Everything you need to know about shields
There’s little more important on a motorbike helmet that its shield.
Of course, they keep all the dirt, rain, wind and bugs out of your eyes when you’re steaming along. But they also have limitations. They restrict your view, they can scratch and dazzle and and they can fog up so bad you can’t see your hand in front of your face.
So to stop all these nasties from happening, what should you look out for in your next shield?
A shield hole is a shield hole, right? Actually nope, because like most things in life, some are bigger and better than others.
You see, some helmets have nice and wide shields, designed to maximize your peripheral vision; which is particularly important on a motorcycle because you need to be especially vigilant and that means you need all the forward and peripheral vision you can get. So it’s always best to get a helmet with a wide shield.
See all our helmets with wide shields here.
Also, if you ride a sportsbike, your tucked-in riding position will be chin-down and looking up through towards the top of the shield much of the time. So, you need a crash helmet with a tall shield opening so the top of your view isn’t obscured by helmet.
So you’re probably best looking for a helmet that’s designed for sportsbike riders. You can find all our sportsbike helmets here.
Opening tabs on your shield come in all sorts of locations. Left, right, left and right, bottom centre – even top centre. A tab in the bottom middle is probably best for most people – or some shields have a tab bottom right and left which is even better.
That way you can easily open your helmet with your left hand when riding along, but also open it when you’re sat at the traffic lights and your left hand’s pulling in the clutch.
For most of us who ride in cold climates – or really hot and humid climates – a decent anti-fog system is a must. Riding with a murky, foggy helmet is both annoying and dangerous and you really don’t need to increase the potential for mishaps when you’re riding any more than absolutely necessary.
You can of course get sprays and liquids that coat the inside of your shield that try to prevent fogging. But in my experience, they work with varying degrees of ineffectiveness (but if you’ve got one that absolutely, totally, 100% works for you, then I’d love to know and we’ll put it to the test).
But the best and most consistently great anti-fog solutions are the Pinlock-type insert that attaches to the rear of the shield. I say ‘Pinlock-type’ because some makers – notably LS2 – offer their own versions of an anti-fog insert, but Pinlock are the most high-profile system out there. They’re made for most helmets too.
You can read much, much more about what Pinlocks do here. But suffice to say, we suggest you buy a helmet with a Pinlock-ready shield (meaning that it’s designed to work with a Pinlock insert).
Many helmets come with a Pinlock insert in the box too and most these days use the Max Vision Pinlock. That’s the biggest and best Pinlock and the one to go for.
Ultra-Violet (UV) Protection
Good news! Standard clear polycarbonate shields protect your eyesight from UV light damage. That’s because polycarbonate naturally absorbs UV radiation.
How much? Well, that depends on the shield, but usually somewhere between 90-99%. The thicker the shield, the more is absorbed.
Absorbing UV light actually structurally changes the polycarbonate material over time – which is one of the reasons polycarbonate helmets lose their effectiveness over the years.
Quick Release System
Shields used to be hard to remove and involve things like screwdrivers and know-how.
Nowadays, most makers have tool-less shield removal systems that allow you to whip the shield off, clean all the crap off it, and get it back on your helmet in moments. That means there’s no excuse to ride with a filthy shield.
Ok, in reality, some still need a bit of know-how to figure them out, but you’ll get a hang of the best systems in a jiffy (and we always try and tell you how good their systems are in all our reviews).
See all our helmets that come with quick release systems here.
Optically Correct Shield
If you keep your shield clean and have a decent anti-fog insert, there’s no reason you won’t have great forward vision all the time.
However, most aren’t guaranteed to be entirely distortion free. To be honest, we’ve never found much distortion on standard shields, but if you’re worried or bugged by a bit of a warped shield, you can opt for one of these helmets that come with optically-correct shields which should keep things clearer still.
Read here for more information on optically correct shields.
Sun Shield System
Lots of helmets these days come with drop-down sun shields. They’re a second, tinted shield that you can operate with a switch or slider that drops it down behind your main, clear shield to stop you getting dazzled by the sun.
We think they’re a great idea and while they’re not always a substitute for some good shades or a dedicated tinted shield on the sunniest of days, they’re great to have available to stop you getting dazzled when the sun’s low in the sky or you forget your shades.
Here’s all the helmets we’ve seen that offer a drop down sun shield.
An unusual alternative to an integral drop-down sun shield is having a main shield that’s photochromic – i.e. it dynamically tints according to how bright it is.
You can also buy after market photochromic shields for some helmets, though they tend to be very expensive. So if you’re after a helmet with a photochromic shield, you’re probably best getting it as part of the package with the helmet.
Finally, you can get some sportsbike or track-focused helmets that are either tear-off shield ready or come with tear-offs in the box. They’re used mid-race when you urgently need a clean shield but don’t have the time to stop.
If you need any more information on what tear-offs are, then you probably don’t actually need one! But if it’s something you need in your life, check out our helmets that are tear off ready (or come with a tear off shield in the box).