Cycling Masks and the Shocking Results

A few months ago London Cyclist reader, Claire, approached me for advice on wearing masks whilst cycling to block fumes. Fortunately, at the same time, Francis from got in touch with me, asking if I wanted to review their cycling mask.

Putting two and two together, I thought it would be an interesting experiment to get Claire’s reactions. I’ll warn you, her results are a little bit disgusting..

Should I wear a Cycling Mask?

At the beginning of April I was suffering with a sore throat that was worse in the morning and evening – a trip to see my GP confirmed that it was a reaction to London pollution that I was sucking in during my 12 mile commute twice a day.

I had previously and sporadically used a Respro mask which is the only anti-pollution mask that I’ve found in the UK – but I used it sporadically because it has several big drawbacks for me:

  1. The mask itself is pretty big on a girl’s face and can chafe my skin. It’s like wearing a muzzle and covers most of my face, plus the velcro is very strong and keeps getting caught in my hair.
  2. Even using the ‘sports’ filter makes it exceptionally difficult to breathe in sufficient amounts of air when going at speed, leaving me heaving like a fish out of water.
  3. The amount of condensation produced inside the mask is incredible – after a couple of miles at a decent pace, my nose felt as though it was submerged, and when breathing hard, condensation was projected out of the mask – when going fast it occasionally splattered all over my shades!

So, in desperation, I emailed the London Cyclist blog and asked Andreas if anyone had any ideas about alternatives – then he put me in touch with Totobobo.

Testing the Classic and SuperCool Totobobo Pollution Masks

Totobobo sent me 2 different masks, the Classic and the SuperCool – both made of very lightweight soft rubber with 2 small round white filters that sit on either side of the face.  The masks come with instructions on how to cut the rubber to suit your face – initially I was a little concerned about cutting too much of my Classic away, but eventually after much cautious trimming I fashioned a mask that covered my mouth and nose and felt comfortable.

Riding home with it on was interesting – people in London are generally used to seeing cyclists wearing Respro masks and resembling Darth Vader, but here I was looking as though I had forgotten to take off my surgical mask.  I got loads of odd looks and questions about how good it was.

The answer is that I highly recommend Totobobo (apart from the name, which is impossible to make anyone understand whilst actually wearing it!).  When I got home I checked the filters and was amazed to see that even in 30 minutes the pristine white had turned to sludgy grey.

totobobo filter

I am quite horrified by this amount of pollution in London – I only wear each pair of filters for 2 or 3 days, by which time they are nearly black. With the Respro mask, until you’ve worn it for a couple of months you just don’t see any change of colour and probably don’t replace the filter when you should.

There is a little condensation produced by both the Classic and SuperCool, but the SuperCool doesn’t cover your nose, so there’s even less with that one.  The thin straps fit behind your ears and afford a surprisingly secure fit and there’s a alternative strap that fits both masks but is a little more complicated than just fitting around your ears.

There are also different filters – a matrix filter and 2 different grades of particulate filter – 94% and 96% – both are easy to breathe through and the 96% gives a slightly higher grade protection from particulates.

Cycling Face Mask Summary

totobobo reviewSo, in summary, buy a Totobobo and breathe easy – I’ve discovered just how horrifying London pollution is, and I value my lungs.  Since I have been using my Totobobo my sore throat has disappeared – that makes me happy!

Thanks to Francis for the masks that were supplied for review and Claire for putting together her thoughts.

Does anyone else wear a cycling mask? What sort of results are you getting?

Edit: A couple of people are pointing out you may get similar results just sat in a car in traffic or on the underground. A valid point and I didn’t mean this post to be a scientific experiment. Just one users thoughts.

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125 Responses to Cycling Masks and the Shocking Results

  1. Jack 08/06/2011 at 1:33 pm #

    Did you try some control experiments? Like wearing the mask on the Tube and seeing how much tunnel cruft was left in the filter? Or in a car?

    • Tim Lennon 08/06/2011 at 1:43 pm #

      Or just walking around?

    • iamnotacyclist 08/06/2011 at 1:47 pm #

      Firstly your approach was hardly scientific – you recommend something for cycling but never tested it while walking or driving a car – the results would be interesting I think.

      • Andreas 08/06/2011 at 2:02 pm #

        This definitely isn’t a scientific experiment, which it doesn’t claim to be, just one users personal experience with the product.

  2. Dan 08/06/2011 at 1:42 pm #

    It would be interesting to see the results of wearing one of these masks during an equivalent commute, using different modes of transportation. I think it would be surprising how much pollution we are exposed to even when we’re not sucking up bus exhaust on our bikes.

    • Andreas 08/06/2011 at 2:03 pm #

      I’ll see if Claire would be interested in doing a follow on after a stint on the tube to see difference.

