Why wear cycling sunglasses? Besides looking good (or goofy, eye of the beholder and all that), cycling sunglasses shield your eyes from bright sunlight and harmful UV rays, and also offer protection from the wind, rain, dust, grit and bugs that can impair your vision.
Cycling eyewear's not just for looking cool; it protects your eyes from harmful UV light and flying insects, dust and other crud.
Cycling sunglasses usually cover more of your face than fashion eyewear for better protection, and use tougher lenses.
Many manufacturers offer interchangeable lenses so you can tailor your cycling sunglasses for the conditions.
Photochromic lenses automatically darken in bright sunlight so you can use the same glasses in a range of conditions.
Need prescription cycling sunglasses? Most top eyewear makers offer them; ask your optometrist.
Think you don't need eyewear in winter? Clear lenses protect your eyes from crud, while many people find yellow lenses increase contrast, making gloomy days look brighter
The best cycling eyewear you can buy, these ten pairs of glasses all scored 4.5 or higher from our testers.
The Flywheel from Smith Optics are retro/modern-looking sunglasses featuring Smith's own tinted ChromaPop lenses. They’re light, comfy and give excellent coverage for riding. Although downsides are few, the lens isn’t interchangeable, meaning they're only really useful for spring and summer.
These semi-framed glasses are made from a very flexy thermoplastic (TR90) and feature auto-lock hinges and adjustable two-position nose pads. The pads are hydrophilic, by which Smith mean they stay grippy instead of getting slippery as the sweat starts flowing.
The lens uses Smith's ChromaPop technology, which filters two wavelengths of light the company claims 'cause colour confusion.' The aim is to boost your ability to see clearly, and the darkened lens gets a hydroleophobic coating to further help things.
Alba Optics Delta glasses feature a unique frame design that delivers on holding them securely to your face, whatever terrain you charge through. The lens has impressive clarity, and even though the price is just below that of some premium designers, you are getting the premium experience.
The VZUM Lava lens fitted to the pair on test is designed to enhance visibility on cold tones in bright conditions – there are seven other options, including a photochromatic lens. The lens is made from a scratch-resistant polycarbonate with an oleophobic layer added to repel dirt and water. I've been gravel riding with these, where grit is more likely to be thrown up, and the lens has put up a mighty defence and is lasting well.
Overall, the Deltas are light, well priced and offer a high-performance viewing experience. With such an impressive lens and frame design, these really are excellent.
With excellent coverage and custom lenses, colours and nose rubbers, the Melon Optic Alleycat is a superb pair of riding glasses. They're tough, nearly perfect at shielding you from spray and muck, and comfy – plus the Zeiss lenses are great.
The Alleycat's strong contemporary looks come with six frame choices, four lens choices and five nose rubber and icon colours. That means there is a combination to make sure you have a set of glasses unique to you – if that’s important. The four lenses offered are: amber, violet chrome, silver chrome and smoke.
The lenses are up with the best in terms of clarity and contrast; they definitely improve trail vision in low light, and the amber lenses boost clarity in flat light and on wet trails. They can fog on long, demanding climbs when you're breathing hard, but they clear quickly with a bit of airflow through the side vents. The Alleycats deliver excellent riding vision, very reliable coverage, and come in hundreds of colour combinations – the price is high, but they earn their keep.
The Singletrack Glasses from Endura are well designed, comfortable and lightweight. They’re completely fog-resistant and the lenses are simple to swap – the only negative is the lack of clear lenses.
In the hard case pack, you get the glasses plus mirror lenses, smoke lenses, a low light orange len, and a soft bag for storage and cleaning. One neat little bonus is that the extra lenses come in protective pouches, which great for keeping everything together without scratching them.
The Singletrack Glasses prove super comfortable thanks to their low weight, comfortable nosepiece and grippy arms. Coverage is good, if not class-leading, and Endura has done an incredibly good job at making the Singletracks seemingly completely fog-free. Even chilly wet days, the perfect conditions for steaming up glasses, failed to produce any.
These Rudy Project Fotonyk cycling sunglasses are perfect for riding any time of the year thanks to their photochromic lenses changing from clear to dark in reaction to lighting levels. With great optics, comfort and not the slightest hint of fogging, they are a joy to wear.
