Motorcycle fairings have been around almost as long as motorcycles. A fairing is a shell or covering used on cycles to reduce drag and improve aerodynamics. If you’ve ever seen a motorcycle rider hunched over his bike, almost lying down, that is done to reduce drag, increase speed and gas mileage and fairings are designed to do the same.
Racing motorcycles were the first to design and use fairings as early as the 1920’s. Adopted from the racing environment, motorcycle manufacturers began adding fairings as standard equipment in the 1950’s. The most common fairing is the windshield.
There are several common types of fairings used on motorcycles:
- Dolphin Fairing – resembling a dolphin beak from the side, this fairing incorporates the front wheel mud guard with the windshield.
- Full-Fairing – cover both the upper and lower portions of the bike.
- Half-Fairing – This usually features the windshield and extends below the handlebars and into the engine block area.
- Quarter Fairing – This is primarily the windshield and an area covering the headlight just below the windshield
Modern day fairings are most often made from ABS plastic because it is lightweight, strong and flexible. The fairings are either injection molded, melted plastic injected into a mold and allowed to dry, or compression molded, where the ABS is heated and bent around a mold. Fiberglass is also used, especially in racing due to the light weight and ease of repair.
Other than aerodynamics, the purposes of motorcycle fairings are reduce harm from air-born debris, hypothermia from wind and to protect the engine in case of an accident. The fairings also provide the “glamor” of a bike. Like cars, design and shape have appeal to certain people as do fairings to bikes. A bike can be customized extensively with fairings to give it a distinctive look.
Fairings have been designed and improved upon over the decades to reduce wobble, instability and aerodynamic flows. Dustbin fairings that resembled the nose of an airplane were banned because of the instability especially with yaw, or side wind, making them dangerous. A street bike, a touring bike and a race bike will all have different requirements for fairings.
Motorcycle fairings provide both practicality and visual appeal. Originally designed to reduce drag and provide protection fairings have come a long way from introduction to the market. What fairings now that don’t come standard from the manufacturer can be added via kits or customization to almost any motorcycle.