Riders who prefer wearing tinted shields on their helmets instead of sunglasses tucked inside them are painfully aware of the conundrum: How do we handle the switch to a clear shield after dark?

If you’re like me, you keep a tank bag on your bike that carries the extra shield. However, I don’t always ride my personal bike, and I frequently ride bikes on which tank bags look rather silly. Consequently, I have carried spare shields in backpacks or in a case tucked around my waist inside my jacket. While functional, neither option is ideal. Similarly, helmets with internal flip-up shields offer a different a different means of dealing with the issue but can also suffer from other problems, like having the internal tinted shield fog in cold weather or allowing reflective glare to bounce up from below.

Photochromatic shields have been the motorcycle visor Holy Grail for a long time, but until recent years, their performance and degree of actual tinting left much to be desired. Ever since Shoei first announced in early 2015 that it was partnering with Transitions Optical Inc. to produce a shield for their best selling full-face helmet, the RF-1200, I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to test one. (In 2012 the Bell Helmets Transitions SOLFX Quick-Release Shield, a shield created in a similar partnership with Transitions Optical, won the MO Best New Product Honorable Mention.) Long story short, now that I have one of these shields affixed to my favorite lid, it will be difficult to go back to the task of switching shields to match the lighting conditions.

Shoei Transitions Shield

The Shoei Transitions shield (right) has reached this level of darkness in just one minute of exposure to the sun. The CWR-1 Dark Smoke is on the left.

In the time it takes to walk from inside a building, put on my helmet, and mount the motorcycle, the Shoei Transitions shield can change from completely clear to full tint for the level of ambient light. (Shoei claims full activation of the tinting in two minutes.) Bright, sunny days the shield goes full dark to a level equal to the Dark Smoke shield I previously used during daylight hours. The tint is a slightly, warmer color than the more neutral color of the Dark Smoke, and I actually prefer the tint of the Transitions shield. However, if cloud cover moves in, the Transitions shield will lighten its tinting for optimal vision.

Additionally, the shield really is clear after dark – unlike earlier versions of photochromatic visors I’ve tried. The shift from dark back to clear is slower than the initial darkening, but in the shift from day to evening to night, the shield keeps pace with the dropping intensity of the ambient light. However, similar to dark shields and sunglasses, your vision will be inhibited inside tunnels during daylight because there simply isn’t enough time for the photochromatic shield to adapt.

Since the Shoei Transitions shield relies on a chemical reaction to activate the tinting, it’s natural to wonder how this process will respond to time and repeated cycles. When I asked Moichi Tsuzuki, Shoei Safety Helmet Corp, president, about this issue, he said that, yes, the tinting would lessen over time, but the prototype shields had been tested by motorcycle couriers in Japan during their development process. The results point to the average user getting several years of use out of the shield before the reduction in the tinting was noticeable. Obviously, the two months I’ve been using the Transitions shield can’t predict the actual life cycle.

Shoei Transitions Shield

For frequent riders, the convenience of having a dark shield during daylight and a clear one at night (with tons of variations in-between) is worth the $170 price tag.

At a MSRP of $170, pricing for the Shoei CWR-1 Transitions Shield is pretty high, though you may find slightly cheaper prices online. When you consider that, if you want to account for the full range of tinting provided by the Transitions shield, it takes the place of three other CWR-1 shields – at $60 apiece – you do save money, but let’s be realistic, most riders only use clear and dark, bringing the cost down to $120. Still, what you’re paying for is convenience and the increased cost of new technology. As these shields become more common and spread across the product lines of Shoei and other helmet manufacturers, the prices will surely drop. (Right now, the Transitions shield is only available for the RF-1200 and the X-Fourteen.)

If you’ve been following the penetration of Transitions shields into the motorcycle market, you know that Bell and Lazer helmets also offer licensed Transitions shields of their own for about $30 less. However, their standard tinted shields retail for about $20 cheaper, making the price difference for the photochromatic ones proportionally less expensive. Regardless, Shoei has always positioned itself as a premium manufacturer, so the pricing seems in line with its image. Additionally, the shield comes ready for use with the Pinlock anti-fog insert that was included with the RF-1200.

If you live in your helmet, like I do, and have a helmet that the shield is manufactured for, you should consider purchasing a Shoei CWR-1 Transitions Shield. You won’t regret it.

  • Old MOron

    Hmm, I have a Quest that I’m not crazy about. It’s comfortable and well made, but it’s pretty noisy. if I were to trade up to the RF-1200, I’d be real tempted by one of these shields. Who doesn’t want the Holy Grail? My Quest is pretty new though, so it’ll be several years.

