Splitting the wind on an adrenaline-rushing descent can be eye-watering without quality cycling glasses. Take a look at some of the best cycling eyewear with our in-depth buying guide.
Once you start spending a lot of time cycling at speed, you start to realise the importance of performance eyewear. For many, the rush of wind against the eye sets off the waterworks, and you can be left in a teary mess at the roadside, with passersby confused at your sudden bout of melancholy.
Meanwhile, debris, rain, mud, and absent-minded insects can easily find their way into the eyeball, with the high-speeds of road and downhill trail riding giving the eye little time to initiate its first line of defence against airborne threats - the blink.
Even clear days pose a threat, with exposure to strong or even moderate sunlight proving potentially damaging to the hard-working retinas of cyclists everywhere.
There is, however, a solution to each of these threats to the rider's optics - performance eyewear, a vital part of your road and mountain biking equipment.
Why do I need performance eyewear?
Of course, a decent set of sunglasses is going to mitigate most corneal risks but you shouldn't be too myopic about the advantages of specially designed cycling eyewear.
Firstly, bike-specific glasses are designed to wrap around the head and fully cover the eyes, meaning you get full protection, even from projectiles coming from obtuse angles. Along with providing a wide field of view, this wrap-around design also does a better job of keeping the lenses in place than non-bike specific glasses, especially over bumps or if you take a quick look down at your cycling computer.
Secondly, the lenses are often equipped with special materials and features to handle the demands of two-wheeled action, while the frames themselves are super-light and aerodynamically designed.
Finally, and not necessarily least importantly, they also look great, especially in the context of a complete cycling kit.
Here's a look at some of the features offered by performance eyewear:
A special anti-fogging coating is applied to the lens to prevent them from fogging up, especially in cold weather. Others come with specially designed vents that allow any fog build-up to clear quickly.
UV protection is important for long days in the saddle, especially as it can be difficult to tell the damage the sun is doing to your eyes during exposure.
Photochromic lenses automatically change their tint depending on the level of light exposure. While the technology comes at a price, it's very advantageous for those going out into changeable conditions.
Performance eyewear often comes with additional lenses so you can swap between the shades that best fit the needs of the ride, such as extra low-light lenses to improve visibility in the late evening.
A hydroleophobic exterior surface coating is a special chemical compound that repels dirt and stops grime build up on the lens.
Another way to tackle a filthy lens is to use tear-offs. Especially useful when racing or riding at the back of a group in the rain or on the muddy trail, tear offs allow you to pull away a sheet of transparent plastic, giving you a perfectly clear view within a split second. Although they're more suited to goggles, there are some tear-offs available for road cycling eyewear.
Grippers and nose piece
To ensure you have the perfect fit, many professional-standard glasses come with an adjustable nose piece, while silicone grippers along the legs ensure the glasses stay in place during even the most raucous rides.
Which performance eyewear should I choose?
Cycling eyewear comes in all manner of shapes and styles, allowing you to truly express yourself should you feel the need. Whether you want something utilitarian or flamboyant, there's a variety of styles to suit your needs.
Whilst most styles of sunglasses can be used for either road or off-road riding, you should still consider the type of riding you'll be doing. Time trialists and triathletes might prefer to go for rim-less frames so that, from the aggressive aero position, there's nothing in your line of vision. Winter commuters and those who enjoy night riding might prefer a clear lens or a style that comes with interchangeable lenses to cover all conditions.
From dhb's brand new and improved sunglasses collection comes this bold style that is great for both road and MTB. Oversized lenses mean a wide field of vision whilst vents prevent fogging.
The POC DO Blade has a Carl Zeiss Vision PC lens tint that is optimised for road cycling on bright days. The frame's injected grilamid construction is lightweight and durable whilst rubberised detailings endure they stay secure even at speed.
The Prizm Road lens is optimised specifically for road riding. Suitable for changing light conditions, these oversized shades sharpen up contrast to help you to pick out imperfections in the road surface.
One pair of shades to cover a range of conditions. The Phantom lenses lighten and darken to provide optimum protection and are also anti-fog, anti-scratch and oleophobic.
The polished black Jawbreaker comes supplied with Prizm Lowlight lenses for 75% light transmission while blocking out 100% of harmful UV light radiation. Prizm is engineered to boost colour, contrast and clarity which allows you to see every detail in your surroundings.
MTB glasses and googles
Good coverage is essential to protect your eyes from trail dirt and mud. Also, you might want to consider helmet compatibility, particularly for downhill or enduro.
100% use a 9-pin retention system to hold the lens in place which is the most used by any eyewear brand so you can be sure it will stay in place. An anti-fog treatment and Air Intakes ventilation system means you won't get too steamy on hot rides.
The pre-curved, injection-moulded polycarbonate lens offers distortion-free optical clarity and is durable enough to survive even high-impact collisions.
The optically-precise and durable WideVision (170°) Mirror Anti-Fog lens is literally bullet-proof - it's been tested to meet Military Ballistic Impact Standards. Compatible with tear-offs for when things get dirty.
The trail-specific lens increases contrast off-road and is perfect for providing clarity in medium lighting conditions. Strategically placed vents allow you to keep your cool no matter how technical the trail gets.
Combining great value with a fitted with a best-in-class vision port. Change up the lens easily with Fox Racing’s specialised, Variable Lens System or use tear-offs for muddy conditions.