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  1. #1
    Rustbelt Rider mkeller234's Avatar
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    Balaclava recommendations

    I have ridden my bike to work everyday for the past two years. Last winter I bought a cheap knitted ski mask and while it's better than nothing, the cold wind seems to penetrate it rather easily.

    I'd appreciate any feedback from the cold winter commuters here. I don't want to spend a fortune, around 30 dollars and below would be great. What makes a good mask?

    It's 12 degrees fahrenheit this morning, I'm done freezing my face off!
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  2. #2
    Old, but not really wise CptjohnC's Avatar
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    I see that the replies are burning up the board -- consider the winter riding forum. I have no great guidance -- I bought a balaclava at Costco for about $10, and so far, so good, though not perfect. Things to consider:

    Fabric/ material: mine is polyester fleece, which is gentle on the skin, but will probably start to smell soon enough (I think it is anti-microbial treated, though?) I imagine there are merino wool ones, if you want to spend some money, and they're probably excellent.

    Fit: one issue with mine is that the eye hole isn't as big or stretchy as I would like -- I don't like to cover my mouth/nose generally, but I like having the neck and side of the head covered. I could really go with a neck gaiter and hat, I suppose, but one thing is less than two things ;-) the net result is that sometimes the top slides down towards my eyes, forcing me to reposition.

    Wind: Unless it incorporates some kind of wind blocking layer, most will just pass the breeze through. If cold and windy are the issue, look for windproof.

    Talk to other cold weather sports aficionados. Snowboarders, skiers, climbers, etc...

  3. #3
    Senior Member flyingWeez's Avatar
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    I have an Under Armor balaclava and I am very pleased with it. I've never used it in 12 degree weather mind you, but for 30 or so here in Georgia it works nicely.

    http://www.amazon.com/Under-Armour-M...2514728&sr=8-1

  4. #4
    It's true, man.
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    I use a ColumbiaŽ fleece neck gaiter pulled up over the back of my head, lips and ears. On colder days (teens, low 20's), to cover my forehead, I add a merino beanie over the gaiter. I keep my nose uncovered while moving to keep from fogging my glasses.

    I find it a lot easier to regulate temperature with the two separate pieces than a single balaclava.

  5. #5
    Senior Member jdswitters's Avatar
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    Just got one from REI for about 20$, thin enough to fit under the helmet, still warm in 20F. One caveat tho, I'm old and slow so I don't know how well it may work for someone who is biking pretty fast.
    Torker Graduate, 288 rods a day without pub detours.

  6. #6
    Very, very Senior Member JPprivate's Avatar
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    i have this alpaca wool balaclava, quite happy with it and I use it from 5-30 F.

  7. #7
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    Don't go into a bank wearing one

  8. #8
    One Man Fast Brick hubcap's Avatar
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    I have a couple different balaclavas. One is a light fleece material that is a pretty loose knit fabric, the other is a little thicker and the exterior is smoother instead of the fleece feel/look. Neither have a windproof membrane. IMO a windproof balaclava would be way too hot.

    The heavier one extends further down my neck, so it is more flexible with how I want to wear it. That is important when you have your helmet straps snapped around it. You want to have enough play above your straps to be able to pull it up to cover your nose or pull it down below your chin without messing with the helmet straps. At the same time, you want enough below the straps to overlap with your jacket.

    I think both of them came from Sierra Trading Post and they were cheap - well within your budget.

  9. #9
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    I have been using a shemagh it works great, really blocks the wind. People do look at you funny and when I pull it off the top of my head I look like a hipster but its still the best 6 bucks I spent this winter.

  10. #10
    Senior Member himespau's Avatar
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    I've been using the Louis Garneau one. It's not super thick, but it's kept me reasonably warm in the low 20's without too much problem. It's a bit small for my giant head, so it's not super form fitting when I pull it up over my nose (my nose and chin don't fit in quite the right spots (and it can result in a lot of exhuast fogging my glasses. Still, my neck and ears weren't at all cold (like another poster though my top sustained pace is probably 20 or below and my commutes are only in the 30-40 minute range). I so far it's cut the wind enough that if I want more warmth in my head, I'll just throw on my waterproof helmet cover which turns my head into a furnace.

  11. #11
    Senior Member no motor?'s Avatar
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    I've got a thin Serius one, and it was too warm to wear while motorcycling. Works great for bicycling, and it cost about $12 at Disks Sporting Goods.

  12. #12
    Zoom! Ember's Avatar
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    I have a Serius Ultra Clava

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...ef=oss_product

    This clava has worked for me from 40 to at least 9 degrees. You can move the face covering down when you get too warm. It's got a wind blocking, too. I highly recommend it, as my face has not been cold since I started wearing it.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Seattle Forrest's Avatar
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    I use two merino wool neck gaiters; one over my neck which can be pulled up to my eyes, and one over my head which can come down to cover my ears. But when I climb hills, sprint, or get warm for some other reason, I can adjust it to let whatever amount of air I want in.

