A cold weather riding jacket and pants, insulated gloves and boots, and a full-face helmet; you’d think this is all you’d need to keep yourself warm while riding. However, if you’ve ever ridden in frigid weather wearing similar levels of gear, we’re sure you’ve realized there is a chink in this otherwise protective armor — the neck. There’s also the fact that cold air can flow up through the chin gap in a full-face helmet and leave your teeth chattering. This is where a balaclava comes in.
It doesn’t matter what you ride and in what season; you’re probably going to benefit from wearing a balaclava. They come in various shapes and sizes, but the most ideal ones for a motorcycle cover the entire head and face with a slot for the eyes. Today, there are several motorcycle-specific balaclavas that you can get, each offering features that have been designed to keep you comfortable on a ride.
Why Should You Wear a Balaclava in the Winter?
A balaclava is often referred to as a ski mask. While it’s most common on snowy slopes laden with skiers, the humble balaclava actually has its roots in the Crimean war of 1854, where British soldiers donned handmade face masks to protect them from the extreme cold. As you can see, the primary purpose of one has always been to keep the person wearing it warm.
When you’re riding a motorcycle, the temperature your body is subject to is notably lower than the actual ambient temperature. This is because of a phenomenon called wind chill. By definition, wind chill or the wind chill factor is the lowering of body temperature due to the passing flow of lower-temperature air.
So, if you’re riding at 50°F, which is rather cold in its own regard, your body is going to be experiencing lower temperatures owing to the air that blows against you while riding. Evidently, as you go faster, the colder you will feel. This is why wearing a balaclava can be crucial if you ride in frigid weather. Without adequate protection, you risk falling sick, and this could bring a long, multi-day ride to an end prematurely.
Best Winter Motorcycles Balaclavas
Typically, balaclavas are made from wool. However, wool can be hard to maintain, so modern motorcycle balaclavas are usually made from a mixture of fabrics that allow them to be easily washable and more durable. The list below is far from exhaustive, but it covers some reputable balaclavas from trusted names in the space.
Naroo F9F Balaclava
Naroo motorcycle balaclavas are on the higher end of what’s available because they’re a bit more than “just” a balaclava. These highly-breathable masks are also effective filters, removing particulates as small as 1.7μm (40 times smaller than a human hair). If you live somewhere affected by smoke from wildfires, you’re going to love that filtration. The company claims its products will retain their ability to block out 99% of dust particles even after over 100 washes, so you don’t have to worry about reusability.
This Naroo F9F balaclava is one of the company’s more popular winter weather offerings. Made from a combination of Tactel fabric and fleece, it’s been designed to keep you warm even in the harshest cold. The elastic construction also wraps snuggly around your head and face, preventing the mask from sliding over your eyes or off your head every time you put on or take off your helmet.
The F9F demands a premium, but it’s money worth spending when considering its reliability and protection.
Alpinestars Touring Winter Balaclava
The Alpinestars Touring Winter Balaclava adopted its use cases as its name. This winter balaclava features a warm and breathable moisture-wicking stretch fabric that ensures you’re comfortable and dry at all times. This is an excellent option for someone who feels suffocated by a conventional balaclava as it features a slit under the nose to enable unrestricted breathing. Alpinestars manufactures quality motorcycle gear, and you can expect similar levels of reliability from this little piece of kit, too.
The stand-out features of the Alpinestars Touring Winter Balaclava are its external neck skirt. In addition to protecting you from the cold wind, this extended piece of fabric is also waterproof and extends onto the shoulders.
AXIAL Block Balaclava
AXIAL is a lesser-known name in the motorcycling space, but this AXIAL Block balaclava is definitely not one you should sleep on. It’s affordable and comes with a host of features that you’d typically find on options that cost notably more.
The main body of the balaclava is made from the company’s ‘Freeze-Out’ windproof membrane that covers the entire head and face with a wide opening for the eyes. The bottom of the balaclava is long, so you can tuck it into your riding jacket and shield yourself from cool winds. The sides of the balaclava employ lightweight, breathable stretch panels, so it doesn’t feel bulky under the helmet.
Dainese Total WS EVO Balaclava
Dainese is one of the most prominent names in the motorcycle gear space, manufacturing everything from race suits and riding jackets to helmets with its subsidiary AGV. The Dainese Total WS EVO may look like any other balaclava, but it’s excellent at what it does. It’s made from the company’s Windstopper fabric, the same material used on Dainese’s windproof gloves, jackets, and base layers.
SCHAMPA Warmskin Balaclava
SCHAMPA is an American company that specializes in cold-weather apparel and bags. The SCHAMPA Warmskin Balaclava, by the company’s own admission, is the warmest skintight balaclava it has to offer. The company uses a flat seam architecture, meaning there are no pressure points when you wear the balaclava under a helmet. Similarly, there are no seams from the mouth to the neck, and the bottom half of the mask is a single piece. The fabric is moisture-wicking and breathable, so you can wear it even in the summer without getting too uncomfortable.