Cycling eyewear's not just for looking cool; it protects your eyes from harmful UV light and flying insects, dust and other crud.
Glasses designed for cycling 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 the glasses for the conditions.
Photochromic lenses automatically darken in bright sunlight so you can use the same glasses in a range of conditions.
Need prescription glasses? Most top eyewear makers offer them; ask your optometrist.
Why wear cycling sunglasses? Besides being a fashion accessory, 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.
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.
> On a budget? Read our roundup of the best cheap cycling sunglasses with glasses from £9.49
> Looking for a bargain? We've found half a dozen great deals where retailers have cut up to 61% off their glasses.
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 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 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 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 top-end glasses 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.
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.
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 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.
These are good value with clear, scratch-resistant lenses, and 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, keeping your vision clear.
A really popular model, these D’Arc glasses have a classic half-frame wraparound design and they’re supplied with three lenses to suit different conditions. They have a single lens design for maximum protection and the frame is coated with a rubberised material to provide a comfortable and non-slip fit.
These offer great style and impressive value for money, and the lightweight Grilamid plastic has a good degree of flex to allow them to fit different head sizes. The hinges have a nice smooth action and the rubber nosepiece is adjustable. A nine-layer coating gives the MLC blue tinted polycarbonate lens (pictured) great contrast in a range of lighting conditions, and the lenses are relatively easy to swap.
The Tifosi Dolomites 2.0 are a strongly performing pair of glasses that allow for a good level of ventilation around the nose and ears, without being too breezy. We found that the lenses were both easy to fit and secure in the sturdy frame.
We've generally been impressed with Tifosi glasses; they're usually very good quality for their modest price. If the Dolomites don't quite float your boat take a look at the Radius FC glasses and the Talos model.
Lightweight, comfortable glasses with two lenses and a hard case included in the sensible price. The lightweight frame is made from a Grilamid material. You notice the lack of bulk when you first extract them from the hard case. You get two lenses in the hard case, a tinted multi-layer mirror coating lens and a low-light orange lens.
The Tifosi Davos Interchangeable Lens glasses offer good clarity, a wide field of vision and decent venting, although it would be nice if changing the lenses was a little less fiddly. Nevertheless, they're well made, and light.
When conditions are changeable it's important to have glasses that can adapt to the different lighting while also having good venting. The Davos, with their three lenses, are a good option. There are three colours included in the package: clear, AC red and smoke. These are each made of Grilamid TR-90, which according to Tifosi offers high resistance to chemical and UV damage, high alternative bend strength, and low density.
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.
Uvex makes a wide range of eyewear for various purposes including s a really nice range of cycling glasses. These are smart looking and comfortable glasses with interchangeable lenses to suit different conditions. Changing lenses involves pulling a small flap above the nose bridge out, which releases the lens from the frame, and means the lenses are held in place very securely.
Lazer's Walter full frame glasses offer very good performance and a certain amount of dashing '80s style. Because of that they've become a bit of a favourite.
Shape-wise, and with their full-frame, single-lens design, these Lazer glasses bear more than a passing resemblance to Oakley's Pilot Eyeshades of the mid '80s. They don't have the sweat-catching brow strip, but that always used to fall off anyway. They're a bit more angular, too, and not as big, but they certainly have a retro kind of a feel.
There's nothing retro about the materials or construction, though. The polycarbonate frame is light and tough, with adjustable, rubberised ear and nose pieces that make getting a good fit very simple.
The Walters come with three lenses. There's a low-transmission semi-mirrored lens for sun, a high-contrast lens for overcast conditions, and a clear lens for night-time. All three have a hydrophobic coating which is very effective: the water beads on the surface very well and taking them off and tapping them on the handlebar clears most of the rain.
The NRC X1RR Blackshadow glasses certainly look the business with their gold details and lenses, and thankfully they deliver top drawer performance and comfort too.
The lens is made by Zeiss and it has done a very good job as I couldn't find a single flaw in them. There is no loss of sharpness, wherever you move your eyes, and thanks to having no actual frame your field of vision is completely unobstructed, allowing you to see everything that is happening in front and to the side of you.
They're a shade expensive compared to some other manufacturer's light-reactive shades, but the Julbo Aerospeed photochromic sunglasses are a sophisticated and very well-made set of sports glasses. The lenses automatically adjust to changing light and offer CAT 1-3 ratings for ultra-violet protection. Better still, should a lens, arm or similar component break, replacements are readily available.
The lenses are made from NXT, a plastic originally developed for helicopter windscreens. Aside from being light and shatterproof it has the lowest distortion of any plastic so there's no bending of light or warped vision. Since the lens is cast, and so takes longer to produce than an injected type, this increases the cost.
The reactive element is activated by ultra-violet light and will steadily darken, from clear to a dark shade, in around 15 seconds. This is also cast into the lens, so cannot scratch, or otherwise deteriorate. The other features are pretty much what you'd expect from high-end sports sunglasses. The inside and outsides feature anti-fogging and water-repelling (hydrophobic) treatments and the frame is made from Rilsan G85 polyamide and features silicone grippers for a secure, unobtrusive fit.
With an RRP of £139.99, the Pro Escalate FSH glasses set is the most expensive that Tifosi makes; the company is better known for its good quality mid-range riding specs. It's a really good set though: there are three frame options, six lenses and a nice case to keep them all in.
FSH stands for Full, Shield and Half, and that's what you get: a full frame, a shield frame – where the lens itself is the frame – and a half frame. Well, you don't get the three whole frames, there's just one pair of Grillamid TR90 plastic arms that snap onto whichever front you fancy wearing.
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.
These Rudy Project Fotonyk 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.
Aerodynamic fairings on a pair of 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.
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.
Optilabs is a Croydon-based specialist sports optician that offers a range of eyewear, all of which are available with prescription lenses. They all offer 100% UV protection.
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.
Swedish company POC made a statement with its first ever road helmet, and its cycling sunglasses have made a similar impact. These Do Blade sunglasses feature a wide wraparound Carl Zeiss lens with an anti-fog treatment and rubber arm grippers and an adjustable nosepiece.
The Koo Open3 (or 'Open Cube') are premium 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 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.
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David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.