If you are reading this, you most likely have been a proud motorcycle owner for some time. Someone may have recommended a windshield to you, but you are not so sure if you need one. They do not come standard like they do on cars, so it will be another accessory you will have to pay for out of your own pocket. But arguably it is worth it.
What are the proven benefits of motorcycle windshields?
Keep reading to understand how a windshield can truly be the most priceless motorcycle accessory you have.
The Positives of Windshields
It is in the name: windshields are designed to shield you and your bike from the wind. Although it may not seem like much, the difference between having a windshield and not having one is truly night and day. Here are the game-changing benefits:
Reduce Wind Pain
Cars are like moving rooms. They are very civilized and clean cut. That, on the contrary, was probably why you wanted a motorcycle in the first place. You can feel the open road with the wind in your hair. Motorcycles make driving fun again.
However, while all that fresh air feels great while you are casually driving around town, it becomes a bit much on the highway. It might be fun for a few minutes, but it is a different story when you hit 70 (or 80) miles per hour. After a couple of hours of a long-haul trip, the appeal of the breeze is gradually replaced by pain. When finished with a long highway drive on a motorcycle without a windshield, it is common to feel:
- Soreness in your chest and torso
- Pain in your arms
Why? A person sitting up straight on a bike is not exactly aerodynamic. The wind is hitting you like a wall and, whether you realize it or not, you are exerting a lot of endurance effort to hang on. The phenomena is called buffeting. If you are on a road trip with your friends, you will surely much rather want to head to bed after a long day of driving rather than go out for a beer.
Simply adding a windshield will send all that air up and over you, keeping you relaxed and fresh after a long drive. Driving your bike should be pure fun; workouts are for the gym. So, unless you plan on keeping it local, opt for the windshield.
Improve Gas Mileage
Cutting off that wind resistance is not simply good for your body; it is good for your wallet too. By seamlessly sending air up and over you and your bike, rather than smacking against your body and gear, your engine does not work as hard to maintain your speed. Less strain on your engine means less gas usage. That means less trips to gas station, which is better for your wallet. It also means more time riding. Perhaps more importantly to some, less wind resistance increases your maximum speed.
Protect You from Debris
While air itself can make you exhausted, the things in the air can injure you or worse. We have all had it at least once driving a car when a small pebble is kicked up by the vehicle in front of us. It flies out of their tire at highway speed bounces off your windshield. Usually this does not cause any significant crack, but sometimes a call needs to be made to the insurance company.
While you are not as big of a target on a motorcycle as you are in a car, the risks if something does hit you are way worse. Objects could include:
- Rocks from construction areas or the gravel from the side of the road
- Pieces of pavement
- Rock salt
- Bird… presents
- Actual animals
- Leaves during Autumn (sharper than you would think at high speeds)
- Cigarette butts
- Nails off of construction vehicles
Just about anything commonly laying around on the side of the road becomes a missile straight at your face when you are driving at high speeds on a motorcycle without a windshield. Even if it does not hit you, it could hit your mirrors or another accessory you paid good money for. Attaching even a basic windshield can save you a lot of trouble.
Keep in mind as well that debris smacking against a windshield will inevitably make it dirty. Clean it every so often, especially if you are looking through it when you drive. If you are looking over it, not through it, you still want to clean your windshield once in a while before those dirt marks become permanent stains. If that happens, buy yourself a clean new one.
Avoid Becoming Wet
It is a Saturday morning and you do not have a lot on the agenda for this weekend. You check the weather and it is nothing but clear blue skies. Time to take the bike out for a spin. The drive takes you far away from home, which is fine until those storm clouds develop overhead. You steer towards home, but it is too late. Rain starts.
If you do not have a windshield in the situation, well, have fun being pelted by rain and soaked. I sure hope you at least brought goggles or sunglasses with you. A simple windshield, however, will keep you nice and dry. How? In the same way that windshields send air up and over you, the same goes for rain or any other precipitation. That will keep you nice and dry on the rest of your drive home, even if driving in the rain is never exactly exhilarating. I just hope you are not standing still at too many red lights or hit traffic.
Keep Your Accessories and Electronics Dry Too
You might be thinking, “A little wind and rain never bothered me, I will be fine.” Sure, you do not mind being wet, but what about all the items on your bike, such as:
- Expensive GPS device
- Cell phone
- The wallet in your jeans
- Electronic speedometer and other indicators
Yes, you may have splurged for the fancy cases and high grade versions. A lot of these are “water resistant” though, not “waterproof.” Either way, there is a key difference between a splash of water hitting a device versus a torrential, downpour at high speeds. Eventually even the most waterproof cases will begin to show signs of weakness and eventually leak. Outlets especially can become rusted and non functional if left open for use during a storm.
The interior, or passenger, section of your bike is also not designed for a ton of weathering. After all, there is a reason why you keep them covered up when you are not using them. Any wood paneling can begin to buckle when under a lot of water stress. Not to mention what all that water damage can to your expensive, comfortable seats.
