We all like the cooler look that comes with a tinted visor. But it could end up costing you a lot more than the sticker price. Recently, a young rider lost their life in what looks like a tragic case of riding home after sunset with a dark visor. At the very least, it was a contributory factor.
There are a few things to consider about tinted visors. They can help reduce glare and eye fatigue when riding in bright sunshine. Yellow or ‘daylight’ visors can also help in bright, white conditions, such as mist or where there’s snow on the ground.
Light is essential for us to see and a tinted visor means there’s less of it hitting your eyes. When the light starts to fade so does your vision. The darker the visor, the quicker it happens. Even a ‘light smoke’ visor becomes a liability in twilight – let alone the dark. Unlike other countries we have no regulations about the degree of tint allowed on a visor. You'll find some really dark ones around that would be lethal in low light.
Peripheral vision is often the first to go. So you don't pick up the clues that help place you on the road and hazards from the sides are often missed completely. As it gets darker, all you can see are bright lights. This can result in target fixation, so you drive towards the light. Understandable, but still unsafe, if you’re trying to follow other traffic. Deadly if that pool of light that looked so helpful turns out to be a truck coming the other way.
What to do
Never end up in a situation where you ride with a tinted or dark visor in anything other than daylight. If you have the space, always carry a spare, clear visor–in a cover to stop it getting scratched. You can buy a fancy bag or use an old rugby sock.
No space? If you’re going to be riding in bright sun but there’s a chance of having to ride in low-light conditions, use a clear visor and sunglasses. Polarised sunglasses are good because they banish glare. Yellow is the best colour because it works better in cloudy conditions.
What about if you wear normal glasses, or sunglasses are too uncomfortable? There’s nothing stopping you using a tinted tear-off on your clear visor. If you get delayed on the return from a ride, tear it off and Bob’s your Uncle. You can now get photochromic visors for several helmet brands that react to light. They're not cheap, but a very elegant solution.
The last resort will bring tears to your eyes. Literally. If there's no option but to ride home and all you have is a tinted visor, flip it up and keep your speed down. Way down. Below 60km/h, many full face helmets will bounce enough air out from around the opening that hardly any hits your eyes. Up to around 70km/h is manageable with a little batting of your eyelids to clear the tears. Fast enough to get home, if you keep a watch out for following traffic. There's a small risk that something could hit you in the eye. That’s why a visor or goggles are usually essential. It's much safer than trying go faster with a dark visor at nighttime.