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?
For each pair of goggles, we’ve judged them on the below criteria:
- Comfort, Fit and Compatibility
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.
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.
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.
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.
For the test we wanted to cover a few different bases with the five pairs of goggles, and this is what we’ve got:
- 100% Racecraft MX
- Dragon Alliance MXV Max
- Julbo Bang NXT
- POC Ora
- Scott Prospect
Each of these goggles offer something slightly different in terms of their shape, fit and feature list. For instance, the Julbos are a very compact goggle, with a super high quality lens. On the other end of the spectrum, the 100% Racecraft MX use a large and bulky frame, aimed at the motocross market. One isn’t necessarily better than the other, but both offer different features which may suit certain riders better. We also have a range of lenses within the test, to find out what performs best, where.
Let’s take a look at the goggles we’ve been running over the last three months.
100% Racecraft MX Goggles
- Price: £79.99
- From: Silverfish, silverfish-uk.com
100% offer the Racecraft MX in a mind blowing 20 different colourways, to suit all riders. With a large frame designed for MX pounding, and a mirror coated lens – these goggles shout out at the enduro market. With a detachable noseguard and compatibility with tear offs, these goggles are built for racing.
Ups: From an aesthetic point of view, these goggles do look class. They’re well built and the amount of tech features is really impressive.
Downs: On the trails, the frame (especially in this colour) does interfere with your vision quite a lot, and the actual field of vision isn’t amazing.
Overall: A well built goggle, and for racing, these goggles would be a great option. I’d just buy a pair in a slightly less loud colour to avoid any interference in sunny conditions. Read the full review here.
Dragon Alliance MXV Max Goggles
- Price: £70.00
- From: Madison, madison.co.uk
Dragon Alliance has a wide range of products in its line-up, including plenty of goggles to choose from. The MXV name is attached to a few models, butt the MAX iteration we have here is an all new model. This model uses a Podium black frame with a Lumalens Red Ionized lens, plus a spare clear lens in the box.
Ups: The wide field of view is impressive, for quite a bulky frame construction, and the lens has performed really well especially on sunnier days.
Downs: Fogging comes into play when stationary, but once on the move they clear pretty quickly.
Overall: As an every-day goggle, these are quite big, but for short blasts out and laps at the bike park, they’re a great option. Read the full review here.
Julbo Bang NXT Zebra Light Goggles
- Price: £120.00
- From: Lyon Outdoor, lyon.co.uk
Julbo is well known for making top quality sunglasses, and it has pushed its photochromic lens technology into its goggles. With the Zebra Light lens which adapts to changing light conditions and a high-tech and compact frame, these goggles on paper sound up to the task of a UK winter.
Ups: The PhotoChromic lens on these goggles works superbly. Through trees and into open sections, the lens responds so quickly to make your vision as clear as possible.
Downs: The only down I have about these goggles, is the price. For an every-day riding pair of goggles, I think they’re a bit too pricey.
Overall: A top quality piece of kit, with a super comfortable fit and a lens to keep your eyes on the prize. But I’d be worried about damaging them at this price. Read the full review here.
POC Ora Goggles
- Price: £60.00
- From: 2Pure, 2pure.co.uk
Swedish company POC is known for making plenty of stylish and aesthetically pleasing products. Its goggles are no different. The Oras from POC use a grey tinted lens with a fluid frame construction and neat, minimal branding. With only the clear lens and no additional in the box, how would these goggles compare to others on test?
Ups: The Ora’s grey lens works super well in all 99% of light conditions, and the frame is compatible with a range of helmets.
Downs: On longer rides, the foam can get a bit uncomfortable on your cheeks.
Overall: With minimal fogging through the test period and a lens that gives you plenty of confidence on the trails, the Oras have really impressed me. Read the full review here.
Scott Prospect Goggles
- Price: £80.00
- From: Scott, scott-sports.com
Not only the makers of bikes, Scott offers 10 colour options for its Prospect Goggle. With what Scott likes to claim the largest lens on the market, the Prospect should offer great field of vision on the trails. Compatible with tear offs, and with a removable nose guard the Prospects are ready to race.
Ups: The large lens gives you a wide range of vision, and the amount of technology in the lens is impressive.
Downs: Interference from the lens in this colour is a bit annoying, and on longer rides I’ve experienced quite a lot of fogging which takes a while to clear.
Overall: The blue tint and mirror coating on the lens makes riding in sunshine incredible. Yet the large frame and interference from that does drop these goggles back a touch. Read the full review here.
My plan was to put five pairs of goggles head to head to see what works and what doesn’t. Each of these goggles have certain attributes that will appeal to different riders. The lens on the Scotts is massive, and its blue tint works well on open trails. The Julbo’s frame is compact and comfortable and its lens adapts to light conditions so well. The 100%s are shouty and loud to look at, but on the trail feel solid and well built. The Dragons look as if they should feel big and bulky, but when in place, they’re comfortable and offer great vision. After testing though, my pick would be the POC Oras. They may be the cheapest on test, but in terms of performance they’ve been my go-to over the winter months.
If you’ve had any experience with the goggles we’ve tested, let us know in the comments and if not, maybe these reviews will inspire you to try a pair of goggles for the first time.
|Tested:||by Rob Mitchell for Three Months|