Shortly after I had published my review of the GreenBox nano-weave face mask, which I had intended to use for cycling outdoors as responsibly as possible within a pandemic, my cycling friends rang me up to tell me about this P29 mask and how I should be giving it a try.
It’s been a few months since then and I’m a little wiser about mask choice for cycling. All these surgical masks tend to (literally) wilt when exposed to the demands of my riding a bike. As sweat and/or rain sets in and soaks through the material, the mask material becomes harder to breathe through. This is great if you want to train yourself under oxygen debt situations, I suppose, but it also means each breath becomes more labored, the material of the mask pulling against your face and mouth with each inhalation. Not very comfortable.
Having exhausted my supply of other masks, I decided to finally pull the trigger on the P29 mask.
As sold, these cost about PhP400 apiece, but claim to be reusable for up to fifty times by washing them with cold water and mild soap between each use.
The material itself is where the P29 mask differentiates itself from almost everything else. Instead of a “barrier” filtration surface that’s held on by the ear loops against your face, this mask is entirely made up of a dense polyurethane mesh that feels like thin, lightweight foam – and it extends right up to the ear loops. I was a little unsure of this at first, afraid of tearing through the material as I put it on and leaving it unable to do its job as a mask, but it held on just fine and kept its integrity even after taking it off a few times to drink mid-ride.
As with the GreenBox mask, I first tested the P29 on the indoor trainer on a 90-minute ride. I could notice the edges of the mask getting damp with more riding time, but it wasn’t enough to impede breathing through my nose and mouth the same way a surgical mask or a Uniqlo AIRism mask would. It largely kept its shape thanks to the raised central ridge meant to go over the bridge of your nose and all the way to your chin.
It’s passed the indoor cycling test for me so far; how does it hold up outdoors?
For this test, I returned to my old stomping grounds in Alabang. As luck would have it, it rained again that weekend, but I had the luxuries of more riding time and a cleaner, longer route, with higher speeds and more climbing. Where a surgical mask would challenge my breathing after thirty minutes, breathing through the P29 mask felt a lot more natural by comparison. Save for the baked-in difficulty of drinking, it’s almost as if I wasn’t wearing a mask at all. More importantly, as simple as it looked, the mask kept its shape all throughout, never once collapsing under the vacuum I generated with each inhalation.
The dense foam material of the P29 mask itself got damp from both my sweat and the non-stop drizzling, as can be predicted. However, the added water content did not make breathing any more difficult. That was amazing. I called time on my ride after two hours and 50 km, purely because of road vibration getting to me and tiring me out – not because of impaired breathing. The only downside I could think of was that the mask tended to flap around when you unhooked one ear loop so that you could drink from your water bottle mid-ride, but you could say that about any mask.
Finally, unlike a surgical mask, the fifty-use promise of the P29 masks means your PhP400 goes a long way.
I can see why these things have their fans. Highly recommended, and I’ll very likely go with these moving forward.