We did the bulk of our testing of these in winter, perhaps the toughest time of the year to choose which glasses you're going to stick on for the ride, leaving and arriving home in the dark but with that whole sunrise/daylight/sunset thing going on in between. This is where the Fotonyks come into play with their ability to become all-rounders; they're suitable for practically every eventuality.
The first thing you notice is the clarity of the lenses. Our tester swapped mid-ride from POC Blades to the Fotonyks and the difference was noticeable, the Rudy Projects being so much clearer and sharper. Even as the lenses curve around your face there is no distortion at all.
Galibier's Surveillance Precision Optics glasses offer excellent all-round vision for a full-framed pair of shades. They're lightweight and very comfortable to wear, and they're flipping cheap too.
On test we've had two of the three available options of Surveillance glasses, the Matt Black with Smoke Plasma Mirror lens (£37), and the TortoiseShell frame with a Gold Plasma Lens (£42). If you want a polarised lens then this is available in a Gloss White frame, also £42.
Both Plasma lenses are designed to be used in medium to bright light, with the black framed option offering truer colour perception in sunny conditions, while the Gold version on the TortoiseShell has a coating to increase contrast by filtering blue light and reduce glare. Both work brilliantly with really clear optics and no distortion whatsoever.
The Smith Attack Max glasses provide excellent coverage and great vision, and swapping between the two supplied lenses could hardly be easier thanks to a clever magnet-based system, though the price is towards the top end of the spectrum.
With little to no fogging, good eye coverage and an unobstructed field of vision, Rockrider's XC Race Photochromatic 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.
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. The only time I did notice them was, in fact, thanks to the neon yellow nose piece catching my eye, and there isn't another colour frame option in the range that is still photochromatic.
Rubber grippers at the ends of the arms and across the nose keep them firmly in place, wet or dry. 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.
The Panda Optics Conquer Sunglasses are a fashionably large-lens option offering good performance and cool looks, but without the 'pro' price. The sturdy yet lightweight frame (available in three colours) comes in a hard case with three lenses: mirrored (9.73% light transmission), amber (27.18%) and clear (89.87% transmission). You also get a microfibre cleaning cloth and a drawstring microfibre bag.
They work well with typical road helmets, slotting neatly under the edges with no pressure on the temples or behind the ears. The rubber nose grip is comfortable too, and they stay put even when you're crouched in an aero position.
These are well-made, nicely designed and effective sports sunglasses that work well for cycling, both on and off-road, and come at a good price.
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.
There's also the option to fit Madison's £4.99 RX insert if you need prescription lenses.
Not quite in the top tier, all these glasses nevertheless scored 4 overall and 4.5 for performance from our testers.
BZ Optics' PHO Bi-focal Photochromic HD Lens glasses are a great combination of ready readers and protective cycling sunnies that can be used from dull days to bright sunshine. They're light, comfortable and offer excellent clarity, and though the bi-focal bit at the bottom takes a little getting used to, it works really well. No more having to tuck a spare lens and reading glasses into a bag or pocket.
The Roka CP-1X sunglasses are very expensive but very impressive. The glasses on test use a Glacier Mirror lens, which has the same kind of qualities as Oakley's Prizm – it's designed to remove a lot of blue light, allowing for better clarity. It succeeds in this and the clarity provided is impressive, especially in brighter conditions. The lens is replaceable and getting it in and out is relatively simple, although despite the very high cost of the glasses they don't come with any additional lenses. (The glasses are available with other lens options to suit different conditions, though lenses don’t seem to be available on Roka's UK website.)
Oakley's Radar EV Path glasses offer a secure, comfortable fit, excellent optics and plenty of style. EV stands for 'Extended View' and tells you that the lens is a little taller than that of the RadarLock Path, for example. This means that these glasses provide excellent coverage when you're in a head-down riding position. If you ever find light getting in over the top of the frame or lens of your current glasses, think about giving these a go.
Alba Optics' Stratos Ghost VZUM AF-Lens are high quality performance sunglasses with a minimalist design. The frame is very light, and the top-quality photochromic lens provides clear, unobstructed coverage. However, the arms are not the most secure, and there's no hard case for keeping these expensive sunnies safe.
The Roka Matador Ultralight Performance Sunglasses are impressive, offering good protection, excellent clarity, and a wide field of vision. However, their high price doesn't even include a spare lens or a hard case.
