Summary: I'm singing in the rain with the Fine Vision anti-fog visor insert. It's not pretty but it does the job, keeping the visor from fogging in damp conditions with minimal disruption to vision when the weather is fine.
I love my BMW System 5 helmet. It's far and away the quietest and most comfortable helmet I've ever worn, as well as one of the safest flip-fronts on the market, it looks great and it matches my bike.
There's only one problem.
Should the atmosphere become even slightly moist, the inside of the visor instantly fogs over. I'm forced to open the helmet vents and lift the visor a crack, letting in the rain. Then, oops -- my glasses mist up too, and eventually my only option is to stop and wipe everything. No fun.
At slow urban speeds my breath tends to fog the visor whatever the weather. As for stopping at traffic lights, flipping the visor up after halting has become second nature.
The System 5 visor did come with an anti-fog coating from the manufacturer, but this was worse than useless and began to flake off almost immediately. So I was delighted to be given the opportunity to test the Fine Vision adhesive anti-fog insert from Phoenix Distribution. After all, it could hardly make things worse!
My only previous experience in this department was with a Fog City insert (review) about a decade ago. I remembered it as a nightmare of repositioning, fingerprints, wrinkles and air bubbles which ended with my tearing the useless thing out again. But I was prepared to have another go in the name of research, hoping that technology had moved on in the meantime.
The Fine Vision visor inserts are produced by the makers of Pinlock and are compatible with visors that use the Pinlock system (review). There are slits in the Fine Vision insert which fit over the pins in the visor, making it easier to position.
Iím not entirely sure why, if you have a compatible visor, you wouldnít just spend a few pounds more for the Pinlock insert, which looks neater and is removable. However, for my pinless visor, the adhesive insert looks like a good alternative.
Fine Vision is new on the market, but there are already several different products available. As well as the 'Classic' and 'Universal Clear' (I'm not sure of the difference between these, though the 'Classic' is slightly cheaper) there's a photochromatic lens that reacts to sunlight and a Dark Smoke tinted model. Plain, photochromatic and Dark Smoke are all also produced in a version specifically for Arai helmets.
I bought the Universal Clear version for this review. It cost £16.99 (currently about $26), which seems a lot for what is essentially a sheet of sticky-backed plastic. So, whatís in the box?
The cardboard packaging contains the insert, sandwiched between two layers of protective film, and an alarmingly wordy sheet of instructions and diagrams, including this warning in red:
'Please notice! This lens is less resistant to scratching than the original visor!'
As it turned out, the instructions were easy to follow. The most difficult part for me was cleaning my visor in preparation; in particular, removing the useless anti-fog coating. I tried to get it spotless for the application of the Fine Vision insert, but I'm pretty sure some dirt resisted my efforts.
Following the directions, I used masking tape to mark the edges of the 'helmet face portal' - which sounds very sci-fi but just means 'the bit you look through' - before removing the visor from the helmet.
The insert came away from the backing easily. The next step, according to the leaflet, was to roll it into a U shape and position it between my masking tape guides, sticking down the glued edges from the centre outwards.
Remembering my Fog City experience, I was very cautious about handling and positioning the insert. Contrary to my expectations, however, I managed to fit it in the right place first time, with no creases or trapped air - and it stayed there!
One massive aid to the installation process, however, would be the three little words 'This Way Up' on the backing sheet.
I fitted the insert with many a glance at the diagrams in the instruction sheet, yet a week later I looked at my helmet and suddenly thought "That's upside-down, that is". Now every time I look at my visor I am reminded of my gross incompetence. I surely can't be the only idiot out there, so why not make the orientation a little easier?
It's immediately obvious, looking at the visor, that the insert has been fitted. The thick, rough-looking glue around the edge gives an unsightly appearance. But I don't mind (much) about the cosmetic aspects, if only it works...
I had the opportunity to test out the Fine Vision insert for real on its very first outing. Bank Holiday weekends in the UK are traditionally rainy, and Easter 2010 was no exception. On the Thursday evening I set off for a long weekend in the country through a London shrouded in constant drizzle.
I have to say, I was at first bitterly disappointed in the Fine Vision. Riding in town at 30 mph or under, I was fogging up just as badly as before. I still needed to open the visor whenever I was stationary at traffic lights. I was planning to rip out the stupid insert as soon as I reached journey's end.
The rain stopped as I left the city, and held off for the next couple of hours as I travelled on faster roads. Then, within half an hour of my destination, the heavens opened. A chilly night with pouring rain and drifting patches of mist - ideal conditions for a foggy visor. Yet I could still see clearly...
At first I didn't even notice the difference; it was only when I glanced down to check my dashboard that I saw how foggy the lower section of my visor, below the insert, had become. There but for the grace of Phoenix Distribution went the rest of my vision.
Usually at the first sign of rain I open the vents at my chin and forehead (adding an icy blast of wind against the temples to my woes) to stave off the moment when my visor becomes irredeemably misted. This time, to test the insert fully, I left the vents alone.
