Motoring into the sunset with a clear faceshield or riding after dark with a tinted one are both uncomfortable and dangerous scenarios. The traditional solution is to carry a spare, but that entails toting one around and taking the time to install it. Wouldn’t it be better if your faceshield tinted at the touch of a button or darkened automatically? The products in this month’s Gear spread do exactly that, and we tested them all to find out which one works best.
Bell Solfx Visor
The SolFX visor is essentially two faceshields in one. During the day it tints to a dark smoke, shielding the wearer’s eyes from bright sunlight that causes strain and fatigue. At night or in low-light situations, the visor returns to a clear state. It does this automatically thanks to a special light-sensitive photochromatic material bonded to the surface. The SolFX faceshield provides the darkest daytime tint, has the best clarity and also offers excellent anti-fog capabilities. The MC staff has been using SolFX shields for more than a year, and has found them to be by far the most effective and convenient option on the market. The only catch is they’re currently only available for certain Bell helmets, and they’re rather pricey.
E-Tint Mx-8 Insert
The e-Tint MX-8 insert uses military technology to allow you to tint your visor at the touch of a button. A small electronic module mounted to your helmet’s faceshield houses a rechargeable battery and switch for the liquid-crystal insert. Push the button and the visor darkens a few shades, but not nearly enough to keep you from squinting on a bright day. Installation is a bit tricky, though the included mounting template helps you nail the positioning. Even so, the universal insert leaves quite a bit of area uncovered and the adhesive band around the perimeter is distracting. The MX-8 is a high-tech solution, but it’s expensive and not very effective.
Pro Grip 3000 Insert
The Pro Grip 3000 is a universal photo-chromatic insert that fit our Arai faceshield as if it were made for it. When exposed to sunlight the insert darkens to a bluish-green tint, and although it doesn’t get as dark as the e-Tint unit, the Pro Grip 3000 is taller and wider, so is provides better coverage and blocks more light overall. It changes color quickly and returns to clear the quickest of any of the photochromatic items, but then it also tints to the lightest color. It’s no replacement for a dark-smoke faceshield, but the Pro Grip 3000 offers decent glare protection and good anti-fog properties at an affordable price.
Scorpion Exo 1100
The next-best thing to a functional photochromatic shield is a pilot-style flip-down sun visor, and Scorpion offers four lids with this handy feature. Dab a lever on the side of the helmet and a dark-smoke visor slides down from within the shell, giving your eyes a rest from bright sunlight. This setup also offers the added benefit of being rider-controlled, so you can retract the sunshield before riding into a tunnel or other dark area. Both the clear visor and the sunshield on Scorpion’s new EXO 1100 are imbued with an anti-fog coating, and the helmet features a lightweight fiberglass/Kevlar shell, washable comfort liner and good ventilation.
Wiki has offered photochromatic visors for quite some time. In fact, the Wikishift faceshield was runner-up for Best New Product in our 2008 MOTY competition. Like Bell’s SolFX visors, Wikishifts currently are only available for Wiki helmets, but the company provides a Wikishift faceshield with every lid and says fitments for other brands are forthcoming. The Wiki visor reacts slightly quicker than the SolFX faceshield and is less prone to darken on cloudy days, but it doesn’t achieve as dark a tint and has a purplish hue when activated. It’s enough to keep your eyes from becoming strained, but barely. It’s not quite as convenient as the SolFX visor, but the Wikishift shield is much cheaper than Bell’s offering and might be available for the helmet you already own in the near future.
No fancy chemical coatings or high-tech electronics here, just a simple piece of dark-smoke vinyl that sticks to the outside of your helmet’s visor via static cling. The Tint-A-Shield sheet comes in a convenient storage tube that’s small enough to fit in your tankbag or jacket pocket, so it’s much easier to carry than a spare faceshield and just as easy to apply. Tint-A-Shield imparts some haziness, but it’s only $11.95 and can be reused dozens of times.
Fog City Speedtint
It doesn’t look like it would do much, but Fog City’s Speedtint is surprisingly useful during early-morning and afternoon rides when the sun is low on the horizon. By tilting your head to position the tinted brow band between the sun and your eyes, you can reduce eyestrain to a tolerable level. It bridges the gap between a tinted daytime faceshield and a clear nighttime visor, and only costs $11.95. Combine Speedtint with a photochromatic faceshield for total versatility.