When I bought my first cycling sunglasses, I didn’t pay much attention to the other features apart from the design.
However, with increasing experience, I’ve been discovering new features to be aware of when buying sunglasses.
In this article, I will guide you through their selection. You learn what lenses you can choose, which are best for cycling, and much more.
Let’s dive in.
Why Should You Wear Cycling Sunglasses?
There are multiple reasons to wear sunglasses when cycling. The most important one is your eye protection against:
- Bugs & insects
- Wind, water, dirt, mud, dust, etc.
- UV radiation
However, cycling sunglasses are also a fashion accessory. They help us express ourselves. Thanks to brands that sell customizable sunglasses, this is easier than ever.
Read this article to learn more reasons why cyclists wear sunglasses.
How to Choose Cycling Sunglasses?
The following part includes the most important features you should be aware of when buying cycling sunglasses.
Whether you ride the most often, your next cycling sunglasses should have a UV400 filter that filters UV-A and UV-B radiation.
Luckily, most cycling sunglasses on the market feature it. However, you can encounter models without it.
But why is this filter important? Well, there are three basic types of UV radiation:
- UV-A (315-380 nm)
- UV-B (280-315 nm)
- UV-C (100-280 nm)
UV-A and UV-B penetrate the atmosphere even in the shade or in cloudy conditions. The exposure can be as high as 90%. Sand, water, and snow can heighten the effect by up to 70%. (Source)
The UV-C is absorbed by the ozone layer and doesn’t reach the Earth’s surface.
According to the American Cancer Society, UV rays can lead to:
- Formation of cataracts (clouding of the eye’s lens)
- Tissue growth on the surface of your eye (pterygium)
- Inflamed or burned cornea
In some cases, UV rays can even cause eye cancer (ocular melanoma). (Source)
This means wearing sunglasses with a UV400 filter is especially important if you ride in high mountains or near the ocean.
Lenses Light Transmission
According to the EU standard (EN 1836:2005), there are five basic light transmission categories of lenses.
|0||80‑100%||Interiors, night, cloudy days||Clear, light yellow, pale orange and yellow|
|1||43-80%||Urban areas, partially cloudy (low sun exposure)||Rose, orange and vermilion|
|2||18-43%||Medium sun exposure||Purple, red, amber, and light brown|
|3||8-18%||Beaches, mountains (light reflected off sand, water, or snow)||Standard grey and brown|
|4||3-8%||Intense sunshine (in high mountains, glaciers, or near the sea)||Dark grey and brown|
*VTL - Visible Light Transmission
Sources: sunglassesforsport.com, verywellhealth.com, EN 1836:2005
Unfortunately, not all manufacturers classify their lenses based on these categories.
However, the general rule of thumb is to use category 0 lenses for cloudy days and category 1 during partially cloudy days.
In the summer, reach for category 2 or 3 lenses, and if you ride in high mountains, use category 4 lenses.
There are many types of lenses you can choose from. These include:
- Clear lenses
- Contrast-enhancing lenses
- Photochromic lenses
- Polarized lenses
- Prescription lenses
- Lenses for colorblind people
So, which one should you choose?
In summary, the best type of lenses for most cyclists is contrast-enhancing lenses. They allow us to see potholes and other road objects from a larger distance, giving us more time to react.
Let me now explain every lens type and for what scenarios are suitable.
Clear lenses (with UV400 filter) don’t change the color of your view. They only provide the protection of your eyes against UV rays, wind, and other elements.
They are ideal for dark environments. For example, if you are a mountain biker who enjoys riding trails and singletracks in the forest or a commuter who returns from work in the evening.
Contrast-enhancing lenses (like Oakley’s PRIZM, SunGod’s 8KO, etc.) are the best for cyclists. Not only that they make the view more vibrant and colorful, but they also allow us to spot road dangers from a larger distance.
In descent, a pothole can be pretty dangerous. Contrast-enhancing sunglasses can provide you with more time to react and ride more safely.
Photochromic lenses are eyeglass lenses that are clear (or nearly clear) indoors and darken when exposed to sunlight, explains Gary Heiting, OR, in his blog post.
