If youve read any of my posts here on Commute by Bike or follow me on Facebook, you might know that I do not subscribe to traditional helmet orthodoxy. I believe they have their place, they can, in fact prevent or reduce the severity of some injuries, and that the decision to wear one should be an informed choice by adult riders, unencumbered by preconceived notions or cognitive bias. Sometimes, I ride without one.
But there are reasons to wear helmets that have nothing to do with safety, statistics, or scare tactics. Helmets can actually be useful in and of themselves as platforms for other paraphernalia.
Many riders mount GoPros or similar cameras on their helmets to film their rides, either for ego gratification (Whoa Dude, check out my awesome shred), or to provide evidence in court (Your honor, I refer you to this HD video from my helmet cam where you can clearly see that the defendant crossed three lanes without signaling before running me off the road Excellent footage counselor is that a GoPro 3 or a 4?).
Bicycle helmets can also mount powerful lights that point wherever you look, making it easier to see the road and be seen by others. Some mount rear view mirrors to their helmets, for obvious reasons and with good effect. And, some, like me, for example, wear helmets because covering ones head is generally advisable given the, er, lack of natural shielding. I mean, if I have to wear something, maybe it might as well provide some impact protection. Heck, sometimes I wear my helmet just so I dont get grief from the helmet shamers for not wearing one.
The Wide-Eyez Helmet Shield straddles the line between wearing a helmet for its own sake and using it as a platform for your accessories. The Helmet Shield is a curved piece of polycarbonate plastic (I think) with a few small holes drilled at either end. The holes allow the Shield to be attached to mounts that you attach to your helmet (or helmets). The mounts have slight protrusions that match up with tiny holes in the shield to allow it to snap into place in the up or down position. Its an elegant and thoughtful design, well executed in quality materials.
Its also a fashion accessory, because when you put one on your helmet and snap it down into place, you take on a distinctly serious appearance, like something between RoboCop, Boba Fett, or a Top Gun fighter ace. Ill even go so far as to say that the Helmet Shield might even offer a little more protection if you have the bad fortune of making unintended contact with the pavement. If the shield is in place, it could prevent some of your face from contracting road rash. I havent seen any claims to that effect from the company, but it seems quite possible to me.
The WideEyez Helmet Shield comes in two colors (clear and bronze) and two sizes (sport and touring) [picture tour_sport]. Bronze is for sunny day rides, clear is for rainy, overcast or night rides. The tour size is ever so lightly larger than the sport. The difference is so slight that I dont see much advantage to the sport size. It may offer an infinitesimal savings in weight and drag, but for my money, more is better when Im trying to shield myself with something.
The bottom line is: I like my Helmet Shield. In fact, I bought two more after testing the first one sent to me for review. It serves its purpose very well, without much fuss or distraction.
In one sense, the Helmet Shield is nothing new. Motorcycle and motor racing helmets have had integral or detachable shields for a long time. As have space helmets, welding helmets, and football helmets. I even had a Bell Stratos time trial helmet with a similar shield 25 years ago.vvLots of time trial helmets now include integral visors, which may even offer some aero benefit. So why it is that bike helmet designers have overlooked this natural and obvious improvement for standard helmets for so long is really hard to explain.
Thanks to Wide-Eyez, its all moot, because the Helmet Shield will attach to almost any helmet made today, and looks good doing it.
The secret is simple industrial strength Velcro, with super sticky adhesives. Make sure you position your attachment pads carefully, because once they are on, they are ON and removing them will almost certainly require replacement. Here is a video that shows how easy it is. Thankfully, Wide-Eyez will sell you a set of replacements, or you can use them to mount your Helmet Shield to a second helmet. With the one provided for review and the two additional sets I bought, I can now change between clear or bronze in two different sizes on three different helmets!
Ive only ridden with the bronze shield in the sport size, which is only slightly smaller than the touring model. I found it super easy to install and once its on, you could easily forget its there until the sun gets bright and you flip it down. Voila! Wrap-around sunglasses, without changing your glasses. And for those like me with less than fighter pilot vision, the Helmet Shield not only makes life much easier on sunny days, it also lets you capture just a little of the style and bravado of the Top Gun ace, without the exorbitant fuel bills. Not that anyone will ever mistake my 6 speed Raleigh Sprite for an F-14, but flipping the visor into place at a stop light and then turning to look at the driver next to you actually feels kind of cool, as if to say I take my cycling seriously, so put down your cell phone and drive your car, cager.
My eyes are quite sensitive to visual distortions, so I was pleased to find that the optical quality of the Helmet Shield s very good. Have you ever noticed how, in some inexpensive cars, the windshield distorts your vision, especially where it curves around at the edges? Well, the Helmet Shield doesnt do that, despite the fact that it curves pretty dramatically from edge to edge. Very nice.
One word of warning it is not hard to scratch or smudge the Helmet Shield, so it you are the type (like me) who is borderline compulsive about keeping my glasses clean, youll want to take care with the Helmet Shield. Its plastic, not optical glass, and it will scratch.
Another caution (learned the hard way) you can break the Helmet Shield if you are too rough with it. One hot day, at the end of a particularly sweaty commute, I just could not wait to get my helmet off and feel some breeze on my head, so when I rolled into my cul de sac, I unbuckled my helmet and, as gently as I could, tossed it onto my front lawn before coasting around in circles to feel the breeze on my sweaty face. It was sweet relief, to be sure, but sadly, when I picked up my helmet, I saw that it must have landed on the shield, which put enough stress on it to crack it near the pivot point where it is thinnest, just before it attaches to the helmet shell. I was truly bummed, with no one to blame but myself. However, with nothing to lose, I decided to try to fix it. Much to my delight, a careful bead of superglue gel virtually welded the two pieces back as one, and so far, after dozens of rides and flip-ups and flip-downs, the shield has held together.
Which brings me to another point even though the Helmet Shield substantially reduces the amount of wind hitting my face, I really havent felt that it makes my head any hotter. Im looking forward to trying it this winter, because I think it will really cut the wind chill effect on those really cold mornings, but without fogging up like my glasses are prone to do.
Are there any downsides to this clever and elegant product, you ask? The only thing I can think of is that it might make it a little more difficult to mount a mirror to your helmet or your glasses. Really, thats all I can think of, and Ive tried.
So, all in all, I am delighted with this product and I heartily endorse it for anyone who wears a helmet, or is looking for another reason to.