Our series on improving rider vision continues with a look at alternative approaches to anti fogging and water dispersal…
Last year we looked at the relatively new subject of sports vision, and undertook a related survey which came up with some remarkable findings on cornering issues. Overall, the bottom line was that you can train yourself to use your sight more efficiently. Riding ability is closely associated with top notch vision and visual processing, to the extent that visual response may well be the key component separating the very best from the pack. The rest of us have to work at it, which is where sports vision training comes in.
But which products assist rider vision without introducing issues of their own? We’ve looked at two different aspects – finding the most rider friendly glasses / shades (irrespective of prescription), and de-misting / water dispersal products for visors and lenses. (On which note it’s worth pointing out that all riders need to do themselves a favour and get proper, regular eye tests done by an optician. Making assumptions about your own visual performance can be misleading: the visual standard required for the UK driving test falls below that required in various other territories… )
Since most of us have to deal with misting whether we use lenses or not, we’ll look at that area first. Pinlock type anti fog inserts are the first line of defence against misting up for many full face helmet users, and as long as the seal between the visor and insert is airtight, they work well: the double panel equalises the air temperature on both sides of the insert.
However, there are drawbacks to adding an extra layer between the eye and the road: the thicker a transparent medium the greater its refractive index. In practice, this leads to flare and ghosting from oncoming light sources, as pinlock users who ride at night will be only too well aware. This problem is exacerbated if the rider also wears spectacles or contact lenses. Anti fog inserts are porous – meaning that over a period of time transmission quality drops off as muck and pollution are absorbed. Don’t wait for yours to become a discoloured bio-hazard: change it regularly. Popular tinted inserts should also be treated with caution, since even the ‘brightening’ yellow insert results in a loss of transmitted light, which can become a serious issue as ambient light levels fall away at dusk.
If you do a lot of day / night riding you may want to consider alternatives to inserts ; if you wear goggles / shades with an open face lid, wipes are the only practical anti fogging device. Essentially that means using a solution to coat the transparent surface. This was not traditionally an area where manufacturers excelled themselves, to a point where exasperated users ended up experimenting with a variety of home brewed products.
We were sent two products to evaluate, one of which was cited in a RIDE test as being the best alternative to an insert, performing at least as well as any other product on the test and finishing comfortably ahead of other solution based products. This was FOGTECH, subsequently reformulated as FOGTECH DX, the ‘longer lasting’ version we tested.
Available as a solution or individual wipes, application is a simple wipe on process: there’s even a video on the manufacturer’s website. Fogtech utilises surfactant technology, but unlike the detergents favoured in amateur formulations, Fogtech’s surfactant spreads moisture without being readily dispersed by it – hence its ability to last.
We found that given an even application covering the entire surface in question, DX worked really well – as long as the surface was clean, and free from cleaning product residue. The only issue we identified was that DX’s efficiency can encourage the user to avoid re-applying for too long – meaning that suddenly the world starts misting up again. So how long does a coating last?
Because of the varying conditions in which DX is used, it’s impossible to give a hard and fast answer to that one. Applying couple of times a week suited our usage at a time when night temperatures were swiftly dropping.
And as ever, there is also a financial equation. By far the most economical way of using the product is to buy it in solution – a bottle yields 40 applications (visor treatments), which we reckon would last around six months (assuming daily riding and some non winter usage). A bottle of solution retails at £12.25 from the UK distributor.
We’ve used all sorts of insert alternatives, and among them Fogtech DX would be our weapon of choice. Which does not mean that our inserts are going in the bin: if you use a full face lid and only ride in the daytime, properly sealed and maintained inserts work just fine. The two products solve the same problem, but are suited to different applications.
We also looked at RAINCOAT, like Fogtech from the MotoSolutions stable. Raincoat is a water dispersant and as such is the latest in a long list of products formulated to achieve a windscreen wiper effect without mechanical aid. Since a number of venerable substances – like certain waxes – have a hydrophobic action, one might think that over the entire history of motorcycling one of the many contenders would have cracked it. One would be wrong: bikers still have to rely on sufficient speed to create enough wind blast to make dispersal efficient, normally by angling the crash helmet off centre as they ride. At slower speeds, the addition of a rubber fin to the back of a glove is the hi – tec solution. And that’s it.
We tested Raincoat in the field and also sprayed visors partially coated with it to see how effective it was compared with no dispersant at all (see pictures). Raincoat was formulated to work without being washed off itself, a problem encountered with previous products. It also had to be smear free and transmit near enough 100% of the light hitting it. While it worked superbly in heavy rain or spray, and in light rain conditions as long as a certain speed was maintained, we found that there were issues when precipitation was constituted by small droplets – i.e. when riding into a ‘sea fret’, mist or fog, or very light drizzle. The problem was made worse at low speeds, when the drops lacked the benefit of an accompanying wind blast to aid dispersal. In such conditions we had to revert to wiping clear with a fin, which of course has the effect of taking the remaining Raincoat with it.
We asked Gene Menzies, MD of MotoSolutions to comment. Could the holy grail of a dispersant equally adept in all forms of precipitation be found? This is what he had to say:
There are two measurements critical to removing drops. One is contact angle which measures how high the drop is beaded up. The higher the better. The other measurement is roll off angle. That measures how much a surface has to be tilted for a measured drop to roll off. Lower is better. Raincoat has a contact angle of 109 and a roll off angle of 13 degrees. That is pretty good although I am looking at other materials to improve that. With those measurements, larger drops will flow off instantly but very small drops have enough adhesion to remain. Wind helps there, but some very small drops won’t flow off of a vertical surface even in heavy winds. Keep in mind that the wind flow at the surface of a shield is much lower than slightly above the surface due to air friction.
Thus while Raincoat is an excellent product in certain conditions, it remains a work in progress. Anyone riding in all weathers will benefit from applying Raincoat, but should still be prepared to resort to less sophisticated methods of clearing the visor under the conditions described..
The next installment on improving vision will feature frames which transform the experience of riding for spex and shades wearers.
UK contact for Fogtech DX and Raincoat…