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Best bike masks to protect urban cyclists from pollution

Cyclist magazine
16 Jun 2021

Steer clear of urban air pollution with the best bike masks

Cycling’s health benefits far outweigh the potential risk of breathing in polluted air, yet rising pollution levels are a real concern in urban areas.

That makes owning a bike mask a sensible choice for cyclists seeking protection from prolonged exposure to pollutants during their daily commute, because you just know that when we're all able to cycle to work again, those in cars be back out in force too.

These low-cost bike masks cut the air pollutants you breathe in by up to 99% which massively reduces the risk of developing or exacerbating serious health problems such as asthma, bronchitis and emphysema. In fact, the best bike masks can even filter the smallest particles of allergens, smoke and bad smells, too.

Read on for our buyer’s guide that explains everything you need to know about bike anti-pollution masks. Once you’re up to speed, we’ve then selected the best bike masks on the market. 

How do bike masks work?

Bike masks feature either built-in or replaceable filters that block out the particulate matter and gaseous pollutants from the air we breathe in. That means you’re protected from diesel fumes, roadwork dust and some airborne viruses; plus, bike masks help to reduce pollen inhalation which is great for hayfever sufferers.

All anti-pollution masks come with behind-the-ear loops or behind-the-head straps, both of which fit comfortably but depend on your personal preference. They’ll also come with a metal strip over the nose that can be moulded to fit your face.

What to look out for when buying a bike mask?

When purchasing a bike mask, make sure that it carries a N95 or N99 certification. These ratings have been certified by the US government to show the percentage of air particulate matter that can get through the mask.

Naturally, we’d steer you towards the N99-rated accessory as these are capable of blocking out 99% of particles, including tiny PM2.5 particles which are the most dangerous as they can remain in the lungs for a while. 

How do I get the right size bike mask?

It’s important to pick up an anti-pollution mask that fits correctly; it’ll allow unfiltered air to pass through the sides if it’s gaping off your face.

Bike masks that are too tight will restrict breathing and feel uncomfortable during cycling. Luckily, most manufacturers offer a sizing guide to help you get the right fit.

The best bike pollution masks

1. Best bike mask for hot conditions: Respro Ultralight 

The Respro Ultralight Mask delivers on everything we’d expect from a high-quality bike mask. It uses N99-rated filtering technology and replaceable Hepa Sport 2.5 PM filters to block out pollutants, allergens and even bad smells. What’s better, it's designed to feel lightweight and comfortable during wear.

The mask has a stretchy, mesh-like fabric to stop your face from overheating in hot and humid temperatures and with a double-valve filter (which lets the air you breath leave the mask), there’s no chance of feeling suffocated when you’re really working up a sweat.

2. Best anti-pollution bike mask: Cambridge Mask Company Anti-Pollution Mask

The style-conscious will appreciate the Cambridge Mask Company’s N99 anti-pollution masks. Available in 15 vibrant colourways and designs, the creatives among us can even order a custom-made design (in bulk too, if you feel like splashing out).

But it’s more than just its good looks; the anti-pollution mask is ideal for urban cyclists, runners, people at risk of respiratory diseases and those that are travelling to or living in areas with high pollution or smoke levels.

It doesn’t come with replaceable filters but its triple-layer liner does a great job at filtering pollutants and nasties. Although, it’s worth mentioning that these types of masks need to be replaced after five months.

3. Best washable bike mask: Craft Cadence Nanofiber 

Offering both above average filtration plus the ability to stay fresh, Craft Cadence claims this is the first reusable N99 standard mask. Using a sewn-in nanofiber filter that's certified to filter out 99% of particles at 0.3 microns, the outside of the mask is water repellent for use in all weather.

Made of multiple Polygiene fabrics, the inner layers of the mask benefit from Biostatic Stays Fresh technology. This antibacterial treatment should keep the mask feeling as fresh as possible between washes. Extensively tested, Craft Cadence can even send you lab data showing the efficacy of its sewn-in filter material versus more traditional melt brown filters.

Broad and soft, it's secured across the nose by a malleable wire, while a chin wrap aims for a secure and comfortable fit around the bottom of the user's face. As standard the masks come in packs of two, allowing you to alternate each between wear and washing. 

Buy now from Craft Cadence for £43.99 (pack of two) 

4. Best replaceable filter bike mask: Totobobo SuperCool Anti-Pollution 

Looking for a subtle anti-pollution mask? Totobobo’s no-fuss bike mask features a simple, transparent design with ear straps and white-coloured replaceable filters positioned beside each nostril.

The Totobobo mask promises to filter up to 92% of dangerous particles, however, it doesn’t offer the same level of protection as the other bike masks in this list.

If that’s an issue, there’s the option to order replacement filters that are rated 96% effective (10 pairs for £30). Sent as a kit you can convert, it's shown here adapted to strenuous activity, with the nose section removed so as to allow you to exhale more easily through your nose.

Buy now from TotoBoBo for £32

5. The most stylish bike mask: Vogmask N99 CV

The Vogmask anti-pollution mask is the most accredited of the bunch seeing as it’s got a N99 certification and European CE mark, as well as the Chinese and Korean ministries of health seals of approval. Founded in San Francisco in 2011, the anti-pollution mask manufacturer now sells single-valve and double-valve masks in over 40 countries.

We’d advise cyclists to pick up the double-valve anti-pollution mask since it allows maximum airflow, feels comfortable during wear and stays securely in place.

To get the best fit, Vogmask also sells a reusable head strap accessory. Similar to the Cambridge Mask Company, there are no built-in filtration systems so it needs to be replaced regularly.

Buy now from Vogmask for $33

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