Your new riding nickname: Sub-Zero.

Yes, the Gore Bike Wear Universal Balaclava looks like the fire-retardant layer for a race car driver, but, as with motor sports, there is good reason to pull this thing on over your noggin. Gore uses Windstopper Soft Shell fabric around the brow, the ears, and at the front of the neck to keep those body parts warm.

Gore uses thermo-stretch fabric for the rest of the top to give both great fit and maximum warmth while allowing vapor to quickly escape. And it uses flatlock seams to minimize the possibility of chafing. Naturally, it is designed to fit under a helmet and under the top of your winter jacket.

The mouth is protected by a thermo-stretch panel that has been meshed to make it easier for hot air to pass out without it freezing to the material. The nose is covered yet there is space for the nostrils to do their thing. The Gore Bike Wear Balaclava mask is black and is available in one size only.

  • Reviews
  • Q & A

Very good one

  • Familiarity: I've used it several times

I have several balaclavas and I like this one too. It is quite thin but it does the job with a wind stopper fabric. The fitting is not as tight as I would like but it is certainly not too loose. It does not have a hinged face mask so it cannot be pulled down to the chin. It does have an opening for the nose and some small holes around the mouth area. I cut a big hole around the mouth area which greatly improved the breathability of it. The small holes were already there as a guide so it was pretty easy to cut a big hole around the area. The cap comes down my forehead just at the right height, and the same for the face mask height wise. I do not have a visibility problem by wearing a pair of clear safety glasses. I have ridden it in the 40s degree F and it felt great. I am not sure if it will be good for a much colder temp though. The overall material feel is nice as usual with Gore stuff. To improve it, I would like to have a thicker material and a tighter fit. Thanks.

Unique and excellent

    The importance of using some kind of full-face protection (balaclava or wool buff) while riding at speed in sub-45/40° weather (especially under cloudy, low-light, or drizzly skies) cannot be overstated. Under these conditions, constant cold wind will put some serious sting & hurt on the exposed skin of your face and ears -especially when descending or turning into a headwind.

    A balaclava can solve these problems, but traditional ones present two problems of their own when worn over the mouth or nose: (1) Breathing through fabric doesn't work well. And through wind-stopper textile, forget about it. (2) Wearing a balaclava over your mouth or nose often causes fogging of your glasses.

    Gore has addressed both of these issues with this balaclava.

    #1. Gore has drilled about 20, 1/8" breathing holes in the mouth area. They generally work very well for me. This B/C also provides coverage over the bridge of your nose; yet a breathing area underneath. Two huge advantages. In sum, this B/C provides critical protection for sub-40° riding, yet you can breathe through both your mouth and your nose.

    #2. Yes, your glasses may fog some while standing still with this B/C on in the winter (for ex, at a stoplight). However, once rolling my glasses clear-up quickly and have not fogged-up while using this B/C (except briefly when dipping my head down and back to check my rear cassette). I use good cycling glasses by Tifosi or Oakley. This may help.

    Other pros: (3) This B/C is super-thin. You'll be surprised. Therefore, it fits well under your helmet. (4) High quality item in general. For ex: 100% flat-lock sewing at the seams, the quality of textiles, and the molded tailoring around the head and neck. No excess material bunching-up around your neck.

    Bravo Gore! This is a brilliant piece of kit.

    Fit: I'm 5'10" and have a 57 cm helmet size (medium/large in Giro). This B/C fits me like a glove. This B/C may not fit a person with a larger head or lots of hair (unless the material stretches).

    Fogging Issue Part II... If you are commuting or riding locally at a moderate tempo, this B/C will probably work fine "as is." If not, or if you are one of those who trains in the winter at high tempo: you can cut a quarter-sized hole out of the mouth area (toward the top). I did. This worked great (and is easy because 'guide' holes are already there). This facilitated: (1) full open-mouth breathing during high effort; (2) drinking from my bottle; (3) being able to spit when necessary (reality, esp in the cold); and (4) no fogging (while riding).

    Gear-up right in the Winter and ride much more comfortably and enjoyably.

    Don't waste your time

      wind protection was good, the functionality of the hose and mouth piece were terrible, The standard gore balaclava is much better

      Maybe Not

      • Familiarity: I returned this product before using it

      Let me start by saying I love just about everything Gore makes however I returned this item before wearing it. The eye section was very small and I felt my vision would be hindered once I put on my eye wear. In addition, the inside tag was very annoying. I kept it on for about two minutes before deciding that there was no way I would be able to ride with the inside tag rubbing on my head and neck.

      "The eye section was very small and I felt my vision would be hindered once I put on my eye wear." ... But you didn't check it out on the bike. (??) Yes, the eye section here is tailored so that face coverage is as complete as possible. This is a very good thing indeed for riding in cold weather (and the whole purpose of a B/C). I have had zero problems seeing on the road.