These BZ Optics Crit Mirrored glasses offer crystal clear optics and work well in a wide range of light conditions, from overcast, cloudy weather through to sunnier days. While the lens is removable, you can't buy these separately at present, which is a shame as you might want a darker tint for the very sunniest, cloud-free days.
The Alba Optics Delta Lei sunglasses take the already excellent Delta design and reshapes it for smaller (typically female) faces. The result is even lighter than before, but with the same great performance.
Oakley's Jawbreaker Prizm Road glasses were developed in collaboration with Mark Cavendish, a sprinter renowned for his very low head position when racing for the line. Usually for the win. The downside to that sort of aggressive position is that the top of the frame on most cycling glasses obscures your line of sight, and the result is usually a sore neck from craning to see under or over the frame.
With the Jawbreakers, Oakley sought to increase the upward field of view. The result is that the top of the frame is much higher than most other eyewear we have ever tested. There's very little intrusion into your vision. It's very impressive. Get your chin down on the stem and assume an aggressive position, as you would when racing or time trialling, and the top of the frame really doesn't intrude into your vision at all.
Oakley is a name synonymous with cycling sunglasses, and they demand a premium price. They are top-quality glasses, as you'd hope for when you spend this much, offering excellent protection with easily interchangeable lenses and high quality optics in a vast range of tints. The frames come in a variety of colours and you can customise them too.
The Koo Demos are striking sunglasses with excellent ventilation and perfect optics. The fit is excellent, though they do sit a little further from the face than some might like.
The Demos come in a variety of lens and frame combinations. These white framed options with light brown lenses have a VLT (Visible Light Transmission) of 23%, offer what Koo says is 'good protection against sun glare' and 'good UV protection', and from what I can ascertain are best used on overcast or hazy days, helping to increase brightness, contrast and depth perception. But they also work well on regular sunny days too, though because they filter blue light they make the sky look a little less magical. First world problems.
Notwithstanding the slightly larger than usual gap between glasses and face, the Demos really do feel lovely to wear. They're rock solid and very lightweight, to the point where you barely notice them there on a ride, and there's loads of grip around the temples thanks to the anti-slip MEGOL elastomer inserts. And although they probably belong in the 'big glasses' camp, the Demos don't actually feel that big. In fact, I think they're the perfect size, the generous Zeiss lens offering loads of crystal clear visibility, without feeling like your face has been taken over with one of those little critters from Alien.
Rapha's Pro Team Frameless Sunglasses are comfortable and clear, with a great field of view. This pink/blue lens option is great for overcast days and the frame is secure, though the lenses' chamfered edges create a visible line that some may find spoils the frameless design.
This frameless design gives a mostly unobstructed field of view for those that don't want anything blocking their vision. The version tested, with the pink/blue lens (you can also get purple/green or black mirror, and both block less light) offers amazing contrast and lovely clarity on overcast days.
The super-trendy, high-quality Spektrum Blank sunglasses work equally well for all kinds of riding, as much as they do when you're just chilling off the bike, though they are a little bit pricey when you factor in that they only come with one lens and no hard case.
That lens comes courtesy of Carl Zeiss, meaning it's really top notch quality. There is zero distortion at any angle and the infrared option on test, though designed primarily with sunny weather in mind with just 13% light transmission, seems to work brilliantly in all conditions. It even manages to just about cope with that pesky woodland shade, where it can often be a case of having to take off your glasses altogether so you don't end up riding into a tree.
There's plenty of coverage here without feeling like your entire face has been taken over. The style is somewhat reminiscent of the Gargoyles in The Terminator movie, which is no bad thing of course – the look is bold and stylish, but subtle. They're not full-on racer style, but more comparable to trendier propositions such as Oakley's Sutro. They're the kind of sunglasses you could wear to the pub when you're in civvy mode.
The very good quality Julbo Rush Reactiv sunglasses have a quick-reacting photochromic lens and are comfortable to wear, while offering a great field of vision. You can buy cheaper, but they hold their own in expensive company.
Like most things in the road cycling world, fashion heavily dictates what sunglasses we are wearing, and at the moment everything is getting bigger. The Rush Reactivs follow that trend.
