August 08, 2020 12 min read
Motocross goggles are the most critical piece of safety gear, aside from the helmet. The problem with standard goggles is that you always need to stop and wipe off the lenses every so often, especially when racing through the mud. What if there was a system that would instantly clear your goggles so you can keep racing?
Goggle roll offs are basically a roll of clear film packaged in a canister that looks like a roll of 35 mm photography film and can be advanced through a pull cord on the goggles. They are meant to instantly clear your vision when racing through the mud while keeping knicks and scratches off the lenses.
If you race and have problems keeping your vision clear, keep reading to find out all you need to know about goggle roll offs.
Aside from your helmet, goggles may be the 2nd most critical safety gear while racing or riding dirt bikes. Sure, that is debatable, but who wants to be blind? They keep mud, rocks, and other debris like bugs out of your eyes that could potentially injure your eyes for life. People can do amazing things, but I have never met a blind motocross racer. Wear goggles anytime you ride and protect your eyes at all times!
Goggles will protect your eyes, but they don’t do you much good if they are covered in mud. For obvious reasons, trying to ride while your goggles are covered in mud or roost can be equally dangerous. Your eyes may be protected from dirt missiles, but the rest of your body is at risk of whatever it is you hit when you can’t see!
So, goggles with regular lenses tend to get scratched, nicked, or covered with mud frequently while racing, impacting your vision. As we established, this is a major problem. If you are riding for fun, you may be able to pull over and wipe your goggles off when your vision gets obscured. However, if you are racing you need a better option to keep clear vision and clean goggles!
The two options to keep the lens on your motocross goggles clear are tear-offs and roll-offs. Both of these options will help keep your vision clear when racing enabling you to get to the finish line, or better yet first place and that valuable purse money.
Roll offs are disposable lenses that are packaged in a canister, much like 35 mm film cases, which attach to the goggles. To advance the lens film, there is a pull cord that you pull twice to advance the film across your goggle lens. A roll holds up to 25 advances, which should be enough for a moto, or a light day in the trails. If you are racing motocross and it is very muddy you will want to use these 25 pulls sparingly as you can’t stop to change out the roll film. If you are riding trails, you can pack additional rolls and change them out when necessary.
The challenge with Roll-off goggles is the fact that you have to let go of the bars to grab the pull cord and advance the film. This is actually difficult in track and trail environments and each rider should only advance the film when it is safe for them to do so according to their riding ability. Advanced riders often pull the roll-off cord when they are in the air on a jump, or on a smooth straight section of trails.
Risk Racing makes a wireless roll-off system called The Ripper. It is designed to be used with most roll-off goggles in which theadvancing button is attached to the handlebar of your bike. When you’re riding, you can hit the button to advance the clear film without taking your hands off the bars, which allows you to keep your hands where they belong when racing at full speed. More on this unique Automated Goggle Roll-Off System later in the article.
Disposable lenses also come in tear-offs, which are stacked and placed on the goggles. When the tear-offs get dirty, you pull off one layer (like sticky notes) and keep riding. They areinstalled on the top of the goggles to protect the lens from the roost that flies up from the other riders and racers on the track. They come as single layers, or stacks of 10-15. Usually enough for a moto, unless it is a very muddy track.
When the tear-off lens gets muddy, just let go of the bars with your left hand and try and pull just one of the disposable lenses on the stack of lenses, and dispose of it. Most racers will just let the lens go while racing. Not great for the environment, but it is what commonly happens in racing environments. This leaves cleanup for the track crew. If you are riding on the trails please don’t throw it on the trail. Stash them in your gear, pack, bike, or anything. Don’t litter on the trails! If you have nowhere else to dispose of them, you may want to look at gettingbiodegradable lenses that are better for the environment.
What is better for racing: tear-offs or roll-offs? The jury is out on that question, as many racers swear by the tear-offs, while others love the roll-off system. The tear-off system creates more litter at a track or on the trail, while the roll-off system can be recharged and cleaned off at the end of the day.
What other differences are there between roll-offs and tear-offs while racing?
When it’s raining, or the mud is flying more than usual, Roll-offs might be your best bet. The rider is limited to how many tear-offs he or she can place on their goggles. Modern tear-offs can be stacked laminations allowing the rider to have more tear-offs, but as the stack gets thicker, the vision quality goes down dramatically.
