Once you start putting some serious miles on your bike, a windshield is an accessory you won’t want to do without. But with all the options available on the market, it may be a little overwhelming to find the right one. In this Motorcycle Windshield Buyer’s Guide, we break down everything you need to know to get the perfect windshield for you!
Okay, we get it…windshields may not be the most badass-looking accessories on the planet. If you’re drooling over a sweet wallpaper-worthy picture of a cruiser, tourer, or sport bike, it probably doesn’t have a big old windshield mounted on it, screwing up those beautiful lines.
But when you’re out on the road putting miles on, and the “wind in your hair” feeling becomes “wind, rain, and bugs in your face” feeling, you’ll quickly realize that a windshield will be one of the most rider friendly upgrades you can do. If you feel this way, you’re not alone; windshields are actually the most popular aftermarket accessory for motorcycles (yes, even more popular than exhausts!)
For riders who put on some serious miles, a good windshield really is a must-have item.
But once you’ve decided a windshield is on your wish list, the next part is how to choose one – and that’s the hard part. So to make it easier for you, we’ve put together this helpful guide with all the things you’ll need to consider when making your selection, and a bunch of our most popular options to make your search a whole lot easier.
What we’ll cover:
- Purposes and benefits of a windshield
- How to choose your windshield
- Installing your windshield
- Cleaning your windshield
- Top-rated windshields
So let’s get started, shall we?
Purposes and Benefits of Motorcycle Windshields
When it comes right down to it, there are two main reasons to use a windshield on your motorcycle:
To protect you from bugs, gravel, rain, and other debris
To cut down wind blast and reduce fatigue
Once you install a windshield, you can expect to have a lot less wind blast on the highway, which translates to a more comfortable ride and less fatigue, especially after long rides. You can generally kiss being smacked by bugs and rocks goodbye, and in inclement weather it will be a godsend, as you wont get pelted by rain and wind chill will be dramatically reduced. An added benefit: you’ll hear your bike’s engine better because of the reduction in droning wind noise (and who among us doesn’t love the sound of our bike?)
How to Choose your Windshield
So you know windshields are great, but now comes the hard part – how to choose the thing. There are a million variations to choose from, and getting the right one for you can be intimidating. But overall, there are a few specific things you need to consider, and we’ll go over them in this section.
In the world of windshields, there are a few tradeoffs you need to consider. They are:
Style vs. Protection
When making your choice, ask yourself: how important to you is protection? If you’re putting heavy miles on, you probably want all the protection from the elements you can get, and want something tall and wide. But if you’re a short distance rider on a sweet-looking ride, go for as little windshield as you can stand to keep those lines clean. (Want both? No problem; just opt for a windshield with a quick-detach option, which will allow you to install it easily for long rides, but remove it for short rides, shows, or bike nights.)
The right windshield doesn’t have to ruin your bike’s look – instead, it can enhance it, like this Bullet front fairing kit from Memphis Shades.
Height: Short vs. Tall
The height of your windshield is one of those things that needs to be “just right.” If it’s too tall, you may be forced to look through it to see; which is fine, until rain or bugs blocks your vision. But if it’s too short, not only will you not get the protection you want, but you may get a slipstream effect that sends air up over the lip of the screen and straight into your face!
The general rule of thumb here for cruisers and touring bikes is to get a windshield that tops out right at the level of your nose. This will allow you to see over the windshield, and the slipstream effect will send air up over your head where you want it to go.
Fitted vs. Universal
Most popular bikes have windshield models fitted specifically to them, which makes it easy to get the perfect fit. But if you have a modified or older bike, you may have to choose from “universal fit” models, which will require you to become more creative with the mounting solution you use.
A good way to determine what you need is to visit an owners forum for people with your model of bike, and see what kind of solutions other riders are using to mount theirs. (When in doubt, you can always contact us, and we’ll help you choose the right one for your bike.)
Permanently Installed vs. Quick Detach Mount
While on the topic of mounts, another thing you’ll have to consider is whether you want it mounted permanently, or with quick detach mounts, which will allow you to remove it easily remove it when the mood strikes you.
If you are used to riding with a windshield and know you want it, you may prefer the sturdiness of permanent mounts. But if you think you might want the option to attach it for a long-distance ride, but remove it for a rally or bike night, we recommend you go the quick-detach route.
Fixed vs. Adjustable
This is one of those things you won’t realize you want until you start putting miles on, and wish you could modify the position of your windshield to redirect airflow. Some models allow you to adjust your windshield to the perfect position, and choose between getting more airflow on a hot day, and less airflow when it’s cold or rainy.
That is one nasty looking windshield…but hey, if it wasn’t there, all that would be on him instead!
Polycarbonate vs. Acrylic
There are basically two materials motorcycle windshields are made of: polycarbonate and acrylic. Both are clear, rigid, “plastic-like” materials, but they each have unique properties: polycarbonate tends to be more durable and abrasion resistant, but is also more expensive, and tends to yellow after long exposure to UV rays. Acrylic is less expensive and less prone to yellowing, but softer so it scratches more easily. (Keep in mind, however, that because acrylic is softer, it can also be buffed out more easily as well.)
Style and Color
This part is all you – there are a LOT of options out there! Windshield heights, widths, profiles, tints, and colors all vary a lot, which can be overwhelming, but also gives you a lot of room to be creative. Browse through our huge selection of windshields to get some ideas, and remember to use our Fitment Tool to isolate only the models that you know will fit your bike!
