For any of us born in the late-1970’s or early-1980’s there was no shortage of cool Saturday morning and after-school cartoons to take in. Of those, a personal favorite was “GI Joe: A Real American Hero.” Unlike the Barbie-sized action figure of the 1950’s through the 1970’s, this animated GI Joe series featured a special fighting force battling the international terrorist organization Cobra. And of those specialized American heroes was easily the single-coolest one of them all: Snake Eyes. The all-black, mute ninja came with a quiver of deadly tools including an Uzi, a katana sword and a bow-and-arrow. This assassin-for-the-good-guys was a fan favorite, and the tiny three-and-a-three-quarters-inch action figure is exactly what came to mind when I first eyed the TLK Windproof Cycling Face Mask.
Now, I’m no recreational cyclist so I’m not exactly sure how the advertisement for the TLK Face Mask came to appear in my Facebook newsfeed, but it sure did. Curious, and lured in by the $25.99 asking price (and the promise of looking like my favorite American ninja), I took the gamble and placed an order. Because of The Watercraft Journal’s seemingly never-ending publishing schedule, wintertime riding sessions are simply a part of the job, and my downstairs closest is chocked full of cold weather riding gear, including two or three face masks and head socks. Most all of these have been acquired through different sporting goods stores’ snow-skiing department, but none featured the insulated, ventilated and rubberized face plate TLK Windproof Face Mask.
Why was this a big deal? Because after half a day’s ride, the all-fleece masks would be damp and clingy around the mouth and nose (which is none too comfortable). In recent years, watercraft enthusiasts have taken to riding with plastic-molded face masks that resemble something between a hockey goalie and a serial killer from a movie. These masks protect against rain and wind for certain, but a plastic shield doesn’t exactly keep one’s face warm either. Rather, the TLK Face Mask protects against wind, rain, and ultraviolet rays – although it definitely will get wet in the rain. Both durable and washable, the head sock had some immediate attributes that I felt were winners:
First, the TLK Face Mask is made of 60-percent polyester and 40-percent cotton (plus a dual layer fabric design), making it machine washable. Second, the neck is cut long, allowing for the mask to be tucked into the collar of a hoodie or jacket. Too often, head socks are cut short, and wind and water can whip around and inside. Next, the eye window is narrow, ideal for those wearing goggles. Masks with larger eye windows cannot be comfortably tucked into the goggles, almost always leaving some bit open, permitting high speed winds to whip in and chill the skin. Finally, the rubberized face mask was comfortable around my nose and mouth, didn’t saturate after a day’s worth of breathing, and didn’t rub or itch the skin. For fun, I even wore it with a helmet and the mask wasn’t bulky or uncomfortable either.
The only quibbles I had were minor: first, the relief for the nose is really shallow and could’ve been molded to accomodate folks with slightly-larger-than-normal-schnozes or those who don’t like the feeling of having material pressed up tightly against their face. Second, I wish there was a little more elasticity in the material to allow for a slightly more snug fit. No, it wasn’t flapping (much) in the wind, but given the high speeds PWC can run at, the more snug the fit, the better. And before you say, “But this wasn’t designed for jet skiing,” know that it’s advertised for “running, cycling, skiing, snowboarding, or any other activity, the cold won’t stop you from the having fun outdoors.”
Again, many of you won’t dare the winter weather for very long and won’t ever consider purchasing such an item; but for those who do, I recommend the TLK Windproof Cycling Face Mask. At a bit over $25, it’s still a solid price, it’s smartly made and can be used to thwart the dastardly plans of conniving madmen hellbent on ruling the world, when you’re not on the water. Well, at least that’s what I’m pretending I’m doing as I wear it while typing out this review. Yo Joe!