  3. Gaz 08/06/2011 at 1:43 pm #

    When ever I see someone wearing a polution mask I always have a giggle. They look so ridiculous and unless you are actuaully having a reaction to something I don’t see the point in wearing them.
    If you are worried about the polution you are breathing in then i would suggest looking at routes with less motorised traffic on.
    The downsides mentioned are major issues. Restricting your ability to breath fresh air whilst doing a phsyical activity is crazy. And mosture build up seems like a problem to me.
    Only rarely have been in a situation where I have been affected by polution from a vehicle, and that is generally an old banger which is in desperate need of a service.

    As Jack said, some control experiments would be a good idea and I recall studies which show that drivers breath in more fumes than any other road user due to how much closer they are to the exhausts.

    • Andreas 08/06/2011 at 2:03 pm #

      One of those things where depending which journal/magazine you read you’ll hear a different opinion. I just wanted to pass on Claire’s thoughts for anyone else considering a mask. My personal choice remains: Mask free riding!

      • Hitesh Mamgain 01/10/2011 at 10:22 am #

        Interesting would be interesting to see what the dirt would be line in Bangalore

    • Nico 08/06/2011 at 2:21 pm #

      You might think people look ridiculous in them, but look at the scientific literature on the effects of PM10 (particles smaller than 10 microns) on lungs/heart/cancer, and you won’t be laughing anymore. Look here:

      • Gaz 08/06/2011 at 2:27 pm #

        Have you got anything which states how much PM10 is emmited from vehicles and how this effects people like cyclists?

        • Nico 08/06/2011 at 2:55 pm #

          A few examples of the things I’m looking at for my blog post:

          1.Zuurbier, M. et al. Respiratory Effects of Commutersʼ Exposure to Air Pollution in Traffic. Epidemiology 22, 219-227 (2011).
          2.Terzano, C., Di Stefano, F., Conti, V., Graziani, E. & Petroianni, A. Air pollution ultrafine particles: toxicity beyond the lung. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci 14, 809-821 (2010).
          3.Berghmans, P. et al. Exposure assessment of a cyclist to PM10 and ultrafine particles. Science of The Total Environment 407, 1286-1298 (2009).

    • Francis 09/06/2011 at 10:33 pm #

      Hi Gaz, I agree that choosing a less polluted route is the best way to avoid pollution. A 3D animation produced by University College of London clearly shows the air pollution are concentrated along the main roads and especially at the traffic junctions.

      Avoiding these high risk location is the best way to avoid traffic pollution.

      But if you can’t avoid these high pollution area and consider using a mask, consider Totobobo, because the special filters work with electro-static charge to attract fine particles. It has very low air resistance and doesn’t feel like blocking your breathing very much.

  4. Mike 08/06/2011 at 2:04 pm #

    I agree with Gaz, selecting a quieter route can dramatically reduce exposure to particulates. Also, your location in London … PM10s* are generally twice as bad in central London compared to outer fringes. I have also seen a journal paper somewhere with the stats on driver vs cyclist exposure to PMs and toxic gases, drivers get more basically.

    Another point … the muck on the mask shows up particulate matter yes, but not toxic gases, and presumably these are not filtered by any mask unless they have activated carbon/cellulose filters. Traffic fumes are a cocktail of particulate matter (bits of brake linings, rubber, heavy metals), ozone, carbon monoxide, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, sulphur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen, benzene and lead.

    The best way to reduce exposure to these is to keep out of heavy traffic.

    * PM = particulate matter, PM10 are particles 10 micrometers or less in diameter

    • Mike 08/06/2011 at 2:08 pm #

      just looking at totobobo website, they say nothing about the filter’s effectiveness for toxic gases, I’d be interested to hear from Francis on that.

      • Andreas 08/06/2011 at 2:18 pm #

        Will drop him a line and see if he can jump in on the conversation..

  5. Nico 08/06/2011 at 2:24 pm #

    Claire, I use a Respro mask (blogpost in progress!), and it definitely got much darker after a few days use. The problem you had was probably with the fit. Also they do a filter with a carbon weave, which should remove some nasty products of fossil fuel combustion.

  6. Tony Parrack 08/06/2011 at 2:59 pm #

    VOSA – if you see a lorry or bus emitting excessive amounts of black smoke, please call the smoky vehicle hotline operated by the Vehicle Inspectorate:

    0300 123 9000

    Opening hours:
    7.30 am to 6.00 pm, Monday to Friday
    8.30 am to 3.00 pm on Saturdays
    Closed Sundays
    The Vehicle Inspectorate will need the following information:

    vehicle registration number
    date and time seen
    location of the vehicle

    (Just be prepared to wait….)

