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VStream windscreen comparison

Technically, the complete title of this article should be “National Cycle ZTechnik VStream Windscreen Comparo,” but in keeping with the streamlining theme, I trimmed it down. National Cycle is the parent manufacturer (making motorcycle accessories in the U.S. since 1937), and ZTechnik is their sub-brand dedicated to BMW bikes. The VStream product line includes 115 windscreen options for more than 45 bike models (there are non-ZTechnic VStream screens for non-BMWs). Here we’ll examine two of their offerings for the F 800 GT: a sporty low screen meant to replace the OEM part and a much taller variant for touring. There’s a third choice, not included here, occupying the middle ground.

BMW’s original piece, while simple, looks great and complements the bike’s sleek styling perfectly. It also does a decent job deflecting and smoothing torso-level airflow. Some may wish for sexy tinting or a more elaborate, aerodynamically advantageous design without any additional wind blockage, thereby preserving maximal cooling through a ventilated jacket in hot weather. Others may desire a larger shield against the elements and extensive noise-minimizing contours. I wanted it all and recognized this meant having more than one screen.

The stock windscreen on the bike.

All ZTechnic VStream windscreens share several key features in common. First, the product line name refers to the central V-shaped contour shared by all the different versions. This core design element forces turbulent airflow further outboard on each side than do typical OEM screens, creating a wider pocket of relatively still air in the cockpit, and reducing buffeting and wind noise accordingly (National Cycle calls the effect “aeroacoustic”). Second, these screens are constructed of 4.5mm Lexan polycarbonate with much higher impact- and crack-resistance than conventional acrylic pieces. Third, they benefit from “Quantum hardcoating,” a process claimed to greatly increase scratch-resistance over other surface treatments. Less scratching not only means the screen looks new longer, it also reduces the glare resulting from surface wear and abrasion. Such imperfections refract light, essentially creating opaque areas in a screen when hit at certain angles by sunlight, headlights or streetlights. Fourth, all National Cycle polycarbonate windscreens carry a three-year warranty against breakage. Finally, shipping them to your home is free (and very fast in my experience) from their Illinois warehouse.

Whereas the screens evaluated here both use stock mounting points with upgraded hardware and involve no modifications or special installation considerations, VStream models are also available for bikes without OEM screens or mounting provisions. Those designated “VStream+” include custom bracketry for factory-quality fitment, mounting to either the fork tubes or triple clamps. Check National Cycle’s user-friendly website to see what’s available for your particular machine.

Sport Screen ($189.95, height: 15.25″, width: 18.00″)

The most eye-catching feature of this screen is its extremely dark (95%) tint. In low light, it looks like it’s painted glossy black. This is much more about styling than function, as the only time a rider would ever be looking through a screen this low is while in a racing tuck, with their chest on the bike’s tank (or airbox cover, in the case of the F 800 GT). When trying to extract the last mph on a top-speed run or seeking refuge while riding through a hailstorm, this might be relevant; otherwise, not so much. The real appeal is some riders think smoked screens look cool, independent of utilitarian concerns. Sorry if you’re not one of them; this screen isn’t available clear.

The sport screen on the bike.

While the VStream Sport Screen is virtually identical to the OEM part in height, it flares out further to the sides and, of course, has the aforementioned V-shaped contour built into its design. Aesthetically, it’s not quite as cleanly integrated with the fairing’s outline as the plainly shaped stocker, but—to my eyes, at least—it certainly doesn’t disrupt the bike’s styling language and is a visually pleasing piece all by itself. Depending on whether you think the fairing’s numerous creases and cutouts are already too “busy,” the curvaceous VStream screen either puts it all over the top or fits right in.

I just devoted a whole paragraph to styling considerations because those are likely to be the main reasons someone would spend almost two Benjamins on this screen, as its functional advantage over the OEM piece is rather subtle. While riding at a variety of highway speeds between 50-90 mph, I noticed a bit less buffeting at chest and shoulder level, but no significant change in wind noise or airflow around my helmet. The fact I’ve raised my bars about an inch might be noteworthy here, except I’m also of low-average height (5’8”), so these factors probably cancel each other out in terms of where my head ends up relative to the average rider’s.

