It’s possible to spend a lot of money on cycling sunglasses if you want to, but as this guide proves, you really don’t need to. We’ve picked out what we think are the best cheap cycling sunglasses, priced from just £2.99 up to £45.
Not very long ago inexpensive cycling glasses were best avoided, with poor optical quality and designs that made you look like an extra from a bad low-budget sci-fi film.
Those days are gone. Eyewear manufacturers have raised their game for both quality and style, and enforcement of standards means you can rely on even cheap cycling glasses to protect your eyes from potentially damaging ultra-violet.
While big-name cycling sunglasses come with three-figure price tags, you can get very good glasses for as little as five quid. Look for brands like Tifosi, Lazer, Decathlon's Rockrider, Wiggle's dhb marque, Endura and Northwave for value-for-money eyewear.
Sets that include multiple lenses make for versatility to cope with all light conditions. Lenses that react to changing light conditions are rare on cheap cycling sunglasses, but we've found two good examples
Madison's Stealth glasses are brilliant riding shades at an exceptional price. The frameless design gives an almost uninterrupted field of view, while the bronze mirror lens is lovely to look through on overcast to bright days.
If you're after a great set of sunglasses that don't cost a fortune, these are an excellent choice. They provide great coverage, stay secure on your face, are comfortable on long rides and have excellent lenses.
The bronze mirror lens is lovely to use (blue or silver mirror options are available too). Vision is good in lightly overcast and bright conditions with the (many) road imperfections easy to pick out from a good distance.
There's also the option to fit Madison's £4.99 RX insert if you need prescription lenses.
With little to no fogging, good eye coverage and an unobstructed field of vision, Rockrider's XC Race Photochromic glasses deliver a strong performance for their low price. The light-sensitive tinting works really well too, which is good – it saves you using the flimsy lens-swapping mechanism.
Tester Jim writes: “I never noticed the lens’ colour change actually happening, and never found I couldn't see or was having to squint – the change is rapid, smooth and effective. At 39g, the XC Races are barely noticeable – thermonuclear colouring aside – once on. Coupled with an unrestricted view, they're a very unobtrusive bit of kit once in action. More impressive is their resistance to fogging up, even when provoked. They can cloud over on slow, steep climbs in mild and damp conditions, but clear quickly once you move a bit faster.
“They’re billed as mountain bike glasses, but we can’t see any reason not to use them on the road too, especially as the latest version has a black frame that’s rather less in-your-face than the screaming yellow we tested. They don’t have the high-end feel of more expensive brands, but they are a light, effective and competitive set of specs. They protect your eyes from debris, UV and glare, resist fogging and arguably look pretty good while doing it.”
Galibier's Surveillance Precision Optics cycling sunglasses provide excellent all-round vision. They're light, very comfortable to wear, and an excellent price for the quality.
We tested two options, with Smoke Plasma Mirror lens and with Gold Plasma Lens. The smoke lens delivers true colour rendition, while the gold lens has a coating to increase contrast and battle glare. Both work superbly with no distortion and really clear optics.
For a mere fiver, it's hard to see how you can go wrong with these bargain cycling glasses from sports superstore chain Decathlon. And it turns out they're really good: light and comfortable as well as costing about the same as a coffee and slice of cake. If you can put up with the inevitable 'safety glasses, aren't they?' jibes, you're quids in over the eye-candy brigade.
A really popular model, the D’Arcs sunglasses have a classic half-frame wraparound design. They're supplied with three lenses to suit different conditions, using a single lens design for maximum protection. The frame is coated with a rubberised material to provide a comfortable non-slip fit.
The Tifosi Swank Single Lens Sunglasess are genuinely useful on the bike, but also don't look out of place mooching down to the pub or coffee shop. Think fashion shades that you can wear on your bike that will still protect your eyeballs.