    • Evans Brasfield

      By then Shoei might have expanded its Transitions line to your helmet.

      • Old MOron

        Good point. The helmet will be one year old in September. Lots of life left in it. Shoei can wait four years and hope to get my money then, or they can make the face shield available sooner and collect likewise.

  • Alexander Pityuk

    I dunno. You can buy a pretty decent helmet for that kind of money. And let’s not forget that visors are expendables. It somehow makes me very hesitant to pay $170 for a piece of plastic.
    It actually costs almost half of GT-Air, which has a clear visor, a sun visor, a pinlock thing, and whole damn helmet as a bonus. Can’t say enough good words about it.

    • http://www.matthewjamesphoto.ca/ Matthew Neumann

      Motorcycling isn’t a welfare sport. The only people that are skeptical of these visors are people that haven’t tried them.

  • Sentinel

    I had a Transitions shield on my 2010 Bell Star (recently retired). Although I would have liked it to get darker in the sunlight than it did, overall it was totally worth it. By the way, I replaced that helmet with a Shoei RF-1200, and have regretted the purchase immensely. I spoke with a Shoei rep at the last IMS, and explained the issues, the shifting, sticky, damn near worthless chin vent mechanism he was aware of, however the doubling of bright lights at night he said he hadn’t heard yet. He was nice enough to offer to check it out for me if I drop by their headquarters. I haven’t gotten a chance to do that, and I’ve absolutely had it with this POS. I dropped around $600 for this thing and an additional shield, and now I’m having to drop that same amount again to get something that actually works right.

    • Evans Brasfield

      Wow, that’s a bummer. I don’t have a problem with my chin vent. About the reflections: Are you using the Pinlock? The reason I only mount it for bad weather or going to a place where it will be cold is that I get reflections at night with anti-fog visor. (The same thing happened to me with Fog City visors, too.) I’ve also had similar problems with flip-down tinted visors when the sun was low on the horizon.

      Good luck in solving your problems.

      • Sentinel

        Yes, the doubling is without the pinlock lens, but with the pinlock lens it is “quadrupled”. I just received my new helmet today, and it is beautiful. It’s the new “Shark Speed-R Series 2 Carbon Skin Helmet”, and so far I can say the interior is much nicer than the Shoei, and all of the vent and shield mechanisms work perfectly. I literally just opened the box right now and tried it on, so I haven’t gotten a chance to ride in it yet, but I’m expecting good things. Good riddance to this RF-1200. The Shoeis I’ve had in the past were flawless. I’ll be checking them out much more carefully if I consider buying another one from them. This has been a nightmare.

        • Kenneth

          I’ve enjoyed perfect shield optics from both Shoei and Arai helmets, while – being very sensitive to optical distortion – I’ve noticed distorted shields from other helmet makers. Being a Shoei, it sounds like you simply received one with an easily-replaced defective shield. As far as the vents, my RF-1200’s are also too difficult to open/shut.

          • Sentinel

            I even purchased another shield from a different vendor for comparison, and it had the exact same doubling issue, so at the very least there is a bad batch out there.

      • Sentinel

        Well, since I last posted here I’ve been in a horrific collision on my bike. And speaking of helmets, I had just ordered a beautiful new Shark Speed-R series 2 Carbon. It had just arrived, and it was the most beautiful, functional, and perfect helmet I have ever had in my over 3 decades of riding and owning helmets. I’ve been planning for my first long distance solo trip. I went on a parts ordering spree, and had ordered about everything I thought I needed for the trip, including modifications to my bike. Most of the items I ordered had arrived, and I had begun the install process, but that’s when tragedy struck me big-time. I went to a local auto-parts store to pick up some spare fuses for the trip, and I rode off and was headed to get some food. As I approached the intersection to turn left, I entered the dedicated turn lane and also had a dedicated signal tree, it was green as I approached, but flipped to yellow by the time I entered. As I was traveling at around 15 Mph. and nearing the exit of the intersection, out of the corner of my right eye I saw a vehicle headed straight for me at a relatively high rate of speed. I tried to save myself at the last second by jumping from the bike. The next thing I knew I heard a loud explosion sound and then everything was in slow motion and all I could see was the darkest black I’d ever seen in my life, and I didn’t understand what had happened. I came to a bit later, flat on my back starring up and the clear blue sky, and in by far the worst pain I had every experienced in my life. I could not move any part of my body on the left side, and I could barely move my right and left leg. I was rushed to the local trauma center and then spent some days there and then was transferred to a convalescent hospital because I couldn’t take care of myself. It turns out that my body took the entirety of the impact, and then I was also run over. My body was quite literally “crushed” in
        the process. I have multiple broken bones from my shoulders down to my toes, including collar bone, shoulder blade, multiple ribs left, right, front, and back, punctured lungs and pulmonary contusions, damaged major joints, and all the ligaments torn on my knee among other injuries. I’m home now doing all I can to recover as quickly and as fully as I can. That helmet and the rest of my good gear saved my life that day (ATGATT). Be careful and stay safe out there.

