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Selecting bicycle riding glasses - for Function and Style

Posted on 24 July 2015

Selecting bicycle riding glasses - for Function and Style

A brief buying guide for sunnies.

This section provides a brief guide to help you select the best riding glasses for your needs.  However, in summary if you are riding a reasonable amount in variable conditions or lights we suggest looking at the new generation of photochromatic riding glasses.

Cycling sunglasses and eyewear are both function and fashion. They cover your eyes and protect your sight from insects, stones, the sun's UV, and conversely rain and gritty water from the bike in
front while out riding – they can also look good!

Cycling glasses are designed to have some natural air flow. This to vent heat in summer and to reduce the fog that can arise when you stop. This means they don't sit quite so flush with your face. This is particularly important if starting (for example) from traffic lights in winter – where the airflow is essential to clear the fog that always forms on the inside of glasses after stopping when warm. This clearing usually occurs 100-200m of riding with reasonably well vented glasses.

Look for impact resistant lenses that wrap around for better peripheral vision - most glasses from reliable suppliers are made of some variant of polycarbonate which is naturally very strong. It is good practice to check the UV rating of lenses, although all reputable glasses sold in Australia have high UV protection – certainly all the ones we stock do.

Glasses now come in a range of styles and sizes – large glasses provide wider more protection (though we find standard size does nicely)  and tend to suit larger faces.  Metal tint semi-reflective
lenses also provide some style options at the cost of some slight colour distortion

Multi-Lense Riding Glasses – Versatility if You Actually Use it

Some glasses have interchangeable lenses to adjust to different conditions; others come with photo chromatic lenses. Interchangeable lenses are cost efficient – but in practice we find few people
actually changing these lenses - particularly in the middle of a ride. However for those who ride in reasonably predictable conditions these can be a good option. Standard colours are dark grey (sunglasses), clear (for low light) and yellow (low light contrast enhancing)

Photochromatic Riding Glasses – Maximum Versatility and Our Recommendation

Photochromatic lenses (that change with the light) have evolved considerably in the last few years and are now the most popular form of glasses for good reason.  The one pair of glasses are suitable for changeable conditions, all seasons, and all times of the day. Its that simple - only one pair of glasses to look after. They are now long lasting, respond very rapidly to changing light conditions and have a wide range of responses - from very clear to dark sunglasses. That is from 15% light transmission (Category 3 sunglasses though not quite as dark as dark sunglasses) to 85% (which is not noticeably different from clear lenses).

Single Lens Riding Glasses – Simplicity – Especially for Yellow Tint, Polarized, or Fashion Finishes.

Single lens glasses have their place.. Single lens glasses are useful when riding in steady conditions – when one lens fits the available light need – be it bright summer days or pre-dawn, mid-winter rides. Additionally, the increasing number of attractive multi-coated tinted reflective lenses available add a certain style and  even allow the lens, frame and ear grippers to be colour tailored to your style wishes.

We would be tempted to swap our photochromatic lenses in deep winter for yellow tint glasses which highlight contrasts. While they marginally reduce available light – the perceived light
is increased by the heightening of contrasts – something useful when riding in the dark or low light.

Quite effective single lens glasses are available at very modest cost.

Prescription Cycling Glasses

Increasing numbers of riding glasses are becoming available with optical inserts that can be prescription ground by most optometrists on standard equipment. Most popular with these are, not
surprisingly, photochromatics. This enables riders to use the glasses in all riding conditions – and in the café after their ride.

Children's/Kids Cycling Glasses

There are a range of glasses to suit different faces – from sizes to suit very young children to small adults. Most come with multiple lenses.

Children’s glasses are good for several reasons – protection riding and encouraging  riding – as they look like Dad or Mum. The spare lenses are useful as replacements as children go through riding glasses even faster than adults.  The glasses are also useful off the bike – for example, protective glasses must be worn in our house for all Neuf gun duelling.

Defogging Riding Glasses

Most riding glasses naturally have airflow which helps minimise fogging when actually riding. Some also have temporary or semi-permanent, anti-beading treatments.

Small containers of cleaning fluid containing anti fog elements are readily available. Alternatively,  simply polishing the smallest smear of the plainest soap available (such as Simple Soap) on both inside and outside of the lenses is reasonably effective for a ride or two.  This reduces the surface tension on the glasses and helps prevent the micro beads of water forming that causes the fogging effect. And a single bar of inexpensive soap would last you (and your friends) several lifetimes!

Summary on What to Look For in Cycling Glasses

  • Fit (size)
  • Lens strength/Impact resistance (material, i.e. polycarbonate) - though all reputable brand glasses should address this
  • Lens type to suit your riding needs (single, yellow, photochromatic, polarized)
  • Prescription
  • Inserts
  • UV rating
  • Style and colour
  • Frame material
  • Size to match your face

Our Choice

Our personal choice at time of writing - BBB Winner Photochromatic. We are not alone in this as it is BBB’s top selling cycling glasses. They are fast response, long lasting, and have a wide range (go quite dark in stong sun). They also fit most peoples faces, while having good coverage and air flow. They are also a remarkably good price compared to equivalent specification competitor products.

Cleaning Cycling Glasses

Cycling glasses are typically worked hard and need a lot of cleaning – from sweat, dust, sunscreen, rain spot marks, and dirty road splash. The rule is: The simplest, least abrasive form of cleaning keeps the glasses going longest.  Microfibre cloths (and sunglass bags) are excellent as long as they are clean, or if not available, use a simple tissue. If spots do not remove readily, some breath to put a light mist helps. Sunglass specific cleaning solutions (ideally with anti-fog elements) also work well. Microfibre cloths and bags are readily hand or machine-washed to keep them clean. Optometrists we talk to say the most damage to glasses occurs when using dirty cloths that have trapped grit that then abrade the lenses.

Hope this helps. We would be pleased if you let us know!  Feedback or suggestions are always welcome.

David, Louise, and the Team

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