    • Andreas 09/06/2011 at 9:20 am #

      Thanks Tony for the heads up on this.

  7. Matt 08/06/2011 at 3:00 pm #

    I’ve seen quite a few lungs from a medical perspective and a familiar joke is “they’re either a smoker or they’ve lived in London all their lives”, so I’m quite interested in the merits of an anti-pollution mask (particulate or otherwise); the regularity of changing the filters and the associated cost does make it seem a bit of a luxury though…

    • Mark 03/08/2013 at 12:49 am #

      They’re definitely not a luxury here in the US. We don’t have fancy-schmancy universal health care here, and the cost of treating lung disease is WAYYYY more than the cost of regular face mask use.

      You all should get your government to provide free masks to everyone. It would save lots of money in the long run by reducing healthcare costs.

  8. Peter 08/06/2011 at 3:47 pm #

    I live under the Westway – I probably inhale more pollution than when I’m riding just by sitting at home!

  9. Francis 08/06/2011 at 3:52 pm #

    Hi Andreas, thanks for the heads up. I didn’t expect so many response in such a short time! I am now on holiday in Malaysia but I feel this is important to offer my thoughts.

    For those who are interested in scientific study of the effectiveness of Totobobo mask please check this link:

    For those who are interested in professional (doctor) opinion please follow here:

    I really appreciate Clare’s review, not only she gave Totobobo favorable recommendation (that’s nice, of cause), but more importantly she clearly pointed out the many hurdles one has to go through when choosing a suitable mask. People often feel buying a mask is the final solution to the air pollution problem, and didn’t realize it is just the start of many more problems.

    – if a mask is not fit it doesn’t protect
    – if it is not comfortable it won’t get used often enough to be useful
    – if it cannot be carry around easily ….
    – if it is too expensive…
    – if it is not easy to clean..
    – if it looks odd…

    I can’t claim Totobobo mask solve all these problems but we do make a conscious effort to reduce the size of the problems.

    We try to look beyond “technical” qualification and put more emphasis on “practical” issues that confront the uses on a daily basis. Personally I hope more and better solution will become available since it helps to get more people on the bicycle. Getting more people on bicycle is the best, and the only, way to solve traffic pollution fundamentally.

  10. Claire 08/06/2011 at 4:45 pm #

    No, it wasn’t a scientific experiment, just my observations, as Andreas has mentioned. I want to be able to ride to Canary Wharf from West London, minimising the amount of rubbish I inhale using the quickest route. I would so much rather ride mask-free but it’s just not healthy – the reason all this started is because I presented with a sore throat.

    Annoyingly the day I took a quieter route to work put me right off because of the number of less-than-confident cyclists wobbling around, so lucky those who don’t suck in the exhausts of taxis and buses.

    I think the point is that breathing in London is toxic – roll on the day when I move out!

    • Francis 09/06/2011 at 10:20 pm #

      Hi Claire thanks for the useful review. Can I trouble you to send me the used filters? I would like to compare the remaining effectiveness with those from other countries.

  11. thereverent 08/06/2011 at 5:28 pm #

    On the question of what is worse, it’s being in a car.

    Cycling and Health. – What’s the evidence?
    (I have put the reference next to the quote for each)

    “It is often assumed that cyclists (and pedestrians) are exposed to higher air pollution levels than motor vehicle occupants because they are physically unprotected, and because they may be breathing more deeply than passive car occupants. However, in slow moving traffic, typical of rush-hour traffic, car occupants can be exposed to higher pollutant levels.”
    (van Wijnen, J. Verhoeff, A., Jans, H. and van Bruggen, M. (1995). The exposure of cyclists, car drivers and pedestrians to traffic-related air pollutants, International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, 67, pp. 187-190)

    “A review of the literature has concluded that: “Cars offer little or no protection against the pollutants generated by vehicle traffic. Road users can be exposed to significantly elevated levels of pollutants as they are, in effect, travelling in a ‘tunnel’ of pollution. Those road users travelling closest to the centre of this tunnel tend to experience higher concentrations of pollutants than those nearer to the roadside.”
    (Institute for European Environmental Policy/Environmental Transport Association (1997). Road user exposure to air pollution: Literature review, Weybridge: Environmental Transport Association)

    “Car drivers also suffer up to two to three times greater exposure to pollution than pedestrians in slow moving traffic.”
    (Department of the Environment Transport and the Regions (1998). A New Deal for Transport. Better for Everyone. London, The Stationery Office.)

    • Francis 09/06/2011 at 9:53 pm #

      It is true that without a proper air filter cars offer little protection from surrounding air pollution. This is true for most of older cars. I use a laser particle counter to compare the fine particulate reading inside and outside of different cars including Taxi, in general newer cars are better at filtering the air before letting them into the cabin.

