Windshields: Ride Free or Stay Protected?

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September 16, 2010 | By: Jake Herring

Editor’s note: What we have here is Part 1 in a two-part series that’s intended to share perspectives from two types of riders on the necessity for a windshield on your motorcycle. In today’s offering, Jake Herring talks about the wind in your face and the benefits of riding the open road without a windshield. Tomorrow, we’ll hear from Anthony Todd, who will talk about the safety and protection issues involved in having a windshield above your handlebars. First up, Jake Herring:

Let me put this as simply as I can: No windshield! Sure, it might protect you from the elements, but a windshield also protects you from one of the best feelings in the world — the wind in your face! Even dogs know that! Having that feeling while on the open road is one of the reasons I got hooked on motorcycle riding in the first place. If you’re riding with a windshield, you might as well be in a car. I know it hurts for you to hear that, but so it goes.

Here’s another reason I don’t use a windshield: It  destroys the look of your motorcycle. Let’s use a Harley-Davidson Fat boy as an example. Slam it to the ground, add a low-profile seat, dual 30-inch fishtails and 18-inch ape hangers, and what do you got? A cool motorcycle, that’s what. Now go ahead and strap on a windshield and Bam! Everything that was cool, all of a sudden is not cool. Motorcycles are supposed to be sleek and smooth with a bodyline that flows like a graceful woman in repose. You don’t see windshields on women in repose do you? Of course not. Windshields destroy those lines as soon as you put them on.

Here’s another example: Would you take a 2011 Chrysler 300M SRT with a big-block Hemi, 20-inch rims and strap a bug guard to the hood? Of course you wouldn’t! So why would you do that to your beloved motorcycle?

Having said all that, I do have a few exceptions to my own edict. For instance, I think every bagger with a fairing should have a 3 ½-inch windshield on it. I hope you noted the sarcasm in that last statement. If you must have some sort of protection up front, use a fairing. At least with a low-profile windshield you don’t totally ruin the lines of the bike. Arlen Ness has a café style fairing that looks great on a motorcycle. It’s low profile, blocks some of the elements, keeps a smooth-flowing line to the bike and most important — it allows the wind to hit your face.

I’m a firm believer in “to each his (or her) own.” Everyone has a point of view when it comes to style. So if the windshield is your thing, then by all means strap it to your bike and go. But in my opinion, these big hunks of polycarbonate or Plexiglas are eyesores and they keep the wind out of your face. And wind to me is a stress reliever — a natural healer. And riding a bike with “protection” would ruin my therapy session.

Comments: 37 Comments | Categorized Under: Tech Tips

Comments (37)

I know this article is 2 1/2 years old, but I could not help myself, I had to respond. I have been riding for a little over 30 years. I have only had one bike that had a windshield (1988 Heritage Softail Classic), until now. Right now I have 2, 2010 Kings Mountain Indian Chief Vintages. They have detachable windshields. I am physically broken, can barely walk sometimes, for weeks at a time. I recently took the windshield off of one of my Chiefs, to test how much the increased wind would affect the tank bib I had made for it. I rode about 50 miles that afternoon. The first thing I noticed was the increased noise, and chest pressure (it was significant). After about 20 miles, something that Jake said in this article came to mind. The wind in my face Is what hooked me in the first place ! Toward the end of this ride, I was in a fair amount of pain, but wanted to ride 50 more miles. What I am saying is, that after 30 years of riding without windshields it only took me 6 months of being spoiled to forget why I ride in the first place. Luckily for me, it only took me 20 miles to get it back. I compare this mentality to parking habits. I am often unable to walk long distances, yet I am the guy that parks across the parking lot. On my way in, I pass the people that insist on parking close. They are fat, spoiled, perfectly capable “me first ” little brats, 9 times out of 10. You guys should look up Evel Knievel’s last few interviews. He was 10 times as broken as me, yet when he got on that bike, he was 100 times the man most of you panty waists will ever be. Grow some balls, and park out in the lot once in a while.

I live in upstate NY and I ride a lot. Much of it is with a windsheild. I often start riding in March and weather permitting right into december. I was out for a 40 mile ride Dec 31st of last year. I ride because I like to ride not because of what anyone else thinks of me or my bike. The guys I know that won’t have a windsheild on their bike don’t ride anywhere near as much as I do. They won’t leave the house if they think it might rain. I say BS and go any ways.

