Motorcyclists (who wear helmets): Does the face shield color matter

I’m not sure if this is a factual question or each rider’s opinion. It may devolve to the latter, so I’ve stuck it here.

I’m finally replacing an ancient helmet and the one I’m buying comes with a clear face shield. Of course, all helmets have additional visors available for replacement or additional purchase.

I think my original Shoei RF200 (I jest) came with a super-dark face shield. I loved that thing because it was real comfortable to look through on bright summer days and glaring winter days after a rainstorm. I still use that helmet when I go to the opthalmologist and have to ride home with that dilation dye in my eyes.

But I digress.

That super-dark face-shield is not available for modern Shoei helmets so I can’t pick that one as my alternate. While I was looking, I saw that there’s dark and light smoke, with and without mirror coating, plus yellow, blue, and fire orange (?!) as well as clear (which I will already have). I also noticed an e-bay seller noting that colored shields are ‘not recommended for use in the UK’ for some reason.


  1. What effect do the various colors have on one’s vision/acuity/clarity, UV exposure, etc? Are they like Blue-Blocker sunglasses or Amber shooting glasses?

  2. Are colored shields legal in the USA? (If not, there’s a lot of people using them anyway).

  3. Not that I plan to ride in the UK, but is there a reason colored face shields aren’t recommended (legal?) over there? [This is just for my curiosity.]

I like smoke and lightning
Heavey Metal Thunder
Racing with the wind
And the Feeling that I’m under
…—Mars Bonfire (Steppenwolf)
Born to be Wild

yellow tint (blue-blocker) is supposedly good for nighttime riding as it reduces the glare from car headlights and streetlights. I don’t get the reason for an orange tint.

Actually, any tint reduces the light transmission. Not real good at night.

As it happens, I have an upcoming hospital appointment which may require this and my letter from the hospital is most emphatic that I not drive afterwards if such treatment is given. (I’ll be walking home afterwards, weather permitting.)

I haven’t ridden for years now, but last time I checked the UK law was that a visor had to let through some 50% of the available light. There was a lot of confusion over which visors were and were not legal, meaning a lot of us just used clear visors and sunglasses - not obviously any safer.

The reason behind the law seemed to be that bikers were assumed to be too stupid to realise that riding around at night while unable to see properly was a bad idea.

I use a medium dark tint, but rarely ride at night.

stupid question but don’t they have inner flip down sun shields for the brand you want?

I have a light top tint for daylight riding and a totally clear for night. Even with the tint high on the plastic mI find it a hassle at night and sometimes, depending on the road and the car lights, it almost makes me motion sick the way they change intensity and shape as they move.

I own polarized sunglasses but rarely wear them riding even in daylight. I find I can’t tell the depth of things like potholes as easily or accurately and that can be a big deal at 70mph plus.

incorrect. selective yellow tint filters out only the blue and blue-violet wavelengths, which helps you see better in the dark. Human vision sucks at resolving blue and blue-violet light, so filtering it out in the dark is beneficial.

The Dangers of Night Driving Glasses

I don’t like a shield on my helmet at all. I have one with a clear shield but I wear it only when it is very cold. I usually wear good quality sunglasses for day time riding and yellow/amber lenses, like shooting glasses for night time. I never ride without some sort of eye protection though, and wrap around models are best if you can tolerate them.

I’ve got a tinted shield for my helmet, but never use it now. Did once in a while in Florida, where the sun is more intense, but in NorCal it’s not usually a problem. (Here lately, with El Nino, I’m not sure I’d recognize the sun.) Anyway, if there’s any dust or dirt on a tinted shield and you’re transitioning from sun to shade (like riding into a tree shaded road or an underpass) you’re practically blind. It’s a little annoying with a clear shield but not as big a problem.
Off road riding, with goggles instead of a shield, that situation is even more extreme, and a leg or foot breaking rock or stump may be lying in wait. I’ve NEVER been comfortable with a tinted goggle lens under those conditions.

For me, the clear visor lets in too much light on bright sunny days. Not only do I end up squinting, it also ends up getting my face too hot, like a tiny greenhouse. Under those conditions, I use Shoe’s dark smoke shield.

On cloudy days, in rainy weather, or at night, I switch to the clear visor.

All of these visors are made of polycarbonate, which has very low transmissivity for UV wavelengths, so you shouldn’t expect any UV exposure regardless of which visor you choose.

IME this is the best solution. Light conditions can change quickly (tunnels, or riding towards/away from a low sun), therefore lowering a tinted shield on demand and then quickly raising it when not needed is the safest option. My helmet has this feature now, and all my future helmets will too - I love this feature.

Other reasons light conditions can change rapidly: entering exiting a parking building on a sunny day; or dramatic weather changes like seen in the midwest’s “tornado alley.”

Here (Wisconsin) it is illegal to wear a shaded visor at night. Of course, it’s also illegal (and incredibly stupid) to wear no eye protection at all and I see that from time to time.

Yeah, the referral letters I get include that warning as well.

However, there were a couple years in which I really needed to get back to work quickly and couldn’t wait around for my eyes to normalize and I didn’t have someone available to give me a ride, so I wore the helmet with the super-dark shield, plus dark glasses, PLUS the little dark plastic thing the opthalmologist gave me after my visit.

I was squinting on the way home* but I could see without halos or stars – and when I took off the head gear in my darkened garage I still felt like someone had taken a picture of me with a flash bulb just inches from my nose.

If at all possible, get someone else to drive you.

It’s a perfectly reasonable question indeed. There are more and more helmets coming out with that feature. The ones I’m looking at have not included them yet. Plus, my question is intended to find information on the particular benefits of different offered options, like what’s good or bad about mirror-coating?

I mean if they’re all just, “This is my favorite” or “I think this makes me look the most spiffy” then I’ll just get the darkest shield I can get because I’m more concerned with function than looking cool. On the other hand, if there’s a particular advantage from a particular tinting/mirroring scheme then I would give more consideration to such a choice – again because I’m more worried about function than looking cool.


*I’m sure if a cop had pulled me over I would not have gotten a ticket. I’m sure the cop would have just skipped the whole Darwin Award nomination stuff and shot me on the spot to improve the planet’s gene pool – and the his boss, the DA, the review board, and the Darwin Award Committee would all have thanked him for it. :dubious:

I wear one that is called high definition. I like the way it cuts the glare.

While straightening out my garage today I came across an old helmet of mine with a high-def visor (like a blue-blocker). I used that one for many years and really liked the way it cut the glare. If I were to have only one visor, it’d be a high-def one, but I still think the kind where you can flip down/up a tinted visor are far superior for reasons already stated.

I love my Shoei because swapping shields takes 3 seconds. I have 3, keeping the other 2 in my tank bag all the time. I use clear for nighttime, tinted for bright sunshine and that funky orangeish Hi-Def one for hazy cloudy days.

I got the hi-def by accident, a friends online order got mixed up. They sent him a correct one for his model and said keep the oops, it fit mine. Otherwise I’d never have spent the money. Wow what a difference it makes. Well worth it.2 friends have bought them after seeing the difference.

I’ve had the cool mirrored one, but looking out I can’t tell the difference from a dark smoke.