It takes more than a set of wheels, a frame, and a saddle to be a cyclist. There are riding clothes to consider, knee pads and helmets, and, most importantly, sunglasses.
Contrary to popular misconception, cycling glasses aren’t for show; well, to some extent, cyclists do look extremely good in them, but they serve another vital function: protecting the eyes.
Unlike car drivers protected by a windshield or motorbike riders with helmets, cyclists don’t have these luxuries and are exposed to the elements.
Speeding down a road can be a little uncomfortable with the wind, and the sun assaulting your eyes; you could get into a nasty accident. Fortunately, high-performance cycling sunglasses exist.
This is a deep look into the type of cycling glasses that exist, the lens types, the features that set them apart from normal glasses, and the best available brands on the market.
- At A Glance: Our Top Picks for Best Cycling Sunglasses
- Top 7 Best Cycling Sunglasses 2020 – Our Reviews:
- What to Look for When Buying Cycling Sunglasses?
- The Bottom Line
At A Glance: Our Top Picks for Best Cycling Sunglasses
If you’re in a hurry, you can jump straight into our top picks (these are the cycling glasses that most people buy).
- Oakley Radar EV Top Pick
- POC DO Blade Runner-up
- Oakley Flight Jacket Prizm Road Runner-up
Top 7 Best Cycling Sunglasses 2020 – Our Reviews:
1. Oakley Radar EV
The Oakley brand of cycling sunglasses has established itself as the best in the game, with thousands of professional cyclists preferring to use them over others. The Oakley Radar EV is one of the best sunglasses in their catalog.
It incorporates some sleek design that borrows heavily from another famous Oakley sunglass, the Flight Jackets. It has an adjustable nose piece that uses a new technology called Advancer that pushes the frame away from the face to cut down on lens fogging.
- Has an amazing look
- Fits securely around the temple without being uncomfortable
- Has an impressive array of lenses
- Accords the rider brilliant vision
- The price is too high
- The hydrophobic coating is limited to the outer surface
- The arms are a bit too long, and this can disrupt helmet placement and retention on the head
2. POC DO Blade
POC DO Blade can be aptly described as high-end cycling sunglasses. They cost a cool $230, which is before you even start adding some extras on top, but it’s worth every dime.
The glasses allow for lens interchangeability, and it has one of the most amazing visions of any cycling sunglasses you will come across. The lenses, which have to be bought separately, are made by Carl Zeiss, a brand known for its crisp products.
These sunglasses have a wide field of vision that isn’t hindered in the least by the frame.
- Not heavy; you can barely feel them when in action
- Comes with Carl Zeiss lenses that have a sharp and clear vision
- Has a wide field of view
- 100% UV protection
- Not ideal for people with narrow faces
- They lack grippers which makes them move about as you ride
3. Oakley Flight Jacket Prizm Road
From its long line of impressive sunglasses, the best cycling sunglasses maker launched the Oakley Flight Jacket with Prizm Road lenses in April 2018.
It doesn’t differ greatly from its predecessors as it features things like an adjustable nose piece that helps the cyclist shift the frames closer or further away from their faces. This enhances airflow.
The Prism Road cycling lenses have good visuals that work best in low light conditions—the perfect glasses to have with you for that ride in the evening or early morning.
The Oakley Flight Jacket fits well on the face, and they come with arms you can adjust to fit with a helmet.
- Has one of the best anti-fog ventilation setup
- Fits comfortably on the face and doesn’t move about
- The lenses have a crisp and clear field of vision
- The pair of cycling glasses are equipped with UV protection
- Although they fit the temple well, when faced with rough terrain and high speeds, they slide down the face
- The extravagant array of colors used on them can be a little distracting at times
4. Rapha Pro Team Full Frame Glasses
The cycling sunglasses space is full of fierce competition, and every brand is always trying to come through with good product deals to keep its competitors off.
Once in a while though, a new brand pops up and gives the established big names a run for their money; The Rapha Pro Team Full Frame sunglasses is the ultimate giant killer.
This is a pair of cycling sunglasses that prioritizes eye protection over everything else. They have a bigger lens that shields the eyes from the sun, water droplets, wind, and foreign objects.
The lens technology in this Rapha Pro Team Full Frame Glasses is known as the Rider Optimised Surface Enhancement (ROSE), which enhances the contrast between dark and light to give you a clear view of the road in places where light keeps alternating with shadows.
- Wide and with great eye coverage
- A high-performance lens with good contrast
- Fits well around the head
- Decent ventilation
- There’s a slight peripheral intrusion from the frame and vents
5. Rudy Project Cutline
The Rudy Project Cutline is designed with style in mind. The sunglasses have almost clear lenses and were made for the sole purpose of challenging Oakley’s dominance in the cycling sunglasses market.
The Rudy Project Cutline is the latest pair of cycling glasses, having been unveiled this year in Munich. The huge wraparound lens covers all the sides well, preventing water droplets and the wind from sneaking in.
Switching the lenses is pretty straightforward, involving the simple pressing of side buttons and sliding frames off and on.
- The optics are clear
- Lenses can be switched easily
- There are 8 different shades of lenses for those who love color
- Has UV protection
- A bit on the higher-end in terms of pricing
- The pair of glasses comes with one lens; you’ll have to buy replacement lenses needed
6. Oakley Jawbreaker
The Oakley Jawbreaker is one reason why Oakley has had a stronghold on the sunglasses sector for a long time. It’s one of the best cycling sunglasses that’s a design and functional marvel loved by pro-cyclists all over the world.
