There is nothing more comical and embarrassing for a big tough biker than “beard lift”.
You’re trying to look super-cool on your big cruiser, but as soon as you accelerate beyond suburban dawdle, your beard lifts straight out in front of you. It’s hilarious if you’re a passerby, but it’s embarrassing for the rider.
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. And with beards now very trendy, it is a serious issue.
Riders with long beards have come up with several strategies for beard lift. Some plait their beard, some use a series of elastic ties, some tuck it into their jacket.
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 released last year. It will be interesting to see if the new Road Glide also resolves the problem.
The Road Glide was left out of the Rushmore line-up, but returns this model year. The official press launch is this week in San Francisco and we’ll be there for a long test ride down to Los Angeles. I don ’t have a beard, but a neck scarf replicates the effect. Normally I have to tuck it into my jacket like a hirsute rider does with his beard.
Stay tuned for the results.