Motorcycle Windshields: A Brief History

12-21-16 / By JJ Johnson

The first motorcycle that most resembles what we ride today was engineered and built in the late 1800’s. At that time, motorcycle windshields weren’t part of the equation.

 

The Early Days

Initially, windshields were small and flimsy and functioned primarily to keep bugs and small debris from the driver’s face. These early designs were improved upon and began to most resemble what we see presently in the 1930s and 40s. They were implemented on large touring bikes to keep riders comfortable and increase their safety when cruising both short and long distances on their motorcycles.

The first rather primitive motorcycle windshields were made from a material similar to today’s Plexiglas called Butyrate. New variations of plastics were used over time, but up until the 1960s and the use of Butyrate or base acrylic plastic material, these windshields would yellow and degrade into a flimsy and foggy hazard from the sun and weather. With the development of better UV stabilized acrylic, however, these problems were solved. The excellent clarity and durability of the plastic allowed for long term use and as an added bonus, acrylic plastics were much stronger and more rigid than their predecessors.

 

Acrylic

The only issue with acrylic was the nature in which it broke upon traumatic impact: it had a tendency to break into large pieces. The search continued for the perfect windshield, with acrylic still leading the pack in standard motorcycle windshields. Finally, Lucite developed their impact modified aircraft acrylic which is used today by Slipstreamer and Boeing.

 

Polycarbonate

Cue in the invention of General Electric’s MR4000 polycarbonate material. This polycarbonate material boasted superior impact strength than its predecessor acrylic and soon became the competitor for the composition of motorcycle windshields worldwide. Numerous advancements have been made since including improvements in the hardcoating to prevent the soft nature of the plastic from scratching. However, polycarbonate still does not have the optical clarity, rigidity, and longevity of aircraft quality acrylic, yet remains an oft chosen avenue for motorcycle windshields.

Advancements continue to be made in acrylic and polycarbonate and both remain a valid choice for motorcycle windshields today.

The safety and satisfaction of our riders is always our first priority here at Slipstreamer and that’s why we only offer superior products hand molded at our home base in Blaine, Minnesota. Contact us today with any questions about our quality OEM or aftermarket motorcycle windshields.

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