by Glenn W. for webBikeWorld.com
UPDATE 2: Sunax Sunshields Now Available in the U.S.A. at BMG, a webBikeWorld affiliate!
A precision-cut tinted sun shade that fits the narrow slot between the liner and EPS foam in many helmets and helps reduce glare.
Can be slightly tricky to install and may not fit some helmets, but the results are worth it.
The Sunax Sunshield is an ingenious device that has been available for nearly a decade.
The company claims that over 150,000 of them have been sold in Europe but I knew nothing about the product until recently.
I'm always on the hunt for something that will help prevent glare, especially in the afternoon, as I have a direct East-to-West commute on a straight road that sometimes seems like it is an arrow directly into the Sun's lap.
The flip-down internal sun visors do absolutely nothing for me; none of them are dark enough.
It's my understanding that they are limited to the 50% daytime and 80% nighttime light transmission requirement in Europe, while I'm looking for the 5% to 10% light transmission provided by the darkest (and sometimes illegal) window tints.
I have also used the "el Cheapo Sun Shade" trick described a long time ago on webBikeWorld, which places a strip of tinted film over the outside of the helmet face shield.
But the original thick and dark static cling tinted film described in that review hasn't been sold in several years.
I even bought a roll of dark "DIY" (Do It Yourself) window tinting film and cut some strips to make a glare reducer, but the only window tint film I could find is much thinner than the original and it doesn't stick as well on the outside of a face shield -- especially when it rains.
I even tried strips of black electrical tape over the top of the face shield, but there's an obvious disadvantage with that solution because you can't see through electrical tape.
The idea behind all of these tricks is to place some dark material just above the eyes so that when you're traveling into the sun, you can just tilt your head slightly to lower the glare.
When it's correctly located, the dark material will remain out of the line of sight until your head tilts slightly.
Tilting one's head is a natural reaction, probably first discovered by the Neanderthals when they looked down at their navel and realized that the big forehead acted as a nice sun block.
Those poor Neanderthals -- forever the brunt of jokes!
Anyway, the tilting head effect is also the theory behind the Sunax Sunshield. By placing a dark tinted strip just above the eyes, the rider could tilt his or her head slightly to reduce glare.
The company said that the product was first developed about 10 years ago and it's been popular in Europe ever since. The Sunshields are made in Germany and they are available in several tints and sizes, developed for different conditions and rider light sensitivity.
The Sunax Sunshield is available in a few different types and tints. The Sunax Sunshield "Classic" has a slightly narrower height, which is supposed to be better for sportbike riders.
The Sunshield "BX" has a slightly different shape, wider at the sides, which is claimed to provide better protection from glare at right angles to the Sun.
The Sunshield "BX Steel" has a silver-blue tint that is supposed to provide better contrast, and the special Sunax Sunshield for Arai helmets has cutouts along the top for the Arai brow vents that go through the face shield. All of the Sunax Sunshields are available in either dark tint or a silver tint.
The Sunshields are made in Germany from some type of fairly stiff polycarbonate.
The special polycarbonate material is laser cut and the edges are sealed. Sunax also states that the Sunshields meet CE standards for sunglass protection and they also filter UV light.
There's a statement on each package that is a quote from a report of the Staatliche Materialprüfungsanstalt (State Materials Testing Institute) at the University of Stuttgart, who apparently tested the Sunax Sunshields.
The quote reads, in part: "...a safety helmet (full-face helmet), tested according to Regulation ECE 22, at the use of the submitted visor, still complies with the requirements of this regulation".
So it seem that the insertion of the Sunax Sunshield doesn't affect the helmet's compatibility with ECE safety standards, something I wondered about when I first learned of the product.
Two small sections of cloth are glued on to the back of the Sunshield. The cloth feels something like helmet liner material and it is designed to provide extra friction and grip when the Sunshield is inserted into the space between the helmet liner and the EPS foam or helmet shell.
It can be a bit difficult to fit a Sunshield into a helmet, as we discovered. It's not as simple as just sliding the Sunshield in and that's it.
Sunax recommends first taking an old credit card or phone card and using it to see if you can slide it along the space between the liner and the helmet shell, as illustrated in the photo above.
If you can do this, chances are you can fit a Sunax Sunshield -- but it's not 100% guaranteed.
To install a Sunshield, run the old credit card or plastic card a few times back and forth in the slot, which helps to open it up slightly.
You can see in the photo on the right above that the Scorpion EXO-700 helmet has a distinct slot at the top of the eye port, making it a good candidate for a Sunshield. But we couldn't fit a Sunshield in an EXO-400 or an HJC CS-R1.
The problem is that each helmet is different, with different shell shapes and sizes, eye port opening shapes and curvature and in the construction and assembly of the helmet liner and fittings.
Also, one thing to note is that the Sunshield is designed for helmets without their own internally rotating sun visors -- an obvious but apparently sometimes overlooked point.