    Quote Originally Posted by JPprivate View Post
    i have this alpaca wool balaclava, quite happy with it and I use it from 5-30 F.
    How soft is alpaca wool, compared to merino and cashmere, out of curiosity?
    Don't believe everything you think.

  14. #14
    Senior Member EKW in DC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by atbman View Post
    Don't go into a bank wearing one

  15. #15
    Very, very Senior Member JPprivate's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EKW in DC View Post
    Yeah, don't laugh, I did that once, and the clerk was really happy when I took it off and looked quite "normal"

  16. #16
    Come here often? <wink> exile's Avatar
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    I don't wear a Balaclava, but I do have some face masks like this one from Gordini. I also have a skull and crossbones fleece lined bandanna which I get complimented on. I also bought a neck gaiter from the local salvation army for $.50.
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  17. #17
    Very, very Senior Member JPprivate's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
    I use two merino wool neck gaiters; one over my neck which can be pulled up to my eyes, and one over my head which can come down to cover my ears. But when I climb hills, sprint, or get warm for some other reason, I can adjust it to let whatever amount of air I want in.



    How soft is alpaca wool, compared to merino and cashmere, out of curiosity?
    Oh, hard to say, I am no expert. It feels about the same to me. I just checked my base layer (merino) and my balaclava and I can't really feel a difference.

  18. #18
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    I have used a few, but the one that fits best snugly around my face is the Pearl Izumi Barrier model. The only draw back with the tightness of the balaclava, is that if you wear thick templed cycling glasses (Specialized Helix in my case - has prescription insert), the elastic puses the glasses temples against your face. for a short, one hour ride, its not realy so bad, but I rode last Sunday from Prospect Park, Brooklyn, to Stricly's bike shop in NJ, and back... my temples still hurt when I chew... I would sugest making holes on the sides of the Balaclava, for tghe temples to slide through. However, this must be done using hot scissors, that quickly melt the openning, to prevent the elastic fabric from unraveling.
    Another issue with wearing cycling glasses with a balaclava, is that wind enters aroun temples, making it quite noisy. This can be solved by suffing cotton balls around the temples.
    The Pearl Izumi Barrier balaklava is windproof, covers neck well, and is ergonamicaly constructed. I use it daily in Prospect Park, and its mighty chilly these days!

  19. #19
    Senior Member mustachiod's Avatar
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    i'd suggest visiting a ski shop, they'll have some that are made for going under a helmet. the one i'm wearing now says NXTZ on the tag, I have no idea if that's a good brand or not but it was $20.
    Quote Originally Posted by powers2b View Post
    BF does not have the answer to what you will be happy with.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Seattle Forrest's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JPprivate View Post
    Oh, hard to say, I am no expert. It feels about the same to me. I just checked my base layer (merino) and my balaclava and I can't really feel a difference.
    Thanks!
    Don't believe everything you think.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by flyingWeez View Post
    I have an Under Armor balaclava and I am very pleased with it. I've never used it in 12 degree weather mind you, but for 30 or so here in Georgia it works nicely.

    http://www.amazon.com/Under-Armour-M...2514728&sr=8-1

    I have the same one, It was 18 degrees yesterday and I was perfectly fine. Fits great with a helmet.

  22. #22
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    Last time there was a thread like this I wrote a real long reply, and the guy bought some cheap wool thing anyways so I'll avoid doing that this time, lol.

    The best I've found is the Cannondale Slice Balaclava -
    http://www.performancebike.com/bikes..._20000__400093



    The problem I always had was that these things put cloth right over my mouth, then I'd start breathing hard (because, you know, I'm actually exercising) and it would suck the cloth right into my mouth and I couldn't breath through it (especially since it was windproof). This thing is really great because I can rest the front cloth part on my nose and it keeps it far enough away from my mouth that I can breath. And on the warm(ish) days I can just flip the front piece off my face and not have it the way at all, while still having something over my head and ears.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  23. #23
    Senior Member sonatageek's Avatar
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    I have a thin polypro one that works great. Don't recall the brand - I combine it with having my hood up on the wind breaker when it is really cold and that seems to work pretty well down to temps in the 20's.

  24. #24
    Senior Member travelmama's Avatar
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    This topic was brought up some weeks ago. Hit up REI or Departmentofgoods.com where you can get at least 50 percent off each item.
    Two Wheels One Love

  25. #25
    Older than dirt CCrew's Avatar
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    +1 on the Under Armour one. Have one and love it.

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