Mission: Deliver toddler to daycare at 15F

Constructing a Bicycle Wind Shield

photo of head gear for winter bicycling

The cold wind pressed harder against me as the bike accelerated down Bridge Avenue. Despite the freezing wind chill, I remained comfortable behind my wind shield.

The key things I’ve learned about keeping my head warm on a bicycle are 1. The comfort of my face contributes a lot to my overall perceived comfort. 2. In cooler temperatures, blocking wind is the key to a comfortable face and 3. A lot of the wind I’m blocking is generated from pedaling itself.

This learning has lead me to use clothing in ways that seemed odd at first. I’ll wear a face mask when it’s 45 degrees out– above freezing if you don’t account for the bicycle-generated wind chill.

I admit to being self-conscious my bicycling wind shield at first. I didn’t see people out walking with goggles and face masks to block the wind, and people wearing cars already have a more deluxe wind shield. Finally, since I rarely see seasoned winter cyclists in the area, I was definitely left with the sense this solution was “different”.

But, no matter. It worked. I was comfortable. Here’s my tips for constructing a bicycle wind shield.

Mission: Deliver toddler to daycare at 15F
I nearly always wear a light fleece headband or a thin wool beanie. They both fit well under a helmet. The light fleece headband is the more versatile of the two. It provides comfort in a great range of temperatures, and disappears in a pocket without bulk. The one I have is a fairly generic one, probably comparable to what’s found in a generic department store. The ones I’ve seen at outdoorsy stores have been thicker, which would probably make them too warm in a number of cases.

If the headband isn’t quit warm enough it can supplemented by wearing a jacket hood as well for an extra layer of protection.

The WigWam wool beanie is great for colder windchills. It provides two layers over the ears and covers the head as well. I also like how I can pull the beanie down over my long forehead to touch the top of my glasses, minimizing exposure.

To cover my face from the nose down, I use a Neoprene face mask from Seirus. This has proven to work really well. The wind just doesn’t get through. It stays put once it’s on, but is easy enough to pull down and back up again if the conditions change during the ride. This is quite possible when a long hill climb heats up my face, and the descent on the other side creates a sharp breeze again.

Like the headband, the face mask is also very light, and disappears in a coat pocket without bulk when I don’t need it. The mask includes breathing holes for the nose and mouth. The only trick I’ve found is that I need to intentionally make sure to blow out through the mask when exhaling. If I exhale in a puff, the vapor can be redirected up under the mask and add fog to my glasses. No fun.

Adding some goggles to the ensemble provides full coverage for my face. The effect is really being “indoors”. I can hear the Bridge Avenue wind rushing by, and I feel the wind just slightly around the edges of the goggles. But the wind chill is gone. The wind shield is working.

Smith OTG Cariboo goggles have great visibility, a comfortable fit over glasses, and impressively just haven’t gotten fogged up after a few weeks use in varying conditions. A bicycle-friendly hood can go either over or under a helmet. Being able to do both is not required. Both approaches have worked for me. A good hood is easy to adjust so it can fit well when worn directly, or with a helmet. Fitting “well” means that wen you turn your head, the hood turns with it, without being too tight. If a hood fits especially poorly, you can turn your head and find yourself staring at the inside of the hood! That’s not what you want to happen when you are about to change lanes. The hoods I’ve been pleased with are adjusted with a single clasp in the back, which controls how much elastic is stretched around the sides of the hoods.

Some other approaches

I approach described above has proven an effective and inexpensive way to create a wind shield for my face on colder days on the bike.

To provide some contrast, here are two different approaches for cutting the wind chill.

The frugal approach. This fellow built a winter bicycling wardrobe for $58.25. His face protection? A ninja mask from a Halloween custom.

The high-end approach. Deck yourself out with an Aerorider velomobile. This hybird electric vechile moves down the spectrum of bicycles towards becoming a car. It includes fully enclosed wind protection, a wind shield wiper, lights, and electric power assist!

A fairing. Not only do these more conventional wind shields cut the wind chill, the improved aerodynamics can reportedly add 2 to 3 mph to your average speed, which is rather noticeable on a bike. Unfortunately, with prices around $200 to $300, they aren’t very common to see around.