MC Tested: Shoei CWR-1 Auto-Darkening Transitions Photochromic Pinlock Shield

How does Shoei’s automatic-transition visor option for the RF-1200 and X-Fourteen work?

Shoei CWR-1 Auto-Darkening Photochromic Shield
Yes, we blocked one half of the Shoei CWR-1 shield from the light to see dark versus clear. Transitions is available for the RF-1200 helmet (Terminus model shown here), and will also fit the new X-Fourteen.©Motorcyclist

A few years ago photochromic technology made it to the mainstream motorcycle helmet market, and Shoei’s RF1200 helmet is the latest to have an automatic-transition visor option. On the surface it’s the perfect technology: When exposed to sunlight the shield darkens, and reverses when it’s dark or light is artificial. If you’ve got your finger anywhere near the pulse of optics technology, you’re probably up on what photochromic equipment is and does. (Even if you’re not an opti-geek, you may have heard your mom’s friend rave about her Transitions lenses that automatically tint when she goes outside.)

In case this is new, here’s how it works. The plastic is embedded with photochromic molecules that react to ultraviolet light, so when sunlight hits the visor the molecules react chemically and change shape. In doing so they soak up more light, which makes the visor darken. Pretty nifty. (Shoei has partnered with Transitions proper, the namesake for many photochromic lenses. Transitions claims to have proprietary technology that makes its lenses “superior.”)

So, does it work as advertised?

Shoei CWR-1 Auto-Darkening Photochromic Shield test
Conventional and auto-darkening shield options. What trade-offs are you willing to make?©Motorcyclist

Yes, it does. I’ve had good luck with photochromic solutions in the past and this Shoei CWR-1 version is on par if not better. When going outside in the morning, it tints up nicely within a couple of minutes and will stay dark as long as the sun’s out. As our earthly star sun dips down toward the horizon it gradually lets more light in until, before you know it, the shield is clear. The transition is not noticeable and works seamlessly.

There are some cons to the system, as you might have guessed. For one, going through a tunnel means having the same problem as wearing a fully tinted shield; the molecules do not react quickly enough to clear when it gets dark quickly. Also, one of my colleagues complained that the shield doesn’t get quite dark enough on overcast days, when the sky can be bright. (He also felt that the shield didn’t get quite dark enough in warm weather, but he also tends to like very dark shields.) I didn’t notice the overcast performance as a problem, and also I think that’s better than the shield getting too dark in certain situations.

The last piece of bad news is the MSRP of $170. I understand that it’s amazing technology, and that it takes the place of two shields, but nearly two hundred bones for a shield is mighty steep. Standard CWR-1 shields (in your choice of dark smoke, light smoke, or clear) are $60, so it seems like charging much over $120 is a bit of a gouge. It’s freakin’ magic, though, I have to say. Plus it’s Pinlock ready, and considering it’s perfect for winter months when the days are short, you’re one insert away from keeping fog at bay. It’s also worth noting that the photochromic shield’s optics are better than having both a clear outer shield and an inner sun visor, as on, say, Shoei’s own Neotec or GT-Air.

Is it too much money to charge for a visor? Yes. Would I still recommend it if someone’s willing to pay? Yes. It’s awesome.


PRICE: $170


VERDICT: Way expensive, but functionally flawless.