On the range at MSF

I’ve never been one to get claustrophobic very easily, so it really surprised me when, on the second day of my MSF course, I started kind of freaking out on myself. It was hot, and while I wasn’t exactly having a panic attack, I found myself feeling that I just wasn’t getting enough air. I wasn’t doing so well on the exercises and I knew I needed deep breaths and a minute to sort myself out. But on the range during this class, you don’t just stop mid-exercise. If you leave, you don’t come back. Since I couldn’t take off my helmet – a Biltwell Bonanza with a 3-snap bubble shield – I yanked the shield off and gulped the air, fanning my face for a moment before continuing the course. I rode the rest of the day without it.

When I bought that helmet, I didn’t think that I’d be sacrificing much in the way of convenience by adding a fixed bubble shield instead of getting something with a movable visor. I really liked the retro stylings of the helmet – perfect with the Vespa – and the bubble shield fit far enough from my face that I could leave it affixed and get the helmet on and off easily, scratch my nose and adjust my sunglasses, and have a drink through a straw.

But since the incident in my MSF course, I’ve been a little weird about that helmet setup. I ordered a full-face helmet (AGV’s K3, which I love already) for a number of reasons, but I still wanted to have my 3/4 for hot days, rides around town, or just when I felt like having another option. But what if I had another freak-out moment for some reason and I felt like I needed more air ASAP? Nothing like that had happened to me before, but what if it did again? It nagged at me. None of the movable shields for three-snap helmets looked appealing – more like welding masks, really. I tried riding without the shield for awhile, but I found that I don’t like that very much at any speed over about 25 mph. The wind is great but my eyes dry out really fast, even with sunglasses. It wasn’t such a big deal to wear it without a shield when I rode pillion, but up front and sans windscreen it’s a lot less comfortable. I considered goggles instead of sunglasses to mitigate the eye dryness – Biltwell’s Moto 2.0 goggles look great with that helmet – but then I stumbled across this bit of plastic genius: a bubble shield flip adapter.

Photo from the eBay seller’s listing

For $7 and some change and a two-week wait on international shipping, I figured it was worth a shot. I had a few concerns:

  • Would it fit securely?
  • Would it rub against my helmet and damage it?
  • Would it make any sort of annoying noise at speed?
  • Would it keep the visor where I wanted?

Moving the visor up and down you can click it into a few different positions, but it’s not especially secure in any position except totally down. You wouldn’t be able to ride with it raised, like you would a visor on a full-face helmet designed to lock into place. But you can easily manipulate it to get some more air at stops, drink from a cup, scratch an itch on the side of your head, blow your nose… all stuff that’s tricky or impossible with the bubble shield affixed with no adapter.

Click any image to enlarge and read the full caption

After a few rides, I can note the following:

  • It snaps in very tightly to both the shield and the helmet – the good snaps, the kind you have to smack a little to get closed
  • It has felt pads at the corners to protect the helmet paint
  • It makes no noise at up to 60 mph
  • It lets in a lot more air around the sides than the bubble shield does when affixed directly to the snaps – good for ventilation, bad for dry eyes
  • It does not move at speed – as long as the visor is fully down and I’m facing forward
  • It does move if I turn my head to check a blind spot at any decent speed. The wind gets between the shield and the helmet and the shield lifts, and I get a faceful of wind.

On this last point, it doesn’t feel particularly dangerous but it does kind of freak me out every time it happens. The whole point is to reduce the likelihood of freakout, not build in some more times to do it. For that alone I think this is probably not going to be on the helmet if I’m doing any highway riding. Still, for the price, it’s an absolute win –  a cheap fix to an annoying problem. I’m still probably going to give the goggles a shot, since the movement and added wind to the eyeballs prevent this from being a total solution.

I bought the full-face helmet for additional safety, as well as the comfort of the better padding and ventilation, and the convenience of the things like the drop-down internal visor, the speaker pockets, etc. It will get its own laudatory review in due time. But I’m so glad to have the Bonanza back in rotation – it’s such an adorable little lid and I missed it.