Sitting in a soggy seat after a couple hours does not sound like fun. Neither does trying to use the touchscreen on your GPS when it is covered in water droplets. Purchasing a windshield, thankfully, will solve all of these problems.
Since wind is just moving air, whether or not you have a windshield affects the temperature on your bike. In cold weather, the effect of wind is a little more obvious. On a brisk Fall day, for example, the temperature outside may be about 40 degrees Fahrenheit. That feels good at a standstill or at slow speeds with your thick leather jacket on. But up at highway speeds for an hour or two? Wind chills make you quite cold. With a windshield, you can avoid the effects of wind chill and stay on the road longer.
The wind’s effect on heat is a little more complicated. Now, we will not lie to you. If it is a hot summer day and you are in full gear, nothing feels better than a cool breeze in your face. Especially if you just had to wait at a brutally long red light. However, the problem with the wind in the heat occurs after sustained highway driving. After a while, the wind will blow the sweat off of your body faster than you can produce it. This can slowly cause overheating. Not good when you are wearing a lot of gear.
A windshield solves this problem. Your body will naturally sweat as needed, keeping you cool. Do not worry, you are still outside and can smell the fresh air.
A Quieter Experience
Lastly, a windshield will give you a much quieter riding experience. Sustained winds at highway speeds are undeniably loud. After some time, you may feel the adrenaline produced from all that wind rushing by you begin to wear off. That is great and all, but you cannot hear “Highway to Hell” on your radio. It is time for that windshield.
Besides wind, there are plenty of other noises a windshield can help block. After all, its design is such that it bounces sound waves up and over you, not just wind. Sit back and enjoy your music and the roar of your bike’s engine without distracting sounds such as:
- Other car radios
- Rocks bouncing around you
- Car brakes
- Road rage
- City sounds
Let’s face it: the roads can be noisy, especially in the city. A windshield will help you drown those sounds out and enjoy your ride.
The Negatives and Why They Are Not That Bad
You may of course have a few concerns about windshields, and they are certainly valid. Motorcycles typically do not come with windshields factory installed, since they are not legally required in most states and not everybody likes them. Some of the drawbacks include:
- The look
- More buffeting
- No wind reaches the driver at all
- Not working as advertised
- Could be dangerous in an accident
However, these negatives have plenty of workarounds and therefore should not stop you from buying a much-needed windshield.
Let’s move this one out of the way. You should not turn down buying a windshield because of the way it looks. We know you fell in love with the bike you bought and are worried about significantly altering its appearance. But aesthetics should always come after safety and comfort. Besides, there are plenty of sleek-looking windshields on the market that blend in seamlessly with your motorcycle’s design (more on that later). Some windshields fit in so well you will forget they are even there!
If you buy a windshield that, despite your best efforts, still looks a bit off, there are plenty of ways to customize it and make it look great:
- Paint it– As long as you are looking over your windshield and not through it, painting it with the same color as your bike will make it blend in very well.
- Tinting– You could also add a tint to your windshield if your bike is a darker color. Just make sure you check on the legality of this in your local jurisdiction.
- Cut it back– Since your windshield probably was not required in the first place, nothing is really stopping you from cutting it back to shape it in a cooler way. That can make it blend in with the look of your bike. Just make sure you smooth out the edges.
- Add stickers or a design– Instead of a big piece of plastic sticking out of your handlebars, why not add a bumper sticker or two? You could even paint on your own design. Let your windshield look work with your bike, not against it.
You may have added a windshield to your motorcycle to reduce wind buffeting. But, to your dismay, the wind stress against your body has only become worse. Now you are thinking of just giving up on windshields entirely.
Do not do that. The reason for this may just because you bought the wrong windshield. For example, if you are a tall guy and you bought a smaller windshield, the wind simply is not being sent high enough. The majority of the wind was just hitting your torso before, but now it is heading straight for your head. That is certainly not any more comfortable, and definitely less safe. In this case, exchange that windshield for a taller one.
No Wind Reaches the Driver at All
Similarly, you may have noticed after you installed your new windshield that now you cannot feel any type of breeze at all. That may be great for some people, but you like at least a little bit. That would mean you have purchased a windshield that is too large for your taste. There is nothing wrong with buying a smaller one, as long as you do not go too small.
Not Working as Advertised
Perhaps you are thinking of ditching your windshield because it keeps flopping down on you during high speeds. Maybe it is hard to see through. Before you remove your windshield check the following items to make sure you are using it correctly:
- Not the right windshield– Is it designed for your specific motorcycle? Check the specifications again.
- Incorrect installation– Are all of the screws nice and tight? Is it facing the right way? Some cheaper windshield designs are almost flat, so it is possible you simply installed it backwards.
- Not designed for high speeds– Easy there, speed racer. Most windshields are only built to sustain normal highway speed limits. If you are pushing it into the nineties or higher, even the best windshield might become compromised. It is not safe to be going that fast on a motorcycle anyway.
