Do Motorcycle Windshields Make a Difference? [Explained]


There is no question that a motorcycle windshield makes a huge difference in the riding experience. In a nutshell, the most important benefits that you can expect from a windshield are as follows:

  • Protection from Wind and Cold
  • Rain Protection
  • Debris/Bug Protection
  • Reduced Fatigue and Pain
  • Noise Reduction
  • Reduced Buffeting

If you would like to find out more about these factors and the basics of motorcycle windshields, this post is for you.

We at PowerSportsGuide have compiled all you need to know about this useful part under one roof!

Do Motorcycle Windshields Make a Difference?

There’s no question that a correctly-sized windshield makes your rides far more comfortable. It can protect you from wind, rain, debris, and bugs while also helping to reduce fatigue and pain. These are great points, especially on longer tours! This is why touring and ADV motorcycles are typically equipped with larger windshields.

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and take a closer look at the main advantages of motorcycle windshields!

Protection from Wind and Cold

It’s safe to say that the main idea behind a motorcycle windshield is that it gives you an extra layer of protection. As the name implies, a windshield is a shield designed to protect you from the wind and elements.

The larger the windshield, the more effectively it pushes the wind away from you.

A properly designed and installed larger windshield can keep the wind and cold away from your upper body. What’s more, it can also reduce the amount of air flowing to your legs!

It comes in handy, especially on chilly days!

If you ride regularly in cold weather, you may also want to consider a pair of hand guards.

Reduced Fatigue and Pain

Wind protection also reduces the force against your helmet and upper body. This results in more comfort and less fatigue and pain.

Without a windshield, the wind would push much harder against you, which can lead to pain in your neck, arms, and shoulders.

A windshield can make your rides more relaxing and allow you to cover longer distances.

Reduced Buffeting

A windshield can also significantly reduce wind buffeting, which causes a lot of headaches for many riders.

If buffeting is an issue on your bike, you should consider installing a windshield.

A properly adjusted screen pushes a good portion of the air over your head, which can help prevent your helmet from buffeting.

Noise Reduction

Motorcycles are prone to making a lot of noise. The exhaust, wheels, brakes, or even the drive chain can produce various sounds.

What’s more, besides mechanical sounds, you also hear wind noise when you’re riding.

If you want to make your ride quieter or just want to hear your audio system better, you definitely need a windshield on your bike.

Rain Protection

If you’ve ever been caught in the rain on a bike, you probably know how uncomfortable it is. Even if you have a good-quality waterproof suit, you can get soaked in a very short time.

But if your bike features a larger windshield, it can keep a lot of the rain off of you!

It can’t keep you completely dry of course, but the difference is day and night.

Debris/Bug Protection

Another key advantage of a motorcycle windshield is that it protects you from dirt, debris, and bugs.

Even a little rock can cause damage to your helmet or clothing. What’s more, it really hurts when one hits you, not to mention bugs, which can virtually cover everything from your helmet to your clothing.

Bugs are not only a hassle to remove but can also restrict your vision, which can lead to dangerous situations.

If you’re considering buying a motorcycle windshield, keep reading.

We’ll get down to the nitty-gritty and talk about the basics of these important parts in detail.

Types of Motorcycle Windshields

There are many ways to classify motorcycle windshields, but the most commons are as follows:

  • Size: small/medium/large
  • Fixed or adjustable
  • Fitted vs. universal
  • Quick detach mount vs. permanently installed
  • Material: acrylic vs. polycarbonate

Motorcycle Windshield Sizes

Motorcycle windshields come in many sizes and shapes.

Even the smallest ones can change your bike’s overall look and add some spice to it.

What’s more, contrary to popular belief, these small windshields are not only for design purposes.

Instead, a properly designed model can make a noticeable difference on a naked bike. It would be best if you try to find one that is specifically designed for your bike.

This is because there are many worthless shields on the market that feature a poor design.

The wrong shield can distract the airflow from your body to your head, which may end in a turbulence in your helmet.

If you are looking for a bigger windshield, you can choose from two different types, the fork and the handlebar-mounted windshields.

The latter are typically smaller, which results in less protection, and they are more likely to buffet as well. The main advantages of these shields are their adjustability and better overall design.

If you are looking for the largest motorcycle windshields, you should take a look at fork-mounted models.

As the name suggests, a fork-mounted windshield can be firmly attached to the front forks. This is why they are so stable! Furthermore, they are typically very large and offer excellent coverage.