Tester Lara writes: “The frames are made from lightweight Grilamid TR-90 nylon material and the lenses are scratchproof and shatterproof polycarbonate. They come in a massive array of frame/lens colour combos. The bottle green/smoke lens option I tested has a mid-range tint, making it dark enough for casual summer use without being so dark you can't use it in slightly lower light too. The Glare Guard lens coating does a good job of reducing glare nicely. The frames and nose-piece are non-adjustable, but I found them comfortable with or without a helmet on, and the subtle shaping of the arms kept them secure to my head without gripping too tightly or interfering with my ears or helmet if I was wearing one.
“If you want a pair of glasses you can wear a lot, on or off the bike, and are not going to be too devastated about losing (we've all done it) then these are just the ticket.”
Tifosi's Swick cycling sunglasses work well on the bike, but aren't so bike-specific that they look odd off it. If you want for mixed use, they're a good choice.
They've got that classic look thanks to their large square lenses and they don't really wrap round your face like sportier cycling sunglasses but they're still good for riding in. The lens is dark enough for sunny days and the optics are good.
BBB's Avenger sunglasses are a great package that show you don't need to be spending into the hundreds for a quality pair of cycling glasses. With excellent coverage, a range of lenses and impressive weight there is very little to dislike.
The Avengers use a large single-piece wraparound polycarbonate lens which really keeps the wind and grit out of your eyes as you ride along, even at high speed. In the pack are two other lenses alongside the smoke one you can see fitted in the pictures, a yellow option and a clear.
Thickness of the frame has been kept to a minimum, which makes for a great field of vision with nothing in your line of sight when you check over your shoulder for traffic. Clarity from the lens is good, if not the sharpest, and you don't get any distortion from the curved surface.
Overall, the Avengers are very good. Okay, they don't quite have the crisp clarity of some of the more expensive shades out there from the likes of Oakley et al, but when you take into account the price they are difficult to knock.
The dhb Photochromatic Half Frame Sunglasses offer decent performance in a variety of conditions without looking obviously technical or breaking the bank. I am also pleased to report that I found them very comfortable worn for long periods.
The photochromatic technology works very well for the most part: they react better to subtle changes in light than sudden and extreme changes such as harsh morning/evening sun, and though they're not as quick-reacting as much more expensive models, I wouldn't consider it a deal-breaker considering their price.
Around dusk, they handle the steady, incremental darkness surprisingly well and they've never given a misleading view of surfaces, or conditions ahead – optical clarity has remained consistently good. To date, I've not needed to remove them in very low light.
Northwave's Blade glasses have a lot of impressive features for a pair that cost just 45 quid. The lenses have what Northwave calls an off centre base. The axis of the focal centre is aligned with the focal centre of the eye so your eyes don't get tired and the curvature won't cause any image distortion. It's not hugely noticeable at first but if you switch back to some other glasses you do notice how good the clarity is on the Blades.
Tester Stu writes: “The fit is good with enough pressure to hold them in place with your head down or in your helmet vents when you're going for that pro look. There is nothing worse than watching your glasses go underneath a following car's wheels. The refraction of oncoming headlights was my only issue which in the winter months would see me struggling a bit as all of my riding is done in the dark at rush hour.
“On the whole it's a very neat package and well worth the cost. I've bought various glasses around this price over the years. None have inspired much confidence and I've always gone back to my Oakleys but the Blades have a very top quality feel to them.”
These are good value glasses with clear, scratch-resistant lenses. The ergonomic shape provides a particularly wrapped feel. The lenses have been treated to make them perfectly smooth to allow any water to slide off, leaving the important area free any obstruction to your view.
These lightweight glasses offer good eye protection and you get a choice of clear, orange and darker reflective lenses so they're suitable for a variety of light conditions. They come in a good protective case that is filled with foam to keep your glasses safe when you're not wearing them. You also get a carry bag and two extra sets of lenses.
These Euro-styled glasses are light and offer good three-lens value, but they're possibly just for Bianchi lovers. The frames of the Falcos are made from Grilamid TR90, and the have a narrow wrap-around shape that sits close to the face. All of the lenses offer 100% UV protection and optical quality is good.
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John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.