    • Francis 09/06/2011 at 10:07 pm #

      Hi thereverent, thanks for the link to the pdf file (Cycling & Health). It is a very useful reference.

  12. thereverent 08/06/2011 at 5:33 pm #

    I might consider using a mask in mid summer, when the smog can get bad. But generally think I would find it too irritating.
    The less large diesel vehicles on the road the better (HGVs, older buses, older taxis etc). Another reason to reduce the number of HGVs in London, or ban the most dirty diesel vehicles altogether.

    • Francis 09/06/2011 at 10:03 pm #

      Older engine produce larger heavier particles (PM10). Newer car engine produce much finer particles (PM2.5 or less). Some recent studies shown it is the finer particle that is worst for the lungs and respiratory system, because finer and lighter particles can be easily inspired into the lungs deeply. Such finer particles shown strong association with heart failure in people with cardiovascular condition. I question if the newer cars are really “less harmful” in terms of producing air pollution.

  13. Corin 08/06/2011 at 7:41 pm #

    This was a useful and timely review for me. I’ve been looking into masks for a couple of weeks now, mainly to stop large particles like pollen grains and dust that leave me coughing when I get home in the evenings, but also because I have asthma and I am concerned about the amount of junk I breathe in over my 15 miles cycling on main London roads every day.

  14. JonF 09/06/2011 at 1:00 pm #

    Taxis have got to be a major part of the pollution problem, but successive Mayors have failed to do much about it. Johnson wants to encourage electric cars he says, but in most cases those cars will be used for maybe a couple of hours a day, and spend most of their time parked. Taxis, however, are motoring around for most of the day and even when they haven’t got a fare they have their engines running. The Mayor needs to make a much cleaner taxi mandatory. Yes, you can find examples of experiments for electric cabs, but I haven’t seen one. Make it mandatory and they will have to buy them.

    • Francis 09/06/2011 at 10:12 pm #

      I agree and there is a better way. In Holland it is not easy to fetch a Taxi along the roads. Taxi are only available for call. It is much better for Taxi to be waiting at different Taxi stands and only drive to the passenger when there is a call. Less air pollution, less congestion and less energy waste.

  15. Someone 09/06/2011 at 6:25 pm #

    What mask will the Chinese Olympians use when they land in Heathrow?

  16. Chris L 09/06/2011 at 6:39 pm #

    Any UK sellers?

  17. Kirsten 10/06/2011 at 8:22 am #

    I cycle across the City everyday and use a RESPRO bandit mask – its more like a bandana so does not restrict breathing and can easily be slipped on or off – so doesn’t cause you to overheat.

    I think it is fantastic and is the only thing to keep my asthma under control.

    The fact I look like a bank robber is by the by!

  18. Nico 10/06/2011 at 9:34 am #

    Wow, all those links are really good, thank you JonF, thereverent and Francis. Nice to see a manufacturer that involved with his customers too!

    When I stopped at the lights in front of Kings X things morning, a tourist stopped on the crossing to take a photo of me. I think the fact that I was wearing helmet, sunglasses and mask was probably a reason!

  19. Rob 10/06/2011 at 11:50 am #

    I used to wear a mask until I heard that masks can aggravate the problem – in that they filter out the coarse particles which trigger the ciliary reaction in your airways that expel any sort of rubbish that gets in your lungs.

    The smaller particles apparently do not trigger that reaction on their own. As masks allow the most dangerous particles through – e.g. the PM 2.5s – you get a double whammy: dangerous particles in your lungs and no physiological response to extract them.

    Also – the evidence regarding who inhales more crap is not clear – is it motorists who sit closer to the fumes – or is it cyclists who inhale a higher volume of air due to exertion?

    Francis – can you shed light on that?

    • Francis 10/06/2011 at 5:08 pm #

      Hi Rob,
      Coarse particles (>PM10) trigger the ciliary reaction in your airways sounds logical, but I am not sure it can help to expel the finer particles. My guess is the finer particles behave just like air, it can follow the air stream getting deep into the lungs. unless one can stop breathing, there is really no way to stop them getting into your breathing zone without a filter of sort.
      The choice of filter is key, modern non-woven filters make use of electro-static charges are best for tripping fine particles down to 0.3 microns. Totobobo import the filter from Europe and Japan to ensure the best quality in terms of capturing power and (low) air resistance.
      Regarding who inhale more crap, I feel cyclists have more option not to follow the most polluted routes and should be able to minimize their exposure.
      If cyclist have to follow the same route as car drivers, I do agree that in general cyclist are worst off considering they have to breath deeper and completely exposed to the pollution.

