MotoGP rider on race motorcycle with fairings

What is a Motorcycle Fairing? (And Does it Make a Difference?)

We have all looked in absolute awe at the motorbikes racing around the track in events like the esteemed MotoGP.

But what is it about those bikes that makes them so cool? Fairings, fairings, fairings! They are irresistible to any sports bike rider and can completely change your experience on your bike.

What is a motorcycle fairing? They are the panels that run along a motorcycle in order to change the way air flows around it.

The real question is… “what do they do?” and “why do I need one?”

What Does a Fairing Do?

Fairings work by manipulating the airflow when the motorcycle is in motion. A good fairing will make its motorcycle more aerodynamic by reducing drag.

Cotton M25 500 cc motorcycle with a Blackburne engine from 1928
Yesterdays Antique Motorcycles, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Fairings started off being used on racing bikes in the 1920s for that exact reason and as the riding world has evolved, fairings have been adapted and been put onto a variety of bikes.

What Are The Different Types Of Fairings?

Like everything else to do with motorcycle, fairings come in a variety of different styles. Depending on the style and the year of your bike you may very well have a fairing on it and not even know.

Dustbin Fairing

The first type of fairing was the iconic dustbin fairing also referred to as the torpedo fairing. These were designed purely to improve the aerodynamics of the bike and resembled the nose of an aircraft. They were banned from racing in the 1950s, however, because there were thought to make the bikes unstable.

Full Fairing

person riding a bike with blue motorcycle fairing

The full fairing is what most people think of when we consider a fairing, it’s what you see on every sports or race bike nowadays. They cover the upper and lower portions of the bike thus improving aerodynamics. They also offer some protection to the engine and chassis in the event of a crash by taking the brunt of the force.

Half Fearing

Half fairings are pretty self-explanatory. They cover half (if you squint your eyes a bit) the area of a full-frame and sometimes include a windscreen. They generally don’t cover the sides but there are kits available that can turn a half fairing into a full fairing by covering those areas.

Rear Fairings

Rear fairings are less flashy than full fairing but should not be underestimated. They cover the area behind the rider and often provide a small amount of storage, which is always welcome on a bike. They are usually detachable and give bikes with passenger seats the look of a single-seat racer when mounted.

The other types of fairing include the dolphin fairing, quarter fairing, handlebar fairing and belly pan fairing.

What Are Fairings Made Of?

Fairings are made from a variety of materials, including fiberglass, aluminum, carbon fiber, and polymer.

big bike with black glossy and matte fairing

What type of plastic is used on motorcycle fairings?

The most common type of plastic used to make fairings is acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, ABS for short. It is a strong, lightweight and flexible material which when combined with the toughness of rubber gives it an edge over other plastics.

There are two main methods used to produce fairing using ABS plastic.

The first is by using injection moulding. The plastic is melted and then injected into a mould where it is kept at a constant pressure. The advantage of this method is the fairing maintains a uniform thickness and the end product is the most accurate and consistent.

Compression mousing is far less common. It involves the plastic being heated and placed into a metal mould which is kept under constant heat and pressure until the plastic takes the shape of the mould. Then the excess plastic is cut away to reveal the finished fairing.

Are Fairings Necessary?

While fairings are not strictly necessary, it is pretty hard to imagine a bike without them. They give each bike its shape and create the elegant lines we all love so much.

person riding a motorcycle on the highway

We know there are some riders who prefer to take the name naked bike to the next level by for most of us fairings are an integral part of our bikes.

They help to reduce wind resistance which is always a welcome bonus, they also reduce drag and help to protect important parts of your bike in a crash.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much do fairings cost?

Unfortunately, there is no rule of thumb for how much a new fairing is going to set you back. It will depend on what kind of bike you have, who is going to be attaching it, where you and buying it from etc. The universal truth is that it is going to be expensive though. Anywhere from a few hundred dollars up to a couple of thousand is not unheard of when getting new fairings. So be sure to always shop around and make sure you are sticking to your budget.

How much do motorcycle fairings weigh?

Once again there is no exact answer to this question. It depends on the material used to make the fairing, the size of the fairing etc. Fairings are designed not to weigh down the bike and therefore made to be as lightweight as possible.

What is a batwing fairing?

A batwing fairing can be added to the front of almost any motorcycle and helps to deflect the majority of the wind away from the rider. They are larger than the average windshield and extend out to the side helping deflect wind around the rider rather than only over the top.

Is a windshield a fairing?

Windshields are often integrated into the fairing, however, you can also find aftermarket add-ons or upgrades which are detachable.