Bicycling enthusiasts in colder regions often experience ear pain due to cold air. Frostbite is also a constant concern. Even temperatures above freezing are dangerous if a strong wind is blowing, or when you are bicycling at fast speeds. For this reason, it is important to wear ear protection while bicycling in cold weather. A variety of products exist to protect ears from freezing wind. Note that covering your ears might diminish your ability to hear traffic noise. On the other hand, it also could muffle distracting wind noise.
Look for specially designed ear coverings made of a breathable fabric that allows perspiration to wick away and provides protection from cold wind. Possible options include earmuffs; headbands; hats; bicycle helmet liners; and wind deflectors, which attach to the straps of your bicycle helmet and cover your ears.
Test out different types of ear coverings to see which work best with your current safety equipment. For example, helmet linings, which you can insert or remove as necessary, are often compatible with various bicycle helmets. If you are unsure, call the manufacturer of your bike helmet to determine which types of equipment are compatible.
Wear your ear coverings when you bicycle in cold weather, as well as any other thermal clothing necessary to keep you warm. If you notice that your ear protection fails to keep your ears warm or limits your ability to hear traffic noises, replace it immediately with a different type of ear protection.
Wind deflectors are plastic but have a section of mesh fabric that allows you to hear surrounding traffic. Some models include speakers for listening to a portable radio or MP3 player.
Avoid using earmuffs designed to block sound. They pose a hazard for bicycle riders, who need to hear traffic noises to stay abreast of car locations.
A headband that wraps around your ears can protect you from icy wind. Choose one that is wide enough to cover your ears and comfortably tight without constricting blood flow. An added benefit of a headband is it will keep perspiration from falling into your eyes.
Cold ears are a discomfort, but at a certain point they become dangerous. Frostbite generally starts with extremities, such as your fingers, toes, nose and ears. Just a few minutes of exposure to extreme cold can initiate frostbite.