When I posed the question “Why can’t I see at night?” Google returned 407 million results. Further digging narrowed my search to five logical explanations for why one might struggle to see well in low-light conditions: cataracts, nearsightedness, side effects of certain medications, nutritional deficiencies, or even retinitis pigmentosa—a hereditary disease that causes the retina, the portion of the eye that senses light, to deteriorate.
I’ve worn corrective lenses since middle school, switching—like three-time world champion Freddie Spencer—from glasses to contact lenses in my teens. As the years have passed, my vision, like that of countless others, has worsened, prompting higher-power prescriptions and eventually compromises, including the purchase of reading glasses. Next thing I know I’ll get a membership notice from AARP. Oh, wait…
You can improve your ability to read the road when riding a motorcycle at night by simply fitting your helmet with a clear face shield. Stowing a spare shield on your person or a bike, however, is an inconvenience. And, depending on the circumstances, swapping shields on the shoulder at dusk might be more dangerous than soldiering on with a dark visor. Here are five products aimed at keeping you safer by helping you see clearly regardless of the time of day.
This is Arai’s response to drop-down internal sun visors seen on various full-coverage, modular, and even open-face helmets. Arai believes slotting a drop-down shield between the fiberglass shell and the EPS liner could compromise the crashworthiness of a helmet, so a low-profile pivot mechanism was cleverly devised to overlay a replaceable shorter dark shield (with cutouts for eyebrow vents) over a conventional-length clear one.
Everything is mounted outside the helmet, so the Pro Shade attaches like a normal shield. During daylight hours, you’re looking through two layers—three if you add a Pinlock antifog insert—somewhat compromising visibility. And in the uppermost positions, the shorter lens, which doubles as a mini-motocross-style peak, whistles faintly at highway speeds. Those demerits aside, the Pro Shade beats carrying a second shield and is the least costly option here. Arai Pro Shade System: $89.25
Photochromic glasses have been around for years but Bell was the first to offer motorcyclists a Transitions-licensed product—darkening completely in less than a minute when exposed to ultraviolet rays and clearing with similar speed. Bell recently launched its own product, the ProTint Panovision shield, which currently fits four of its full-face models, including the race-issue Pro Star Flex and the new SRT-Modular.
Bell claims improved optics and more lifelike colors, and in fact the wide unobstructed view is spectacular day or night. Likewise, the proprietary antifog coating: Despite my best efforts, the shield refused to mist over, meaning (unlike Shoei’s $20 pricier CWR-1 Transitions shield) an antifog insert is a thing of the past. If you wear a ProTint-compatible Bell helmet, invest in one of these shields. You won’t regret it. Bell ProTint Panovision Shield: $149.95
The Neotech was one of the plushest, quietest modular helmets on the market, and the Neotech II that Shoei released earlier this year is even more so. The latest model retains the original’s drop-down sun shield, which, in its uppermost locked position, remains out of sight and, when deployed, sits—unlocked for safety reasons—just above the bridge of your nose. An available Neotech II-specific Sena SRL communication system ($299) integrates neatly.
A glove-friendly slider on the left side of the helmet smoothly lowers the replaceable sun visor for instant UV relief and raises it for nighttime use—or poorly lit parking garages and tunnels. For a two-shield setup, optics are excellent with one caveat: Heavy breathers will want to fit the clear main shield with the supplied antifog Pinlock Evo insert ($34.99), downside being a starburst effect at night from streetlights and oncoming traffic. Shoei Neotech II: $699–$799
In a world of high-tech photochromic face shields and slick drop-down sun visors, sometimes the simplest solution for the day/night conundrum is an easy-on/easy-off pair of sunglasses. Not just any sunglasses, mind you. Unlike other frames, Flying Eyes (developed for headset-wearing aircraft pilots) have ultra-slim Resilamide temples that flex to faithfully follow the contours of your head while wearing a full- or open-face helmet.
Flying Eyes come in a half-dozen styles and an equal number of lens options. The frames are light (titanium models particularly so), and you can opt for a non-prescription bifocal for clear views of the road ahead and your speedo. An antifog coating—applied to both sides of the lenses—is available. So even if the cheek pads in your helmet of choice don’t have grooves for glasses, you might forget you’re wearing Flying Eyes. Flying Eyes Sunglasses: $149–$279
Accessory motorcycle riding lights won’t correct your vision but they can help you see better on a poorly lit road at night. Smaller and lighter than Clearwater Lights' more expensive offerings, the new Glendina model boasts three LEDs pumping out 900-plus lumens—brighter than a standard bike high beam or an approximately 60-watt incandescent household light bulb—in a beautifully finished, sub-2-inch-diameter package.
Like its larger, more powerful sisters, the one-amp-max-draw Glendina doubles as a conspicuity light and a riding light. Brightness levels work in conjunction with your motorcycle’s high or low beam—no dimmer necessary—and Clearwater Lights claims a nearly 50,000-hour expected life. Plus, with a few simple tools, do-it-yourselfers can install the wiring harness and CNC-machined die-cast bodies themselves. Clearwater Lights Glendina Universal LED Light Kit: $279–$379