  20. Steve 10/06/2011 at 12:13 pm #

    Remember the tree pollen that was fallen like snow in London early May? It gave me flu like symptons. I don’t ususally suffer from hayfever but when I guessed tree pollen was the culprit, I tried using a Buff as a mask. I noticed an improvement the same day. By the end of second day the symptons had gone 🙂

    A Buff may not stop smoke particulates but it stopped me breathing pollen. It’s more subtle/stylish than a face mask and didn’t impede breathing.

  21. AdamS 10/06/2011 at 12:49 pm #

    Can I just point out that you don’t need to wear a mask all the time during your ride?

    I wear my respro when I’m breathing hard after a climb, or get stuck behind a dirty diesel vehicle, and then lower it round my neck to cool down afterwards. Seems to work for me although I don’t ride in central London and haven’t scanned the inside of my lungs recently so can’t be entirely sure.

  22. Ben Brown 10/06/2011 at 5:04 pm #

    I love london and its pollution is part and parcel of the place unfortunately. I think you’d pick up more grunge from the tube. I would really agree with Gaz and say persist in finding a better and more quiet route. My quieter route has made such a difference to my commute and it’s actually quicker. I also stop well back from buses when I have to stop behind them. Having been to Medan Indonesia and witnessed the lawnmower motorbikes pumping out crap all day put things in perspective.

  23. Phil Russell 10/06/2011 at 7:56 pm #

    Steve—–what’s a “Buff”? And would a replacement be a Rebuff?

  24. George 15/06/2011 at 3:55 pm #

    I had the same problem with the cycling gas masks so I went to the other extreme and got this half mask:

    The main advantage is that it has a vent that allows you to breathe out, also getting rid of a lot of the moisture. It is quite uncomfortable in the heat, but it allows deep breaths even when going uphill and has a good tight fit, meaning you can be engulfed in fumes from a bus and not even notice.

  25. Francis 16/06/2011 at 1:32 am #

    Hi George, nice half-face mask you have there.
    Is it heavy?
    How do you keep your mask when not in use?

    The working principle (replaceable filters) of Totobobo mask is similar to the half-face mask you use. We make it much lighter (only 20g) for comfort and make it folded flat when not in use. It is not as heavy duty yet for daily pollution prevention it is very effective.

  26. ImOnHere 22/06/2011 at 12:15 am #

    I never used a “Pollution Mask” before but it was suggested to me that i should consider one when I complained how my nostrils was burning whilst breathing. I don’t begrudge any one for using or not using one, it serves a purpose for me & the filters have turned a dirty colour from all the pollution around. It’s also quite good for hayfever sufferers, as the filters can stop a mass intake of pollen. I only use it in London traffic & take it off when in parks but that’s down to personal choice as I don’t benefit from using it there.

  27. Chas 20/07/2011 at 10:38 am #

    I think we should get Claire on an Oil Rig with a boomerang to see what the effects on the mask would do. Then we’ll do a control test by taking away the boomerang.

    I can’t believe the amount of anal retentives on this website. I found the REVIEW of the product helpful. Obviously Claire isn’t a scientist, but if it captured that much crap on her filters then that stuff wasn’t going into her lungs. It’s a start, no?

  28. Alejandro 07/12/2011 at 5:48 pm #

    An interesting study seems to indicate a range of cycling masks are not nearly as effective as some simple dust respirators, or even the standard N95 masks:

    Which I found linked to from here:

    “Would cyclists be better of simply using N95 masks, particularly N95 masks with activated carbon components?” Discuss in 3000 words.

    • Bill Morgan 08/12/2011 at 10:39 am #

      I wouldn’t jump to conclusions: from a cursory glance at the research report it looks like they only tested the resistance of the mask to penetration of diesel particles without mentioning particle size. Cycling masks also filter a range of other pollutants and gases such as benzene and sulphur dioxide.

      Also how much does walking around Beijing correlate to cycling around a UK city?

      The simple solution of course is to wear several masks at the same time thereby trapping all known pollutants and also preventing breathing, which would further reduce entry of particles into the lungs.

  29. Steve 17/12/2011 at 2:28 pm #

    So have you tried the masks also out on the country side on a nice dry summer day?
    Why? Just to find out what kind of dust they are collecting.

  30. Jam Cruiser 24/04/2012 at 5:14 am #

    I’m a motorbiker, try modifying 3M silicon respirator masks, theirs are the most comfortable fit, with exhale valve and inhale through the filters, no moisture build up. For cycling, i recommend fit with smaller grade filters P100, no diesel smell. I already did that now. P100, code 2097.

