Would you buy a motorcycle helmet because of better vision?

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The Unique Selling Point of this new Shark Vision-R helmet is that it expands its visor aperture beyond the minimum vertical and horizontal requirements, offering improved peripheral vision. Shark claims it exceeds the minimum and most often used degree of vision by 25 percent vertically and 10 percent horizontally, giving it the largest aperture of any full-face helmet on the market.

Most helmet standards set 105° (in one direction) as the minimum range of horizontal vision, 7° upwards and 45° downwards. 110 percent improved horizontal vision would equate to 115.5°. The vertical improvement is harder to define as Shark doesn’t specify how much of that is upwards and downwards, but 125 percent is a fairly substantial increase.

We’re guessing that the improvement illustrated in the top image or in this video is somewhat exaggerated, but still, you get the idea: less-restricted vision at the extremes of your ability to see upwards, downwards and sideways.

Helmet standards are some of the most asinine reading you’re ever likely to undertake. For instance, this is the passage from the ECE regulations discussing minimum horizontal vision, DOT and Snell are pretty much the same:

“two segments of dihedral angles symmetrical in relation to the median longitudinal vertical plane of the headform and situated between the reference and the basic planes. Each of these dihedral angles is defined by the median longitudinal vertical plane of the headform and the vertical plane forming an angle of not less than 105° with the median longitudinal vertical plane and whose edge is the straight line LK;” Yeesh.

Tellingly, Shark makes no mention of “safety” when discussing the improved peripheral vision. It’s assumed that most people can only usefully see 90° to either side, so you’re unlikely to be able to take advantage of the larger aperture to be able to see better. Instead, Shark likes to say that the Vision-R delivers the feel or experience of an open-face with the safety of a full-face.

The downside of such a large visor aperture? Shark hasn’t released an official weight for the Vision-R yet, but it has said that the helmet will only be available in two shell sizes to accommodate the full range of head sizes; typically, helmets are available in five shell sizes. Increasing the size of the big hole in the front of a helmet means decreasing the size of the shell and potentially sacrificing some of the helmet’s ability to restrain the head in a front-end impact. The lack of available shell sizes indicates that adding that ability to restrain the head back in is likely complicated or expensive or both.

Because helmet safety standards and construction are so difficult to understand, we reached out to a helmet designer at a major helmet maker for some perspective. He prefers to remain anonymous, but here’s what he has to say:

“You are correct that part of the reason is strength. Open up the eye-port too much and you compromise chin bar strength. If you push the opening too close to the top of the helmet where the impact test is performed you could cause a failure to meet the criteria set forth in the standard you are testing for. The taller the eye-port the less EPS there is covering your forehead in a crash.”

“You also have to take into account the number of shell sizes and the size range you are covering. If you have 2 shell sizes and try to make a huge (horizontally) eye-port you are going to interfere with the field of view when you jam a bunch of foam in the interior to ‘fill in’ for the smaller size ranges. Start throwing in more and more shell sizes you drive the cost up of the helmet and people don’t understand why, even if it gives you a proper fitting helmet (XXS, XS) that is lighter and in theory, safer.”

“There are other issues like giant holes equaling giant shields that won’t open all the way without hitting the vents on top of the helmet as well as other shield/ratchet engineering complications.”

We’re sure that Shark was able to make the Vision-R as safe as the rest of its range, but there’s likely going to be a penalty in weight, price and the aforementioned limited range of shell sizes. So, taking into account the penalty you pay for increased peripheral vision, is it worth it?


  • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate Ben W

    This is something I’ve been thinking about since considering the AGV AX8 Dual helmet, just from the opposite. I look at it and think, “Do I really need the eye port to be that freakin’ huge?”

    I want to like Shark helmets more than I do. Maybe I need to get the best they make, because my old RSI disappointed me.

    • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate Ben W

      To the original question posed by the article – it depends. Everything’s speculation at this point, so it depends on the scale of the penalties.

