What is the Pinlock on a helmet for?
All motorcycle crash helmets can suffer from fogging visors – especially when it’s cold, wet or humid. We’ve all been there, sat at the traffic lights or crawling through slow traffic, rain slamming down on your visor and the visor’s like peering through a steamed-up bathroom window. You can see jack shit through the fogging and not only is it incredibly annoying, it’s also incredibly dangerous.
If only there was a way to sort it.
Well, Pinlock visor inserts are widely regarded as the best way to stop your crash helmet visor fogging up. Yes, people talk about all sorts of alternatives – from smearing your visor with spit (like divers do) – to washing up liquid – to dedicated visor sprays. But if you want a more elegant solution, and one that doesn’t involve smearing body waste or household detergents onto your visor, then a Pinlock (or similar visor insert) is undoubtedly the best answer.
I mean, there’s a reason MotoGP teams use Pinlocks after all…
If you want to know more about Pinlocks, not only have we researched and used Pinlocks for many years, but we’ve also spoken to Pinlock themselves to ask the trickier and more indepth questions.
So, read on for all the information you’re going to need about Pinlock antifog inserts… (or click the link to skip to view helmets that are all either Pinlock-ready or come with Pinlocks in the box).
What exactly are Pinlocks?
Pinlock visor inserts are flexible transparent inserts which are placed inside the inner surface of your visor.
The main visor itself has to be ‘Pinlock enabled’, meaning it needs to have tiny Pinlock locating pins already on the inside of the visor. These are used by the Pinlock visor insert to locate the Pinlock into the correct position and keep it there.
Once the Pinlock’s properly attached to the rear of your visor, the Pinlock stops condensation forming on the rear of the visor and keeps your vision clear – as long as it’s used correctly… read on.
History of Pinlock
Derek Arnold started importing helmets into the Netherlands in 1979 but didn’t invent the Pinlock visor system until 1994. It was invented to help motorcyclists see better out of their crash helmet visors and was initially trialled with the Dutch police. Pinlocks have gradually grown in popularity throughout Europe and are now becoming more and more popular in the US and Asia.
In fact many crash helmets come with either Pinlock-ready visors (but the Pinlock’s extra) or with Pinlock-ready visors and the Pinlock insert dropped into the box.
There’s even the occasional helmet that has the Pinlock pre-fitted onto the visor in the box (such as the excellent Nolan N30-3 modular).
How do they work?
The Pinlock lens has a bead of silicon sealant around its edge. This presses tightly against the inside of your crash helmet’s visor to make an airtight seal between the visor and Pinlock.
The insert’s pretty easy to put in place. You buy the right Pinlock for your helmet, and it locates onto the pegs on the Pinlock-ready visor.
Just make sure you remove the protective film on the Pinlock before you do – it’s amazing how many people don’t realise it’s there and start riding with the film still attached!
It’s the pressure between the pegs that pushes the insert onto the visor and keeps it tightly in place. And that’s it!* It forms a double layer a bit like double glazing which helps reduce the temperature difference between the rear of the visor and outside world. Plus the surface of the Pinlock has an open structure that actually absorbs moisture. Both of these working together stops condensation forming on the rear of the visor and turns you into a much happier bunny riding in the rain!
*Having said ‘that’s it’ – it’s important to seat the pinlock correctly and to give it ventilation for best performance. Read Why does my Pinlock Visor keep fogging up? below.
Regular or Max Vision Pinlock?
The original Pinlocks tended to be a bit small, so the edges of the Pinlocks could nudge into your line of sight, which wasn’t great. So they launched the Pinlock Max Vision which is a range of larger Pinlocks that cover more or less the entire rear of the visor to stop line of sight issues; and they tend to sit inside a recess on the rear of the visor for easier/better fitting.
So if you have a helmet with a full size visor and there’s an option of different Pinlocks, it’s always worth going for the Max Vision version.
Pinlock 30, Pinlock 70, Pinlock 120, Pinlock XLT?
In addition to regular or Max Vision Pinlocks, you’ll also find different grades of Pinlock lenses. In essence, the lower the number, the cheaper it’ll be and the lower its ability to keep your vision fog free. Which is not to say a Pinlock 30 doesn’t work very well, but if you ride all year round – or you race – you’ll probably want to push up the scale for more performance.
Having said that, while many helmets will come with a Pinlock 70 in the box (the two I regularly use came with 70s in the box) only more premium helmets will come with a Pinlock 120. And 120s are only available with certain brands and helmet models.
Most recently to the market is the Pinlock XLT. That uses an improved substrate to give clearer vision and is, at the time of writing, being used only on Pinlock 120s (though I’m sure that’s bound to change over time).
If you’re looking for a tinted insert, Pinlock 70s and Pinlock 120s are available in smoked versions for sunny days (not that useful where I’m writing from in Manchester!) and amber versions for improved vision in lower light (now you’re talking!).
What are Pinlocks made from?
Pinlocks are actually made from a special type of organic plastic.
Even though the Pinlock looks like a regular transparent plastic, it’s actually derived from wood pulp. This bioplastic has an open structure which allows it to absorb moisture, and Pinlock can create inserts with different levels of open matrix, with the different levels dictating how effective it is at stopping condensation.
