If you’ve ever been go-karting, it’s very likely that you’ve worn a balaclava at some point. Most kart tracks have helmets, fireproof racing suits, and head and neck restraint devices for karters to wear. Balaclavas (or head socks, as they’re sometimes called) are also usually available, because who wants to get someone else’s sweat and hair gel all over when they slide into that borrowed helmet?
If you’re a biker who wears a helmet, a good balaclava is also indispensable. Yes, I know — that lid is your own, and you don’t share it with anyone (or at most, you let your girlfriend/boyfriend/whatever borrow it on occasion). It’s still a good idea.
Why? Five simple reasons:
To save your helmet padding
Many modern helmets feature pads that are washable, and can be removed from your helmet and tossed in your washing machine on a gentle cycle. If you need to replace them (either with thinner or thicker pads, or just because the old ones are nasty and gross and unsalvageable), you can often buy replacements.
However, not all pads are washable. Sometimes, only the cheek pads pop out — not the big pad that goes around the crown of your head. Yes, you do sweat up there — as anyone who rides with a lid during the hottest summer days can tell you.
Most bikers I know aren’t made of money. By simply wearing a balaclava, you can keep a lot of the nastiness of sweat — and the ensuing bacterial buildup that renders stuff stinky — away from
the inside of your helmet. If you wear hair products — spray, gel, mousse, whatever — I’d almost say that a balaclava is a must. Better to get that all sticky and full of hair gunk than to have that embedded in your helmet pads and eventually irritating your scalp, face, and neck. Balaclavas are easy to drop in the wash whenever you want, and you keep a reasonably clean, fresh helmet at all times.
To keep your long hair in check
Let’s face it: you’re going to get helmet hair anyway. Why not at least keep that hair from attacking you as you ride? If you have hair of any length that can poke you in the eye, it will find a way to work itself free and poke you in the eye. You can tie it back. You can slick it down with gel. You can try all sorts of stuff to keep it in place — but a balaclava doesn’t do so temporarily. Oh, no. It keeps your hair completely in check at all times. No more having a stray bit work itself free and poke you in the eye as you’re going through a particularly tricky twisty bit of road. No more long bangs tickling your nose and making you sneeze at inopportune moments, either.
To keep the inside of your lid makeup-free
If you wear makeup when you ride, you don’t want it gunking up the inside of your lid. Sure, as with sweat and hair products, most modern lids feature removable, washable pads. But do you really want to stain them? Chances are good that if you’re wearing makeup on a bike, you’ve opted for the long-wearing stuff. Guess what: those stains aren’t coming out of your pads without a fight — and maybe not at all. Wearing a balaclava means you have no makeup worries when donning your favorite lid.
To help regulate body temperature
If you run, you already know the value of wearing proper base layers to match the weather. Stuff for hot weather helps wick away moisture from your skin, keeping you cooler and drier but not allowing you to dehydrate as quickly from moisture loss. Stuff for cold weather reflects your body heat, helping you stay warmer. Balaclavas are this way, too. No matter what the temperature’s like when you’re riding, they’re a boon to the cause of keeping your body temperature where you want it.
To look like a ninja when you’re off the bike
Live your childhood dreams, even if only for those few moments in between taking off your lid and unveiling your face whenever you get to a stopping point. Don’t tell me that being a ninja isn’t one of your childhood dreams, because I won’t believe you.
Where do you find balaclavas? Many places that stock motorcycle gear sell them, both in brick-and-mortar stores and online. Don’t be afraid to look around and compare until you find one you like. Some have larger openings for your face than others. I currently have one that I wear year-round (I have a heated jacket liner and gloves, so I don’t feel the need for a special winter balaclava). My SO has a couple — hot and cold weather ones, because we live in Chicago and he doesn’t have heat.
What kind of base layers do you like to wear when you ride?