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I ride a full dresser with a shield, and put over 1000 miles a week. Ive rode without shields before and hit with a june bug at 65 mph between the eyes and damn near knocked me out.. If you like to ride without a shield go for it. But dont belittle me for more protection and a safer ride without the bugs in my teeth……….. Smile & everyone will know you ride without
Ride safe any way you like

I ride a 1200C Sporty, I am almost 70 and have had bikes with and without windshields. I now have a quick connect windshield that takes less time to remove thanit takes to tell how to do it. I use a windshield for hiway trips and take it off for short or local rides. I ride year around.

Life is too short, eat desert first. (quote) I have two bikes one with and one without otherwise they are identical. Living in a very large city with way more traffic than anyone needs the one with the windshield keeps the road debris out of my face.

love my roadking police. had lasik surgery 12 years ago, have to have the windshield, eyes can’t take it without it for any long distance. short trips are great though. as long as those wheels are spinning.

Too each his own. Just ride.

Hey too each his own, “JUST RIDE”.

Last time I checked the number one selling new Harley was the FLHX Street Glide. With a fairing and yes a windshield, even though it’s only four inches high. It’s still a windshield.

I have a fat boy and agree its a cool bike, i also have a removable windshield, here in the adirondacks in october and november a nice ride means temps in the 30′s. Those of you who have ever traveled at 60 miles an hour win 30 degree
temps will have no problem slapping on the windshield. in the heat of the summer sure take it off. If looks are the most important thing why would you put on ape hangers, very un cool , but as you say to each his own.

We all love to ride no matter what so get your RIDE ON!!!!

Aww we are all unique, one thing is for sure, no matter what all love to ride. Ride on people!!!

Been riding every year for last 38. Rode with and without. Living in the birth state of Harley, I like having my winshield. There are nice days I may take it off but mostly it stays on. I ride anytime I get the chance, day or night, summer, winter or in between. Anyone who rides a lot of miles in all kinds of weather has to admit, a windshield is a necessary evil. I see many bikes trailered to events, that is their owner’s perogative. Just like helmets, which I don’t like. They have their time and place.

I’m 76. ride a 1200 sporty. No windshield but am going to get a quick-release in the spring. I’m from central Ohio, cold and wet right now. Hurry spring !

I have been riding for over 10 years. I have found windshields to more comfortable when making long rides with aggressive speed. When riding fast without a windshield you are hanging on, with a windshield you are riding the bike. I have a quick detatch windshield for my bike. When I am on the road for a long ride I ride with my windshield. Short rides and around town, I remove the windshield. I have convertable also, with the top down while cuising down the interstate I knock the wind off as much as possible to. Really who cares, just keep it safe for you, your rider and others that share the road. See ya on the highways.

This is about dumb!! Do what YOU like and let everyone else do the same! Is Coke better than Pepsi? Who cares if you like it! Just do it! I use a windshield, I like a windshield, you don’t want to use one, I DON’T CARE!!! Do your thing and I will do mine!! Rise safe!

People who belittle others are morons. Mini bikes to big Harley’s are two wheel’en and both can get you just as dead and also provide the best feeling in the world. This article should be in the food section. Whether to eat bugs or not eat bugs, that is the only question and who the f#@# cares about your diet!

Hey, I understand you pureists out there , but that said I started rideing at 55. The first time 65 mph wind hit my chest it nearly wiped me off the bike.I have a short shield ,it keeps the heavy wind off of me , but I look over it not through it.I still feel the wind , just don’t have to wrestle it,makes the ride more enjoyable and since I am not a weekend warrior but ride everyday for basic transportation I am not stupid enough to add to my tasks after a long days work. I have riden in hurricanes and only stop when is too cold to keep my hands flexible(safety issue). So bottom line as I see it is ride as you like but don’t look down on others choices .They have their reasons. Enjoy andride safe.

As a teenager back in the 1960′s I learned to ride on an Indian Motorcycle without a windshield in Massachusetts. Then in 1966 I bought a Triumph Bonneville (no windshield) and traveled alone thru 13 states for 5 months. My current ride, Yamaha Radian (4-cyl), does not have a windshield either. However, my handicapped neighbor has a smooth Star Classic (1100 cc) full-dresser. He asks me regularly to “exercise his ride” and I found that a windshield provides some advantages. So, for my next long haul trip I plan to install a windshield on my bike, regardless of how it looks. My 2 mottoes are: (1) BE ADAPTABLE! (2) TO EACH, HIS OWN!

