Bike Helmet Mirror: Ball Mount

Nine years ago, I didn’t know how enough to design a bike helmet mirror with a ball mount, but even an old dog can learn a new trick:

Helmet Mirror Ball Mount - on helmet
Helmet Mirror Ball Mount – on helmet

However, it’s worth noting my original, butt-ugly Az-El mounts lasted for all of those nine years, admittedly with adjustments along the way, which is far more than the commercial mounts making me unhappy enough to scratch my itch.

The mount adapts the split spherical clamp from the daytime running light:

Helmet Mirror Mount - Ball
Helmet Mirror Mount – Ball

Scaling it down for a 10 mm polypropylene ball around the base of the 30 mm inspection mirror’s shaft simplified everything:

Helmet Mirror Ball Mount - drilled ball test
Helmet Mirror Ball Mount – drilled ball test

I’m reasonably sure I couldn’t have bought 100 polypro balls for eight bucks a decade ago, but we’ll never know. Drilling the hole was a complete botch job, about which more later. The shaft came from a spare mirror mount I made up a while ago; a new shaft appears below.

The solid model, like Gaul, is in three parts divided:

Helmet Mirror Ball Mount - Slic3r
Helmet Mirror Ball Mount – Slic3r

The helmet plate (on the right) has a slight indent more-or-less matching the helmet curvature and gets a layer of good double-stick foam tape. The clamp base (on the left) has a pair of brass inserts epoxied into matching recesses below the M3 clearance holes:

Helmet Mirror Ball Mount - inserts
Helmet Mirror Ball Mount – inserts

A layer of epoxy then sticks the helmet plate in place, with the inserts providing positive alignment:

Helmet Mirror Ball Mount - plates
Helmet Mirror Ball Mount – plates

The clamp screws pull the inserts against the plastic in the clamp base, so they can’t pull out or through, and the plates give the epoxy enough bonding surface that (I’m pretty sure) they won’t ever come apart.

I turned down a 2 mm brass insert to fit inside the butt end of the mirror shaft and topped it off with a random screw harvested from a dead hard drive:

Helmet Mirror Ball Mount - assembled - rear view
Helmet Mirror Ball Mount – assembled – rear view

At the start, it wasn’t obvious the shaft would stay stuck in the ball, so I figured making it impossible to pull out would eliminate the need to find it by the side of the road. As things turned out, the clamp exerts enough force to ensure the shaft ain’t goin’ nowhere, so I’ll plug future shafts with epoxy.

The front side of the clamp looks downright sleek:

Helmet Mirror Ball Mount - assembled - front view
Helmet Mirror Ball Mount – assembled – front view

Well, how about “chunky”?

The weird gray-black highlights are optical effects from clear / natural PETG, rather than embedded grunge; it looks better in person. I should have used retina-burn orange or stylin’ black.

This mount is much smaller than the old one and should, in the event of a crash, not cause much injury. Based on how the running light clamp fractures, I expect the clamp will simply tear out of the base on impact. In the last decade, neither of us has crashed, so I don’t know what the old mount would do.

The clamp is 7 mm thick (front-to-back), set by the M3 washer diameter, with 1.5 mm of ball sticking out on each side. The model has a kerf one thread high (0.25 mm) between the pieces to add clamping force and, with the screws tightened down, moving the ball requires a disturbingly large effort. I added a touch of rosin and that ball straight-up won’t move, which probably means the shaft will bend upon droppage; I have several spare mirrors in stock.

On the other paw, the ball turns smoothly in the clamp and it’s easy to position the shaft as needed: much better than the old Az-El mount!

The inspection mirror hangs from a double ball joint which arrives with a crappy screw + nut. I epoxied the old mirror mount nut in place, but this time around I drilled the plates for a 3 mm stainless SHCS, used a wave washer for a bit of flexible force, and topped it off with a nyloc nut:

Helmet Mirror Ball Mount - mirror joint
Helmet Mirror Ball Mount – mirror joint

I’m unhappy with how it looks and don’t like how the washer hangs in free space between those bumps, so I may eventually turn little brass fittings to even things out. It’s either that or more epoxy.

So far, though, it’s working pretty well and both units meet customer requirements.

The OpenSCAD source code as a GitHub Gist:

