We’ve all been there before: driving straight into a punishing wind is no fun at all. Strong winds can affect your speed and safety on a bike, and really out-of-control gusts can potentially knock you off the bike. (And we all know that’s in direct violation of the “rubber part down, shiny part up” cardinal rule of motorcycle driving.)
Fortunately, there are no shortage of motorcycle wind buffeting solutions out there on the market to choose from. We’re going to talk a little bit about the different aftermarket solutions that are available for you to choose from (we assume that if you had a fully-clad Road Glide you wouldn’t be looking at this article), and give you some tips and tricks to best protect yourself from dirt and debris while you’re out there exploring the open roads.
Why Do I Need To Fight The Wind?
Well, the reason behind dealing with the wind largely has to do with the sort of riding you’re doing. If you’re riding a crotch rocket, for instance, you’re going to be bent forward more, which is why most motorcycles of this ilk tend to have very minimal wind protection. The rider is automatically in a more aerodynamic position just due to the nature of the bike.
However, if you’re in an upright cruiser, it’s likely that you’ll feel the wind a lot more and this can seriously affect your comfort. Particularly if you are looking to go out on a long ride (which is the entire point of owning a cruiser), hours of sitting up against the wind can make you weary. Plus, if you end up driving through a rain shower or sweating in the heat, the wetness from your skin can cause heat to leave your body. In short, you’ll end up getting chilled, which isn’t good for comfort or safety.
So I Need a Windshield, Right?
Well, not necessarily. It’s certainly one of the options you have at your disposal. Probably the three most common ways to reduce wind noise and impact are windshields, fairings, and handguards.
Windshields are probably the most obvious option. If you think “bike with a windshield,” you probably are automatically picturing what this is. They tend to come standard on touring bikes and definitely do a lot to help buffet wind, dirt (and bugs!) away from your body. Windshields can also be helpful if you’re riding without back support, as nearly all of the incoming wind will be blocked due to the motorcycle windshield aerodynamics.
There are definitely tons of benefits of windshields, namely that they do the most to block the wind. Plus, they’re clear which is helpful when maintaining line of sight.
Fenders tend to be opaque, and they won’t fit on as many bikes as compared to windshields. The majority of cruiser-style bikes accept them, and they tend to either bolt to the fork of the bike (called a “batwing”) or the frame of the bike (a “shark nose”). If you’re looking to add some aftermarket fairings to your cruiser bike, they’ll most likely be batwing-style since those are easier to mount. Fairings can also have very small windshields attached as well, but they’re usually so low as to be out of the driver’s line of sight, and as such are often more tinted as compared to full-size windshields.
If you want to know how to reduce wind with the minimal amount of aftermarket installation, a great option are handguards. As the name implies, handguards easily clip onto the handlebars of your bike and protect the hands only. While this may not seem like much, keeping wind from constantly blowing over your extremities do a lot for your long-term comfort on a bike. If you don’t have a lot of money or effort to expend on aftermarket wind-blocking accessories, handguards offer a lot of protection for very little investment.
So Which is Better?
Again, it largely depends on your needs. If you’re working on a very limited budget, we recommend starting off with a pair of handguards. Handguards are the gateway drug to fairings and windshields, though, we promise.
In terms of if a fairing or a windshield is a better choice, it honestly depends a lot on your aesthetic. One of the benefits of a fairing, though, is that there’s the option to store more things inside of it, which is always a plus on a bike since… well, it’s not like it has an actual trunk to put things in. Every extra bit of storage definitely helps.
Fairings are also pretty easy to customize, and can greatly contribute to the styling of the motorcycle, particularly since they don’t need to be transparent/translucent like windshields do.
Windshields are nice to hide behind if you get stuck in the rain as they’ll shield you more. They also tend to offer more “complete” wind protection if you’re particularly sensitive to it. Plus, some of the more “old-school style” cruisers just beg for the addition of a windshield. (We’re looking at you, Road King.)
Can I Install A Windshield or Fairing Myself?
Well, the answer to this does depend on your own level of confidence, but generally speaking fenders, windshields, and handguards are relatively easy bike modifications. Handguards in particular probably take less than an afternoon to install. Fairings can be a bit more tricky, but, again, we recommend the batwing-style fairing if you’re going to attempt to go solo, and you’ll want to do research on the type of windshield you get to ensure that it’s compatible with your ride. Most riders find the installation of these relatively pain-free.
There is a chance that you might need to rewire turn signals depending on your ride and the fairing/windshield you are working with, but even this isn’t that challenging most of the time. The good news is that if you end up stumped, a local motorcycle shop will be able to help you out. These are popular modifications for bikes and no doubt your local grease monkey knows the ropes.
Whether you’re looking for a fairing, handguards, or the best motorcycle windshields, careful research yields the best choice for you and your ride.