Since Roll-off systems allow for more “vision clearings” they are preferred in the muddiest of conditions. Modern roll-off systems are even more compelling. In the past riders didn’t like them as much because the film was very thin leaving only a sliver of visibility in muddy conditions. However, modern roll-off kits are as wide as 50mm (2 inches), making the viewing angle quite large.
Word of warning, don’t let water get behind tear-off lenses or roll-off film. You will never be able to clear your vision at that point. When water gets behind the disposable lenses, it’s almost impossible to see where you’re going. This can be avoided with proper installation of the roll-off and tear-offs systems, and using special parts, called mud flaps, which are installed above the disposable lense and act like a rain gutter preventing water from getting behind the disposable lenses.
Roll-off goggle lens application can be easy if done with care. If not installed properly, water, sand, and other debris can get under the disposable lenses.
The process is simple: take your full roll of film and unroll a short strip to attach to the empty cartridge. Place the roll-off lens covers back onto the roll-off lenses on the goggles. Pay extra attention to making sure each cover is locked in place properly. The most common error is these lens covers popping off due to improper installation. Also, make sure the film is threaded under the mud flap as it crosses the lens. This will prevent water, mud, and dirt from getting between the roll film and the goggle lens.
When you’re ready to advance the roll, pull the cord.
To keep your vision clear with standard tear-offs, you need to limit the lenses that you stack or your vision will be cloudy. Laminate lenses come in stacks of 5, 10, and 15 because they are laminated together from the factory, the vision clarity through this stack is better than individual tear-offs. You can even stack multiple laminated stacks, but once again, you have to limit the total depth of disposable lenses or your vision will get cloudy. If you are racing with tear-offs you may need to use them sparingly according to the conditions and length of the race.
If the conditions are nasty, or you will be riding all day, you may opt for roll-offs. They allow for more “vision clears” than tear-offs, and the layer in front of the lens is always just one thin layer of film, so your vision never gets cloudy. Depending on the conditions, a rider could ride all day with one roll of film.
When installing roll-offs, you may have an entire day’s worth of lenses and only need to be installed once per event. When you need to clear the goggles, you pull a cord to advance it. If you have the Risk Racing Ripper, all you need to do is press a button on your bars to advance the lens. But with tear-offs, you need to either install them one at a time for standard lenses, or one stack at a time for laminated lenses. One at a time can be tedious, especially if you want 20 lenses.
During a race or on the trail, you need to reach up and tear off a lens, being careful not to pull them all off. This is actually very common. Letting go of the handlebars can be a challenging task and most riders are rushed to pull a tear-off and get their hands back on the bars. Grabbing the whole stack instead of just one lens is an easy mistake. Once that happens the rider has to finish the entire race with just the stock lens on the goggle. Race results will surely suffer!
Disposable lenses are made with very thin transparent plastic. Tear-off lenses are stamped out of this material and stacked. The roll-off film can be 20 feet long rolled onto a thin plastic axle. When rolled up the diameter of the roll-off film is about 21mm or 7/8in.
Roll-offs are installed on the goggles by placing a full canister on one side of your goggles while rolling the clear sheet into an empty cartridge placed on the other side of the goggles. Then when you need to clear your goggles, you pull a pull cord to get a clean sheet.
Some motocross goggles are made for roll-offs, while other goggles are made for tear-offs. How can you tell the difference? Goggles made for roll-offs have two canisters attached directly to the lens of the goggle on the right and left side. Goggles made for tear-offs will have pins attached directly to the lens that the tear-offs will hook onto to stay in place.
You can get goggles that are made for both systems, like theRisk Racing J.A.C. Goggles. Most goggle manufactures offer the two systems separately, but Risk Racing is one of the few companies that give the additional value to the customer by offering a 2 for 1 goggle system.
When you are at the racetrack or on the trails, and a bunch of roost comes flying into your face, all you need to do to clear your goggles is pull the pull cord, which is commonly on the left side so you can keep your right hand on the throttle.
If letting go of your handlebars at full race pace doesn’t seem smart to you, then you aren’t alone. That’s why anautomated clearing button has been made that fits on your handlebars, and all you need to do is press the button. The receiver and motor are attached to the goggles at the rolling mechanism.
