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Best bike mask 2022: The best N95 and N99 anti-pollution masks still in stock

Tom Bruce Sarah Matthews
1 Oct 2021

City cyclists and runners are exposed to more pollution than ever. Look after your long-term health with an N95 or N99 bike mask

More and more people are cycling these days. It’s a great way to improve your fitness, cut down your commuting time and save on travel expenses. But most commuter cyclists are based in cities, where pollution is a serious hazard. In the UK, more than 30 regions currently exceed the “safe” limit for air pollution, exposing urban riders (and other outdoor types such as joggers) to a host of health problems.

This isn’t just a theoretical risk. A study conducted by King’s College London suggested that up to 36,000 people die in the UK each year as a result of long-term pollution exposure. So it’s well worth investing in a cycling mask. These simple, low-cost accessories can cut down the air pollutants you breathe by up to 99% – and they’re available in a range of styles and colours, so you don’t need to look like a movie villain.

Here’s our guide to everything you need to know about bike pollution masks – their benefits and any potential drawbacks – along with our pick of the best options on the market.

Disclaimer: Expert Reviews is not a medical authority. Our recommendations are based on advice published by non-affiliated organisations.

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Best anti-pollution masks: At a glance

  • Best customisable, good value mask: Cambridge Mask Pro | Buy now
  • Best for hot conditions: Respro City Mask | Buy now
  • Best replaceable filter mask: Totobobo Anti Pollution Mask (92% filters) | Buy now
  • Best mask for a custom fit: Respro Techno Mask | Buy now
  • Best mask for e-bikes and e-scooters: Airhead Mask | Buy now

How to choose the best bike mask for you

Why do I need a cycling mask?

Anyone who regularly cycles, jogs, or walks in an urban environment can benefit from an anti-pollution mask. These masks are designed to filter harmful particulate matter and gaseous pollutants out of the air you breathe, protecting you from diesel fumes, roadwork dust and even airborne viruses. They can also reduce the amount of pollen you inhale, which is great news for hayfever sufferers.

And while you might do most of your cycling in the UK, a mask can also be a particularly smart investment if you’re travelling to a country with even higher pollution levels, such as India, Saudi Arabia or China.

What certifications should I look for in a bike pollution mask?

Western anti-pollution masks should carry either an N95 or N99 certification. These ratings are issued by the US government and indicate the percentage of air particulate matter that a mask can filter. An N95 rating will thus protect you from 95% of particles, but we recommend you look for an N99-certified design. These masks can filter out PM 2.5 particles, which are the smallest, lightest and most dangerous, due to how long they can stay in the lungs.

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What can’t a bike pollution mask filter?

No matter how good your pollution mask, it can’t keep everything out. Cigarette smoke, for example, is very difficult to filter completely as some of the particles are extremely small. A regular cycling mask also won’t reliably protect you against viruses and diseases; if that’s what you need, look for a device with a European PPE or US MDC classification.

How do I get the right fit for my bike pollution mask?

It’s essential that your mask fits correctly. If it’s too loose, polluted air will slip in at the sides; too tight and it will restrict your breathing. Look for a sizing chart before you buy, so you can ensure you’re ordering the correct size.

There are also a few different ways to attach the thing to your head: some masks use ear loops, while others have behind-the-head straps. Which you choose is largely down to your comfort preference. The majority of masks have a bendy metal strip in the nose bridge to ensure a good fit above and around your nose.

Is it better to get a mask with replaceable filters or valves, or neither?

Certain manufacturers make masks with replaceable filters or valves; other models have built-in filters, which means you have to replace the whole thing once it’s reached the end of its lifespan. It’s up to you which you go for: disposable masks may not be quite so environmentally friendly, but they’re simpler and each one should last between six months and a year, depending on the frequency of use and pollution levels.

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The best anti-pollution bike masks you can buy

1. Respro Ultralight: Great for hot conditions

Price: from £30 | Buy now from Amazon

Respro is the world leader in bike pollution mask sales, and while its masks might look a little sinister, the N99-rated filtering technology certainly does the job. The Ultralight is our favourite from Respro’s range: its mesh-like stretchy fabric keeps you cool when it’s hot and humid, and a double-valve filter makes it easy to breathe, even when you’re pedalling hard to get to the office on time. The Hepa Sport 2.5 PM filters on the Respro Ultralight are replaceable and you can buy specialised filters designed to reduce allergic reactions or eliminate bad smells.

2. Totobobo Anti-Pollution Mask: Best replaceable-filter bike mask

Price: £25 | Buy now from Totobobo on eBay

Totobobo is a popular alternative to Respro’s market-dominating masks. Instead of the Sith Lord look, the manufacturer has gone for a clear design, with simple ear straps and a white filter on each side. It’s very lightweight, and kept my face cooler than either Vogmask or Cambridge Mask’s offerings – although we suggest you steer clear of the “‘SuperCool” model, as this doesn’t cover your nose, and offers much less effective protection.

There are two sizes to choose from (large and “petit”), and while the supplied filters only have a 92% effectiveness rating, you can order replacements with ratings up to 96% for greater protection from harmful particles. If simplicity is your thing, it’s a great choice – and it’s very satisfying to remove the blackened filters and see all the filth that’s been prevented from entering your lungs.