      For example: if there was a “Medium” and “2XL” shell, I’d be happy because I wear a Medium. It wouldn’t impact me much. I’d be far less satisfied if I wore a Large and just had two sizes worth of padding to compensate for the difference.

    • Mr.Paynter

      Give it another shot? I had a RSI which was mind-blowingly good and aftera 60MPH impact it needed replacing, my new RSI Carbon is much less impressive with a visor that just doesn’t seal right etc. (The joys of buying online)

      I still love them but I’ll be triple-checking my next one is a good one before I cough up and walk out the store!

      • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate Ben W

        The RSI receive plenty of praise and I wanted to like it far more than I ever did. I ride a naked bike in Texas, though, and that exposed two problems I couldn’t work around. First, the helmet whipped around in the wind – I played a constant tug of war at speeds over 70mph or so. Second, it didn’t flow enough air for 95 degree days. I couldn’t discern a difference between open and closed vents, so I often rode with the visor cracked which would dry my contacts out.

        I know many riders with the RSI on faired bikes didn’t have the aerodynamic problems. I don’t mean to say it’s a bad helmet, just that it’s bad for my set of circumstances. Those performance issues aside, the fit and finish was outstanding.

        I ended up with an Arai Corsair closeotut and it’s more than made up for those shortcomings. I hope so with the MSRP it carries. I want another ECE certified helmet, though, but not if it means serious discomfort.

  • markbvt

    I’ve got absolutely no complaints with the size of the eye port in my Shark RSI. Personally I’d prefer they spent their R&D money coming up with a truly effective antifog coating so I don’t need to wear a facemask when it’s cold and raining, because I have yet to find any helmet, Shark or otherwise, that doesn’t end up getting a blurry sheen across the inside of the shield at best, or even fogging despite the coating, when cold rain hits it on the outside and warm breath on the inside.

  • gt1

    They claim 125% and 110% field of vision as compared with a standard helmet, which means 25% and 10% improvement.

    • robotribe

      I’d first need to understand what the “price penalty” is before I could determine if the extra 10-25% is worth it.

      It’s probably more cost effective just to turn you head slightly to each side now and again.

  • Josh

    It’s never bothered me, but I’ve heard people cite restricted vision or a sense of claustrophobia as a reason to wear an open face, or no helmet at all.

    Perhaps Shark is reaching out to those folks?

    • http://www.smartcycleshopper.com/author/doug-dalsing/ DougD

      Seems like a narrow market.

  • Grive

    I might, depending on safety. All other things being completely equal, sure, give me more visibiliy.

    But I’m not sure I’d pay a premium for it.

  • Glenngineer

    I get tunnel vision in my helmet, any helmet, way easily, so I’d love a little more visibility, and less shit in my peripheral vision.

  • seanslides

    I’d kill for some more vision in the upper corners. When you’re elbow is 2 inches off the ground and your head is somewhere over your inside hand, you need all the visibility you can get.

  • http://www.smartcycleshopper.com/author/doug-dalsing/ DougD

    Field of vision has never really bothered me wearing my Nolan N43.

    Like a few others, my biggest complaint is shield fog. If I could reduce that, I wouldn’t have to wear a balaclava in the fall/spring, which would improve my neck mobility and, as a result, vision.

  • http://www.postpixel.com.au mugget

    For better peripheral vision – you bet I’d buy a helmet for that.

    But good points about the safety of a larger opening… and if I had a choice of a heavier helmet with better vision or a lighter helmet with narrower vision, I’d probably go the lighter helmet. I’m used to moving and looking around, I’d prefer less weight.

  • Sam

    I have no problem seeing everything with my RF-1000, and it’s even got the same lever on the side to crack the shield, or lock it in place if you turn it the other direction.

  • Tony

    For me, figment is more important. I tried AGV a couple weeks ago and it was too loose around the cheeks and no room for my glasses.