A lot of riders may be wondering whether it is worth riding with a windshield on. The reality is a lot of riders have a love-hate relationship with windshields. So what is the difference between riding your motorcycle with a windshield vs. no windshield?
Riding a motorcycle with a windshield on vs. no windshield offers better protection against wind, debris, bugs, and extreme temperatures. A motorcycle windshield will allow riders to experience less fatigue during long-distance trips. Riding with no windshield may provide easier steering and more visibility.
Below I will go into more detail explaining the different pros and cons of windshields. Windshields have definitely got a lot going on for them. And if you are interested in learning more, continue reading.
Pros of Motorcycle Windshield
I am sure you already expected that—after all, it is not called a windshield for anything.
The best advantage of motorcycle windshields is that they provide excellent protection against the oncoming wind while you ride. The added protection will make riding your motorcycle at higher speeds more enjoyable, and you will not have to hold on to the handles as much. (To a certain extent this also means less wind noise.)
Of course, you will still get some wind around you but nowhere near compared to having no windshield.
Road Debris Protection
I am not talking about large road debris and objects that may have fallen from hauling trucks or cars. I am talking about smaller rocks and pebbles that can fly up from other vehicles’ tires.
Rocks, sand, dirt, asphalt pieces do and can actually be kicked up by the vehicles ahead of you and hit you while riding your motorcycle. It is fairly rare, but it does happen. And it can be even worse if you are riding your motorcycle in bad weather.
Being hit by a small rock while riding at 30, 40, 50 mph even if you have the proper gear can hurt.
And let’s not forget the bugs and birds. Hitting a bird is not a fun experience, and you definitely would want some protection if that were to happen.
Although not by a lot, a windshield will keep you slightly drier in rainy weather. Of course, if you’ve come to a complete stop at a traffic light, the rain will be pouring on top of you, and the windshield will not be able to provide any protection. However, the real protection comes once you start moving again.
While the windshield will protect your body from the elements and debris, it will also protect your motorcycle’s accessories and dashboard. This includes any GPS units, smartphones, cameras, instruments, screens, chargers, outlets, tank bags, etc.
It depends on how well-adjusted the windshield is, but it usually will deflect the rain up and over your helmet.
Keeps You Cooler/Warmer
If you are riding your motorcycle during the colder months (or winter) and at higher speeds, the cold air and wind can be very unrelenting. In this case, a windshield will give your body a welcome respite from constantly being blasted by that cold wind. Motorcycle suits are good at protecting you from the wind, however, that does not mean that you cannot get very cold from the low temperatures and freezing winds that will constantly be blasting you.
In the summer you will be facing a different kind of problem—the heat. If the temperatures in your area during the summer go over 93°F, things can get a little trickier.
Usually, the wind will chill you. This happens because of a process called convection. When two objects of different temperatures are interacting with each other, usually due to convection, one will lose heat, and the other will take heat until a balance is achieved.
If the wind is colder than your skin, it will cool your skin. If the wind is warmer than your skin, however, it will warm it up. The average human body temperature is about 98.6°F; however, the skin’s temperature varies between 92.3 and 98.4°F. Once the wind or air temperature gets past this point, the wind will be heating you up instead of cooling you down.
In this case, a windshield will protect you against the oncoming hot winds and keep you slightly cooler during the summer.
Your body will create a fair bit of drag as you ride—especially if you are a bigger person, you may find that the motorcycle will struggle more than when it has the windshield on.
The windshield has a better aerodynamic profile than the human body, which creates less friction and drag while the motorcycle is moving.
The combination of all of the above-mentioned advantages of a motorcycle windshield will ultimately translate into a more comfortable and enjoyable ride. This means less fatigue in the long run, which is especially helpful to people doing long-distance rides, in which case a windshield is a must.
A windshield will keep you from tiring out as fast and less fatigued, which means you will be more alert and focused during your ride. This also means less arm, back, shoulder, and neck fatigue or pain. Ultimately it is all a question of safety and comfort.
Cons of Motorcycle Windshield
For many people, the biggest and probably the only downside to motorcycle windshields is the looks.
A motorcycle with a windshield just looks less sporty, and many riders will find it less aesthetically pleasing. (To a certain extent it can also be viewed as an advantage as you may get less attention by the police.)
The windshield will usually create a more focused buffeting around the top of your helmet. Some people do not like that.
However, riding without a windshield also creates buffeting, which is spread out more evenly across your whole body.
The vacuum that is created behind the windshield is also partially responsible for the buffeting. This is why some windshields will have small holes that are letting air through in order to minimize the effect of buffeting.