      Second, yes. Sadly we have to cut lots of tags out of most cycling kit we buy these days. Have you seen the tags on Castelli kit recently?? 3" to 4" long and three layers. No big deal. Cut those bad boys out!

      Great item!

      • Familiarity: I've used it once or twice and have initial impressions

      I got me a traditional balaclava and couldn't breath. This one designed to breath without pulling it down below my chin. Great product must have for cold windy condition.

      Help for the fogging issues...

      Not a cure-all, but a help with the fogging that occurs while wearing 'face coverings', especially when combined with Oakley's vented lenses: Oakley's *Hydrophobic lens cleaner.

      Help for the fogging issues...

      Has issues...

      • Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

      I like it because it seems to give the best ws coverage , possibly more than Castelli. The breathing is a little difficult, but I found I just got used to it-- compare to the review of the Castelli where the guy could not breath at all or his nose gets frost bite. Its also quite snug, so pulling it down for a drink (although I gave up carrying water as it just freezes...will try salt this winter) is something you have to stop and do (and then your glasses fog/freeze up!). My glasses do fit under. But these all seem to be expected trade-offs. What bugs me is that the eye hole is too small. It is impossible to look down and check what gear I am in, or if ice/mud is building up. This sucks!!!! In other words, the coverage is max (and good in this sense) for only riding in the hooks and looking straight forward. Period. If you look down, you have to pull the balaclava down to see--good luck trying to do that w/lobster mitts, in traffic, on a busted up road, in the wind...!!!!

      All that said, not so sure I want to try Castelli, somebody should write up the craft ws.

      Was also interested in this item...Gore generally thinks-things-out really well. As for any article using *Windstopper to cover the nose is not a good idea, ever. Have you adjusted to this piece, or found something better?

      Also, for the fogging glasses, try Oakley's *Hydrophobic lens 'helps' with the fogging up issue; Oakley's vented lenses help at bit to.

      Hey Debbie C-

      Its getting to be that time of year again...

      RE Hydro lens anti-fog--I am using hockey visor anti fog. But I suspect at the temps I use it in, any warm vapor/liquid just condenses & freezes on a cold surface. So its a big prob. Still cant figure out why some days the fogging is so much worse than others though. Given the eye hole is so small, it may be the precise way the balaclava just happens to sit on my face that minute. Again, if the eye hole was bigger, it would tolerate some miss adjustment.

      Yes, I would some like to able to afford Rx oakley (I suspect the lens-in-a-lens fogs even would you get to the ice BETWEEN the lenses?)

      RE windstopper on nose--If u look close on pic, the bottom of nose is open. This actually is well done, as I can pull the mask down below my schnoze and breath out of nose hole...which is fine if its not too cold e.g. not into the wind. But its really hard to do w/bulky lobster gloves on. Labels make lots of jackets that work down to minus infinity, but w/respect to all else, they go to down 32f & that's it.

      Deb, would be nice to talk to you directly...somehow...any recommendations on non-Assos "hard core cold" gloves, over shoes, tights (where the back of legs isn't fleece e.g. the "new and improved" PI AMFibs)? And any ideas on a better balaclava would be appreciated. Just posted a review on Giordana FRC light jacket

      Hey DanL. I cut a quarter-sized hole out (towards the top) of the mouth area with precision bathroom scissors. It was easy because 'guide' holes are already there. Doing this facilitated: (1) easier breathing -esp useful during high effort; (2) drinking from my bottle; (3) being able to spit when necessary (reality, esp in the cold); and (4) essentially no fogging (while riding) for me. ... Anyway, it has worked great for me.

      Better for recreational use

      • Familiarity: I've used it several times

      I bought this to deal with sub zero on my road bike. The vent holes are too restrictive for hard climbing. You're better off with a neck gator that you can pull down on the climbs.

      Hi Aaron,

      Have you any 'brand' suggestions that would do the job this product was supposed to do??? I'm not familiar with gaiters', etc. So you input would be greatly appreciated (I live in the Great Lakes region where it gets pretty nasty in winter.

      I'll check back later.

      Yes. A buff/neck gator like Alberto Contador uses in dry Winter training (avail from Smartwool or Rapha) --or-- cut a quarter size hole in the mouth area of this balaclava. Works great.

      Face opening too small

        I bought this in hopes of using it on cold morning rides, but ended up returning it because the fit was a tad bit snug. I'd call it more like "uncomfortably snug". Being a female with a good amount of thick hair, it was rather difficult getting this thing onto my head. I pulled my hair into a ponytail, and it was still pretty tough to get it on. Once it was on, I found the face opening to be too small for my liking. Also with no slits on the sides, it makes wearing sunglasses a challenge as well. I was really hoping this balaclava would work for me, because I have several other Gore pieces that I am completely happy with. I think I'll stick to using my Smartwool balaclava for now.

        Hey Linda,

        Have you ever found another balaclava that worked out better? You also make a good point mentioning the ability or not, to fit long hair inside it (male or female)!