by Lou Dzierzak
In eighteen years of riding, I’ve never used a fairing or a windshield. I have spent money on leathers, helmets, accessories and repairs, but the idea of a having a windshield made me think of a big Goldwing-esque rolling-living-room.
This style is not without risks, however. Riders on bikes without windshields will understand. How many times have you been hit with rocks, stones or wind-driven rain pellets? And although they hurt enough to wince, road kill at eye level is an even bigger deal. Early in the season you can actually watch those June Bugs as big as chicken nuggets flying suicide missions into your helmet. No head bobbing can avoid the hit. Yuck. After impact, you’re left with a multi-colored Rorschach test that doesn’t come off with the backside of your glove. Pull over and clean off the goo. Chances are it won’t be the last time.
I’ve decided there will be no bug autopsies this season. A windshield is at the top of my shopping list. Picking a shield should be a fairly easy decision, at least compared to beefing up horsepower. A word of advice: to end up installed, protected and happy, prepare to spend some time considering options…and compromises.
Before making my choice, I talked with Slipstreamer, a local company that has manufactured windshields for over twenty years. Your shop of choice probably has a few on display. They took time out of their busy schedules to walk me through the information I needed to consider. Personal preferences are at the top of the list, then technical information helps separate the options. Here are some things to consider when you are shopping for a windshield: Sit on your bike and visualize what fits your style&emdash;full coverage to protect your hands or a small tombstone for style points. Next, consider the height of the shield. Do you want to see over the top, or do you want to look through the shield? What you don’t want to do is install a shield that lines up with your vision line and splits your view. Are you going to ride with it every day or do you want the flexibility to put it on just for weekend road trips? Finally, take a look at the construction and materials used. A conversation with your trusted shop mechanic can be helpful, too.
After installing a windshield and riding for the first time, Slipstreamer gets one of two reactions. Experienced riders are thrilled at the protection. A calm center that doesn’t batter your helmet and neck! No more human kite trying to stay connected to the bars! New riders are disappointed. “I can still feel wind coming from somewhere.” Some saddle time will cure this.
Most motorcycle OEM’s use polycarbon for their shields. It’s fairly strong and resists braking, but it is pretty soft, scratches easily and is made to be replaced during the life of the bike. Manufacturers want you to open your wallet again to pay for their shields. Slipstreamer takes a different approach. Their shields are created from acrylic materials. Acrylic offers clear benefits. Through Slipstreamer shields, your view of the world is optically clear, especially at night. Looking through other materials distorts images and headlights. Scratches can be buffed out, and impact resistance is comparable to the others.
Installing a new shield is straightforward. Slipstreamer has catalogs to match specific models to your bike so guesswork isn’t part of the process. The shield and mounting hardware are well-crafted and of high quality. Easy-to-follow directions walk you through the installation. Since the shields fit many different models, some minor adjusts may be needed. The best way to avoid unintended problems is to make sure you have the bike oriented per the instructions.
Riding is different now&emdash;same thrills, fewer biology lessons. The windshield will stay on. Adding a windshield isn’t expensive, hard to install or necessarily permanently attached. Consider adding one to your bike. I need to go out for ride. Be back next month.