Installing your Motorcycle Windshield
Every windshield model and brand mounts differently, so we can’t cover all the different ways to mount it in this guide. However, there is one critical rule you should follow when installing your windshield, and that is to test-fit it beforehand!
There are two reasons for this. First of all, you want to make sure the windshield will fit your bike before you try to install it, just in case you end up getting the wrong windshield or mounting kit.
But more importantly, make sure it will be the right size for you before you install it. Have a friend hold it in place where it will be installed, and sit on your bike like you are riding normally, making sure you can still see over it. If you are satisfied with the fit and look, then install it.
Cleaning and Maintaining your Motorcycle Windshield
A big deterrent to people who may want a windshield, but don’t like the look, is how scratched up and swirly they tend to get. However, keep in mind that this comes from improper maintenance, and as long as you take care of yours properly, it will look great for years.
Most scratches on windshields come from improper washing. What many riders will do is scrub their windshields with something abrasive, or with too much force, especially when they’re battling caked on bug guts. Never use force to remove something from your windshield; instead, get it moist and loosened up first so it will be easy to wipe off gently. Warm water and soap works best, and a trick is to soak a towel in sudsy water, then lay it on the windshield for several minutes to soak the guts and grime.
NEVER use elbow grease to clean your windshield, or it will scratch and ruin the look. Use warm water and soap to break down guts and grime, and wash them off as gently as possible.
When you wash it off, use lots of soap and water, and minimal force. Use only clean, soft cotton towels or microfiber to wash and to dry. Never use paper towels because they will scratch it, and most of all never use a squeegee at a gas station; those things are FULL of grit and grime from other peoples cars!
Top Rated Motorcycle Windshields
Now that we’ve thoroughly confused you with all the windshield options you have, now it’s time for us to simplify your search with a few of our most popular, highest-rated windshields. Check these out and see what customers have to say about them to help narrow down the search for your own personal “perfect windshield!”
1) National Cycle Plexifairing III
The National Cycle Plexifairing 3
National Cycle’s Plexifairing 3 is lightweight and fluidly aerodynamic, reducing wind fatigue. It features extended hand and leg protection to make riding more comfortable and a protective gasket is closely fit around the headlight opening. The Plexifairing 3 also includes QuickSet hardware, designed for riders who enjoy the advantages of wind protection, but appreciate the luxury of leaving the fairing home when desired. No-tool removal.
2) National Cycle Vstream
The National Cycle Vstream
The National Cycle Vstream Windscreen gets its name from its dimensional contours and unique shape that helps push turbulent wind out and away from the riders head. This results in a quieter and more comfortable ride. When riding 2-up the passenger is not left out as this unique shape will also reduce wind noise and helmet buffeting keeping them comfortable as well.
3) Memphis Shades Batwing
The Memphis Shades Batwing
The Batwing Fairing features a clean aerodynamic shape. The fairing outer shell is opaque black Lucite with a class A finish that looks great as is, or can easily be painted. Fairing body is a massive 36.5″ wide and 17″ tall, and is pre-drilled and fitted with pushout hole plugs for easy wind deflector installation.
4) The Zero Gravity Double Bubble
Zero Gravity Double Bubble
Zero Gravity Double Bubble Windshields are sculpted to the sport bike’s distinctive futuristic lines and enhances the bike’s race look while providing added aerodynamics. Formed with a wedge-shaped bubble in the center of the windscreen, the Double Bubble was originally designed to provide superior aerodynamics for a rider tucked in behind the windscreen, and can now be found on race tracks around the world.
5) Slipstreamer SS-32 Falcon Windshield
The Slipstreamer SS-32 Falcon Windshield
A clean, beautifully designed shield which adds a custom look to many popular Japanese and American styled cruisers. This 3/16″ ICI acrylic windshield has a winged tombstone shape with chrome straps and triple chrome-plated hardware, and comes in both 16″ and 20″ heights.
6) Puig Racing Windshield
The Puig Racing Windshield
The most popular sport bike windscreen we sell, the Puig Racing Windscreen is made of high impact acrylic, giving each screen added strength and flexibility. 3mm thickness helps absorb vibration at high speeds, and offers resistance from cracking or scratching. Puig windscreens strictly follow the shape of the OE screens so you can use your stock hardware.
7) National Cycle Switchblade 2-Up Windscreen
The National Cycle Switchblade 2-Up Windscreen
You can now enjoy unprecedented convenience, quality and function on your cruiser with this innovative, quick-change windshield. Featuring National Cycle’s exclusive Cushion Wheels, the attractive buffed stainless steel mounts allow the rider the ability to install or remove a windshield easily, in less than 10 seconds – with NO TOOLS. The Two-Up model features maximum wind and bad weather protection.
8) Memphis Shades Malibu Windscreen
The Memphis Shades Malibu Windscreen
The Malibu offers great protection in a sleek, stylish package, and is constructed of weather-resistant Lucite in gradient translucent colors, clear, or solar tint. The universal, steady, easy-to-adjust four-point mounting allows positioning independent of headlight to balance air flow, and it will fit both 7/8″ and 1″ bars or 35mm to 41mm forks.
Still confused about which windscreen will be best for you? Never fear, we’re here to help! Contact us here, and if you have a photo of a windscreen you like, don’t hesitate to email us and we’ll help you find it!