Installing a Sunshield requires patience. It's best to start by inserting one side, then the other, then centering the Sunshield, then working it back and forth while firmly pressing the Sunshield into the gap.
Grip as much of the Sunshield as you can, because it may bend or fold if it's pushed from the lower edge.
It's easier to install on some helmets and can be more difficult on others, but if you take your time, work carefully and don't try to force it, there shouldn't be a problem. Remember: patience is the watchword here.
I have successfully installed a Sunshield on the AGV T-2 helmet (review) shown in the photo towards the top of the page. That was the first one I installed and it was a fairly easy installation in that helmet.
I also installed one of the special Arai Sunshields on the new Arai RX-Q (review), shown in the photo below. That installation was slightly more difficult than the T-2, with a lot of back-and-forth motion to get the Sunshield correctly aligned and over the Arai brow vents.
The cutouts in the Sunshield that I used for the Arai brow vents are just a touch too small; it appears that new Arai brow vents may be slightly larger than the vents on the older Arai helmets, and the cutouts in the Sunshield may need to be modified. But it fit and it works well.
Once the Sunshield is installed, it works very well. It helps block some of the Sun when it's overhead and just a tilt of the helmet will block a lot of the glare when riding into the Sun. My eyes are very sensitive to light anyway, so I like the darkest versions of the Sunshield with the silver coating.
During the first few rides, I would flip open the face shield and adjust the Sunshield up and down until I finally located it in a position that I liked.
There's a printed line across the front of the Sunshield that is supposed to act as a marker for how deep it should be inserted.
I wish they minimized the printing on it though, because I find that I like to pull it down slightly in the center, but this makes the printed line show up across the front of the Sunshield. It's not a problem other than it doesn't look right to me.
The Sunshield remains out of the direct line of sight but is there when you need it, which is perfect really. It's unobtrusive, discrete and somewhat protected by the helmet face shield, so it should last a long time.
I use a microfiber cloth and a spritz of water to clean it occasionally, but really it only needs cleaning if it ends up with fingerprints.
The Sunax Sunshield is an excellent idea and works well. It can be a bit difficult to install and takes some patience, but in the end, it's worth it.
It's a much better solution I think than either the stick-on film or the internal sun visors which seem to only add weight and complexity to a helmet while not providing the levels of glare protection that I desire.
Note: Item provided by a retailer, distributor or manufacturer with these Terms and Conditions.
From "B.K." (May 2015): "I've had the pleasure, and at times frustration, of trying the Sunax BX sun shield in Dark, Silver and Steel colours. Everything that others have noted I concur with -- excellent devices for dealing with low sun and generally reducing skylight glare.
I've done tens of thousands of miles with them. The BX shape in my Shark RSR2 and RSR2 Carbon is the perfect shape and works as well pushing along on my GSXR as dawdling two up on hired hogs and Gold Wings.
But new buyers need to beware of a few things... Firstly, read the Sunax decryptions. "Dark" is light grey. "Silver" cuts more light, but still in a colour-neutral way. It's darker than "Dark". "Steel" is blue, supposedly the darkest of the lot and with contrast benefits.
Secondly, take the claims for "Steel" with a pinch of salt. The "Steel" might cut more light, depending on how you test it, but the silvered coating of the "silver" seems to best it in most real life circumstances -- perhaps it's the difference between reflection plus tinting (Silver), which varies attenuation according to the incident light, versus just tinting (Steel), but IMO "Silver" attenuates better most of the time.
And as for the "Steel" claims of higher contrast, it's true in a way, but it's at the expense of colour rendition and visual perception. All reds, magentas, oranges and the like are completely messed up by the blue tint, causing a distracting difference between the natural colours below the shield and the distorted colours above.
I also found it can make it hard to see brake and traffic lights, and it wrecks the view of US's west coast flora.
Add to that the knowledge that blue light (the only light this lets through) is well known to cause glare, discomfort and stress, and reduce visual acuity, it doesn't seem like such a good idea.
In short, I've used a "Steel" for long enough to decide it's seriously annoying, perhaps even dangerous. "Silver" it is then.
Thirdly, be extremely cautious in handling. The front, the side with the legends printed on it, has a mildly effective anti-scratch coating, similar to sunglasses, etc,, but you need to be very careful to only wipe gently with a clean microfibre cloth -- anything else can easily damage it.
The rear has no anti-scratch coating at all and any contact or cleaning will leave micro-scratches. Seriously, install without touching the rear surface and do not clean it, other than by running water over and shaking off.The rear surface is the softest material I've ever encountered in any optical product, so you have been warned...
In conclusion, the BX Silver is a seriously useful product. If the makers had applied anti-scratch coatings on both sides I would wholeheartedly endorse it, period, but the fact they they haven't, and that they market the questionable "Steel" version, tarnishes the company's product line and/or marketing and means my recommendation is guarded.