This type of lens is too widespread among cyclists because the tint transition takes some time. This means the sunglasses may not darken (or lighten) quickly enough for a given situation.
On the other hand, photochromic lenses are suitable for unpredictable weather. For example, if you begin your ride in sunshine and return when it’s cloudy.
Polarized lenses are primarily used to reduce the sun’s glare. They always come in the form of sunglasses, never eyeglasses, and don’t transition back and forth. (Source)
Polarized cycling sunglasses are suitable for high mountains or near the oceans because they reduce sun glare (from water or snow, respectively).
I don’t recommend polarized sunglasses when it’s cloudy, for riding in a forest, etc.
What is the difference between photochromic and polarized lenses?
Photochromic lenses change their color based on sunlight. Polarized lenses are tinted dark permanently.
Learn more about the differences between polarized and photochromic cycling sunglasses.
If you suffer from nearsightedness, farsightedness, or other visual impairment, you may need prescription lenses for your cycling sunglasses.
Consult this with your optometrist. Some specialized retailers can make custom lenses for selected cycling sunglasses.
One thing to remember, though, is that the price of the prescription lenses is usually not included in the sunglasses’ price.
The prescription lenses can even double the final price of the sunglasses. So, make sure to check out with your insurance provider if you can get a reimbursement.
PRO TIP: Don’t wear your cycling sunglasses with your prescription glasses. If you crash, you risk hurting your eyes with glass shards.
Lenses for Colorblind People
According to All About Vision, there are multiple types of color blindness:
- Red-green color blindness
- Blue-yellow color blindness
- Complete color blindness
Manufacturers like EnChroma specialize in developing lenses for colorblind people. Unfortunately, I didn’t find any specialized cycling sunglasses during my research.
Dimensions & Fit
The following picture illustrates the most important dimensions you will encounter when buying sunglasses.
I won’t tell you the exact dimensions you should choose because everybody has different face widths, shapes, and personal preferences.
However, your new cycling sunglasses should fit you well to provide you with sufficient, especially wind protection. This means they should be curved to protect your eyes from the sides.
Also, don’t forget that too long temples can interfere with your bike helmet adjustment dial mechanism.
So, if you can, try the sunglasses in person the ensure the best fit possible.
Some manufacturers have cool tools that allow you to try the sunglasses virtually, here is how it looks:
Most of today’s cycling sunglasses come with adjustable or replaceable nose pieces. They allow you to adjust how well the sunglasses sit on your nose and how close they are to your eyes.
Adjustable arm pieces are helpful too. Again, you can adjust them for better comfort and fit.
Straight temples are better for putting in a cycling helmet but may not hold so well. Curved temples hold well behind your ears but may not fit your helmet air vents.
Other Features to Consider
Customizability – some manufacturers offer sunglasses adjustability. You can choose lenses type or color, the color of the frame, nose pads, and other details.
Anti-fogging – every sunglasses fog in certain conditions (especially in a humid environment). However, I recommend looking for sunglasses that demist themselves quickly (within a few seconds). Look for lenses with anti-fogging treatment.
Anti-scratch – some lenses of cycling sunglasses feature an anti-scratch layer to improve their scratch resistance and durability. Nevertheless, I recommend paying attention to the sunglasses and treating them well.
Hydrophobic rubber – arm pieces and nose pads should be hydrophobic and made of non-odor rubber for better grip and durability.
Cycling Sunglasses FAQ
Here is the summary of the most important features to look for when choosing cycling sunglasses:
- The sunglasses should have a UV400 filter to protect you against UV-A and UV-B radiation.
- Choose the lens light transmission category based on the location you ride in the most often.
- Choose the lens type based on your personal preference or eventual vision defects. I recommend contrast-enhancing lenses for most cyclists.
- If you can, try the sunglasses in-person to ensure a good fit. Otherwise, take advantage of “TRY ON” features, sunglasses’ dimensions, or pictures of other customers.
- Buy sunglasses with adjustable nose pads and arm pieces for better comfort and fit.
To learn more about how to choose cycling sunglasses, read the entire guide. If you find it helpful, please, consider sharing it with your friends or leave a comment below.