Motorcycle wind deflectors also can be used successfully to reduce the buffeting. (However, they have disadvantages of their own.)
If you have been riding your motorcycle without a windshield for a while and then put it on, you will find that your motorcycle will be a little harder to steer and will behave a little differently. Wind gust may also affect you more while with the windshield on.
This is caused by the fact that the windshield is catching the wind, almost acting like a sail.
The change is very light and not that significant but definitely something that can be felt.
One of the problems with taller windshields and especially tinted windshields is that they can limit your visibility right in front of your motorcycle.
Higher windshields can also limit the visibility of shorter riders. In some instances, they may need to look through the windshield. Tinted windshields can be a big problem in this case.
Windshield vs. No Windshield
With a windshield on, you will feel a lot more relaxed and be more comfortable on longer rides. There is no place for comparison here.
The wind can start to feel really strong once you start reaching 60 to 70 mph, even if it is not a windy day. When you turn your head around to look for traffic, the wind will be very hard on your head and neck.
A windshield will help you experience less fatigue during long-distance trips and allow you to ride for longer. If you frequently go on highways or ride for extended periods of time, a windshield is a must-have.
If you will be using the windshield, it is recommended always to test and adjust the angles. It is well known that a lot of people have trouble finding the right angle. You have to find that sweet spot; otherwise, you will experience a lot of buffeting. (Buffeting also causes very unpleasant headaches.)
The type of motorcycle you have will also have some say into all of this. Sportsbikes have smaller windshields, which are still well worth having. Windshields are also a good idea for touring bikes.
It is true that not a lot of people will like the look of their motorcycle with the windshield on. A motorcycle without a windshield just looks sportier and better.
Steering your motorcycle without the windshield feels sportier and light compared with the windshield on.
When it comes to your motorcycle’s gas mileage, the effects are not that significant, if any, at all. Some windshield designs are known to cause more drag than others, but the consequences in terms of how much fuel it burns through will be almost non-existent. If anything, riding without a windshield would most likely slightly reduce your gas mileage compared to riding with the windshield.
At lower speeds, leisurely rides, and group rides, it is more comfortable and overall more enjoyable to ride without a windshield. If you are riding your motorcycle in the city all the time, then you do not really need to have a windshield. However, on longer trips, a windshield is a must.
Tall vs. Short Windshields
The height of the windshield you have does matter.
Short windshields can create a lot of buffeting and be especially troublesome for taller people.
Shorter windshields can often deflect dirt, rocks, and sand right into your helmet. They also tend to produce more wind noise.
Usually, it is recommended for the windshield to be about shoulder height, or ideally, it should come up to the tip of the rider’s nose. That way, the wind, and all the debris will be pushed over your helmet or will barely touch it. There will be less wind noise and less buffeting. (However, both tall and short windshields can be equally ineffective if the angle is not adjusted properly.)
Do Motorcycle Windshields Make a Difference?
Motorcycle windshields do make a difference when it comes to riding your motorcycle. Windshields make for a safer and more comfortable experience. The windshield will protect you from wind, rain, flying debris, bugs, and rocks. This makes a big difference in the rider’s ability to ride for extended periods of time.
Are Motorcycle Windshields Safer?
It may interest you to know that a windshield can be viewed as a safety gear when it comes to crashing.
If you rear-end a car, for example, the windshield can prevent you from going over the bars of your motorcycle.
During a low-side crash, the windshield can also protect you and even your motorcycle to a certain extent.
Of course, a motorcycle windshield can also be unsafe, especially if it is a result of a DIY project. There is a reason why windshields are made from plastic, and it is because plastic is safer when it breaks. Harder materials can be extremely dangerous and a latent health hazard.
Is There a Benefit to Removing Your Motorcycle Windshield?
Overall there are no benefits to removing your motorcycle windshield if you already have one. The only advantage of removing your motorcycle windshield will be in terms of improved looks and aesthetics.
If you are looking for that wind in the face feeling while riding, then this can also be considered a benefit.
If you are riding on city streets and side streets and in areas with low traffic and if you are riding at fairly low speeds of 30 to no more than 40 mph, you may not really need or benefit from having the windshield on.
Should You Get a Motorcycle Windshield?
You should get a motorcycle windshield if you plan on long-distance rides, or you are often riding on highways. Putting a windshield on your motorcycle should provide you with excellent protection against the elements and road debris which can be kicked up by the cars ahead of you
A lot of the people that once start riding with a windshield will never go back. However, in the end, windshields are not mandatory—they are a personal preference.