Still clear! I could even carry on singing to myself under my helmet - a pleasure usually denied me in the rain, as I try to prevent the dreaded fogging by keeping breathing to a minimum.
Over the rest of the Easter weekend my helmet and I ran the gamut of everything from April showers to total downpour, at all times of day and the full range of temperatures possible during this unpredictable season, with the occasional sunny interval just to keep me guessing. The visor stayed clear.
Riding under normal conditions, I was pleasantly surprised by how little I noticed the insert. Increased reflection and distortion are inevitable if you add another layer to your window on the world, especially if it's a layer of flexible plastic, but you have to be looking hard to notice the difference.
There is, however, a sizeable increase in glare when riding towards the sun, especially when it's low in the sky. I find sun in my eyes troublesome at the best of times, and at a couple of points I did find myself raising the visor in order to see better in preparation for a bend or overtake. This is nothing new, but I've definitely had to do it more often since fitting the insert.
I am aware of the bottom edge of the insert in my vision, but this is down to my aforementioned top/bottom confusion and not a design fault. Vision to the top and sides is unaffected.
I also notice that dirt and smudges on the outside of my visor seem more obvious while I'm riding. Is this my imagination, or an effect of increased distortion from the insert? Either way, anything that encourages me to clean my visor more often is probably a good thing.
The packaging states that the insert is for daytime use only, but since I don't carry a spare visor around with me and often ride after dark I transgressed this one straight away.
There is a bigger 'halo' around light sources, but everything still looks sharp at night. In fact, I think I noticed less difference between riding with and without the insert in the dark than in the daytime.
It's early days yet, and there's plenty of time for the glue to fail, the insert to get scratched or condensation to form between insert and visor. I will keep an eye on how the insert fares over the next few months and report any updates. For now, though, I'm very pleased.
Finally, the packaging claims that the Fine Vision insert also offers UV protection. I do hope I get the chance to test that at some point during the alleged summer...
The Fine Vision is an excellent anti-fog system Ė certainly the best Iíve tried, although Iíve never used a Pinlock. It's quick to fit and unobtrusive, and above town speed it works brilliantly. You donít need to worry about constantly re-applying a spray, just fit and forget.
Do remember, however, that in all conditions other than those which produce misting, your vision will be slightly compromised.
Whether the pros of the Fine Vision outweigh the cons will therefore depend on your riding circumstances; if your patch is the Atacama Desert, I wouldn't recommend it. For my riding in the UK and Europe, however, it should be a tremendous help.
|wBW Product Review: Fine Vision Anti-Fog Visor Insert|
|Manufacturer: Phoenix Distribution||List Price: £12.99 ($20) to £29.99 ($46)|
|Colours: Clear, Photochromatic, Dark Smoke.||Made in: Unknown|
|Review Date: April 2010|
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From "R.M." (12/10): "I've read your review about the Fine Vision insert and immediately bought one, as my helmet (Caberg Trip) doesn't have a Pinlock visor, and I needed a fog solution ASAP. Portugal has very good climate conditions for ridding, but the winter can get pretty wet and cold.
Fitting was easy, although the shape is not the same as the Trip visor, making it barely fit from top to bottom. The edge of the insert actually gets stuck between the visor and the gasket, but it doesn't seam to affect its performance nor the gasket ability to keep water out.
Yesterday I came home late after work under heavy rain and very low temps, so the insert was finally tested under severe conditions. Wow! It works like magic. I got out of the building (body was warm), sat on the bike about two minutes to warm up the engine and then rode home (about 40km), never once I needed to open my visor. Even when fully stopped, while warming the engine or at traffic lights.
The first fifteen kilometers were at low speed, as I was in the city and there are a lot of traffic jams around here. This makes it very important to have a clear vision, so I can swerve between the cars. Everything was perfect (and I could see the visor all fogged up around the insert).
However, "the sun didn't shine for long" and I may now have to remove the insert from the visor. I left the helmet dry overnight and today the insert was like as if it was full of fog. I tried cleaning it with a cloth, and nothing. Also tried to wash with water, wiped with the V2 Sponge and nothing. I think it's actually worse and looks a bit like it has been wiped gently with sandpaper.
Can you comment on this? Did you have the same issue or am I doing something wrong while cleaning it? Should I consider abandoning the insert and use something like the Clarity Defog It? I'm really troubled by this as I ride every day all day long and fog is becoming a real problem for me.
Thanks and congratulations on your website. It has been very helpful to improve my two-wheeled knowledge.
Alice's Reply: I'm sorry (to learn about the) problems. I've noticed that the Fine Vision insert can fog up when I clean the visor, but it always goes back to normal within a few minutes.
I wouldn't unpeel it and try to wipe the inside; I would just clean the visor itself, inside and out, and leave the insert alone. Fog does seem to go away by itself."