Cycling Masks For Healthier RespirationBack in 1994, I was living in the small ocean side community of Ketchikan, Alaska and frequently saw a gal riding around town with a red mask on her face looking like she was going to rob someone and get away on her bike. I approached her one day and she told me that it was an inhalant filter for commuting in traffic. I was instantaneously sold.
Some people scoffed when they heard I needed one in such a small town with little or no air quality problems, but I concur. In a town where all traffic averages 25 mph and backs up with congestion like any urban rush hour, it made perfect sense. The worst thing, though, is that Alaska does not have any standards on vehicle emissions and there is some pretty bad clunkers on the roads up here. As a commuter, I ride in traffic, drafting behind vehicles when possible, but little did I know about how bad affects riding a bicycle in traffic has on health. Let's take a look at what is in the air that can effect one's respiratory system.
Pollution: What Is It Made Of?
Pollution falls into one of two major classifications; gases and vapors or particulates. The majority of gases and vapors are comprised of Nitrogen Oxides, Sulfur Dioxides, Carbon Monoxides, and other Hydrocarbon chemicals. Particulate pollutants include road dust, pollen, black smoke from diesel emissions, asbestos from brake linings, and any other which is solid in nature.
There are two categories of particulates which include inhalables and respirables. Inhalables are particulates large enough to get trapped within the nasal hairs and mucous membranes in the back of the throat, while respirables can pass deeper into the lungs and into the subsequent blood barriers carrying carcinogenic chemicals into the blood absorption process of respiration.
What can one do in defense? "Get a mask!"
Respro makes three different hypo-allergenic masks for cyclists; the City, the Sportsta, and now the Techno. The City is designed for the vapors and gases prominent in urban environments while the Sportsa is geared towards filtering out particulate matter more commonly found in the country sides. The Techno is a bit thinner to compensate for more aerobic riding conditions, such as training. I think the Techno is advantageous in that matter, but still causes the typical hyperventilation which occurs in the two other masks. Respro filters are replaceable and if used regularly, should be changed out after every 70 hours of use or about once a month.
The City integrates a clothe filter designed to rid the air of odors, gases, and particulates from vehicle emissions in urban metros. The filter is a Dynamic Activated Charcoal clothe, originally designed for military purposes to defend against chemical and bacterial warfare. Two exhalation valves allow CO2, water vapor, and heat to escape without letting pollutants into the respiratory system. I found that the City to be slightly uncomfortable under high exertion and I recommend the Sportsa for sustained, high aerobic activities. The City performs great on not so aerobic rides, though.
Other features included in every mask is the bendable nose piece that forms a custom fit over the bridge of the nose, yet Respro recommends not to bend the piece excessively due to the fact that it could eventually snap. I have found this hard to accomplish, and have not had one break on my yet, although I have warped the metal to where it does not form fit my nose any longer. After all these years, it is time for a new mask!
Exhalation valves hold the filter in place with the mask and can be easily cleaned by submerging in isopropyl rubbing alcohol when changing out a filter. The City comes in a variety of colors and I chose the reflective silver for safety concerns while on night rides. The masks come in two sizes, medium and large.
A final note. The masks do not hinder the ability to wear a helmet and help a lot in cold weather, but do create a difficult situation with eye wear.
Mask LogThis information is currently being updated and documented for a one year university project on testing local pollution during different seasons of the year. After a fellow mbpost'er who read this article approached me with the option, I willingly volunteered to be a college lab rat for a great cause. The testing is also right down my alley!
11/04/09... 2.25 hrs... 22 miles... Cloudy w/sprinkles... Much condensation from heavy breathing; wet mask
11/06/09... 1.25 hrs... 11 miles... Light rain... Light riding in typical traffic; mask moved breath better
11/09/09... 2.00 hrs... 20 miles... Clear and cold... Saturated
11/18/09... 1.00 hrs... 10 miles... Snowy, windy, cold, and clear... Mildly damp
11/20/09... 0.50 hrs... 5 miles... Bright and sunny... Mask warm and dry
11/23/09... 0.75 hrs... 10 miles... Blustery wind and rain... Filter became damp from elevated breathing
11/28/09... 0.75 hrs... 5 miles... Sprinkling... Great!
12/02/09... 1.00 hrs... 6 miles... Gusts to 25 with steady rain... Mask did great
12/09/09... 2.25 hrs... 24 miles... Cold... Mask and filter fully saturated from aerobic workout at mile 12 yet kept face nice and warm
12/10/09... 0.50 hrs... 5 miles... Cold and foggy... Perfect!
12/14/09... 1.25 hrs... 9 miles... Very cold with snow flurries... Mask worked perfectly for warmth too!
12/15/09... 0.75 hrs... 6 miles... Cold outside and hot inside... Excellante
12/26/09... 1.33 hrs... 7 mile RUN! Mostly calm with bit of precip in the air...
Mask moist from heavy respiration rate but worked real good: didn't slip, didn't leak, didn't hinder breathing
12/27/09... 1.00 hrs... 7 miles... Calm and dry... Mildly damp, normal after an hours use
12/31/09... 1.25 hrs... 9 miles... Freezing; 20 F... Couldn't get the Respro Half Marathon done, although I did finish the run! First one ever and in 2 hours 10 minutes!!
Ended up gurgling and hyperventilating with a pool of moisture on chin and spatter dribbling down and freezing to the outside neoprene!
Still the mask kept me very warm for a long time.
HAPPY NEW YEAR 2010!!
1/04/10... 1.00 hrs... 6.25 mile run... Clear and cold 23 F... Mask good for 3 miles then inhaling degraded by 50%.
By mile 4 as freezing exhalation dripped out valves and down mask. Hyperventilating somewhere near mile 5.5 and removed by mile 6 due to gurgling.
2/11/10... 1.25 hrs... 14.5 miles round trip... Cold and dry... 5am commuting began today... roads empty there, busy on return trip.
2/12/10... 1.00 hrs... 12 miles... 1st half fast and chilly; 2nd half busy afternoon traffic
2/15/10... 1.75 hrs... 19 miles... chilly and dry... not very busy traffic
2/16/10... 1.25 hrs... 14 miles... (there)dry; mask damp (back)20mph headwind & sprinkling; mask wet, spattering out valves
2/17/10... 1.00 hrs... 14 miles... foggy & dry... mask damp (seemingly permanent); fibers shedding on inside of mask
2/19/10... 1.00 hrs... 15 miles... cold & dry... mask damp; thinking it may be a reason for constant sickness w/lots of coughing and respiratory splattering out valves
2/21/10... 1.25 hrs... 14 miles... cold & dry... little spittle but worked well with slower speeds
2/26/10... 1.25 hrs... 15 miles... inner mask unraveling... slower pace positive performance