Have you ever wondered why so many motorcycle riders have beards and whether you should join the club?
It may seem that beards make riders look tougher, matching the so-called tough biker image.
But there can be some practical reasons for having a beard as a rider.
There can also be some drawbacks.
Advantages of beards
Apart from looking tough there are several reasons why male riders might consider growing a beard:
- A nicely trimmed beard can make you look distinguished, hence their prevalence at the annual Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride;
- They make your face and neck a bit warmer, negating the need for a neck warmer and/or face mask;
- A beard will protect you from wind burn and sunburn, especially when wearing an open-face helmet;
- They also protect you from hitting insects and wasp and bee stings; and
- If you are on a multi-day trip, it means you don’t have to pack shaving gear and you have more time in the morning for an extra cup of coffee before hitting the road.
I’ve only had a full beard once when I was at uni and didn’t ride much.
Every subsequent attempt at growing a beard has been thwarted by the disadvantages of growing a beard.
The biggest hurdle is in the early stages where your face gets itchy. It can be a distraction having to frequently scratch your face to relive the itch.
In those early stages of beard growth when the hairs stand straight out, they also get caught in the chin strap and can be quite painful.
A neck sock or face mask can alleviate this, but it makes your neck and face extra hot in summer.
For many mature-aged riders, a beard can make you look much older as they often have more grey hairs than on your head!
Then there is the comical and embarrassing phenomenon “beard lift” for those with long, established beards.
It’s caused by turbulence behind the windscreen. As you go faster, the windscreen pushes the air away causing a negative air pressure zone behind the windscreen and right in front of the rider. Air rushes in to fill that vacuum and it lifts your beard.
It not only makes you look comical, but also causes buffeting which is noisy and jostles your head around. It’s no joke, either. Over long distances, it can cause neck pain from the constant jostling as well as fatigue from the noise.
However, there are several strategies for beard lift. Some plait their beard, some use a series of elastic ties, some tuck it into their jacket, face mask or neck sock.
Motorcycle companies have also spent a lot of time researching aerodynamic windscreens to reduce beard lift and buffeting. The turbulence from large windscreens on big touring bikes is the most difficult to resolve, but the best solution seems to be to allow some air to flow up behind the windscreen to negate the back pressure effect.
The Honda Goldwing was the first to use this method with a vent the rider can open. Harley-Davidson also added an adjustable vent on its Rushmore Project Touring bikes.