Buy now from Totobobo on eBay

3. Respro Techno Anti-Pollution Mask: Best for a custom-fit

Price: £29 | Buy now from Cycle Store

Another strong choice from Respro, the Techno anti-pollution mask has a contoured design made from hypo-allergenic Neoprene, fitting closely to your face while remaining comfortable. The dynamic activated charcoal cloth filter is designed to filter out sub-micron particles, such as pollens and respirable dust, and the two Techno valves allow for easier exhalation, reducing heat and carbon dioxide buildup inside the mask.

The mask comes in two sizes - medium and large - and can be adjusted with a velcro strap for the most secure fit. The filter is designed to be effective for at least one month of normal daily use, and can be easily replaced thereafter.

Buy now from Cycle Store

4. Cambridge Mask Pro: A customisable, good-value bike mask

Price: £25 | Buy now from Amazon

UK-based Cambridge Mask offers its N99 anti-pollution masks in no fewer than 15 colourful and charming designs (one of which has pandas on it). If you really want to express yourself, you can even order custom-designed masks, either individually or in bulk – and the company caters specifically for children, with sizes to suit every member of the family.

The masks don’t have replaceable filters (the filtering is done by the mask’s triple-layer lining) but there is a filtered valve to help breathability, and Cambridge Mask offers a useful chart giving advice on how often to replace your mask depending on your area’s pollution levels. In all, it’s a fun and stylish mask.

5. Vogmask N99 C2V: Double-valve pollution protection

Price: £42 | Buy now from Vogmask

Vogmask started out in 2011 as a small-time San Francisco-based mask manufacturer but now sells its anti-pollution masks in over 40 countries. Alongside a top-tier N99 certification, its devices boast a European CE Mark and approval from the Chinese and Korean health ministries.

Vogmask produces both single-valve and double-valve masks. I found that the single-valve model didn’t allow enough air in during a hard cycle, but the double-valve was superbly comfortable and worked brilliantly. The filters aren’t replaceable, so in pollution-dense areas, you’ll need to replace your mask every five months for maximum effectiveness. For an extra few pounds, you can also order a reusable head-strap accessory from the website, which we strongly recommend to ensure a good, snug fit.

Buy now from Vogmask

6. Airnum: The best looking, premium anti-pollution mask

Price: £65 | Buy now from Amazon

The Swedish-designed Arnum mask is reusable and KN95 certified for protection against pollution, smog and pollen. With four different sizes available, it’s got a measuring guide to help you find the right fit. Alongside adjustable ear straps, it comes with a head strap to take the pressure away from your ears, and a 3D memory nose-foam and clip to stop your glasses fogging up.

There are three colours to choose from and the two exhalation valves match the colour of the mask, which really streamlines its look. The removable filters last for 100 hours of usage and when you’re not using the mask, you can pop it in the travel pouch to keep it clean. The only drawback is the price. Not only is the mask expensive, but it’s got ‘running costs’ because the filters have to be replaced at the sum of £22 per pack of three.

7. Respro Bandit anti-pollution scarf: The best anti-pollution scarf

Price: £16 | Buy now from Tredz

This bandit-style anti-pollution scarf from Respro is fully washable because the built-in dynamic ACC filter has been treated to last through washes. This removes the faff from filtered bike masks, and it still provides effective protection from dust and dirt in the air for an impressive six months in urban conditions. However, it’s not N99 or N95 rated; Respro claims that DACC is their best filter for filtering out the “broad spectrum of pollutants commonly found in major cities across the globe”, which should reduce the discomfort of breathing in dust and dirt while you’re using this scarf. If you need protection from smaller particles in the air, though, opt for one of the other N95 or N99 masks in the roundup.

It’s one-size and ties around your head for a comfortable fit, so if you’re not keen on the feel and look of normal bike masks, then this is a great alternative. Even with the looser style, there’s an under-chin fastening that keeps out any pollutants trying to sneak in around the sides.

Buy now from Tredz

8. Airhead Mask: Best mask for e-bike and e-scooter riders

Price: £89 | Buy now from Airhead

Not to be confused with the popular taffy brand of the same name, Airhead is a new UK startup that claims to be in the top 0.5% of all Kickstarter projects. Its product, the Airhead Mask, is a bulky yet lightweight reusable anti-pollution mask that's capable of filtering out 99% of all particulate matter, including harmful PM2.5 and PM10 molecules. It looks slick, is constructed of sturdy materials and is easy to adjust for the perfect fit. It’s also modular, and its filters are replaceable, resulting in less environmental waste.

However, we couldn’t recommend wearing it for cycles or jogs lasting more than 20 minutes. The reason? Once you start to sweat, that airtight TPE seal isn’t of much use. As your body temperature rises the mask serves as a localised sauna, causing sweat to pool in the areas where the seal meets the face. And once that happens, the mask begins to slip, even when the straps are properly tightened. It's an uncomfortable feeling and requires constant adjustments that you don’t want to be making while navigating busy city traffic. For that reason, we feel the Airhead is best for people who won’t be sweating heavily; e-scooter and e-bike riders would get the most from it, as would city drivers who are sick of breathing in the harmful fumes that creep inside their vehicle.

Buy now from Airhead