Beyond their ability to make a pretty serious fashion statement, cycling glasses are an essential component of your overall setup. In addition to keeping those bright rays at bay, they also provide a safety barrier—keeping snow, rain, wind, road spray, and bugs out of your eyes.
As with all things cycling, though, there are a ton of options and an equally vast price range to accompany your seemingly endless list of choices. To help you make sense of where your money is best spent, we’ve created a cycling sunglasses guide that breaks down what to pay attention to and highlights a few tried and true models.
Like anything else you wear on the bike—you want your cycling sunglasses to feel comfortable above all else but also score high when it comes to durability. Ideally, they should also offer a bit of versatility, either through interchangeable or photochromatic (light-sensitive) lenses. And although technically fashion concerns are secondary to protection, you definitely want to invest in something you look good in and like wearing. Here is an overview of the components to consider:
The whole reason you’ve decided to wrap an external contraption around your face—the lenses you opt for should be chosen carefully and suited to your riding style and requirements. If you’re a four-season, all-weather rider, you probably want to look for a cycling glasses package that offers multiple interchangeable lenses. This will mean you’re prepared for those bright sunny days or the dark, wet slogs. Alternatively, you can also invest in photochromic lenses. These can take some getting used to, but some riders swear by them—they react to the light level to change their light transmission value, meaning they’ll automatically get darker when it’s sunny, then more transparent when it’s not.
Form tends to rule function when it comes to frames, with the predominant overall shape being primarily influenced by sunglasses trends outside the cycling world. That being said, it is all about finding what suits your personal preference. Oversized sunglasses are back in fashion at the moment, and some riders love them thanks to their ample protection, coverage, and even the bold look they offer. On the other hand, these clunky frames do have the potential to interfere with peripheral vision, and therefore some prefer frameless models. Experiment with a few different pairs and try to imagine how the frame will impact your field of vision while riding.
These are responsible for holding everything in place, so you want to make sure they’re up to the task! Typically, cycling sunglasses are equipped with tacky rubber inserts to ensure they stay in place over rough terrain. The arms should feel like they have more friction than your everyday sunnies, but not so much that they cause discomfort. Also, pay attention to stiffness and hinges. Depending on the kind of riding you do and how hard you are on your things, you want to make sure you’re investing in something that will last.
When a perfect fit really makes a difference, it can be helpful to choose sunglasses with an interchangeable or adjustable nosepiece. Everyone has a different-shaped face and nose, so the option for a more personalised fit can ensure your cycling sunglasses feel custom-made.
Not everyone is going to want to shell out for pricy cycling sunglasses, and that is ok. Especially in the beginning, you might find that your beloved aviators do the trick just fine. Overall, though, it is essential to consider the complete package if you decide to buy new. Do they come with multiple lens options, a microfibre bag, a hard case? These little extras can add up if you have to buy them separately down the road.
Of course, if you’re a glasses wearer in everyday life, it’s worth considering brands that offer prescription lenses, especially if you tend to experience discomfort when wearing contacts. Here are 5 pairs of cycling sunglasses we love.
The Tifosi Crit — Well-priced, plus photochromatic cycling sunglasses
The Tifosi Crit glasses have a lot to offer. They’re lightweight, adjustable, boast quick-changing photochromatic lenses, have two fit options and a night lens option. The price is also right! With loads of adjustability to the nosepiece and the side arms, just about any face shape can find the perfect fit. Your colour options are limited, but if you’re not deadest on your sunglasses matching your kit—these just might be the pair for you.
Oakley Radar EV — Top quality cycling sunglasses through and through
You know the brand and the accompanying price point—but there’s a reason why Oakley’s have the reputation that they do. In addition to super high-quality frames, these incredibly adaptive lenses mean that you can happily wear them all year round in a wide range of conditions without switching out.
Rudy Project Keyblade — Best cycling sunglasses for durability, comfort, and style
With adjustable venting and photochromatic lenses, these highly durable shades are also inconspicuous enough to rock off the bike. Rudy also guarantees that the lenses are unbreakable, so this is an investment you can count on for the long term. Plus, if you want to add prescription lenses, they’re compatible with Rudy Project’s RX optical inserts.
POC Aspire — Big, bold, super lenses
If you’re a fan of that eighties-style, face-consuming look, these cycling-specific sunglasses might serve you well off the bike too. Offering high UV400 protection, adjustable temples, Clarity Lenses, multiple frames and lens colourway options, they’ve been designed to strike a balance between on and off-bike wear. These glasses also feature hydrophilic grips, designed for a super-secure grip in rain, snow, or wind. Featuring Clarity lens technology, created in partnership with world lens leader Zeiss, they should also deliver impressive vision precision.
Bollé Shifter — Retro, sporty, ready for the sun
If the POC frames sound good but look more space-age when you’re thinking retro, these Bollé’s Shifters might be for you. The angular design is still modern but captures that retro vibe that sunglasses are so well suited to. They’re also impact-resistant and contain a single-piece lens that offers excellent clarity. They are also very well vented and have been treated with an anti-fogging agent, so you’re all set for humid conditions. The kinked arms also offer great grip, similarly helpful on those steamy days.
Cycling sunglasses have come a long way, so no matter what your budget, you can find something that delivers both looks and performance. Take the time to find the right pair, and you’ll go in every ride with a little more confidence!