The main drawback of these shields is that they are not adjustable.

Finally, don’t forget that some motorcycles feature windscreens rather than windshields. These bikes are typically the sport and sport-touring motorcycles with full fairings.

On these models, the windscreen is usually fitted into the fairing.

What are Motorcycle Windshields Made of?

The majority of motorcycle windshields are made from acrylic plastic or polycarbonate.

Acrylic motorcycle windshields are more affordable and aren’t prone to becoming yellow because of UV rays.

On the other hand, they can lose their clarity over time and also scratch easily. Fortunately, most of these scratches can usually be removed with a little care.

Another popular material for motorcycle windshields is polycarbonate. These shields are more flexible, durable, and more scratch-resistant than their acrylic brothers.

Sadly, they come with higher price tags and are prone to becoming yellow as the bike ages.

Another drawback of this material is that the scratches are much less repairable on the surface.

Are Motorcycle Windshields Universal?

While many motorcycle windshields are universal, you can also find many bike-specific models on the market. Which one should you choose?

The general rule is that if it’s available, best practice is to invest in a shield that is specifically designed for your motorcycle. It will not only fit your bike perfectly but also be much easier to install.

But if you have a vintage or custom motorcycle, you will probably need a universal windshield.

How High Should a Windshield be on a Motorcycle?

According to Dennis Kirk, a motorcycle windshield should be high enough to offer acceptable wind protection, but the rider must still be able to look over it while riding. This means you have to be able to see the road for about 50 feet in front of you, even if you aren’t looking through the shield. As a general rule, the top of the windshield should be as high as the tip of your nose in a normal riding position.

In other words, the tip of your nose should be horizontally level with the top of the shield.

Why?

This is because motorcycle windshields are often covered with dirt, bugs, debris, or even moisture. This means your vision through the windshield may be limited to some extent. And to stay safe on your bike you always need the best vision available.

Therefore, keeping safety in mind you should be able to ride your bike while looking over the windshield.

Here’s a great video on how to adjust a motorcycle windshield to the proper height.

How is a Motorcycle Windshield Measured?

Measuring a motorcycle windshield is not rocket science. All you need is a tape measure and a helper. When you measure, the most important thing to remember is that the front forks are at an angle.

This means that you should keep in mind that the shield won’t be in a vertical position. Instead, it will follow the angle of the forks.

To measure the windshield on your motorcycle, you should sit on your bike in a natural riding position. Ask your helper to hold up the tape measure from the headlight. Again, make sure to take into account the angle of the front forks. The tape measure should be angled at about the same angle as the forks. The measurement of a windshield is the distance between the top of the headlight to the level of the tip of your nose.

If you are looking for a step-by-step tutorial on how to measure a motorcycle windshield, don’t miss this video!

Modifying a Motorcycle Windshield

Let’s face it, the perfect motorcycle windshield doesn’t exist. Many bikes come with a built-in windshield that doesn’t necessarily meet the needs of the riders. This is why many riders prefer to customize the shield on their bikes. It’s safe to say that the most common motorcycle windshield modifications are as follows:

  • Trimming the shield.
  • Installing an extension on it.
  • Tinting/painting/wrapping the windshield.

Can a Motorcycle Windshield be Cut Down?

Yes, you can cut down the windshield on your motorcycle if it’s too high for you. On the other hand, keep in mind that this modification may void the warranty. Therefore, always consult with your dealer in advance!

How do You Cut Down a Motorcycle Windshield? 

To cut down a motorcycle windshield all you need is an electric jigsaw, a marker, tape, and sandpaper. Surprisingly, you can do this modification without removing the shield from the bike. Just tape off both sides of the cutting area, mark the line, and simply cut it down.

You can use an electric jigsaw or a fine-tooth Dremel circular saw for cutting. As the final step, polish the new edge of the shield to make it smooth.

Best practice is to make a rough cut, and shape the final profile by sanding.

If you want to learn more about the process, don’t miss this great post about windshield trimming at Motorcycle Cruiser, or just check out this video.

This mod seems easy but it’s very important to do it slowly and carefully to avoid damage.

If you are afraid that you might damage your windshield or even the bike, you may want to contact a plexiglass shop in your area.

If you are lucky, they can help you with this.