The standard roll-off film size is 35mm, but there are now sizes up to 50mm film made for wider goggles. Before you buy your goggles, make sure that you get the correct size roll-off film for the goggles you end up buying. Most roll-off film is specific to each goggle and brand. Trying to fit the wrong film into a goggle roll-off system will likely result in damage to the roll-off system gearing.l
Many offroad GNCC racers swear by roll-offs. These racers are on the trails much longer than motocross racers and often need to clear their vision more times than a typical motocross racer. Therefore they choose roll-offs. Especially now that the new 50mm wide systems are available. Pro’s also prefer to use TheRipper Wireless Automated Roll-Off System so they can keep the throttle pinned at all times, even when clearing their vision.
In what other instances are roll-offs better than tear-offs?
An automated system with a button on the handlebars like the “Ripper System” is growing in popularity. Why? Because of how easy it is to use. A wireless button is placed on the handlebar near the left hand that you push when you want to clear your goggles.
The receiver attaches to your goggle strap near the canister, and when the button is pushed, it activates the roll-off system so your vision is cleared immediately at the press of a button. This system is so efficient, a rider can clear his or her vision while feathering the clutch in a corner while rolling into full throttle. This wouldn't be possible with a standard roll-off system without the Risk Racing Ripper.
Littering is one of the main things that upset most people, especially when thelitter is plastic. When riding a trail, most people feel that the only thing that should be left after you ride is the tire tracks. Roll-offs allow you to properly dispose of your used lenses when you’re done with them at the end of the day or the end of your ride.
If you buy multi-packs of roll-offs, you can save money by bulk buying. A6-pack will cost about $16.00, while a pack of 12 rolls will cost around $30. Roll-off ready goggles will set you back to the tune of at least $75 and up.
As mentioned before, Roll-off lenses used to have a bad wrap due to a narrow field of vision. Now that new goggle design allows for up to 50mm wide film, the roll-off system is much more competitive in regards to field of vision when compared to tear-offs. It is recommended to pass on thin-film goggles and spend the extra money for a quality pair of roll-off goggles. Better yet, spend the money to get a goggle that offers both 50mm roll-offs and tear-offs.
When you don’t have both hands on the bike, even for a split second, you aren’t as safe as you would with both hands. If you’re reaching up to tear off a lens to clear your vision, you don’t have full control of your bike, and if something happens when you’re tearing off a lens, such as a wreck in front of you, or dreaded handlebar head shake, you could have an accident.
Roll-offs, with theRipper roll-off system, can be hands-free and keep your focus where you need it the most. This is the safest system to use. Beginners love it for the safety, and pros love it for the performance.
Roll offs are not all good, as there are some drawbacks to them. If they aren’t applied properly, water, sand, and other things can get behind the disposable lens, which can impede your vision. The rolling mechanism can also lock up during a race or ride on the trail, creating a dangerous scenario.
The riders total vision is limited to the height of the roll film. As mentioned earlier, the 50mm wide film is a huge advancement over old roll-film systems, but the total vision is still not a good as a full-sized tear-off.
Tear-offs are shaped to fit exactly to the goggle lens. When the rider pulls a tear-off lens it is like having full vision again, not just a strip of vision like a roll-off system. The advantage is more peripheral vision on the top and bottom of the lens.
The rolling mechanism that clears the lens when it gets dirty can sometimes lock-up, creating a dangerous situation. The mechanism may not be stuck, but it could be due to the film sticking to the goggle lens, which can happen if water gets between the film and the goggle lens. If the film gets too hard to pull due to debris, water, or any other reason, the gearing in the roll-off system can often fail. Too much resistance in the roll-off system can cause the cartridges to rip apart, or the gearing to strip, causing failure.
Another reason the rolling mechanism may be jammed is thatdirt and other debris might have gotten in the canisters or gears that make the system work properly. The best way to prevent that from happening is to take it apart and clean it regularly--ideally after every race or ride.
The last reason it may fail is that when you advance the dirty film, you’re dragging the mud or sand into the canister. This can cause the diameter of the used film to expand beyond the space available in the canister. The excess mud and dirt trapped in the used roll of film can jam the mechanism.
Goggle roll-offs are just one tool in your safety gear arsenal when motocross racing. Tear-offs are getting better in vision clarity so that you can stack more lenses on your goggles.
Roll-off systems are getting better and better. However, with more visibility than ever, no issue with cloudy vision due to too many layers of tear-offs, and now automated systems to wirelessly clear your vision hands-free, roll-offs are becoming the goggle system of choice!
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