally, don’t rely 100% on your mirrors! No matter how you adjust your mirrors, you always want to supplement them with frequent shoulder checks. You don’t often think of having blind spots while riding a motorcycle, but they do exist, and the only way to really account for them is to use your mirrors and shoulder checks in accord.
Mirrors are there to help you stay aware and stay safe. Think of them as a part of your SIPDE approach (remember that?). Keeping your mirrors adjusted means you can maximize your safety, which is invaluable.