What should you look for when buying a new pair of cycling sunglasses, and how much should you be looking to pay?
Cycling glasses are an essential item for most riders throughout the year.
In the summer, they provide a traditional use and keep the sun out of your eyes – but through the rest of the year they also provide a barrier to the snow or rain, or even just the wind and bugs.
But what should you be looking for in a pair of cycling glasses that can be used all year round?
Cycling glasses lenses
The most important part of any pair of cycling glasses are their lenses, as the tint of the lenses will dictate what conditions you can wear them in.
You don’t have to spend a huge amount of money to get a pair of cycling glasses with inter-changeable lenses. This is a great idea as it will give you different options that you can swap in and out depending on whether you’re cycling in bright sunshine, cloudy overcast conditions, or even after dark.
Most cycling glasses with inter-changeable lenses will come with three different options. First up you should have a standard shaded lens that will provide 100% UV protection and help to dim bright sunshine when riding in the height of summer. However, they shouldn’t be so dark that you find yourself struggling to pick out the road surface if you find yourself descending down a heavily wooded lane.
The second lens should have a yellow tinge, which will be great for brightening things up when riding in overcast conditions, making it easier to spot rough road surfaces in flat light. And finally they should come with a clear lens that is there for when you’re riding after dark.
What are photochromatic lenses?
The other option for riding in changeable condition is photochromic or photochromatic lenses which will change their lightness and darkness depending on the conditions. Back in the day these might not have been great for cycling as they would not change fast enough if you’re riding in and out of shade.
However, those on the latest cycling glasses are much better, offering quick changes in tint, although they don’t quite offer the range of cycling glasses with inter-changeable lenses. Pick these if you want to ride in different conditions, but don’t want the faff of having to change lenses.
Cycling glasses and lens shape
Aside from the colour of the lens, there are a number of other things to look for when picking your cycling glasses.
First of all you want decent coverage. As well as sunshine, you want your lenses to keep bugs, water, and wind out of your eyes (with the latter being particularly important for those wearing contact lenses). One piece lenses are usually the best for this, and you also want a decent amount of coverage around the sides of your eyes.
Cycling glasses for riding in the rain
Look out for cycling glasses with lenses that have a hydrophobic coating. When combined with a cycling cap, cycling glasses are very useful when riding in the rain, and a hydrophobic coating will make sure that water doesn’t stay on the lenses impeding your vision.
Finally, at some point your sunglasses are going to be knocked off a cafe table, so an anti-scratch coating is an important consideration especially if you’ve invested heavily.
Cycling glasses frames
When you pay for your new cycling glasses, most of the money will be probably be going towards buying the frame rather than the lenses, so you want to make sure that you’re getting good value in this area too.
The most important thing is that the frame fits well. The tips of the arms should fit snugly around your temple just above your ears, holding the cycling glasses securely in place even when you’re looking down and swinging your head from side to side when sprinting out of the saddle. However you don’t want them to be too tight otherwise they will quickly become uncomfortable.
One feature that a lot of cycling glasses have to hold them securely in place without needing tight arms is little rubber grippers that grip the side of your head. There are also a few with adjustable arms to ensure a good fit.
The other important area to look at to ensure the frame fits properly is the nosepiece. Most cycling glasses have adjustable rubber nosepieces that can be shaped depending on the dimensions of your nose, which is crucial as you don’t want the glasses slipping down your face if the nosepiece is too big, or sitting too high and falling off completely if it’s too small.
Broadly there are three different styles of frame design: full frame, half frame, and frameless.
All offer similar function (although some full frame cycling glasses) might have a problem where the lower part of the frame is in your eye line), so which variety you decide to go for depends on the look that suits you and the priority you give to weight.
Prescription cycling glasses
If you wear prescription glasses, you may want to look into getting prescription lenses for your cycling glasses too.
Some brands – for example Oakley – can supply prescription versions of most lens styles. Other brands provide clip on inserts which can sit behind your sunglass lenses. Both options do come at extra expense and can be ordered via an optician.
The alternative is wearing contact lenses underneath your normal cycling glasses.
Our pick of the best cycling glasses
With each product is a ‘Buy Now’ or ‘Best Deal’ link. If you click on this then we may receive a small amount of money from the retailer when you purchase the item. This doesn’t affect the amount you pay.
Rudy Project Tralyx Sunglasses
Gold frame is teamed with Rudy Project’s Rp Optics Multilaser Orange lens, which creates a contrast when out riding, making it easier for you to pick out potential obstacles.
The lenses worked well in bright sunlight, and in flat light when the sun was hidden a bit by cloud. We found these to be less ideal on truly overcast days. The frame was adjustable, and comfortable, and lenses can be clicked out and swapped.
Smith Pivlock Arena glasses
Single lens, which can be swapped out by taking the glasses apart. New for this year, Smith uses its own ChromaPop lens technology which helps to stop our brains confusing blue and green and red and green colours, resulting in clearer vision.
Uvex Sportstyle 810 V cycling sunglasses
Colour change lenses that provide a high level of protection and tinting that made details easy to pick out. Large lenses that provide a good level of peripheral vision and an anti-fog treatment that really works. The lenses were excellent, though we felt the frame was a little lower on the quality scale in contrast.
Available at Amazon
Oakley Jawbreaker cycling sunglasses
Probably the most popular pair of sunglasses in the professional peloton, the Oakley Jawbreakers provide the best coverage of any cycling glasses we’ve tested. The large frames might not be the best for those with small faces, but there is a wide choice of frame and lens options to choose from.
Sunwise Equinox cycling sunglasses
A good choice of lenses to swap in and out and a comfortable and secure frame that is more than good enough for all day riding, the Sunwise Equinox sunglasses are very hard to fault for a little over £30.
Available at Amazon
Oakley Radar EV cycling sunglasses
The price might be in typical Oakley territory, but the quality of the Radar EV sunglasses is just what you’d expect from the American brand. Both the frames and the lenses ooze quality, and although there are no replacement lenses, the ones supplied are good enough to cope with a wide range of conditions.
BBB Select cycling sunglasses
The BBB Select sunglasses are proof that you really don’t need to spend an obscene amount of money to get high quality performance cycling glasses. They come in lots of different colours to suit your kit and helmet, and there are also three different lenses supplied in the box that you can swap in and out with ease to cope with different light conditions.
Available at Amazon
Extra features to look for in cycling glasses
Aside from the glasses themselves, there are a number of other little things you should be looking for when buying your cycling glasses.
First off you should be after a hard shell case that will be useful if you’re throwing the sunglasses in a bag and travelling with them. Second you should hope for a soft microfibre cloth to help keep the lenses clean. And finally, if you’ve got bad eyesight but can’t wear contact lenses then make sure you get pair of prescription lenses.
How we score
5 – Superb, best in its class and we couldn’t fault it
4 – Brilliant, we’d happily buy it
3 – OK. Not much wrong with it, but nothing special
2 – Disappointing
1 – Terrible, do not buy this product