Have you ever tasted a set of Love bugs, You’ll understand why nothing eats them, or ever had a 6 pound beetle bounce off you forhead or some jerks cigerette hit you throat. I live in central Florida. a windshield is a must. I average over a 1000 miles a month.

On my FLHRS I take it off in the summer, but I put it back on in the fall for my rainy 50 mile commute to Seattle in the fall and winter. I use it when I have to.

I have never used a windshield and will never use a windshield. If I can’t pick a bug or two off my face then I’m not happy. And, I agree, it takes all the looks away from the bike itself. JMHO.

I agree with the comments about the aesthetics of bikes . . . but a couple of hundred miles at 75-80 mph without any protection takes away some of the fun of the ride. So I reached a compromise-buy a removable windshield. I take it off for around town and short highway rides and put it on for long trips. It’s the best of both worlds.

Swore off windshields 20 yrs ago, got old,windshield great. If you do, get the quick- removal type, go H-D.

I too subscribe to the short ride = no plex and the longer and/or colder ride = the plexiglass up front. You do what you want; it’s your bike. Leave me and my ride alone. This is as stupid as the “My bike is better than your bike” idiots or the helmet arguement. What do I care if you like a radio, GPS, or even a giraffe strapped across your handlebars? It’s YOUR bike. Do what you want but don’t belittle me because I like something different.

I live in northern Ohio, I ride in all kinds of weather , I too love the wind in my face, I hate riding in a heavy rain or when the snow is about to fly.
So I have solve the problem with a removable windshield , I cruse in the nice weather and enjoy the summer sun and the cool nights without the windshield on my Harley softail, and put it on for the days the weather calls for rain or cold.
I dont care what other people think of my bike . I love it and enjoy riding .

Another reason helmet laws are bad.

Motorcycles should be a motor, trans, frame and seat. No windshield. Some of these FLalphabet bikes are more like 2 wheel cars. Radio, CD, Ipod, grip fairings, leg fairings. Stay in your minivan.

All valid reasons to ride windshieldless, and ones I used for twenty five years or more (so ya know I’m in the geezer class), but riding in this morning on my commute (75+ miles one way) with temps in the mid to low forties, I saw very few bikes at all and absolutely zero without windshields… makes for a great summer and or short-range scoot, but when the distances get longer than one hour with wind-chills below freezing, I’m content behind the abbreviated windshield on my geezer glide and thankful for it… form will follow function and the type of bike/equipment will dictate its general acceptability for one task or another…

Last week I took a short ride to the local store and a bee got wedged in my helmet chin strap and proceeded to sting the hell out of me. I mean this been just kept jabbing it’s ass into me and there wasn’t much I could do about it until I pull over. I wiped the little bastard out of my chin strap but by that time I was madder than a wet hornet. Still, I like no windshield but I gotta find a better strap so it doesn’t become a bug catcher. Long rides, windshield on. Shorties, off.

I have to say the gentleman who thinks south west riders don’t need a windshield has never ridden through a swarm of honey bees when they are hanging out over the highways around Phoenix in the spring and must enjoy all of the decomposed granite flinging off of tires that causes more windshield replacements than anywhere else in the country. I suppose riding through a locust hord in southeast NM is your idea of adventure. they do make for a quick snack. My guess is during monsoon season you stay in the garage so the hail doesn’t bruise yer purtty face. I suppose you also don’t ride in the country so you have no worries about a face full of feathers with beak attached when a startled bird comes up out of the tall grass from the side of the road, crows do make awesome looking fork bling.
Do what you wish…. but I’d move out of your glass house.

I can understand if you are in extreme weather, but realize this, extreme weather means major amounts of snow and ice mixed with lots of wind. If you don’t live in the north or north-east then you don’t need a windshield if you live in the south-west and you have a windshield you don’t belong on a motorcycle, YOU belong in a minivan!

Awesome! That’s Bill’s bike in the picture! I agree, Bike’s designed to have windshield (i.e. Touring Models with fairings) look alright and sure are functional, because the fairing is part of the initial design. Buying a bike and making a dresser out of does not appeal to my personal sense of aesthetic. But, hey, as long as you’re riding…….

Hey – The picture is my bike. Yea!! I agree with Jakes comments.

Allright!! My bike in the photo. I agree with Jake.

Yeah! My bike in the photo. I agree with Jake.

It’s all in what you like. I never had a windshield until my Electra Glide. In winter or a long haul I want nothing less, but I have seen some rides that look wrong with a shield. What-ever gets your fix!

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