Could Be Dangerous in An Accident
Some of you are understandably worried about what happens to your windshield in an accident. Will it come off and injure me? What happens if I hit something and my head slams down into it? Let’s clear up some of these misconceptions. Firstly, it all depends on what you are hitting. If a large rock flies up at you, will you not be happy that the windshield was in its way?
There is always the chance that something larger comes off and hits your windshield, causing either all of it or a piece of it to fly off. Believe it or not, windshields are designed to fall off with less force, not more. Think about it, when something large enough to knock off your windshield comes towards you, you want a clean break so the windshield just lightly flies away. That is much better than dangling there or become caught in your bike while you are trying to drive.
Having a “weaker” windshield is most critical if you hit something and your bike has to come to an abrupt stop. When your head is shot forward, you absolutely do not want it headed straight for a hard metal windshield. This is exactly why windshields themselves, as well as the nuts and bolts that hold them on your bike, are all made of plastic. That way they can easily give way during an accident.
Which Windshield Should I Buy?
Hopefully, you have come to the conclusion that it is a good idea to buy a windshield for your motorcycle. Now it is time to go shopping. Which windshield should you buy? It depends on:
- The make and model of your bike
- How it will look with the rest of your bike
- How much you are willing to spend
- How elaborate you want it to be
We have prepared a varied list of windshields available on Amazon here so you can find the one that best suits your needs.
This windshield by Puig might be all you need. The light smoke color will help it blend in with the rest of your bike’s look and not let it stick out like a sore thumb. It also wraps nicely around any standard 8-inch round headlight. Its aerodynamic design was tested in a wind tunnel, so you know it’s legit. In addition, it is very light at just one pound. Designed for both street and sport motorcycles.
A standard windshield that you have seen countless times before on the Harley driving down the street. A chrome bracket appearance that blends well with a cruiser and holds on rounded plexiglass with a nice dark shade. The nice thing about this windshield is it fits just as snug and looks just as good on a Honda Kawasaki as it does on a Harley Davidson. Keep in mind, however, that do to the location of the bracket, this is not the best windshield to look through. Over is best here.
It is easy to install, with plastic looped brackets that screw in place right on the handlebar. Just note that it is only designed to fit on 7/8 inch or 1-inch handlebars.
Kuryakyn’s windshield looks a lot different from the previous two. Although they were sleek, the Puig and Ego are undeniably large. The Kuryakyn, on the other hand, looks rather small in comparison. Height options include:
- 5 inches
- 7 inches
- 9 inches
These are admittedly not great at dodging debris. However, if buffeting is your only concern, these windshields will do the trick. The taller the height, the more effective.
Although they look like they will only fit on a speed bike, these windshields are designed to easily attach to touring bikes like Harleys as well. The color is dark smoke but let’s face it, this windshield is way too short to be looking through anyway.
The XFMT is the most versatile of the bunch. It is large but shaped narrower on the sides. Dark on the bottom to stylishly blend with your bike and hide the brackets, but clear so you can through the top if need be. It is quite a bit cheaper than the rest and easier to install than it looks. Fits most bikes, including:
This windshield also includes brackets for both 7/8 inch and 1-inch handlebars for your convenience. It is also wide enough to keep your hands warm while still keeping your torso and face dry too.
This one is a little different from the rest. If your bike already comes with a factory-installed windshield, your options will understandably feel limited. Anything installed by the factory is nearly impossible to take off without risking damage to your brand-new bike. But if it is small and ineffective, what are you supposed to do?
The answer is to buy a windshield extension, like this one from Motoparty. The way it detracts from your bike’s look might be concerning, but it is clear and quite small, so it blends in well enough. Importantly, it will give you the relief from buffeting you were looking for in the first place. If you will not be looking through it too often, you can also opt for the darker smoke color.
Perhaps the best thing about this extension is its easy installation. Simply clip it on with its magnet system and lock it in place to prevent wobbling or falling off. In addition, these brackets are adjustable so you can place it in the spot most comfortable for you.
Alternative Ways to Deal with the Wind
If you made it this far, there is a chance you do not like windshields but are still looking for some form of protection from the elements. Although a windshield is bar far your best solution to these problems, there are a few other ways you can keep yourself as comfortable as possible:
- Helmet: A basic helmet covering the top of your head looks good but just is not practical for wind and debris defense. Try this whole head covering instead.
- Goggles: A cheap pair of sunglasses just will not do at high speeds. If your helmet does not automatically come with eye protection, consider these.
- A good aerodynamic jacket: Motorcycle jackets do not have to be hot leather anymore. This cool one by HHR is designed to be both aerodynamic and cool. Enough air is allowed to avoid overheating while still blocking out the pressure of the wind. This and jackets like it will keep your torso comfortable, but still, seem a bit bulky.
- Solid gloves– Your hands are the first part of your body that hits the wind. Couple that with the fact that they are located in your extremities, and it is obvious that your hands can become extremely cold without a windshield. You are going to need a good pair of gloves that are both strong and comfortable. Try these gloves that come in a variety of colors and even allow you to operate the touch screens on your phone or GPS. Probably not a great idea in the summertime heat though.