  31. Dan 29/04/2012 at 2:52 pm #

    For anyone who wants to sit in traffic breathing exhaust fumes deeply into their lungs without some form of protection, I wish you luck. I can’t do it. I can’t handle the drying out of my throat, the foul smells, the burnt chemical aftertaste, the subsequent coughing and breathing problems I used to get before I finally put my brain into gear, did some research, some trial and error and came up with an acceptable solution to my problem. First I tried a simple cloth type face scarf – FAIL – No difference, then I thought those low profile Respro masks look cool so I got the City version – FAIL – not airtight, soaking wet after five hard minutes of exercise making it almost impossible to breathe. More research. As far as I have discovered, the only practical solution for me appears to be the 3M half face masks – airtight seal – and the 2128/ 2138 particulate filters which are the only ones I’ve found to deal with diesel particulates and smog, so I’ve opted for this. It works. No more bad tasting, dry, burning throat sensations and I can breathe much better afterwards. The condensation is reduced due to the exhale valve, but not eliminated. I can live with that. You look like a bit of a tit. I can live with that too. In short I care more for my insides than I do for my outsides. Happy cycling.

    • Peter 14/07/2012 at 12:23 pm #


      Do you have a link to the 3m half mask mentioned?

      Thanks in advance


      • Michael 24/01/2013 at 3:53 pm #

        Has anyone tried the RZ MASK from the U.S??

    • Jane 19/02/2013 at 10:56 pm #

      Hi – What I have heard about the totobobo masks is that they have not actually been certified by any agency overseeing respirators or filters – So all we have are the claims of the company’s representatives (who, quite inappropriately, in my view, comment extensively on numerous cyclist and mask forums, aggressively promoting links to their products and arguing for their quality – This should be an independent forum, sans advertising and spam), and the anecdotal experience of users who find that filters turn grey. QUESTIONS: 1) Can anyone attest that cycling behind a diesel bus in the middle of heavy traffic has no odor, when wearing a totobobo? 2) Has anyone tried them with any other chemical or particulate exposure, and found no odors or fumes while wearing one? 3) How about those paper N95 masks by M3, and is there anything out there which is as small and light as those, but also works with exhaust emissions? thanks tons for any replies!

  32. kiki 03/05/2012 at 9:17 am #

    Thank you for this review! It really helps me making a decision. I need to cycle across London from Canada Water to Islington and after 1 1/2 years have finally decided I’ve had enough of bad drivers and ignorant pedestrians etc and to take the long route around London along the canal. The only problem is that I have to go through the Rotherhithe Tunnel, probably the worst and most polluted spot in the city. It only takes 5 minutes but I cannot hold my breath for that long. I am probably going to get a totobobo mask as I also have a very small face. I’m just wondering what filter would be best. Can you help?

    • Francis 03/05/2012 at 9:54 am #

      Hi Kiki, all the Totobobo filter will work for your purpose.
      96% is for best protection but also more expensive.
      Matrix is good for cutting down the smell as well as the fine particulates, but the protection for particulate is only 92%.
      94% filter and 92% filter, are as the name suggested less protective but still reduce your exposure by more than 90%! and at a lower cost.

    • Darragh 06/08/2012 at 6:18 am #

      You should try cycling in a Taiwan There is probably more pollution here in one day than in a year in London and some of the worst drivers in the world. Nobody obeys the rules so your taking your life in your hands. I cycled for 10 minutes this morning to get breakfast and saw two scooter accidents.

  33. Kirsten 03/05/2012 at 10:01 am #

    Hi Kiki
    I recently bought a totobo mask – I have only used it once – more than happy to sell it to you…. also have a pack of the 96% filters.
    Let me know if you’re interested!

    • kiki 03/05/2012 at 10:50 am #

      Hi Kirsten,

      i might be interested in buying the filters off you if I buy the mask. may I ask why you are selling?

  34. Kirsten 03/05/2012 at 10:53 am #

    Hi Kiki
    I have been knocked off my bike by pedestrians too many times…. I have 3 small children at home and have decided its just not worth cycling any more. I have donned my trainers and started running my commute instead.

    You are welcome to have the mask and the filters.

  35. kiki 03/05/2012 at 11:02 am #

    Oh no, I’m sorry to hear that.
    Do you want to give me a call? number is 07973 531906

  36. Jerry 28/06/2012 at 8:31 pm #

    I wear a respirator mask. Heavy and uncomfortable, but it keeps out the fumes!

  37. kiki 28/06/2012 at 10:18 pm #

    I have now worn the the totobobo mask through the tunnel 1 times =5 mins) and the results are visibly shocking (filters are almost black). When should I change the filter?

    • Francis 14/07/2012 at 2:59 pm #

      kiki, you should change the filter if it is almost dark!