        • Evans Brasfield

          Holy crap! I’m glad you survived and wish you a speedy recovery. Keep us posted on how you’re doing.

          • Sentinel

            Thanks, and funny side note, I’m the guy that complemented you on your writing at the IMS in Long Beach during the presser if you remember me.

          • Sentinel

            Unfortunately I’m still disabled and in a “lot” of pain. I think I’ve done really well all things considered though. I should have answers as to if, which, and how many reparative/reconstructive surgeries I may need within a few weeks or so. It will be nice to know one way or the other on those. Of course I’m hoping none, but with what’s gong on with my shoulder let alone my knees, I think there’s no two ways about needing at least one. This kind of pain and disability for this long really wears you down, that’s for sure. The mental/emotional aspects kick in and makes it all that much more difficult, but I’m doing pretty good. I’m keeping my mind focused on and looking past this to the time when I’ll be recovered, and I’m already planing some great adventures, even bigger than the one I was in the process of prepping for when this happened. At some point I really feel that I need write about this entire experience, as I think it will be a great learning experience and benefit to others. One thing at a time here though. The sad thing is, I learned that ultimately no matter how careful we may be and how well equipped with safety gear and our own skills we are, this can still happen to any one of us at any time, and you will never see it coming until it’s simply too late.

          • Evans Brasfield

            Sounds like you’re doing the right thing by focusing on the future. I hope you continue to heal and can resume your life the way you want it soon.

  • 12er

    Couple buddies have them and love ’em, but they dont fit my riding style. I need more air so anytime under 50mph my shield is up, so its clear shield and shades for me.

    • Kenneth

      ‘Same here. My shield is often open, so eyewear is required at all times for protection. Doesn’t everyone lift their shields frequently during daylight hours? Sunglasses are needed, as well, when arriving at the destination. A single clear shield with shades is all I use.

  • Bruce Steever

    One of the best single pieces of helmet tech ever. Pricey, but worth every single penny.

  • DWolvin

    Have the Bell version on the last two (Star & RS1), the review is spot on, but I’ll add, they seem to be tougher than normal shields- I commute daily (50+ miles on SoCal freeways), and the sandblasting is much less.. Also, after three years the tint isn’t getting weaker.

    Oh- Bell transition shields are about $100…

    • Evans Brasfield

      Thanks for the long-term update.

  • Born to Ride

    I specifically overlooked the RF1200 and got a GT-air for this exact predicament. I ride 70 miles each way to school and I often come home at night. Swapping face shields became an annoyance that I had had enough of. So far, the “Fighter Pilot” drop down visor has been fantastic, and the helmet is much quieter than my RF1000 was too boot. But this technology will give me cause to recant my often stated “Ill never buy another helmet that doesn’t have an internal visor” speech. Exciting times to be a motorcyclist.

  • Gruf Rude

    I always carry a spare shield, but when I get to thinking about it, I can’t remember riding after dark since I retired and didn’t have to ride home from work in the dark . . .
    All my riding is for fun anymore and out here in the intermountain west, wildlife makes riding from dusk and afterwards too dangerous.

  • mhgoldwing

    I ‘ve had this for three years. It changes instantly, literally faster than you can blink. Charge will last for 30 hours or so and I’ve never lost power in a single full day. Takes about thirty minutes to get use to but then is virtually unnoticed as it does its job.

  • DL Nielsen

    This is a very timely review. I just bought a new RF-1200 (2 actually; they were on sale at my local dealer). They tried to contact the Shoei sales rep to find out about this visor because I wondered if it worked well (I have Transitions lenses in my glasses but they don’t work with visors that have UV filters). The only thing they could find out is that the visor is currently on backorder. I bought a blue spectra tint instead because I need something that will cut the glare. I think I’ll have my dealer go ahead and get one of these on order.

  • Razor Hanzo

    I was skeptical about dropping almost $200 on a face shield, but I received a $100 gift certificate for referring a friend to a dealer, so I used that towards the purchase. I have to say, I’m very impressed. I have it on my new RF-1200 and it works incredibly well with a very fast transition from clear to dark.