Best Cycling Sunglasses Buying Guide
Cycling glasses protect your eyes from debris and prevent tearing up in headwinds. However, with modern lenses offering a range of additional benefits, our guide should help you clearly see the right pair for you.
With the number and effectiveness of features varying across prices and brands of cycling sunglasses, it’s important to understand what’s available so you can find the right balance of benefits for your money.
From the active lenses of photochromic cycling glasses, to glare, wind, and UV protection, quality cycling eyewear ensures you can spin away at speed, safe in the knowledge your eyes are shielded.
But you don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy the advanced tech being poured into today’s top tier glasses.
Check out our guide to get an idea of the features available.
Cycling sunglasses features at a glance
Here’s a quick guide to some of the features you’ll find in modern cycling glasses and a quick explanation of their purpose.
Photochromatic lenses: These lenses darken autonomously during exposure to bright light, meaning you don’ have to switch lenses when the light changes.
Plutonite lenses: An Oakley patented lens technology, offering protection from every wavelength of sunlight.
ChromaPop: A lens technology by Smith, enhancing clarity and natural colour for better visual detail.
Hydroleophobic lens: A special coating prevents the build up of oils or rain water.
Hydrophilic nose pads: This coating absorbs droplets and mists to prevent lens fogging.
Interchangeable lens system: This feature allows you to swap out lenses depending on the level of visibility.
Decentred lenses: This treatment removes optical distortion of a curved lens, ensuring perfect clarity.
Orange/amber/yellow tints: These lens tints offer improved brightness and visibility in low-light conditions. Perfect for early evening rides or commutes. See the section on interchangeable lenses below for more.
UV protection: Protection from damaging light levels. Important for those spending extended periods in the sun.
Adjustable nose piece: Find the perfect fit for your face with these adjustable pads.
Choosing the right cycling sunglasses for you
Here’s an overview of the some of the key aspects of cycling eyewear to watch out for.
Frame materials: Even among entry level models, frames and lenses will be constructed from a shatter-proof material – usually polycarbonate. More exotic materials, such as titanium, can be found in top-end glasses.
Protective lenses: The vast majority of cycle glasses will provide protection from UVA rays as well as wind, mud, and other airborne debris. As lens quality improves at higher tiers, special coatings offer protection against the full spectrum of UV rays (UVA as well as UVB and UVC) and other harmful radiation (HEV or “blue light” rays).
Frame fit and design: Frame design is another essential consideration, with a balance to be struck between a snug and comfortable fit, an unobscured field of vision, and adequate ventilation to prevent fogging. Some riders prefer the secure feeling of a more solid frame, while others look for the “semi-frameless” design – where the lens is secured to the frame at the top or bottom only. Many glasses are adjustable through interchangeable nosepads to allow the fit to be ‘tuned’, but for riders with smaller or larger faces, or glasses toward the budget end of the market, a lot may come down to rider preference.
Most riders would hope to enjoy the protection afforded by sunglasses for the entire ride, but varying light conditions – from changing weather to riding in and out of shade – make that difficult. Lens manufacturers have devised two main ways of overcoming this problem and mid to high-end glasses are now offered with interchangeable lenses or photocromic technology.
Interchangeable systems As the name suggests, these come with a selection of differently-tinted lenses that can be clipped in and out of the frame as conditions dictate. Clear lenses are typically used in low-light conditions (winter riding, overcast days, dense forest etc); dark lenses are used in bright sunshine, and intermediate tints for the range of conditions in between. Tint colours will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and again can be largely a matter of personal preference.
Polarized sunglasses reduce glare by filtering the intense light that can be reflected from surfaces such as snow or a wet road.
Common frame types
These offer the optimum level of support for the lens and impact resistance in the event of a crash, but at the expense of a slightly narrowed field of vision and some extra weight/bulk.