This pair of cycling sunglasses have been worn by big stars like Mark Cavendish, proof of how much of a pull the sunglasses have. They have the best peripheral vision in the market; you don’t have to move your head to steal a sideways glance.
- A distortion-free photochromic lens that has a stunning finish
- The adjustable nose piece has a rubber piece that locks the glass lens in place even on a bumpy ride
- The lens is wide and tall and protects the eye from rain and wind
- Although the peripheral vision is great, the logo emblem located at the edges is a huge distraction
- Only the outer surface of the lens has received hydrophilic treatment
7. 100% S3
100% range of cycling sunglasses have one athlete to thank for their gradual rise in the cycling world, one Peter Sagan. A three-time World Champion, Sagan partnered with 100% to create a line of sunglasses, and the S3 was the result.
The 100% S3 is a pair of cycling glasses that is an improvement of the S2 and Speedcraft models; it packs a better peripheral field of view and comfortably fits the temple. It was designed with a one-size-fits-all approach, making it the ideal sunglasses for a beginner unsure of what to go with.
- The price range is well within the affordable range
- The lenses pack amazing clarity
- The field of view is wide
- Multiple clear lens options for enhanced winter visibility
- With UV protection
- The lens is susceptible to smudging
- Too small for a person with a wide face
- Being small, the nose piece protrudes into the line of sight
What to Look for When Buying Cycling Sunglasses?
When things as delicate as eyes are involved, you’ve got to exercise caution to avoid damaging them. When selecting cycling sunglasses, the following factors should be top of your consideration list.
This is the degree to which the sunglasses allow light. There are about five categories under this designed to operate under specific conditions.
- Category 0: These are glasses with 20% absorption. They’re the clear lenses that are best used indoors, where light conditions aren’t harsh.
- Category 1: These ones have a maximum of 37% absorption, and they’re best used for days with sparse cloud and mild light conditions.
- Category 2: With a maximum absorption degree of 82%, these are sunglasses you would use for sunny outdoor riding conditions.
- Category 3: With an absorption rate of 92%, these are cycling glasses and are used for snow and water-based sports conditions.
- Category 4: These are the darkest cycling glasses with an absorption rate of 97%. They’re used for areas with intense solar radiation and their main role is to block UV rays.
Lens Shape and Type
Cycling sunglasses come with different lenses, each type designed for a specific condition. The types include the following.
- Polarized Lenses: a polarized lens is a type that uses chemical film as a filter against intense light that is cast on the cyclist from shiny surfaces. This lens reduces the discomfort and partial blindness that is caused by the sun’s glare.
- Photochromic Lenses: a photochromic lens changes color automatically in response to the changes in brightness outside. This change of the lens colour gives these types of lenses a very artsy and fashionable look.
- Polycarbonate Lenses: This is a type of lens that goes further than keeping out unwanted light. It’s a hydrophobic lens, so it can prevent water from sticking to the surface, making it ideal for a rainy day.
- Interchangeable Lenses: These are an assortment of lenses that can be used in the same sunglasses interchangeably. All you need to do is switch out the lens, depending on the weather conditions. Interchangeable lenses are usually sold separately.
Size of Glasses
Bigger glasses are what you go for if you want to shield your eyes as they can block light that comes in from the side. They’re the most ideal for cyclists who handle long rides or those who are into competitive races.
The sunglasses have to stay in place even when the rider flies into a bump at high speed. The glass frames have to fit snugly on your face, especially where they make contact with the nose bridge, without being uncomfortable.
The last thing you want is to try sprinting only for the lens to fall off when you lift yourself over the saddle.
The shape of the frame can either make or break a pair of sunglasses.
If they’re too small, they may not be able to do much for cyclists. Have them too big, and they will protrude into your peripheral vision, causing distractions.
There has to be some balance to the size of the adjustable nose piece, nose pads, and nose bridge. It has to be small enough to hold tight onto the temple and big enough to cover the eyes all the way to the sides.
Before buying any sunglasses, try wearing them to feel them out first. Focus on the lens nose pad, especially as it has to be comfortable enough to stay on your face for hours.
The brand does matter, and 9 times out of 10, the bigger the brand, the better the frames and the clearer the lens.
Cycling sunglasses like the Oakley Sutro from Oakley would be of higher quality compared to glasses from smaller brands. However, bigger brands cost a lot more, and at times, the quality gap between them and budget sunglasses is never that wide.
It’s also easier to get budget glasses for cheap discount deals; you have to know how to find them online.
For people used to wearing contact lenses or normal lens sunglasses, switching them for cycling sunglasses comes with their own family problems. For starters, unless the lenses fitted on the sunglasses are prescription lenses, you won’t be able to use them.
Before committing to buying a pair of sunglasses, inquire first about their compatibility with prescription glasses. It will cost you a lot more, though, since most cycling sunglasses never put glass wearers into consideration.
The Bottom Line
Fun as it may be, cycling isn’t without its own share of hazards. This is the reason why most of the items and accessories associated with cycling have a lot to do with protection, from the helmets, knee guards, to sunglasses.
As a cyclist, being ready for anything is a good thing. You’ve got to protect your eyes from possible harm at all times.
There are countless other brands with decent cycling sunglasses. The ones outlined in this round-up are just the tip of the iceberg, but they’ll serve you well as a starting point.