I should point out that I only purchased a Dark initially. Sunax sent me the Silver and Steel to try in response to my complaints about the soft rear finish of the Dark, and I've persevered with both for a couple of years.
The rears of the Silver and Steel were every bit as soft and unprotected as the Dark. I've just ordered a BX Silver for my latest helmet."
From "G.K." (September 2013): "I've been having problems riding into the sun and I can identify w/ the riders comments on your web page on the Sunax sun shield.
Two comments were that the dark version wasn't "dark enough". I am about to buy the product and looking at the Sunax website, I found it odd that the "silver" version was rated higher for sun blocking than the "dark" version because I want it as dark as possible.
I wrote Sunax and they explained that in fact the "silver" tint is darker than the "dark" version. This probably ought to be clarified in the review; it might help.
Here is the email I got (from Sunax); I'm ordering the unit: "The 'silver' foil is darker than the 'dark' foil and it filters another range of the visible light waves. The 'dark' one only seems darker than the silver one but it is not."
From "L.R.B." (11/10): "I work the graveyard shift and quite often find myself riding home straight into the rising sun. After spending too many mornings not being able to see in the glare I read the about the Sunax here and decide to give it a try.
I installed it on my GMAX GM68S and after using it several mornings I can say that it works wonders in low sun/high glare situations. A slight tip of the head and the offending rays are reduced enough to get a clear picture of whatís in front of me, now I only need worry about the cars behind me without the Sunax!
Highly recommended! Thanks wBW for the excellent equipment reviews!"
From "R.T." (10/10): "I purchased one of these sun shades. Direct from Germany. The company was very easy to work with, answered ALL emails really fast & made sure I had the right shield/shade for my Arai helmet.
The shield is a bit hard to install but once done will not come loose. Just returning from a 5,600 trip I can say it performed well. Without it, heading west in Texas at sunset would have been difficult. The shade never got in the way of putting on my glasses or interfered with any operation of my helmet. I also think it looks good! Thanks for bringing this product to my attention!"
From "CZ" (10/10): "I installed the Sunax on my Arai helmet and found the dark tint not dark enough, also it is not wide enough to block sun glare. This would be an excellent product is it was darker and wider."
Editor's Reply: I'm surprised, I find it dark enough and too wide, I even wrote to Sunax asking if they could make one smaller. I don't think the current version could be any wider and still fit into an eye port.
From "P.S." (9/10): "I was intrigued enough by the review to order one of these. It seemed to have a lot of potential to fill a real need.
Now that Iíve actually been able to try it out, Iím a little disappointed with the reality. It looks like the Sunax lawyers see things exactly the same way the internal dropdown sunshield lawyers see things. i.e., "itís OK to make and sell a tinted shield, but keep the tint light".
Here are my observations so far:
1. I cannot count the times Iíve wished my helmet had a "bill on it" (like a ball cap), so I could tilt my head down a bit and block the direct sun at least a little. Thatís the effect I was hoping the Sunax shade would have, but even though I ordered the "Dark" tint itís way too lightly tinted to be of much value if youíre riding with a clear shield.
If you have a dark tinted shield AND the Sunax dark shield working together, you can get a fair amount of relief (still not great, though). But either a tinted shield or the Sunax shield, by themselves, are of limited value if youíre riding into the sun.
2. The Sunax shield makes it just a little bit tricky to put my glasses on or take them off once the helmet is on. Itís not that itís hard to do, it just requires a little more care and effort.
3. The Sunax shield, as reported in the review, is not easy to install. It IS fairly easy to knock it loose and be faced with the need to at least partially reinstall it though and installation doesnít seem to get any easier the second or third time around.
On balance, itís a worthwhile item if you order their darkest tint, and provided that you plan to use it in conjunction with a dark tinted shield. Unfortunately, even then itís still not exceptional."
UPDATE From P.S. (10/10): "Iíve just returned from a 1,000 mile ride (5 days) through the mountains of Arkansas. The entire weekís worth of riding was in bright sun and I was staring into the sun a lot more often than I would have wished, morning and evening. I donít know when the realization really took hold, but sometime during the week it became obvious to me that I was really relying on the Sunax shade and that I was doing so really often.
I mentioned in my earlier comments that it "wasnít dark enough", but now that I have some (a lot) more miles of experience with it under many different types of sun conditions than I had when I made my initial comments I am really happy to admit that I like this thing. A lot.
It really does work quite well, all things considered. It is completely unobtrusive once you have the helmet on (and your glasses on) and you never notice that you even have in on your helmet until you find yourself staring into the sun and you realize instantly that you really need it and it really is helping.
I stand by my initial observation that the best use for the Sunax Sunshield is in combination with a dark tinted visor. I think the Sunax would have reasonable utility when used with a clear visor, but it really performs at its best when paired with a dark visor."