High-velocity sports such as motocross (MX) racing, Downhill (DH) racing and Enduro riding by their very nature involve an element of risk, and it’s essential to invest in adequate protection.
For your own safety, health and comfort, one thing that is absolutely essential to protect is your eyesight, both from the harmful effects of UV rays and from the dangers posed by airborne debris (roost) or crash impacts.
For that reason anyone taking part in these sports is advised to invest in a pair of safe, strong and securely-fitting goggles that will offer protection to your eyes through daily riding and in the event of any mishaps.
If you don’t want to read our best bike goggles buying guide, head to the Chain Reaction Cycles website:
Read on to find out more about the characteristics of biking goggles and the different features to look for when choosing a pair of your own.
Which goggles are right for you?
The type of goggles you choose will to a large extent depend on the budget you have available and to what degree you will intend to use them. There are many excellent budget and mid-range goggles on the market, all of which will offer a degree of eye and facial protection that’s far preferable to none at all. However investing in a pair of high-end goggles will reward you in terms of frame strength, advanced optical technology and features such as interchangeable lens systems. If you consider yourself a serious rider or are competing in events, a good pair of goggles will be a sound investments.
However much you wish to spend, here are a few things to look out for:
• Safety: The primary function of all goggles is of course safety and protection. Make sure that any goggles you buy meet the relevant safety certification standards (ANSI Z87.1 for high velocity impact in the US, EN 1938 for MX goggle requirements in the European Union). Tough and impact resistant frame materials (e.g. polycarbonate or polyurethane) as well as scratch-resistant and shatterproof lenses are a must.
• Vision quality: Of course, one of the most important safety aspects is being able to see clearly what’s around you at all times. Your goggles must offer optical clarity through utilising a good quality lens material as well as excellent peripheral vision with no parts of the frame blocking or obstructing your view.
• UV protection: Most goggles will provide protection from UVA rays, while as lens quality improves – and prices go up – higher-end models will also shield the eyes against the full spectrum of UV rays (UVA as well as UVB and UVC) and other harmful radiation (HEV or “blue light” rays).
• Lens tint: Different lens tints (colours) are designed to perform in different light conditions – yellow or amber tints work well in low to moderate light conditions, for example, while darker tints improve contrast and comfort in bright light conditions and clear or zero-tint lenses are advised for night and sunset/sunrise (see below for more on lens tints). Many manufacturers have interchangeable lens systems allowing to you to change your tint according to the relevant conditions, while others offer photocromic or light-reactive lenses which change tint automatically.
• Anti-glare: Some goggles are available with anti-glare treatments such as polarisation to combat the intense light that can be reflected from surfaces such as snow or wet roads. However this is a personal choice with some riders regarding polarised lenses as filtering out too much light and affecting quality of vision.
• Anti-fog: Most mid- to high-end glasses will be designed to prevent them being misted up by moisture or sweat, usually via a combination of ventilation ports and anti-fog treatment on the inside of the lens.
• Fit and comfort: A close and comfortable fit is essential. Goggles must not be too large or too small and must be compatible with your chosen helmet (see below for more on goggle fit). In addition, many manufacturers also use high-tech materials on the face foam to wick moisture away from the skin and help keep things cool and comfortable (or in the case of ski goggles, polar fleece to keep you warm and toasty).
• Tear offs: Most goggle-wearing MX and MTB riders in wet conditions also use tear-offs – disposable plastic covers that fit to the exterior of the lens. During or after a race/ride, goggles that have been sprayed with mud, crud and roost can be restored to new again by simply ‘tearing off’ the top laminated layer to reveal a clear one underneath (tear-offs usually come in ‘stacks’ of six or seven). If this sounds appealing to you, make sure to buy goggles with pins to which the tear-off stacks are affixed.
Best Bike Goggles Buying Guide: in-depth
Photocromic (light-reactive) or interchangeable lenses are becoming more and more common, but the variety of lens tints can be confusing. Here’s a rough guide:
• The degree to which a lens is tinted is a reflection of the lens’ Visible Light Transmission (VLT). A lens with 0-25% light transmission, for example, will be clear or only slightly tinted and suitable for use at night and in low light conditions, while on the other end of the spectrum a lens with more than 90% VLT is very darkly tinted and strictly for very bright conditions only.
• Generally, darker lenses are suitable for bright light conditions, orange and yellow are suitable for low light and clear are best for night time
• In low light conditions, yellow, amber and rose-coloured lenses filter out blue light, emphasizing shadows so you can see bumps better. They also work well in foggy and variable light conditions so can be a good ‘all-round’ option in certain seasons.
• In bright light, dark tints such as grey, copper or green will improve contrast and keep your eyes more comfortable.
• A mirror coating will reflect sunlight so it doesn’t penetrate the lens, raising its VLT value and making it a good option for bright sunshine.
• Clear lenses have the lowest VLT of all and allow the most light into you eyes so are the best/only option for night time and very low light conditions.
A close and comfortable fit is essential. Goggles must sit snug to the face – if they can rock about they are too large, while if any of the interior moulding comes into contact with the outer eye socket they are too small. Most manufacturers offer models of suit different face sizes (small, medium or large, but fitting a range of measurements within each category), so it’s worth measuring your own facial dimensions and researching which particular models/manufacturers match. To get the width of your face, measure between both temples, and for the depth, from the middle of the cheekbone to just above the eyebrow. This will tell you approximately where the foam on the goggle will fit on the face and can be used in conjunction with a manufacturer’s sizing chart to get one that will fit perfectly.
Many manufacturers also offer goggles specifically for children’s faces, in youth sizes and in ‘female-specific’ models. Some ski goggle manufactures also offer models designed for people with shallow nose bridges and high cheekbones, such as the ‘Asian fit’ standard from Oakley.
It’s also important to note that goggles must be compatible with your chosen model of helmet, full-face or otherwise, and be able to sit securely in position with helmet on. Some goggles use small rubber outrigger blocks to help achieve a perfect fit when helmet is worn, others feature silicon strips on the straps to stop them slipping on the helmet surface.
Ski and snowboard goggles
These offer large lenses with a wide field of vision and can be worn with or without a helmet. Lens tints are important to combat glare and improve contrast on snowy surfaces, enabling you to see bumps and troughs.
Tough and durable eye protection designed to be compatible with full-face motocross helmets and utilizing features like tear-offs to combat roost buildup.
While many or most DH riders will use standard MX goggles some manufacturers offer slightly pared-down and lighter versions aimed at the MTB market.
These are designed to be worn over prescriptions spectacles (‘over the glasses’ – OTG) and are one option for glasses-wearing riders who don’t want the expense or hassle of custom prescription goggles.
Keep your goggles in optimal shape with our range of spare parts and care products including spare and replacement lenses for all major models (in clear or tinted versions), tear-offs, goggle cleaning kits, cleaning solutions and anti-fog treatment.
While most MTB and road riders require no more eyewear than a good pair of sunglasses, the high-octane demands of Downhill (DH), Enduro and BMX bike racing – as well as skiing and motocross – call for specially-designed goggles that offer a high level of protection while still enabling a wide and clear field of vision.