Looking for the best masks to wear when cycling?
Cycle in safety with these masks
Sydney, Australia is a fantastic city to cycle around. It is surrounded by scenic national parks, an abundance of beach side cycle paths, easy to ride side streets and main roads (if off peak). However, with the recent tragic bush fires, burning through acres and acres of bush land around Sydney, breathing has become a hazard in this beautiful city.
To those who love cycling, it begs the question, how to keep safe riding in these extreme weather conditions. The weather is hot, dry and filled with smog. On the day I had to attend my son’s Christmas carols school pageant, which was held outdoors, I could see ash flying around. It was surreal.
I was not cycling, but if I did there was no way I would be able to breath without inhaling ash.
To describe how bad the smog was, I took a picture below:
This photo was taken along Parramatta Rd, Concord and is unfiltered. What you see is literally what I was walking in. It was like the end of the world!
Why wear a Cycling Mask?
You would be crazy to not wear a mask in these bush fire conditions. Some schools have been forced to hold students indoors whilst others have closed the school completely. On the job construction workers have also walked out on not only due to heat, but due to potential breathing difficulties.
The safest is to stay indoors and not cycle at all. But if you have to cycle you should wear a mask. Wearing a mask will prevent particles entering your lungs. If you understand the damage that smoking can cause to your lungs, then breathing in smog is exactly the same thing. During some severe day’s of bush fire, you can literally see ash and dust particles flying around, and of course these will enter your lungs when breathing.
The symptoms of not wearing a mask can be many. They include:
- Dry and itchy throat
- Dry coughing
- Breathing difficulties
Purchase and wear a mask when riding in these conditions. It’s not worth putting your body at risk, without one.
Considerations when buying a cycling mask
There are many aspects to consider when buying a mask for cycling. The key aspects however are:
Please note: any mask that is used for cycling or for any sport will not allow for normally breathing. At aerobic capacity, any filter by nature, will require the air to flow through a filtering system. The flow of air will always be slower than without a mask. If you are looking for a mask that has the same flow of air as not wearing one, then you are dreaming.
When buying a cycling mask, you need to know that there are two types of effectiveness. These are based on US government ratings which rate masks as either N95 or N99.
95 and 99 represents the percentage of filtration. 95 meaning 95% of the particles are prevented from entering your lungs, and 99 meaning 99% of the particles in the air are prevented from entering your lungs.
N95 therefore is less effective than N99. It is impossible to have a 100% fully filtered mask, hence you will never find an N100.
What is the 4% that can be filtered with a N99 and not N95?
The particles in the air can be graded by PM measures. The most common and dangerous particles that can enter our lungs are referenced as PM2.5. These particles are small enough to pass through a N95 filter but not through a N99. These small particles, when inhaled, circulate through our lungs. For healthy and strong bodies, these small PM2.5 particles can be extracted with the immune system after several weeks. However for many of us, these particles will accumulate in our bodies and thus cause respiratory issues.
It’s therefore important to purchase a mask that can filter PM2.5 particles which means a N99 rating mask is the way to go.
There are also two types of filters that can be used in a cycling mask. Filters can either be replaceable or disposable.
Replaceable filters: Of course the replaceable filters are better for the environment. They can be used many times – from 6 to 12 months of use – and the filters can be purchased separate from the mask itself. Replaceables are great for saving money in the long term and for sustainability.
Disposable filters: Very convenient, in that you can wear once and then throw out. Have a few at various different places, and are relatively cheaper as a whole than the replaceable mask filters. But, why buy a disposable if you are going to be riding often. Also, if you are only using it once or twice, then just don’t ride. Try and keep with the replaceables as they are more eco friendly.
Cycling masks should not be too loose such that unfiltered air can enter via gaps between the mask and the face. Similarly, they should not be too tight such that it restricts the riders ability to breath. When buying a cycling mask, ensure that you use the sizing guide that is provided by the seller. The sizing guide will help ensure the right fit for you.
The type of attachment also comes in two types. For a mask to attach to your face, it can either be a band that loops behind the ear or a band that wraps around the back of the head. Both are just as good as each other, however, I feel for the cyclist because of the constant movement, the behind the head attachment is better.
Behind the ear: This is great for the walkers. Simple loops which attach behind the ears. As you can imagine, they won’t be has secure as the behind the head, unless your ears are made of steel and won’t bend.
Behind the head: This is the preference for cyclists. The movement of cycling won’t loosen the behind the head attachment and will keep the mask snug against the face.
Cambridge Cycling Mask
Cambridge masks are touted to use military filtering standards that meet N99 US ratings. The not only prevent PM2.5 from entering the lungs but also protect against bacteria and viruses. They have a massive range of masks that not only are suitable for cycling but also for everyday life.
The innovative masks use a triple layered filtering system, which provide impressive results. The first layer catches larger particles, the middle layer catches the small PM2.5 particles and the third and final layer catches the bacteria and viruses.
The Cambridge masks can be used up to 3 to 6 months, upon which the mask should be discarded. The filter cannot be replaced, as they are sewn directly into the fabric. The attachments are behind the ear loops which isn’t my preference, however many cyclists do use it.
For Australians the price ranges $30 to $70AUD. Delivery comes from their UK warehouse and can take up to 10 working days to be delivered.
- Origin: UK
- Effectiveness: Very Good, N99 rated.
- Filtration: 3 layered
- Attachment: Behind the ear
- Pricing: $30 to $70AUD
Airinum Cycling Mask
I like the Airinum, as it has both a behind the ear and back of the neck attachment. The filtering is also replaceable and can be used up to 100 hours, depending on the environment. Their styles are more plain and simple looking, but that’s not to say that it’s bad. Cool black and greys which go well with any look. Besides, when cycling it’s the effectiveness which matters most.
Their founder began Airinum when he travelled to India from his home town of Sweden. Not able to find any effective and appropriate masks he decided to venture into the creation of masks.
- Origin: Sweden
- Effectiveness: Very Good. N99 Rated
- Filtration: Replaceable inner skin
- Attachment: Behind the ear and/or neck
- Pricing: Average $100AUD
Respro Cycling Mask
One of the largest companies that produce masks not just for every day life but also especially for the active people. They even have a mask for X-treme sports fanatics.
Their origins are from the UK, so you can be rest assured that they produce quality masks.
The ultra light mask is probably their best product for cyclists. They appear to allow honest reviews on their website, and it shows that many active sports people like it.
Ensuring fit is extremely important, and Respro permits you to return and exchange for a better size and fit. The ultra light looks pretty hard core, so when you wear it, your are sure to get some looks!
- Origin: UK
- Effectiveness: Good
- Filtration: Replaceable inner skin
- Attachment: Behind the neck with nose clip
- Pricing: Average $60AUD
Darth Vader Cycling Mask
Made by Disney to bring out the dark force inside of you. This mask has a filtration system like no other. No goodness can penetrate the high tech turbo charged midichlorians. The forces of good are repelled quite easily, leaving you to cycle and permeate fear around the world. The rebellion doesn’t stand a chance when you wear this riding.
- Origin: Tatooine
- Effectiveness: Pure evil
- Filtration: Turbo charged midichlorians.
- Attachment: Full face mask
- Pricing: Average 1,000 Imperial Credits. Not cheap.