Even with only a small performance improvement, I’m happy with this recent purchase for summer riding. When I bought my GT, it had the VStream Touring Screen installed. The OEM piece came with the bike, but a previous owner apparently had splashed solvent on it, leaving a smattering of white spots that couldn’t be polished away. It seems BMW may no longer sell the OEM part, as I was unable to find one online. However, given the tall touring screen BMW sells for my bike costs nearly $100 more than the VStream equivalent, I suspect the stocker would also cost considerably more than the VStream Sport Screen, if the former actually were to be available somewhere. Hence, price and value could be additional advantages of the aftermarket piece for those needing a replacement.

Touring Screen ($199.95, height: 21.25″, width: 19.00″)

While much taller than the OEM screen, the VStream Touring model is still low enough to look over, rather than through, in the normal riding position. Tucking behind it is possible in wet weather, but this would get uncomfortable for most riders if sustained for a lengthy period. On cold days, the screen does a wonderful job of diverting frigid wind blast at speed with minimal turbulence and noise. As you’d expect, the V-shaped contour exerts more beneficial influence in this larger format than in the Sport Screen. Having not tested other tall screens on this bike, I can’t say how much of an advantage the VStream provides over other designs. However, I have ridden plenty of other bikes equipped with touring screens and can affirm the calm, quiet pocket created by this one is at least as good as any other I’ve experienced, and better than many. Optical clarity is excellent through the main body of the screen, although there is expectable distortion around the undulations near its lower edges—completely insignificant unless you’re studying the mirror stalks.

The touring screen on the bike.

Based on the previous owner’s account and my bike’s current mileage, this Touring Screen has approximately 7,000 miles on it. That’s by no means an astronomical figure, but it’s enough to expect the collection of at least a few minor blemishes. I’ve examined every square inch of its surface very carefully and can find none. I’m not willing to deliberately test the damage-resistance of either of my VStream screens, but the manufacturer’s claims about Quantum hard coating seem credible. By comparison, the OEM screen, with only about 2,000 miles of use, has incurred faint scratching in a half-dozen spots despite being stored in bubble-wrap when off the bike.

As with any larger aftermarket screen, this one’s outline projects an upright departure from the natural arc of the fairing’s nose, sacrificing a little of the stock bike’s svelte profile for increased protection—function over form. Offsetting this small aesthetic loss is the Touring Screen’s excellent fit and finish, with smoothly radiused edges, tasteful decal, and the overall appearance of high-quality craftsmanship—all true of the Sport Screen, as well. The only functional downside to this screen is how effectively it blocks desirable cooling airflow in hot weather.

Final Thoughts

Both screens performed very well and deserve recommendation. There are substantially less expensive alternatives elsewhere in the aftermarket, but those may lack the ZTechnic VStream line’s durability and aerodynamic performance. I’ve sampled other well-known brands over the years and found some of them vastly inferior to their OEM counterparts. That’s definitely not the case here.

In addition to the above-mentioned features, both screens’ screw holes were in precisely the right places, and all supplied hardware was top-notch, making installation a smooth process, albeit somewhat tediously involved (this is a BMW we’re talking about, after all). Even the instructions were above average, although I strongly recommend inserting the stubbornly awkward upper/side screw grommets before fastening the screens’ lower mounts, rather than after. One more detail is worth noting: Neither screen features the twin vents of the OEM, but instead employ spacers to create a gap under their leading edges, thereby allowing more pressure-equalizing airflow into the cockpit area. This small amount of airflow further reduces turbulence and drag, since it prevents the screen from trying to pull a vacuum behind itself at speed.

I realize we don’t always get what we pay for, but I’d rather spend more and get something genuinely good than save a few bucks and own a disappointment. ZTechnic’s VStream screens did not disappoint.