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 http://totobobo.com/ 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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
So, 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.