Motorcycle Windshield Height

Should You Look Over or Through a Motorcycle Windshield?

Do loud pipes save lives? Is it safe to use a car tire on your rear wheel? Do blinking headlights make riders more visible to traffic? Some debates in the motorcycling community just refuse to go away. Here’s another one: if your bike has a windshield, should it be positioned so that you’re looking over it, or so so you’re looking through it?

Just like those other debates, the reason this one won’t die is that there’s some truth to both sides. That being the case, we’ll cut to the chase and say that this article isn’t going to provide a definitive answer. What it will do instead is explain why there’s no wrong answer, and give a little advice on what to do if you find yourself undecided about your own riding needs

Looking Over vs. Looking Through your Motorcycle Windshield

Looking Over

A lot of riders stick to what might be considered the conventional wisdom of windscreens, and choose to position theirs at a height that allows them to look over it. In this setup, the top edge of the screen typically sits one to two inches below the eyeline of the rider. The single biggest benefit of a windshield you can look over is that if your windshield becomes wet, fogged, or in rare instances, cracked during a ride, you still have a clear view over the top of it.

Less experienced motorcyclists sometimes question the point of this design, figuring that if you’re going to have a windshield, it might as well shield the whole rider. What they often don’t realize – and what you’ll hear from just about anyone who rides a sportbike or cafe racer – is that even a tiny screen reduces airflow by a significant amount. The curve of the screen pushes wind up and over the rider, creating a sort of “pocket” where he or she can sit comfortably while still enjoying a bit of a breeze.

Looking Through

Plenty of other riders prefer a windshield that does extend vertically past their eye line, and use Rain-X, for example, to keep the screen as clear as possible regardless of the elements. The top edge of the shield will sit about 2”-3” above your line of sight. A major benefit to this setup is the maximum protection that it offers from road debris that might otherwise be thrown against your helmet or face. A bug-filled smile might still be considered a badge of honor for some hardcore bikers, but it’s highly unlikely to add to the overall enjoyment of a ride.

If you’re willing to take on the risk of an obscured view due to fogging or some other circumstance, then the only other downside to consider would be the reduced ventilation that a taller windshield provides. If you frequently ride in hot weather, you know that a little bit of air can generate a lot of appreciation from a rider. There’s a way to compensate for this disadvantage as well, though, and that is to choose a windscreen that has a built-in vent. For more information about venting your shield check out this article or this motorcycle vent installation video.

Choosing Windshield Height

Looking over your windscreen or looking through it is ultimately a decision that comes down to personal preference. Both options offer a balance of safety and convenience, and choosing between them could be as simple as what look you prefer your motorcycle to have.

Of course, there’s always the option of having both. If it’s in your budget and you can’t make up your mind, then buy one with adjustable height, or if that’s not available for your bike, buy two separate windshields to use in different circumstances. You could have one windshield for long rides and another for riding around town. Given the fact the fact that a motorcycle windshield is not that difficult to swap out, this may be a great solution. However, if you want to keep spending to a minimum or don’t want to deal with swapping them out, then stick with the simplicity of one. Bottom line? It’s hard to go wrong here, so choose whatever suits your individual riding style, makes you feel more confident, and gives your bike the look that you desire.