The clarity of the Julbo's lens is very good, with no distortion as it curves around your face, and there's no refraction from car headlights when wearing the glasses in the dark.
The Reactiv lens found on this model is photochromic, so it reacts to changes in the amount of light outside. With a light transmission rate of between 12% to 87% this natural coloured lens with a smoked tint when activated is spot on for year-round use, whether day or night.
The Rudy Project Defenders are an impressive pair of glasses, with the photochromic lens especially impressive in changeable conditions. They provide great protection, but the price will put some off.
Photochromic lenses have become increasingly popular in recent years, but can suffer by being slow to change. With the Rudy Project Defenders, changes happen rapidly enough that you don't instantly feel plunged into darkness, but equally don't leave you feeling like you're staring directly at the sun.
They go from essentially non-prescription clear lenses to dark black, and adjust to every light between, meaning you can always maintain a clear view of what's on the road in front of you. They also have impressive clarity and strong peripheral vision, despite being full frame glasses.
With fashion dictating that cycling shades return to the ski goggle shapes and sizes of the 90s, the Bollé Shifter glasses are bang on trend, but they aren't form over function thanks to excellent visibility and sharp optics. Even though they are a fully framed pair of glasses, not one part of it gets in the way of your eyesight.
The lens wraps further round the side of your eye than most glasses with a frame, which means that when glancing over your shoulder or looking left or right you have full visibility. You can see the frame but it's positioned just far enough out of your line of sight.
Decathlon's Rockrider ST 100 glasses — previously known as Orao Arenberg — are light, comfortable and cost less than 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.
The ST100s are available with clear lenses, and also a yellow and a grey for overcast/foggy and bright weather respectively. All three are made from 100% UV-blocking impact-resistant polycarbonate.
The BZ Optics PHO Fluro Yellow Frame with Photochromic Bi Focal Lens is a fully featured item of sports eyewear, for people who need bi-focal assistance in all conditions from darkness to bright glare. For £99.99 with interchangeable lenses, they're a pretty good pair of goggles in their own right.
At first glance the PHOs look like any other pair of cycling glasses, albeit clear ones if seen indoors the first time. Clear lenses always run the risk of resembling safety specs, and in this regard the PHOs aren't wide of the mark – particularly in fluorescent yellow ('graphite' and white are also available).
The near-ubiquitous design of a single top frame facilitates the changing of lenses, done via a nifty wee grey clip at the temple that pivots out to unlock things. We must confess we wore the PHOs for a month before realising the lenses could be removed, the mechanism is so well hidden and its hold on the lens so secure. Additional lenses are available in photochromic non-prescription and with a 'blue mirror' finish, and of course as a replacement should you damage the original lens. The 'Reader' lens with the bifocal bit is available in +1.5, +2 and +2.5 powers.
Aerodynamic fairings on a pair of cycling sunglasses? Yep, the Bollé 6th Sense are about as pro as you can get, especially with our test set being in AG2R La Mondiale colours. It isn't all about gimmicks, though, as these glasses are seriously good.
The big lens of the 6th Sense has a retro look to it, harking back to visors of the Nineties, but as far as technology goes they are bang up to date.
The frame is practically non-existent, which is something we like. There is nothing worse than crouching down in the drops or doing a quick shoulder check to find that there is a piece of plastic in your line of sight. The 6th Sense offer a massive field of vision without you even moving your head.
The Koo Open3 (or 'Open Cube') are premium cycling sunglasses from the maker of Kask helmets. With astonishingly clear optics and solid frames that stay where you put them, these are excellent shades – if you don't mind the £175 RRP, or you can find them a bit cheaper.
The most important aspect of any eyewear is the optical performance, so let's start there. The lens on the Koo Open Cubes is made by Carl Zeiss, and it's a very impressive bit of kit. There is not even the slightest hint of distortion right across the whole visual field.
The frame and lens wrap around the head very effectively to provide a lot of protection from sun and wind. The edges of the lens are well outside the field of vision; there's no annoying light coming round the edges in these and I never had a hint of dust or cold air bothering me.
The dhb Vector PhotoChromatic Lens Sunglasses offer an amazing field of view thanks to that extra-large lens; its clarity and the fact that it's a fast-reacting photochromic lens made these the glasses of choice in a wide range of conditions from low-light, dull, rainy days to sunny bright ones.