That in turn also dictates whether it’ll become a Pinlock 30, 70 or 120 with the 120 having the most open structure and therefore absorbing the most water.
Why does my Pinlock visor keep fogging up?
I’ve had it myself – even on a brand new Pinlock with a brand new helmet – ride in the rain and it totally fogged up. It was no better than a Pinlock-less visor and, credit where credit’s due, after I complained, SportsBikeShop got straight on to Simpson Helmets for me and a replacement was in the post mega quickly – and that new one worked perfectly.
But how come it didn’t work and how come sometimes Pinlocks fog up?
Well, I never got to the bottom of the issue with that new one, but speaking with Pinlock at their Netherlands HQ, they had a couple of suggestions…
Sealing & Pins
First off, it’s vital that the Pinlock is well seated onto the visor and that the silicone seal around the Pinlock is fully sealed. So give yours a thorough visual check.
If you find it’s not properly seated, you might want to move it around a bit to seat it, or it might need adjustment. To do this, the pins on Pinlock lenses are actually eccentric adjusters too, meaning they can be rotated to correctly tension it.
It has to be said, some pins are easier to adjust than others. The pins on my Simpson Venom for example are really small and need a pair of pliers on the hex-side of the pins to gently rotate them, whereas the tear-off pins on my LS2 are large and easy enough to be rotated by hand.
Either way, adjust them little by little on both sides until your Pinlock insert is sealed all the way round.
One other element that’s often forgotten is that, effective though Pinlocks can be, they still need ventilation to work best.
It’s probably the last thing we think about when it’s chucking it down, but if you’re keeping your Pinlock visor closed, you really should keep your helmet vents open to give it a helping hand. Circulating air will really help the Pinlock to do its job by removing moisture-saturated air from the rear of the visor.
Knowing how to operate your vents – including knowing which way’s open and which way’s closed – is often overlooked or easily forgotten. But pushing your chin bar vents open when it’s raining (or visor vents if you’ve got em) can really help your Pinlock keep your visor fog free.
Do Pinlock visors wear out?
As Pinlocks are actually made from bio-plastic (as opposed to petroleum-based like most plastics) Pinlocks can shrink over time. It’s difficult to give them a predicted lifespan as it’s very dependent on how intensively they’ve been used. However, if a helmet is infrequently used and stored in the usual conditions we store our gear in (cupboard, garage etc.) it should last years and, by the sounds of it, might even last the expected lifespan of a helmet which most manufacturers suggest is around 5 years.
The way to tell if your Pinlock is worn out and ready for a change is that over time it’ll shrink slightly and you’ll find it doesn’t seat correctly or moves around inside the Pinlock pins. At that point, you’re ready for a new one.
How to fit a Pinlock Max Vision insert
How to clean a Pinlock
Pinlocks don’t like many detergents or anything abrasive. They also don’t like hot water. The reason being that some soaps can block the open structure of the Pinlock and stop it working so well – and because it’s an organic plastic, hot water can damage that open matrix too.
So if you need to clean it, use only tepid/warm water. Pinlock suggests lightly cleaning the surface with microfibre cloth first (lightly, to avoid scratching it) then using only luke warm water and mild liquid soap (whatever that is!) and a soft damp cloth, gently clean it before letting it dry naturally. But given I’ve no ideal what mild liquid soap actually is – I think it’s probably best to stick to just the cloth and warm water.
Drawbacks of Pinlocks?
Not many really – and none of them are a fraction of the drawback of having your visor fogging up all the time.
Unless they come in the box with your new helmet, they’re an extra cost on top of a visor – usually around £30ish.
They can sometimes slightly impare your vision, with reflections from your face under some riding conditions. They’re pretty good in terms of not distorting the light that comes through, but arguably not as good as not having the Pinlock there in the first place.
The smaller Pinlocks also don’t cover the entire surface of the visor. I had a Shoei XR1000 with a Pinlock on it once and the top of the Pinlock used to get in the way of my vision when I was going for it.
They’re also not always 100%. A recent ride across the Alps with a Pinlock Max Vision and it started to fog up going over the tops – which was a surprise!
However, I know I’d just slapped the Pinlock insert onto the visor without tensioning it correctly – and my vents might well have been closed to keep out the cold. So it might well have been user error too!
I do quite often read about folks who don’t get on with Pinlocks though. And sometimes it can be because people buy them and don’t realise there’s a yellowish scratch-protective backing that’s on them! They just grab the Pinlock, stick it on their visor and find everything looks blurry.
To be honest, it’s not really their fault because it’s not that obvious when you buy one; and the instruction diagrams don’t show there’s a backing that needs removing.
But now you know, peel off the backing first before using your Pinlock – you’ll find it much better that way!
Pinlocks are available for most popular makes of helmet including:
AGV, Arai, Airoh, BMW, Box, Caberg, Givi, Gmax, Grex, HJC, KBC, Lazer, LS2, Marushin, Nolan, Nitro, Schuberth, Scorpion, Shark, Spada, Shoei, Suomy, Takachi, X-lite. They also produce a range of universal Pinlocks that should fit your more generic, more obscure brands of helmet.
Recommended or not?
Definitely recommended. They offer some of the best anti-fog protection out there. I’m also a fan of other sticky anti-fog visor inserts too (ones that adhere to the inside of the visor). However, Pinlock offer one of the best solutions on the market.