  38. Marcus K 29/07/2012 at 7:46 pm #


    For the record I bought a totobobo mask about 4 months back (the one that covers mouth only). Delivery was quick and I bought about 60 odd of the 92% filters. It has made a MASSIVE difference to my commute – before I used to have a very sore throat by the end of the week. Even when I’m not cycling in London (and I don’t have the mask on) I notice a clear difference.

    I would say a very good investment (surprisingly hard wearing given that it looks quite flimsy when it arrives). The filters go black in just over a week for me and it is quite shocking how much dirt they seem to pick up.

    I cycle fast and I would say it was initially difficult to get the breathing right but its good and the fact that it doesn’t cover your nose means that your glasses won’t fog up. If you feel silly wearing it just get one of those neck bandana things (in Evans for about 13 quid) they cover the whole mask (without slipping down) and dry quickly and easily.

    • francis 06/08/2012 at 8:29 am #

      Hi Marcus, thanks very much for sharing your experience of using Totobobo mask. The one that you bought is call “SuperCool” – since it is specially design for cycling in hot weather. We’ve tested it many times to make sure it is comfortable to wear and effective at cutting down air pollution. I’m glad that you notice the “MASSIVE” difference to your commute.
      You are right that the mask is very durable if used carefully. We have users kept using the same mask on a daily basis since two years ago, which means he paid USD 1 dollar a month for the mask. The 92% filter is less than a dollar per pair. So for you the cost is around 1USD per week, indeed a cheap and good insurance for your lungs!

      • John 22/01/2013 at 8:19 am #

        Hi there I am very interested in the Totobobo (or any other suppliers that come recommended) and as I am living in Barcelona I am particularly interested in the SuperCool model.

        I have recently started suffered a return of the asthma I had as a child and have to take a few puffs everytime I finish my ride to work. I really hope this will help reduce that.


  39. Mateo 04/09/2012 at 10:29 pm #

    Has anyone ever tried the RZ Sport dust MASK??

  40. MartinO 13/09/2012 at 12:23 pm #

    Having read the info / tips / comments on this site: I decided to get totobobo (on eBay). It is amazing compared to my previous Repro. With the Repro i really struggled to get air in / out. My performance was very poor riding uphill from work. I am so glad I came across this site.

    Totobobo is lighter, easier to use and above all – I no longer struggle and can now focus on my riding not my intake of air.

    People on the streets of Bristol can’t stop checking me out – lol – guess i am the 1st in Bristol to be totoboloed – and loving it.

    Thanks guys for your sincere comments.

    • francis 19/11/2012 at 10:41 am #

      Hi MartinO, thanks for sharing your experience of being the first Totobobo mask user in Bristol!
      You’ve pointed out a few important features which we introduced in order to make wearing the mask easier and more practical:
      lighter, so it doesn’t obstruct your movement and definitely contribute to the overall comfort.
      low air resistant – easier to breath filter, yet high efficient to cut down on the pollution

      If anyone want to read more about what other users said about Totobobo mask (including both positive and negative comments) please visit our site:

  41. Jen 23/11/2012 at 6:50 pm #

    Is there a store in London where you can buy it, or does it have to be online?

    • francis 24/11/2012 at 1:56 am #

      Hi Jen, we don’t have a physical shop selling Totobobo mask in London. The good news is that we have a online reseller based in UK, so you don’t have to wait so long for the delivery any more. The url of the UK based shop is

  42. Steve 28/11/2012 at 7:21 pm #

    Firstly, I would love to find out if pollution masks really work, as health damage caused by pollution is something that genuinely concerns me. See this article,

    …But, with all due respect, your experiment doesn’t demonstrate anything.

    There is no comparison to another environment –the dark patches might happen in the countryside for instance.

    The particles captured by the masks may not be harmful, it’s thought that it’s the smallest (and invisible particulates) which are the most harmful –is the mask stopping these?

    • francis 29/11/2012 at 3:24 am #

      Hi Steve, there is a scientific test report published in the “Journal of Hospital Infection” which demonstrate the effectiveness of Totobobo mask against fine particles (0.3 microns). It may not be sufficient for hospital application but it is definitive effective against the harmful fine particles.
      In a way you are correct that the dark patches might happen in the countryside too. If that is the case, there are two possible reasons: 1) the filter change color regardless the pollution level. 2) the very fine, invisible particles accumulated on the filters eventually change the color of the filter.
      I tend to believe the 2nd possibility is true.

      • Steve 16/01/2013 at 1:47 pm #

        Hi Francis,

        Thanks for that extra information! In the EU the most harmful pollution is considered to be that which is 2.5 micron or under, it’s my understanding that this is what is measured when pollution levels are measured.

        That’s definitely a hypothesis that you could test regarding the colour change, whatever your assumptions might be, there really is no way of knowing which it is without evidence.

  43. BB 15/01/2013 at 1:53 pm #

    In the countryside there are still fine particles – but they are more likely to be pollen.