As you'd expect when you see a lens this large, the field of view is excellent. It's even better than you get with a pair of Oakley Jawbreakers which are still the oversize glasses to beat.
The frame at the top is amazingly unobtrusive; it sits close to the forehead which means that the upward field of view is excellent. This is particularly useful if you're in an aggressive position, for example when sprinting, head down in a TT position or just chewing your stem. Peripheral vision is also excellent, and the wraparound design has the added benefit of protecting your face from wind and rain.
Although BBB's BSG-50 Summits are mid-range models, they're really good glasses and pack in a number of innovative features. One of the most important, and one that BBB is keen to promote, is the ease with which the lenses can be switched. In fact they excel here; aside from the high-end hinged Oakleys, they are one of the simplest to change that we have used.
It's good because you get three different lens colours with the glasses, with varying degrees of protection: full mirrored, yellow and clear. These lenses work really well and we were particularly impressed by their anti-fogging qualities, which works through a combination of anti-fog coating and very impressive ventilation on the top and sides of the lenses.
What should you look for in a pair of cycling sunglasses? Well they differ from regular sunglasses in that they have a wraparound design so they sit closer to your face. The frames are usually thinner and they're made from lightweight and durable materials, and the lenses are lighter too, typically shatterproof and they come in a vast rainbow of tints to suit different lighting conditions.
Fit is the key criterion when choosing a new pair of cycling sunglasses. They need to be comfortable with no pinch points or excessive tightness, and they need to sit close to your face and not obscure your vision. Some manufacturers offer sunglasses in a narrow design or a women-specific fit, but the vast majority of cycling sunglasses are unisex with a one-size-fits-all design. For that reason, it's always a good idea to try some on before you buy and choose the glasses with the best fit.
Fit can sometimes be adjusted to preference. Some cycling sunglasses have adjustable arms and nosepieces that can tailor the fit, and some have interchangeable rubber parts that can customise the fit even further. You want the sunglasses to be stable so they don’t bounce around or slip forward. The rubber contact points will help the glasses stay put when you sweat a lot. Generally, a sign of good fit is that you forget you're wearing them when you're cycling.
Arms can be flexible or rigid, Most are covered with a rubber material to grip your head and stop them moving about. When you're trying on a pair of glasses, it's worth doing so with your helmet on, as some glasses can foul the straps and retention systems of some helmets. The nose piece can either be fixed or adjustable, some glasses come with several differently sized rubber nosepieces so you can get the fit just right.
Lenses come in a huge range of tints and colours from dark black to protect your eyes in bright sunlight, to yellow for boosting contrast in poor light. Clear lenses are good for riding at night. There's now so much choice that it can be a little bewildering picking the right lenses for the particular conditions.
You need to choose a lens that matches your riding requirements. Many cycling sunglasses have a fixed lens, so you're stuck with whatever lens come with the sunglasses. Cycling sunglasses with interchangeable lenses are common these days, and very popular, for good reason. Choose a pair of glasses with several sets of lenses and you are going to be prepared for most typical cycling conditions.
Some manufacturers make photochromic lenses that get lighter or darker according to the conditions, but the range they offer is more limited at present than specific lenses, but can be a useful and appealing alternative if you don't want to have to worry about changing lenses.
Some lenses are vented or have an anti-fogging coating to help reduce fogging when you sweat. Some manufacturers apply a hydrophobic coating to help rain run off the glasses. You also want to make sure the lens has UVA and UVB protection. Some cycling sunglasses offer a prescription option, either with the sunglasses lenses made to your prescription or with clip-in lenses behind.
The price you can expect to pay for cycling sunglasses varies hugely. What does paying more money get you? The biggest difference is in the lens. The best cycling sunglasses boast very high quality optics that provide exceptional clarity, and you often have a wider range of tints to choose from.
The extra money often gets you a lighter weight frame and often more fit adjustment. You can expect extras like spare lenses to suit different conditions, hard-shell cases to store them in as well as soft fabric bags cleaning the lenses and storing the glasses when they're not in use.
Let’s not forget that as well as performance, cycling sunglasses are also a fashion item, and looks are an important consideration for many. Cycling sunglasses are available in a massive range of designs and colours and there's something for all tastes and styles. But we'll leave that bit to you.
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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 Farelly, 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.