The downside of photochromic helmet faceshields

Three years ago, I wrote that photochromic helmet faceshields were my new favorite piece of motorcycle gear. I still love them. All three helmets I own have a Transitions visor. But you do need to know what you’re getting into. Not only are the visors expensive, but they have a limited life span.

The photos below show the evidence. 

new photochromic helmet faceshields

This photo from three years ago shows the Bell and LaZer photochromic faceshields on the right after 20 seconds of exposure to full sun. On the left is a regular tinted visor for comparison.

Bell Transitions motorcycle faceshield after three years

This photo shows the same Bell Transitions visor after three years. Not only is the tint much lighter, but it is also uneven, providing less tint at the top, where it’s most needed. Time to replace it.

The fact that these shields eventually lose their tint is no secret. The manufacturers warn you it will happen, though perhaps in finer print than you’d prefer. Still, the change is pretty dramatic.

I should also note that my helmets are stored in ideal conditions for maintaining the sheids’ ability to adjust. When some friends redid their kitchen, I got the old cabinets they were going to throw out and installed them in my windowless garage. After every ride, I put my helmet in the soft cloth bag that came with it and put it in the cabinet in the garage. In other words, there are three layers between the helmet and any light. It doesn’t get much darker than that. The manufacturers suggest storing the helmets in darkness to prolong the life of the Transitions shields.

How long your faceshield will last depends — but I would say count on replacing it after two years. I currently have three helmets with Transitions faceshields: A Shoei RF1200 that’s less than a year old, the Bell RS1 this shield is fitted to and a LaZer Kestrel (no longer available) that RevZilla provided for the original test three years ago. The faceshield on the Kestrel is still much darker than the one on the Bell, but that’s probably because it has seen less use. We’ll see how the one on the Shoei holds up, since that’s my main, go-to helmet and I expect to keep it for a full five years.

So does this cause me to revise my positive comments about the Transitions visors? No. I still like them and would not want to go back to having to carry a separate shield and change it as light conditions changed. I still appreciate riding through a day of varying weather and always having good vision. But I knew the day would come when there was a price to be paid.

For my Shoei, for example, a tinted shield costs $65 and a Transitions shield costs $170. If I figure that one tinted shield will last the life of the helmet, but I’ll have to buy two Transitions shields, that’s a total cost of $340, or $275 more than going the traditional route.

Whether the convenience is worth the price to you depends on your budget and personal preferences. Just know what you’re getting into.


2 Responses to “The downside of photochromic helmet faceshields”

  1. Lem-lem says:

    Spurg says try sunglasses.