    • Steve 16/01/2013 at 1:41 pm #

      That’s a good point, a experimental control would in reality need to be done in a controlled environment, not the countryside.

      This kind of mask is probably quite good for pollen allergies as pollen particles are relatively massive (typically > 10 microns).

  44. francis 16/01/2013 at 1:56 pm #

    We send Totobobo filter (96%) to Nelson Laboratories in USA for test. The result shows that our 96% filter is very effective to cut down very fine particles (0.1 microns). The filtration efficiency is 99.85%. The measurement is only 17 out of 10776 fine particles managed to penetrate the filter during the test.
    The filter is good for very fine, sub-micron particles as well as larger particles such as pollen.
    Download the test report here:

  45. Kevwe 31/01/2013 at 1:47 pm #

    Thanks for posting this. I’m going to get a totobobo mask.

  46. Jane 19/02/2013 at 10:54 pm #

    Hi – What I have heard about the totobobo masks is that they have not actually been certified by any agency overseeing respirators or filters – So all we have are the claims of the company’s representatives (who, quite inappropriately, in my view, comment extensively on numerous cyclist and mask forums, aggressively promoting links to their products and arguing for their quality – This should be an independent forum, sans advertising and spam), and the anecdotal experience of users who find that filters turn grey. QUESTIONS: 1) Can anyone attest that cycling behind a diesel bus in the middle of heavy traffic has no odor, when wearing a totobobo? 2) Has anyone tried them with any other chemical or particulate exposure, and found no odors or fumes while wearing one? 3) How about those paper N95 masks by M3, and is there anything out there which is as small and light as those, but also works with exhaust emissions? thanks tons for any replies!

    • francis 03/04/2013 at 11:08 pm #

      Hi Jane, you are right that Totobobo has not been certified by any agency, similar approach as Respro.
      For your other questions, please check out Doctor Richard Saint Cyr’s popular blog, he write extensively about air pollution in Beijing and here is an article of his evaluation about Totobobo mask verses N95 and others:
      It is known that PM2.5 (particles size smaller than 2.5 micron) are most harmful because it can be inhale deep into your lungs. Totobobo filter has been tested in Nelson Labs in USA, it shows it is very effective against fine particles (0.1 micron):

  47. so igor 08/03/2013 at 2:59 am #

    “In conclusion, despite being cut to size the
    Totobobo mask (non fit-tested) does not
    perform as well as a fit tested N95 mask.”

    • Francis Chu 09/09/2013 at 5:11 pm #

      Hi So igor,
      The statement you quoted may sound discouraging but it is actually not. You need to know what is the differences of a “fit-tested” mask and a “non-fit tested” mask.

      “Fit tested N95 mask” means the particular model/size of the N95 mask had previously tested and passed the fit-tested. In order to pass, the N95 mask must achieve a protection factor of 100 or higher. In other words, this mask is guarantee to work for this particular user.

      “Non-fit tested Totobobo mask” means such a test has not been done before and it is the first time Totobobo was evaluated on this group of users. Obviously any mask will fit some users better than others. The average result is not as optimized as the fit-tested group.

      In this study both Totobobo and 3M N95 masks (1860 or 1860s or 1862) passed the fit-test, while the protection factor of Totobobo is 132 and the protection factor of the 3M is 193. The fit-tested 3M mask are significantly more protective than Totobobo and that’s the reason Totobobo cannot be recommended for hospital use. However, as Dr. Richard St Cyr stated in his blog “MyhealthinBeijing”:

      -“a 135-fold drop in pollution is very impressive; even on an emergency day with the AQI over 500, the mask would bring your air to WHO-safe levels.”


  48. Maria 08/03/2013 at 11:37 am #

    Having to contend with the traffic in London is quite bad but i never really thought about the pollution aspect too much, i suppose its a case of out of sight out of mind. The masks are a great way of reducing the affects of pollution but i think they are good for people travelling on the tube too. The amount of dead skin, hair and dust particles flying around underground is incredible, i would think its healthier travelling by bike.

  49. steve 21/03/2013 at 3:09 pm #

    Hi from south america! I live in ‘snog central” Santiago but travel quite a bit to the UK. We are a biking family. the school is 800 meters, the office 1K. The car is ’06 & has less than 50K on it. 90% are trips out the the sea side home – to escape the smog.

    Cant want to get back to London. I love riding there. Santiago sucks for riding, very few bike paths, cars who don’t (aka wont) share the road nor cross walks. Pot holes which can swallow a bike, and yes, smog.

    all the best!

  50. Keyworkeir 24/08/2013 at 9:48 am #

    Snog Central sounds like my kinda place! Presumably have to take yr mask off

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