Being able to ride both day and night with one helmet has always created issues for some sportbike riders. The most common solution is to use a dark shield and carry along a clear shield; some use the light smoke shields that attempt to bridge the gap between tinted and clear. Others simply wear sunglasses inside their helmet, but the problem there is that movement and vibration caused by wind at speed affect the glasses-and your sight-because the frames are held tight by the helmet padding. Sunlight also leaks around the edges of the frames, hampering their ability to shield your eyes.
Photochromatic glasses have the ability to change from clear to tint simply by exposure to sunlight, using embedded molecular compounds in the glass itself that react to UV light. This technology is also available for plastic lenses, but the reason this hasn't been applied to helmet faceshields is that they are made from polycarbonate plastic, which is actually too dense a material for the molecular change to occur.
A company called Wiki Designs in Georgia has overcome this problem by developing a patented, advanced coating process that provides a suitable medium for the photochromatic molecules to work on a polycarbonate faceshield. We had the opportunity to try the company's WikiShift faceshield on one of its Wave-100 helmets and came away impressed.
The WikiShift looks like any other conventional clear shield, except that a very slight tint is noticeable if you look closely. At night or in any areas where no UV light is present the shield remains clear (artificial light doesn't contain UV rays, so the shield doesn't react to indoor lighting). Once it becomes exposed to sunlight the transformation begins. The transition varies according to temperature and the position of the sun, but we found that the time required to go from clear to full tint averaged about one minute on a 75-degree sunny day. The majority of the tint occurs much more quickly than 60 seconds, however, and the dark smoke shield we tested (there are several other color tints, with more on the way) was very close at full tint to the permanent dark smoke shields sold for most helmets.
The transition back to clear takes a little longer. The ambient temperature plays the same role in the transition time; the higher the temperature, the slower the shift from clear to tint and the faster the shift back to clear, with the opposite occurring at lower temperatures. On the same 75-degree day, we found the shift back to clear to average about three to four minutes.
The shield is also coated with an advanced scratch-resistant layer and antifog coating. While we haven't tested the shield's scratch susceptibility, we did find that the antifog coating worked well, with no fogging no matter how hard we breathed in colder climes. It should be noted that Wiki Designs is already working to license its photochromatic shield technology with several helmet manufacturers, and some will already have photochromatic shields available by the time you read this.
The Wave-100 helmet utilizes a carbon/fiberglass composite shell with a dual-density EPS liner for improved impact absorption (EPS lines the chin bar as well). There are two adjustable vents on top along with two vents in the rear for cooling airflow, and the chin-bar vents are adjustable as well. The Coolmax comfort liner is removable and washable; the cheek pads feature dual density for better comfort. The shield release mechanism requires no tools, and the helmet meets or exceeds DOT standards and is ECE-certified.
The Wave-100 is fairly light-our medium-size model weighed in at 3.3 pounds. Overall fit and comfort were good, with the inner liner shaped more for rounder heads. Shield sealing around the eye port was excellent, and the shield-release mechanism was quick and easy to use. Our only complaints were that the helmet exhibits a lot of airflow in the facial area (mostly due to the chin bar's somewhat large size) and that the upper vents weren't really very functional.
The Wave-100 helmet (with WikiShift shield) retails for $299.95 in the Aloha graphic and $269.95 for the gloss black version. Replacement WikiShift shields are $69-$99 depending on color and tint darkness.