Goggle Grouptest | We ran 5 pairs of goggles through the winter, and this is the result

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Riding in the winter can be pretty shit. So with the hope of trying to make it less so, we’ve put five pairs of goggles to the test through an English winter. Goggles may be more associated with racing, but for a change from specs, and especially for riding through the winter, goggles offer a different level of comfort and protection to glasses.

Similar to riding glasses, the aim of the goggle game is to assist in vision on the trails – that goes without saying. So what variety of attributes add up to that goal?

Goggle Grouptest singletrack magazine
They’ve seen mud, rain, hail and now sunshine. But how did they get on?

For each pair of goggles, we’ve judged them on the below criteria:

  • Visibility
  • Ventilation
  • Comfort, Fit and Compatibility
  • Durability

To cover all basis that we may encounter on the trail, we’ve put each pair of goggles through the same testing routine. From slamming it down our local tracks, to pedaling up road climbs, pushing back up trails and eating sarnies in the cafe. Each pair of goggles will need to work well in all scenarios.

With the rise of enduro as a discipline, we’ve seen goggles preferred to glasses in a race scenario. This has then crossed over into normal trail riding, outside of racing regulations. So what makes a good pair of goggles? First up and probably the most important, it’s the lens. Now there are many different types of lenses, lens coatings and finishes, each designed to work best in a specific conditions, so similarly to bikes, there isn’t really an easy answer as to what’s best. It comes down to what you’re riding.

Goggle Grouptest
With plenty of options to choose from, where should you be looking for?

Let’s Chat About Goggle Lens Tint & anti-fog lenses

Photocromic (light reactive) lenses are hugely popular, but the heap of different lens tints and finishes can be a bit mind bending. Basically, it’s down to the specific lens’ degree of VLT or Visible Light Transmission. A lens which has 90% VLT will be clear, for low light conditions. A lens with around 20% VLT will be darker, and will be better suited for use on brighter days with sunny conditions. Work from those extremes, and the in-between percentages should be self explanatory.

Different coloured lenses aim to be better in certain conditions. A yellow lens for example will brighten up low-light conditions, by exaggerating shadows and offering better contrast of trail features. In bright conditions, darker tints, such as grey or green, show more trail detail along with giving more comfort for the eyes. The ‘dope’ mirror coating we see on many goggles is designed to reflect sunlight, therefore stopping it penetrating the lens and burning your retinas. 

Other features you may encounter when buying goggles are lens finishes such as anti-glare and anti-fog lenses. Relatively self explanatory enough, anti-glare uses a polarisation treatment to reduce intense light reflection off wet roads or snow, or dappling sunlight through trees. Anti-fog lenses are designed to combat moisture build-up on the inside of the lens from perspiration. The lens treatment, along with ventilation, work together to reduce the chance of fogging. Most goggles will also provide UVA protection, but as the price goes up, you’ll see more protection from UVA, UVB and UVC rays included. Spend money, save your eyes.

Goggle Grouptest
With lens tint, frame shape and compatibility to think of, which performed the best?

Fit, Comfort and Compatibility

When it comes to fit, your goggles must be super snug on the face. This is to make sure there’s minimal rub and irritation, and ensure your vision is as good as possible when riding. If they’re moving around while you’re riding, they’re too big. It’s always worth measuring your head and seeing where you sit in the manufacture’s size guide. Another note to make, is what helmet you’ll be wearing with the goggles. A lot of modern enduro style helmets are designed to be compatible with goggles, but older models and more XC orientated shapes may not play well. If you’re riding downhill or wild bike parks, a full-face will be required, and again you’ll want to make sure the fit of the goggles is going to be right.

On the subject of fit and comfort, manufacturers will offer differing foam layering designs – aimed at making the goggles as comfortable as possible. Some will use single or double layer foams, to keep the profile low, whereas some of the MX inspired goggles use a triple-layer system which makes the goggles look a lot larger. The larger goggles tend to be aimed more at working with full-faces than open face helmets, so bear that in mind.

Goggle Grouptest
There’s plenty to choose from, in terms of colours, shapes, fit and technology.

Other Spec Options

With some goggles, there will also be options that have compatibility with tear off systems. These are disposable plastic covers that use adhesive, or that hook on to nubbins on the lens to fit over the outside of the lens. After a race or run, these can be easily ‘torn off’ to leave the lens clean and scratch free. Detachable nose guards are also a common feature. These will be seen on the more aggressive MX style goggles, and are basically a small piece of plastic that will clip on and off to protect the bridge of the nose.

On Test

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Review Info

From:See Review
Price:See Review
Tested:by Rob Mitchell for Three Months

Comments (1)

    “A lens which has 90% VLT will be super dark”

    Surely 90% VLT is a clear lens? 8% would be super dark

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