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Cycling Glasses Guide

Why buy a pair of cycling glasses?

Cycling glasses aren't just a fashion accessory to make you look cool, although they do come in super stylish designs. They're specifically designed to protect your eyes from harsh sunlight as well as from flying debris – stones, grit and the occasional bug.

Wearing a pair of cycling glasses can enhance your enjoyment on every ride with lighter frames than casual sunnies, shatterproof lenses and venting to stop them from steaming up. These specific glasses often have wrap-around designs for improved peripheral visibility.

In this cycling glasses guide we'll cover frames, lenses and key features to look for in a good pair.

clear cycling glasses for mountain biking

How to choose a pair of cycling glasses

Most cycling glasses are built out of polycarbonate plastic as this can be easily molded for wrap-around sporty coverage. Compared to metal frames, plastic is much safer if you're unfortunate enough to crash.

You'll often find thinner, more streamlined frames that are made from light materials on performance cycling glasses.

You can distinguish between standard glasses and cycling glasses by their frame design. Cycling glasses will sit closer to the face with curved lenses and arms. Standard glasses have a flatter profile and are a good option for recreational use.

Lenses

Single & double lenses

You can choose to buy a single lens or dual lens pair of glasses. A single lens will offer more coverage and improved peripheral vision, but you're often limited to one lens tint. Dual lens glasses are often available with interchangeable lenses so you can switch out lenses for the conditions you'll be riding.

Interchangeable lenses

Many cycling glasses come with a selection of lenses. The higher the price, usually the more lenses you'll get. Interchangeable lenses are great for those who ride in all weather conditions.

It's a good idea to choose glasses with lens tints for the conditions you're most likely to riding in (especially if you choose a fixed pair of glasses). For the UK that means overcast skies with the occasional bright day. In general, the brighter the light, the darker the lens you want.

Lens tint guide

clear cycling glasses lenses

Clear 

Night riding & overcast skies. Great for protection against debris, not sunlight.

yellow cycling glasses lenses

Yellow 

Overcast and low light conditions. Offers improved clarity when light is dim.

brown cycling glasses lenses

Brown / amber 

Variable conditions. They enhance contrast and improve depth perception.

blue cycling glasses lenses

Blue / purple 

Low light conditions. Look stylish and reduce glare while enhancing colour perception.

grey cycling glasses lenses

Grey 

Low to bright conditions. A good option for daily use without distorting true colour perception. They also reduce glare.

pink cycling glasses lenses

Pink / red 

Variable conditions. Offer improved visual depth and greatest amount of contrast.

Photochromic lenses

Another option to consider are photochromic lenses. These lenses will tint with changes in light intensity. They're a good idea for unpredictable weather when it can be light one minute and dark the next. Mountain bikers benefit from these lenses when swooping between wooded areas and open trails.

With photochromic lenses you don't need to change lenses all the time which can be annoying. However, they don't offer the same range of tint as choosing specific lenses.

See all photochromic glasses

Polarized lenses

Polarized lenses are coated with a special chemical film to reduce glare and reflection so you can see objects ahead with improved clarity. This is especially useful when sun shines on standing water and wet roads. Polarized lenses offer improved UV protection too. 

Polarized lenses work by filtering out horizontal light waves which cause glare while leaving vertical light waves (the useful light we use to see clearly).

See all polarized glasses

Tinted vs polarized lenses

Tinted lenses are very good at reducing brightness and dampening glare. However, polarized lenses will eliminate glare completely without impacting your ability to distinguish shapes and objects ahead of you.

UV protection

Always check cycling glasses for UV protection as the colour of the lens does not accurately represent its ability to block these harmful rays.

Also, be aware that darker lenses without UV protection can cause more eye damage than wearing no sunglasses as your pupil dilates and allows more UV light to enter your eye.

Anti-scratch / shatterproof

A good feature to look for is anti-scratch or shatterproof lenses. Anything from a small stone kicked up by your front wheel to clumsy hands can ruin your lenses, so having this extra protection will reduce expense.

Anti-fog

Anti fog coating or small vents cut into the lens can help to stop your glasses steaming up when you're riding slowly or have stopped at traffic lights.

Which cycling glasses are best for me?

recreational riding sunnies

Recreation / commuting

If you're not cycling at high speed or tackling rugged terrain then you can choose a pair of standard sunglasses with UV protection. There is no need for a sporty design.

See all our standard glasses

sports cycling glasses

Road biking

Fast riding and performance orientated cycling means a close fit with venting are a good choice.

Choose interchangeable lenses that focus on improving contrast.

See all our cycling glasses

off-road cycling glasses

Mountain biking

The slower average speed and upright riding means you can get away with a more casual style.

Variable light conditions from dense shade to bright light means photochromic lenses could be a good option.

See all cycling glasses

Summary

Every time you head out on a ride you should wear cycling glasses. They protect your eyes from UV and glare whilst improving contrast and depth perception. Even when the sun isn't glaring, these glasses will protect against flying debris.

Choose a style that suits you, then look for lenses that will work for the conditions you're going to be riding.

See all our cycling glasses