I'm using my bicycle to ride from home to work and back. Now I face a problem that the air is not so clean: dust, car exhaust etc.

So I'm thinking of buying a respirator (i.e., an anti-pollution mask) to filter the air I breathe.

But before I buy it I need advice on what should I consider when first choosing one?


I've got a respro bandit now and it seems to be what I needed. It really does it's job filtering the air well and doesn't make it too hard to breathe.

  • 1
    To say thanks on Stack Exchange, the best mechanisms are voting up answers which you think are right, and accepting the one that most helps you out - by clicking on the check mark next to that answer.
    – Rory Alsop
    May 4, 2012 at 21:28
  • @RoryAlsop, thanx, but i'm not new here =) actualy i've upvoted both answers and now thinking which one shoud i accept
    – k102
    May 5, 2012 at 4:56
  • Sorry, dude - no condescension intended :-)
    – Rory Alsop
    May 5, 2012 at 11:42
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    I'd consider wearing my full-face sealed respirator on a ride just to freak my neighbors out. :-) I'd probably run into airflow issues pretty quickly, though... Jul 10, 2012 at 12:29
  • @lawndartcatcher you will =) tried respro, but suffered from it. now using a shawl with medical mask attached under it
    – k102
    Jul 10, 2012 at 13:48

5 Answers 5


You have a few options. One that has been marketed to cyclists has been the totobo mask which is from what I gather a re-usable N95 mask (although uncertified by any agency) with replaceable filter peices. It's cheap to try, at only $25 or so.

The Respro is another option. It seems like a bit more customizable, and looks like the neoprene would compress the mask against your face a bit better than the totobo, but it's probably really hot in the summer. These run about $60-$75 for a mask.

Here's a forum link which has a bit of a personal comparison from a few cyclists who use these masks in bangalore. https://groups.google.com/forum/#!msg/bangalore-bikers/w2vgTWlsOH4/3KSlS0jOj0kJ

  • Personally, I'd give the totobo a shot, it's a N95 mask which means it filters out about 95% of airborne particles and it's pretty cheap to evaluate. If it doesn't work out well, then I'd probably check out the respro.
    – Benzo
    May 3, 2012 at 12:59
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    I've used the respro fairly extensively. They don't interfere with my breathing too much in normal riding, but I find I go anaerobic at a lower power level and so my peak power is reduced and I can't sustain it for as long. But that's exactly that I'd expect. The main noticeable downside is the wee pause between when I start exhaling and when the valves click open. It's like losing the first wee bit of each exhalation. Which leads to why i don't use it all the time - under the mask my skin is hot and wet, so it gets irritated and raw. But they do help with pollution.
    – Kohi
    May 3, 2012 at 23:11
  • @Kohi thanx for sharing your experience. i now decided to buy a respro
    – k102
    May 5, 2012 at 4:58
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    Another comparison between respro and totobo masks: londoncyclist.co.uk/cycling-masks-and-the-shocking-results
    – Benzo
    Jul 9, 2012 at 16:45
  • I expect the difference is that the Respro works with gasses too (e.g. sulphur dioxide etc.), whereas the other is only for particulates: and that whether you need protection from gasses too depends on where you are.
    – ChrisW
    Jul 9, 2012 at 17:31

The only ones I know of are made by Respro, like this, but I'm sure other brands are available.

Summary: yes, cycling-specific ones do exist.

Searching turns up some discussion, blogs, forums and user reviews in online cycling shops. However, this is all anecdotal, and it isn't clear:

  1. how useful they are
    • this will depend quite particularly on your local style of air pollution; if you can find particulate emission information for your area, you might be able to figure out which mask will do the best job there
  2. how badly they restrict airflow or cause overheating and moisture buildup
    • this will depend on things like your exertion level and local heat/humidity, so you may just need to try it and see
  • thanks for the link. i just wanted to know hom much it is harder to breathe with this thing
    – k102
    May 3, 2012 at 12:51
  • No idea I'm afraid: some googling turned up this which is mostly about the totobobo mask Benzo mentions, and some online shops with customer reviews like this
    – Useless
    May 3, 2012 at 12:58

I've worn the respro in Beijing for about a year where the air pollution apparently causes lung cancer. Of course, that is a long term effect that is hard to measure immediately, but I can say that the air smells much cleaner and I "feel" better after riding through traffic with the mask on as opposed to without it. Your face gets a bit sweaty, but it can be kind of nice in the winter. Also, you look like bane from batman, which can be a good thing.


Trials on the N95 concluded that it didn't really do a good job filtering chemical pollution.


Hypothesis "To test if wearing the R95 Particulate Respirator face mask, produced by 3M reduces levels of pollution exposure biomarkers in 40 healthy volunteers." Tests were done in Hanoi, Vietnam, from July to October 2009.

The results: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23013369

RESULTS: Forty-four participants (54.5% male, median age 40 years) were enrolled with the majority being motorbike taxi drivers (38.6%) or street vendors (34.1%). The baseline creatinine corrected urinary level for 1-OHP was much higher than other international comparisons: 1020 ng/g creatinine (IQR: 604-1551). Wearing a R95 mask had no significant effect on 1-OHP levels: estimated multiplicative effect 1.0 (95% CI: 0.92-1.09) or other OH-PAHs, except 1-hydroxynaphthalene (1-OHN): 0.86 (95% CI: 0.11-0.96).

CONCLUSIONS: High levels of urine OH-PAHs were found in Hanoi street workers. No effect was seen on urine OH-PAH levels by wearing R95 particulate respirators in an area of high urban air pollution, except for 1-OHN. A lack of effect may be de to gaseous phase PAHs that were not filtered efficiently by the respirator. The high levels of urinary OH-PAHs found, urges for effective interventions.

  • 3
    +1 for interesting research, but to make this a really good answer you need to give us at least a summary instead of forcing us to read unexplained links. Dec 20, 2013 at 6:53
  • @CareyGregory is correct. We want answers that are self-contained. That way if the links die, we still have a valuable answer.
    – jimchristie
    Dec 20, 2013 at 12:45
  • the links concern R95 masks not N95
    – caub
    Apr 20, 2014 at 14:19

All these are passive masks and the lungs' muscles need to exert extra work to overcome the resistance to ar flow by the filer. Would recommend the active respirator like www.ecbreathe.com -This ECBreathe uses battery power to help overcome the resstance and yo can breathe normally.

  • 3
    Just FYI, if you're in any way affiliated with EC Breathe, you must declare it in your answer. bicycles.stackexchange.com/help/behavior And this is just me, but I'm skeptical of a company that can't get a single photo of an actual person using their product.
    – jimchristie
    Jan 16, 2014 at 1:54
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    If the air resistance of a respirator is holding you back while commuting, chances are you're probably (a) confused, entered a race and are not commuting (b) in poor enough condition that you probably shouldn't be doing the commute (c) using a respirator which is completely overkill.
    – Batman
    Jan 16, 2014 at 5:22
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    @Batman while commuting back home it's hard for me not to enter a "race" (against myself), so my respro bandit makes it a bit more difficult to inhale. But it's ok all the way when I'm calm :)
    – k102
    Jan 16, 2014 at 9:13
  • The fan on this mask is for exhaling, which is not a problem at all. The difficulty is when inhalation is slowed down..
    – bokan
    Sep 5, 2016 at 15:32

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