// Bike helmet mirror mount - ball joint
// Ed Nisley KE4ZNU 2020-09
/* [Layout options] */
Layout = "Build"; // [Build, Show, Plate, Base, Clamp]
//-- Extrusion parameters
// Extrusion parameters
/* [Hidden] */
ThreadThick = 0.25;
ThreadWidth = 0.40;
HoleWindage = 0.2;
function IntegerMultiple(Size,Unit) = Unit * ceil(Size / Unit);
function IntegerLessMultiple(Size,Unit) = Unit * floor(Size / Unit);
Protrusion = 0.1; // make holes end cleanly
inch = 25.4;
ID = 0;
OD = 1;
LENGTH = 2;
//- Basic dimensions
MountDia = 30.0; // footprint on helmet
BallDia = 10.0;
BallRad = BallDia / 2;
WallThick = IntegerMultiple(2.0,ThreadWidth);
FloorThick = IntegerMultiple(2.0,ThreadThick);
CornerRound = 2.0;
Insert = [3.0,4.0,4.0]; // threaded brass insert
Screw = [3.0,5.5,25.0]; // clamp screw
Washer = [3.7,7.0,0.7]; // washer
ShowGap = 2.0;
BuildGap = 5.0;
//-- Helmet Interface Plate
ScrewOC = BallDia + 2*WallThick + Screw[ID];
echo(str("Screw OC: ",ScrewOC));
Clamp = [ceil(Washer[OD]), // barely holds washer under screw
ScrewOC + Washer[OD], // minimal clearance for washer
BallDia +2*FloorThick // screw fits through insert
];
Kerf = ThreadThick;
echo(str("Clamp: ",Clamp));
HelmetCX = 60.0; // empirical helmet side curve
HelmetMX = 3.0;
HelmetRX = (pow(HelmetMX,2) + pow(HelmetCX,2)/4)/(2*HelmetMX);
HelmetPlateC = MountDia;
HelmetPlateTheta = atan(HelmetPlateC/HelmetRX);
HelmetPlateM = 2*HelmetRX*pow(sin(HelmetPlateTheta/4),2);
echo(str("Plate indent: ",HelmetPlateM));
HelmetPlateThick = max(FloorThick,0.6*Insert[LENGTH]) + HelmetPlateM;
echo(str("Screw length: ",Clamp.z + Insert[LENGTH]));
MountSides = 2*3*4;
//----------------------
// Useful routines
module PolyCyl(Dia,Height,ForceSides=0) { // based on nophead's polyholes
Sides = (ForceSides != 0) ? ForceSides : (ceil(Dia) + 2);
FixDia = Dia / cos(180/Sides);
cylinder(r=(FixDia + HoleWindage)/2,h=Height,$fn=Sides);
}
//----------------------
// Clamp frame around ball
module ClampFrame() {
difference() {
union() {
hull()
for (i=[-1,1], j=[-1,1]) {
translate([i*(Clamp.x/2 - CornerRound),j*(Clamp.y/2 - CornerRound),Clamp.z/2 - CornerRound])
sphere(r=CornerRound,$fn=24);
translate([i*(Clamp.x/2 - CornerRound),j*(Clamp.y/2 - CornerRound),-Clamp.z/2])
cylinder(r=CornerRound,$fn=24);
}
for (j=[-1,1])
translate([0,j*ScrewOC/2,0])
rotate(180/12)
cylinder(d=Washer[OD],h=Clamp.z/2,$fn=12);
}
sphere(d=BallDia + HoleWindage,$fn=48);
cube([2*MountDia,2*MountDia,Kerf],center=true);
for (j=[-1,1])
translate([0,j*ScrewOC/2,-Screw[LENGTH]])
rotate(180/6)
PolyCyl(Screw[ID],2*Screw[LENGTH],6);
}
}
module ClampSelect(Section) {
XlateZ = (Section == "Top") ? Clamp.z/2 :
(Section == "Bottom") ? -Clamp.z/2 :
0;
intersection(convexity=5) {
ClampFrame();
translate([0,0,XlateZ])
cube([2*Clamp.x,2*Clamp.y,Clamp.z + 2*Protrusion],center=true);
}
}
//----------------------
// Concave plate fitting helmet shell
module HelmetPlate() {
render()
difference() {
cylinder(d=MountDia,h=HelmetPlateThick,$fn=MountSides);
translate([0,0,HelmetPlateThick - HelmetPlateM + HelmetRX])
sphere(r=HelmetRX,$fn=128);
for (j=[-1,1])
translate([0,j*ScrewOC/2,-Protrusion]) {
PolyCyl(Insert[OD],0.6*Insert[LENGTH] + Protrusion,6);
PolyCyl(Screw[ID],2*HelmetPlateThick,6);
}
}
}
//----------------------
// Base of clamp ring
module MountBase() {
difference() {
union() {
cylinder(d=MountDia,h=FloorThick,$fn=MountSides);
translate([0,0,FloorThick + Clamp.z/2])
ClampSelect("Bottom");
}
for (j=[-1,1])
translate([0,j*ScrewOC/2,-Protrusion])
rotate(180/6)
PolyCyl(Insert[OD],0.6*Insert[LENGTH] + Protrusion,6);
}
}
//----------------------
// Lash it together
if (Layout == "Plate") {
HelmetPlate();
}
if (Layout == "Base") {
MountBase();
}
if (Layout == "Clamp") {
ClampFrame();
}
if (Layout == "Show") {
rotate([180,0,0])
HelmetPlate();
translate([0,0,ShowGap]) {
MountBase();
color("Ivory",0.3)
translate([0,0,Clamp.z/2 + FloorThick + ShowGap/2])
sphere(d=BallDia);
translate([0,0,Clamp.z/2 + FloorThick + ShowGap])
ClampSelect("Top");
}
}
if (Layout == "Build") {
translate([MountDia/2 + BuildGap,0,0])
HelmetPlate();
translate([-(MountDia/2 + BuildGap),0,0])
MountBase();
translate([0,MountDia/2 + BuildGap,Clamp.z/2])
rotate([0,180,0])
rotate(90)
ClampSelect("Top");
}

The original doodles include a bit of dress-up fairing that didn’t make the cut:

Helmet Mirror Ball Mount - doodles
Helmet Mirror Ball Mount – doodles

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