All motorcycle helmets – and that includes their shields – are subject to rigorous standards and thorough testing before they go on sale in the US and elsewhere.
And if you’ve been a biker for some time, you’ll know shields generally work pretty damn well. OK, some can be slightly better than others, but I’ve never bought a helmet with a shield that distorts so much that I’ve been tempted to replace it. You can certainly notice distortion if you look for it – especially at the edges or when looking through it at an oblique angle – but most modern shields seem OK.
So is making an optically-correct shield a solution to a problem that never really existed?
What is an optically-correct or class 1 shield?
They’re shields that are designed to minimise distortion so your vision is clear and unhindered.
The term Class 1 comes from a standards for eye and face protection, where optical quality is graded in three classes – 1 to 3 – with class 1 being the best and suitable for prolonged use.
Schuberth say all their helmets come with optical class 1 shields as standard. Bell too produce helmets with optically correct shields – as do AGV, Shoei and LS2.
In fact, you can find all the helmets we’ve looked at with optically correct shields here.
Do I need one?
Short answer: probably not.
If the helmet you like comes with one in the box, then great. It goes without saying that clear vision is imperative when riding a motorcycle so having a shield that’s distortion-free is ideal.
But most modern shields are very good anyhow and for most of us should be totally adequate for day to day riding. Our priorities should probably be more focused on keeping our shield in good condition – regularly cleaned and fog-free – rather than worrying about having the perfect optics.
The only exception to that rule may be racers, whose finely-tuned peripheral vision and millimetre perfect judgements could potentially be affected by the slightly sub-standard optics found in regular shields.
However, for the rest of us, we’d say it’s probably more of a ‘would be nice’ than a ‘must have’ feature.