The best testimonial I've heard for having a windshield on a motorcycle came from my wife, Darla. It was a few years ago and she had been riding for several months when we added a detachable windshield to the front of her Sporty. We headed out and had been riding for about an hour when she pulled alongside me at a stop light. She was grinning ear to ear. “I can't believe how much easier it is to ride with a windshield”, she shouted. “I don't feel like I'm going to be blown off the bike anymore.”
While I enjoy the feel of the wind against me as I roll down the road I could also understand where Darla was coming from and if the windshield made her more comfortable riding, so be it. The best and safest riders feel comfortable on their bikes. Using a windshield has many benefits including diverting the wind around you which reduces rider fatigue and can make you a safer rider.
Some riders consider it a personal badge of honor to be able to tell tales of dodging road debris or being hit in the face by a bug the size of a golf ball. They'd never consider riding a bike with a windshield. But if you take a look at some of the best selling bikes on the market today, you'll find most come with windshields and/or fairings as standard equipment. Times have changed, my friend.
All windshields are not created equal. There are different sizes, styles, and you can even get them in tinted colors. Some come as factory equipment and there are after-market versions, some of which are detachable. You have to decide which one fits your needs and your bike. Some people will want function while others are more style oriented.
As a matter of physics, the larger the windshield, the more wind resistance it will have. While this cuts out more wind it can also lead to increased buffeting, especially on windy days. A large windshield can also distort your vision if you're looking through a piece of plastic. The recommended riding position will have you looking over the top of the windshield. You want one where the top edge is about the same height as the tip of your nose. That will give you a clear view of the road ahead.
While the main purpose of a windshield is to deflect the wind, it can cause new problems. Some styles will allow wind to blow up on you from under the bottom edge which reduces its effectiveness. It can also cause helmet buffeting. Some windshields will have vents or side panels to help control these problems. You have to decide if the side effects are worth the benefits.
Motorcycle windshields are made of acrylic or polycarbonate. These materials are not as hard as glass and need to be cleaned with non-abrasive cleaners. The best, and simplest, way to clean them is with some dishwashing detergent in warm water and a soft cloth. Commercial cleaning products may contain chemicals that can damage the windshield. There are some specifically made for plastic but you need to shop carefully. Adding a good coat of polish can make it easier to remove bugs and keep it clean.
Darla, like many riders, wasn't sure she would want to ride a bike fitted with a big piece of plastic on the front. Thought maybe she wouldn't look as cool when cruising. So she went with the detachable model so it could be left at home if she felt like riding without it. So far, the only time the windshield comes off the bike is for cleaning, after that, it goes right back on.