How to Make a Motorcycle Windshield Higher

While many riders trim OEM windshields for better vision, taller riders may find them too low. If your bike comes with a smaller shield you probably want to know how to extend it for more head protection. The easiest way to make a motorcycle windshield higher is to install an extension on it!

These aftermarket motorcycle windshield extensions are also known as “motorcycle windshield wind deflectors” or “extension spoilers.”

As their name suggests, these extensions are designed for heightening stock windshields to reduce wind buffeting.

They can be easily fixed on top of the original screen with adjustable hinges.

Some of these wind deflectors feature a clip-on style, while others require you to drill holes into the original shield.

How Do You Attach a Motorcycle Windshield?

The exact installation process of a motorcycle windshield always depends on its type and the design of your bike. The majority of windshields have to be mounted to the front forks or the handlebar with brackets. However, some of them attach directly to the fairing. As always, best practice is to read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions!

Also, you can find a plethora of tutorials on YouTube on how to install a motorcycle windshield.

Which Motorcycle Windshield is the Best?

If you are considering investing in an aftermarket screen, you probably want to know which are the most reputable brands on the market. Without further ado, here’s the list of the best motorcycle windshield manufacturers.

  • Memphis Shades
  • National Cycle
  • Zero Gravity
  • Slipstreamer
  • Rizoma
  • Givi
  • Puig
  • MRA

How do you Make a Motorcycle Windshield?

If you don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars for a new model, your other option is to make your own motorcycle windshield. If you like making things you can easily make your own DIY motorcycle windshield from a polycarbonate or acrylic sheet. First, you need to make a pattern from cardboard. Then tape the sheet, draw the shape onto it with a sharpie, and cut it out with an electric jigsaw. As a final step, polish the edge to get a smooth finish.

If you’re looking for a detailed guide of the process, don’t miss this detailed post at Instructables.

Related Questions

For your convenience, we’ve compiled the most frequently asked questions under one roof.

Do all Motorcycles Have Windshields?

Surprisingly, the first motorcycles were manufactured without windshields. When it comes to today’s motorcycles, many of them come with a windshield as standard, while others still lack this useful addition. Why? This is mainly for design reasons!

There are many machines like naked bikes, bobbers, or café racers that have a minimalist “naked” look.

Therefore, windshields typically don’t fit the style of these bikes.

In contrast, ADV, touring, and sportbikes are usually equipped with windshields, and with good reason.

Sportbikes can even reach the amazing top speed of 100-186 mph, so effective wind protection on these bikes is a must.

Touring and ADV bikes also come with windshields because they are designed for long rides.

Is a windshield necessary on a motorcycle?

Contrary to popular belief, a windshield is not necessary on a motorcycle. However, it does a really good job, that’s why many bikes come with a windshield as standard. If your bike doesn’t feature a screen you may want to consider adding one to it.

Do windshields help on motorcycles? 

Yes, riding a motorcycle with a windshield makes a huge difference. It can help keep wind, dirt, bugs, and debris away from you and make your rides more comfortable and enjoyable.

Should you look through or over a motorcycle windshield?

As a rule of thumb, you have to be able to look over the windshield on a motorcycle. If your screen is too high, you should lower it, cut it down, or replace it with a smaller one.

Can you tint motorcycle windshield?

Yes, there are many ways to tint a motorcycle windshield. However, before you do this modification, make sure that it isn’t against the law in your state.

What is the windshield on a motorcycle called?

Motorcycle windshields are also called screens or windscreens, especially those models that are fitted into the fairings of the bike.

What is the best material for a motorcycle windshield?

The best materials for a motorcycle windshield are acrylic and polycarbonate.

Conclusion – Why do Motorcycles Have Windshields?

As we’ve discussed, there are six main reasons why motorcycles have windshields.

  1. Protection from Wind and Cold
  2. Rain Protection
  3. Debris/Bug Protection
  4. Reduced Fatigue and Pain
  5. Noise Reduction
  6. Reduced Buffeting

Finally, all of these advantages lead to more comfortable rides and higher safety!

References:

https://www.thedrive.com/reviews/32342/best-motorcycle-windshield

https://ridermagazine.com/2013/05/07/motorcycle-windshield-buyers-guide/

https://www.bikebandit.com/blog/the-buyers-guide-to-motorcycle-windshields

https://www.denniskirk.com/learn/motorcycle-windshield-guide

https://www.motorcyclecruiser.com/motorcycle-windshield-buyers-guide/

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