Bandanas or sweat bands?

When I first started biking last summer, one of the big irritations was the sweat that kept dripping off my brow and into my eyes. Then I rode with an experienced biker friend, who tied a bandana around his head as a sweatband. I tried one on my very next ride, and I was hooked.

The bandana was easy, quick, and available. I had a good half-dozen tucked away in a drawer. Most are the old-fashioned red ones with the black and white pattern. One is similar, but purple. One was issued by a local building supply chain, and has logos of all the brands they carry. The newest one was pilfered from my dog, who wore it at Christmas a couple of years ago. Its pattern is red chili peppers.


Emily the beagle and her (now my) chili pepper bandana.

I was hooked because the bandana worked. No sweat in my eyes. None even on the brow. Loved it. There’s only one problem: because they’re rather thin cotton, they absorb moisture quickly. At the end of an hour’s ride, my bandana is saturated. Not a big deal, because the ride is over. But after an hour and a half, or two hours, it’s dripping again. I suppose I could pull it off at a rest stop and wring it out — and I have. But that got me wondering: Is there a better solution?

The local bike shops have several alternatives. One is a full skull cover, that you tie behind your head. It has a sweat band sewn into the bottom hem. If you wear it, you look like a pirate, until you put your helmet on over it. Or, there’s just a plain headband that’s got some elastic for stretchiness. These things run from $10-$17, altho there do seem to be some you can get for as little as $5. Should I stick with the bandana, or try something new? Or do you have a different idea?


  1. says

    Whatever you figure out please let us know! I sweat like a mad man when I’m out riding. Especially on the mountain bike! There have been times when I’ve leaned over and just pushed on my helmet to squeeze out all the sweat from the pads…sorry for the imagery.

    I’ve considered getting a skull cap, I think a bandana would make things worse for me since it would just pile up in one spot. I did see something the other day that was supposed to route the sweat down the sides of your face rather than down the front…can’t remember where I saw that though.

  2. says

    I used to really like the Halo sweat bands which has a rubbery strip along the backside to help stop the sweat. The skull cap that you’re talking about might have it too. I sweat a lot and once the Halo got soaked I’d still get sweat in my eyes. It just took longer. Then I found the Sweat Gutrs. They’re a little tricky to get fitted right with a helmet but they keep working no matter how long the ride.

  3. Al says

    I had your issue for some time, and I used bandanas up until about 4 months ago. My ols cotton bandanas would do the same thing as yours – get saturated. On a muggy summer day, it would be bad enough in the first 20 minutes of my ride that the sweat would get into my eyes (ouch).

    I started using the Sweat Vac skullcaps. They work great as long as you are moving through the air. If your helmet has decent ventilation they should work fine. I think I got mine for less than 10 bucks at nashbar. No sweat in my eyes at all anymore!

  4. Michael says

    Headsweats and their breatheren are the ticket. I ride in 100+ degree heat indexes in the summer and they dry so fast I will squirt water in through the helmet vents to aid in cooling my head. The tail in the back helps wick sweat away from your head. I use mine as a helmet liner down to about 30F (with an earband) before resorting to a balaclava for winter commutes.

  5. says

    I’ve tried sweat bands but bandanas offer more versatility. When tied as a doo-rag (pirate style) the greater surface area usually lets sweat evaporate before the bandana is saturated. Besides that, you can tie one around your neck to keep the wind out when it’s cold. You can clean your glasses or wrap them up. You can clean a wound. And as a last resort, you can use them as a genuine handkerchief rather than resorting to shooting snot rockets, unless you really intend to gross out those people in the car alonside!

  6. says

    I use all of the things you mentioned. The pirate one is pretty good looking, even without a helmet. (I’m only an ocasional helmet wearer). I do like the “doo rag” type bandana and wear that more often than anything else.

  7. says

    Since I’ve tried bandanas I recommend it. Here, in Brazil, even in the winter, I sweat a lot. In the summer, when the bandana gets satured with sweat, I stop near a stream or river and clean it. I wear it wet until the air crossing the vents in helmet dry it. And it is also good to hide my bald!

  8. Graham Wilkinson says

    Just discovered your blog and loving it.

    It’s a baseball cap for me. Stops my head from burning and stops the sweat getting into my eyes. Here in the UK it’s still not a legal requirement to wear a helmet but I fear we are moving in that direction. In Holland you rarely see a cycle helmet as they have educated motorists to respect cyclists and have created cities that encourage people to bike. Sadly, we, in the UK, have a LONG way to go before we ever get close. The car-lobby are a strong voice.

  9. Scott Harding says

    There i a company who do not the cheapest but fantastic bandana which is elasticated and ties at the back which also has a sweatband located int the front of the of the elasticated strap

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