Photochromatic lenses for eyeglasses have been around for ages, but strangely this tech hasn't gained much momentum in the motorcycle helmet market. Dutch manufacturer Pinlock is attempting to change this with the Overlay, a removable external insert that can change from clear to dark tint in a matter of seconds.
For most motorcyclists, riding in the sun involves either wearing sunglasses under the helmet, or switching to a darker helmet visor. Although the technology to create visors that can auto-adapt to lighting conditions is not new, manufacturers seem to prefer a whole line of products, each with varying tint levels.
Most market-ready examples of photochromatic visors come from Transitions, a company that employs its expertise in eyeglass lenses to create adaptable helmet visors for selected Bell, Lazer and Shoei models. Then there's AGV, with the Italians taking a completely different – and more complex – path with a battery-powered visor that darkens at the push of a button.
There are some simpler solutions out there as well, in the shape of fog-free inserts with limited light-reactive capabilities. Both Fog City's Hyper Optiks and Pinlock's ProtecTINT are traditional anti-fog membranes that are applied on the inner side of the visor to prevent misting, and will also automatically produce a light tint against the sunlight. Although very practical and useful, they cannot replicate the anti-glare protection of a dark visor, or the comfort it can offer on long journeys under bright conditions.
This is where Pinlock comes in, promising the best of both worlds. The Overlay innovates by going from clear to dark smoke in a matter of seconds, using a photochromatic film with UV protection sandwiched between two polycarbonate layers with anti-scratch coating. It is placed on the outside surface of the helmet visor, and it requires Pinlock's tear-off pins to secure in place. The pins are included in the standard package, along with the special Pin tool for installation in helmets that are not factory-equipped with Pinlock pins.
The Overlay offers several advantages, like easy mounting and removal in a matter of seconds, and the ability to use it interchangeably on different helmets. Installing the pins on the visor also allows for the use of Pinlock anti-fog inserts. This setup is far more practical than relying on sticky edges to keep the lenses in place.
The Pinlock Overlay is available for €99.95 (around US$106) for several models of AGV, Bell, BMW, HJC, LS2, Nexx, Schuberth, Shark, Shoei and Scorpion helmets. The company suggests that more models could be added depending on demand, yet chances are that many helmet owners may find a visor similarly shaped with theirs in the above list. There's also plans for the development of a 3D Overlay for helmets with spherically shaped (3D) visors, plus more color options.
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