Description of the Problem
There are two types of wind noises. One is generated by the rider cutting through the atmosphere. The other comes from the natural movement of air or other gases relative to the planet’s surface. Both types of wind noise can irritate a cyclist and mask other sounds.
Tips For Reducing Wind Noise While Cycling
The only way to reduce wind noise besides riding slowly is to create а barrier/isolation between your ears and the atmosphere. This can be accomplished via the following products:
1. A Hat or Earmuffs
The simplest and cheapest way to reduce wind noise is to wear a hat covering the ears or a set of ear muffs.
If you don’t wear a helmet, any winter hat will do when it’s cold outside. However, if you’re riding with a helmet, it’s more comfortable to get a dedicated cycling hat with ear covers because it’s thinner. Another option is to purchase a set of earmuffs and put them over the helmet straps.
In hot weather, however, this approach is a bit more difficult. You can’t just put on a winter hat because it will result in quick overheating. The only solution is to switch to thinner material.
One of the cheapest options is to get a thin bandana and wrap it around your head and ears. The bandana should be made of breathing material to avoid excessive heat.
Another option would be to wear a regular summer cycling cap and sew two extensions to cover your ears. This is necessary because standard summer cycling caps do not go over the ears.
You can use a basic sewing machine to add the extensions or bring the hat to a professional and explain your goal. The service shouldn’t be particularly expensive.
2. Dedicated Products
There are also products specifically designed to solve this problem.
Cat-Ears are made of faux fur and are secured to the helmet straps with velcro loops. They act as isolation between the ear and the wind. The main advantage of cat-ears is that they work without interfering with the rest of the cyclist’s clothing. They can be worn in all seasons too.
The main downside which puts people away are the looks. Let’s face it. Cyclists care about looks. Sometimes we stay away from accessories not because they don’t function well but because they make us appear a certain way.
Also, cat-ears are designed specifically for helmets. If you’re riding without a helmet, you won’t have a place to install them.
Helmet Angels are plastic caps installed on the helmet straps to isolate the ears of the cyclist from the wind. They have the form of a shell and come with soft cushioning.
There are also many other products in that category. All of them follow a similar principle. They attach to the helmet straps and create a barrier.
In general, most people give positive reviews to those products, and the choice often boils down to looks and other personal preferences.
3. Musician Earplugs
Another option is to wear musician/filter earplugs. Those types of plugs greatly reduce the irritating noises reaching your ears (e.g., motorcycles, power tools…etc.) while still allowing you to hear the surrounding environment.
Musicians often wear them while working or when performing to protect their hearing. The advantage of this method is that earplugs do not require a helmet and are much more discreet. They also prevent bugs from entering the ear canals.
4. Cheaper Solutions
If buying new products isn’t possible due to budget restraints or unavailability, another option is to ride with phone/MP3 ear plugs but without playing any music through them.
5. Ghetto Tricks
If you want to quickly eliminate wind noise on a particularly painful ride, you can put a band-aid over your ears. Another, more ghetto option, is to use duct tape instead of band-aids. (Many cyclists carry a small roll of duct tape and band-aids in their saddle or tool bottle anyway.)
While this solution isn’t pretty, it’s fairly effective.
6. Go Aero
If you have a road bike with drop bars, you will notice that the wind noise is reduced when you ride in the drops. This happens because your ears are now less vertical to the bike and the upper part of the outer ear provides some isolation. The forehead and the helmet help too as they act as the first front facing the wind.
That said, it’s not practical to always ride in the drops to reduce wind noise. The position is uncomfortable and reduces visibility in traffic.
- Playing Loud Music
To run away from wind noise, some people blast the music on their phone to the maximum. This is a very bad practice because the loud music prevents you from hearing your surroundings while also damaging your hearing.
FAQ: How dangerous is wind noise?
Wind noise has the following negative characteristics:
- Irritation/Annoyance (this is the primary reason why people want to eliminate it)
- Masking other sounds (in extreme cases wind noise can make it difficult to hear the vehicles around you)
- Distraction (you can’t hear your own thoughts)
- Stress (Wind noise can increase your adrenaline and stress levels. Removing it may calm you down.)
Some people claim that wind noise can also damage one’s hearing. And while that’s probably true to a certain extent, the effect is far greater if one already has damaged hearing.
If wind noise was all that brutal on one’s ears, Tour De France riders would be all reporting severe hearing loss. Since this isn’t the case, it would be a bit too extreme to conclude that ear protection is obligatory. That said, if one’s hearing is sensitive, it’s recommended to consult a physician for advice on the subject.
FAQ: What are the downsides of blocking wind noise?
Aside from appearing a bit weird due to the extra pieces covering your ears, the only notable downside of blocking wind noise is reduced audio feedback.
However, this can happen only if you use an extreme/improper technique (e.g., blasting music, ear plugs with extreme isolation…etc.)
Summary: What You Need To Know
Wind noise has the following downsides:
- Masking of external sounds and consequently the distance of other vehicles
The only effective way to reduce wind noise is to create a barrier between the ears and the atmosphere.
This can be accomplished via the following methods:
- Wearing a hat or ear muffs (good solution in the winter for cyclists who don’t wear helmets, but a poor choice for hot weather.)
- Cycling winter hat or ear muffs (good solution for winter cycling with a helmet)
- Thin bandana over the ears (decent for warmer weather but could still cause notable overheating on hot days).
- Dedicated wind-noise-reducing cycling products that go onto the helmet (an effective solution but can’t be used without a helmet)
- Musician earplugs (Fairly effective and can be used with or without a helmet. Another bonus is that they don’t change the cyclist’s appearance or cause overheating)
- Regular headphones with no music coming through them (cheap and fairly effective).
- Band-aid or duct tape over the ears (A ghetto fix that can be helpful when nothing else is available).