Roller-Ski Safety? Use a Mirror!

FasterSkierJuly 29, 20092

Although countless articles have been written about safety on roller skis, I have seen none recommending the use of a rearview mirror, such as those that attach to the skier’s eyewear.  I’ve used a mirror that attaches to my glasses or sunglasses for decades and will not roller-ski (or cycle) without it.  To add to the recent discussions on safe roller skiing, please consider the following advantages.

First, the eyeglass mirror obviously allows the skier to see traffic behind them.  Sure you can turn around and take a peek once in a while, but how often is this done?  If you can hear a vehicle approaching, this helps, but is it enough?  Can your ears identify how many vehicles, how fast they are approaching, how close, or how big (as in a tractor trailer)?  With eyes in the back of your head, anticipating dangers is easier.  You will actually see whether those vehicles are moving across the center line and away from you like they should be doing.  If they are moving over, you’re safe!  If not, prepare to hug the shoulder!  Roller skiing is a defensive sport.  To rely on prayer alone is just not smart!

Knowing how many cars/trucks will be passing gives you confidence as to when to jump back onto the road?  The mirror allows you to dodge that pothole while seeing behind without twisting around.

Say you are double poling along on a popular bike lane or path.  There is no traffic noise. It feels safe, so you quickly break into a V2 taking up most of the path. Did you see that silent bike passing on your left?  With a mirror, you would have seen the cyclist and avoided a possible collision.  It’s not just bicycles that can sneak up on you.  How about the quiet hybrids and electric cars?   With a rearview mirror, you’ll supplement hearing with seeing.

Here is another advantage.  When you see a car approaching from a far distance, take a little extra road space to be sure they see you.  A V2 will usually wake them up. As they near and swing wide to provide the required minimum three foot clearance, ski back to the right to allow an even greater buffer.  With the mirror, you can perfect the timing to your advantage.  Knowing when to change from a skate to a double pole also allows more room for the car to pass.

There exist many roller ski scenarios where a simple lightweight inexpensive mirror can provide that extra bit of safety.  Several brands sell online for only $10-15.  The most dependable eyeglass mirror I have used is the “Take A Look” model manufactured by Bicycle Peddler (1-800-832-2453 $14.95 + $3 Shipping, lifetime warranty, $2 for replacement or repair, discounts for teams or clubs).  Check out to compare various brands.

The only negative I can see is that some folks are paranoid about their appearance.  They have a hang up about looking like a geek, I guess.  Get over it.  Safety is the real issue. When I rollerski (or bike), I always wear a mirror attached to my eyeglasses, and I always know exactly what’s approaching from behind.  Do you?

Mirror view of traffic
Mirror view of traffic
Eyeglass mirror
Eyeglass mirror

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  • bboyer

    July 29, 2009 at 10:03 pm

    While the mirror is a good idea if you have to ski with traffic, why not ski against traffic and just look at the cars and double pole to the far left when they approach? I have called the troopers in Alaska and they say it is legal to roller ski with or against traffic.

  • prairiekid

    July 30, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    I don’t really think the mirror is a good idea nor the skiing against traffic. For one I find the skiing against confusing for drivers especially when you may come to a junction or intersections of any variety. And with the mirror I have no experience but it seems to me I want to focus on what lies ahead on the road not behind. If I am watching the little mirror even for a second I may hit a rock or crack with my roller skis and end up crashing.

    I think what needs to be remembered is that roller skis were originally designed as a tool to enhance the training of elite athletes. I see way too often inexperienced rollerskiers with a look of fear on there face when descending and rollerskiing the local roads.

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