For some time now my family and my friend John have been attempting to make me less Fred. Sure, I encouraged it in some cases — I even posted some bike-related Christmas gift suggestions on my personal blog with a big “Hint, hint!” One of those suggestions, the Hind Balaclava with breathable mesh, found its way under the tree this Christmas and I was chomping at the bit to give it a try.
I had tried one balaclava and hated it. Anytime I dropped below 8 MPH or, heaven forbid, had to stop at a stop sign or signal, my glasses would fog up – I mean REALLY fog up. Riding for a few seconds at a good clip would clear it up but neither looking over my glasses or riding blindly along with the fog was a very good idea. I’d settled into a routine and was surviving the commute with just the hood of my jacket, or hooded sweatshirt cinched up with my helmet strapped on over it. No fog, but when temperatures dropped below 1° F (-° C), my face got a bit cold. That wasn’t the only disadvantage of riding with the hood (desperately attempting to resist a Riding Hood pun…); once I arrived at my destination and took the hood off, my head would be fairly sweaty – plus – it just looks a bit dorky.
The temperatures during the first half of January stayed above freezing, so I didn’t get a chance to really test this balaclava out until the end of January. The mesh certainly helps cut down on the fogging up, but it took a little playing around to find out how to eliminate the fog altogether. The first couple of days I breathed normally and fogged up. The next couple of days I would huff and puff when I had to come to a stop or slow down – I don’t recommend this method because hyperventilating in traffic just isn’t a good idea. Day five I settled on pursing my lips a bit and just blowing a bit upon exhale. Works like charm.
The only time I’ve noticed my face getting cold while wearing the Hind was when the temperature was ° F (-1° C) and I had to ride into a 25 MPH wind. There were other bonuses besides a warm nose and cheeks; the first day I was rather surprised to discover that my head wasn’t sweaty and my torso wasn’t nearly as damp as it normally would have been. I guess the balaclava allows some of the heat to dissipate. Also, rather than the dorky look of the hood under the helmet, I now look like some kind of urban cycling ninja. Well, in my mind I do…
I’ve asked some others about their balaclavas and fellow KC area bike commuter, Noah, had this to say:
Mine is a cheap Seirus polyester flannel balaclava from Dick’s. It works well, but the trim around the face opening started to come off. I repaired it with a sewing machine a few months ago, and it’s okay now.
I use my balaclava when it’s below 50 or so, but rolled up so it covers my head and ears only. I’ve considered buying some 180s ear warmers instead.
Near freezing, I wear it so it covers my forehead, ears, and neck, so my whole face is exposed.
Below freezing, I wear it like a ninja mask with only my eyes exposed. If I have trouble breathing, I’ll open it up to uncover my nose. If I get too warm, I drop it down below my chin like mentioned above.
If my eyes or upper cheeks start feeling windburn (usually below 15 degrees Fahrenheit when I’m riding at a good clip) I’ll put on ski goggles. Mine are a cheap set of UVEX that I bought almost ten years ago. They’re yellowish tinted like 90′s driving glasses. Even when it’s dim or dark out, they’re not too bad. In the “twilight” when it’s overcast or the sun is setting/rising, they bring out a lot of contrast. They’re the typical double-walled lens goggles with foam vents. I never have a problem with fog, even below zero.
So, the Hind gets 4 out of 5 stars from me. What has been your experience with the balaclavas you’ve tried?