I try to wear glasses all the time. As a short-sighted person I am used to such face furniture*. The best mountain bike glasses are few and far between in my experience.
*I wear contact lenses for cycling, with some eyewear over-the-top, as it were. The following glasses are all plain non-prescription glasses. We shall be doing a prescription riding glasses guide at some point later this year though.
Here’s a short list of the ones that do the job well, along with some pointers about what to look(!) out for when shopping for MTB specs…
What to look out for when buying mountain bike glasses
This is the part where I’m supposed to say something along the lines that “optical clarity and UV protection are of utmost importance” yadda yadda yadda. Let’s just park that aspect for the moment.
Although personally I am totally sold on premium quality lenswear (once you’ve got used to it, it’s hard to go back), I’m of the opinion that MTB glasses should be treated more like mudguards than sun shields. This is because I live in the UK. North West England to be precise. Sunshine is rarely on my list of troubles.
I want glasses that keep the undesirable from hitting my eyeballs. Undesirables such as wind, rain, mud, branches, grit, pebbles and so on.
The best mountain bike glasses are comfortable. So comfortable that not only do you forget that you’re wearing them, but you end preferring living life with specs on.
With good eyewear you squint less. Whether it’s at the sunshine, the wind or the tyre spray, it doesn’t matter. It’s all squinting. And it all sucks. When you squint less, you relax more. When you relax more, you ride better and you get less tension-fatigue. During the rides when I forget to wear glasses I’m always struck how tense and squinty the whole experience is.
In terms of what to look out for, our main feature would simply be… bigness. The bigger the lens, the better. Personally speaking, I’m a fan of half-frame designs (no frame material on the lower half of the lenses). Half-frames are slightly less distracting, especially for non-everyday spectacle wearers, and they do also have the benefit of not quite steaming up as readily as fully framed glasses.
Now then. Steaming up. The reality is that some people are just prone to steamy eyewear more than others. Some riders will steam up even the airiest eyewear. My advice regarding battling the fog is to go for glasses that have ‘tall’ nosepieces that hold the glasses away from the face as far as possible. Airflow is key. The nosepiece should also be sufficiently grippy as to allow you to ride along with the glasses pulled forward to the tip of your nose (while they de-steam) with no fear of them falling off.
In terms of frame material, glasses made of modern flexy plastics (such as Grilamid and its ilk) are a very good idea. Not just because they don’t break in crashes (although that is helpful), but more because supple bendy frames are just loads comfier to wear. Particularly when it comes to side-of-head pressure points.
What type of lens is best for mountain biking?
Some people will swear by photochromic lenses (that lighten and darken ‘automatically’ depending on the light conditions. Personally, I’m not a fan. Your eyeballs do a better – and quicker – job. Photochromics can also be ‘fooled’ into not changing depending how the light is hitting them (or not).
For general riding, some sort of ‘warm’ or tobacco tinge works well. Pinky, orangey, browny… that sort of autumnal vibe. Increased contrast, usefully reduced glare, work okay in trees.
Untinted (AKA grey) lenses don’t work very well in our experience. And we’ve never really had much luck with yellow lenses and their so-called light-enhancing properties. We just prefer simple clear lenses for dim conditions.
If you’re doing a lot of woodland ducking and diving, we really like blue as a lens tint. There’s something about it that really helps lessen the jarring move from bright open patches into dense tree cover, or vice versa.
Best Mountain Bike Glasses
- Price: from £79.99
Believe it or not, these S3 glasses from 100% are some of the more subtle offerings in their range. That said, they’re still very much CYCLING GLASSES in capital letters. And we like them for that. Go bold or go home and all that. Seriously though, big glasses work better than small glasses. And once you’re wearing them with a helmet, they don’t look as OTT. Interchangeable lenses tech. High-impact and scratch-resistant. 100% (ha!) UV protection (UV400) and with Hydroilo treatment to repel water and greasy things (finger oils from your fingers). Vented lens reduce fogging. Shatterproof Grilamid TR90 frame. Ultra-grip rubber nose pads and tips. Available in myriad lens tints.
Oakley Sutro Lite Prizm Trail Torch
- Price: £152.00
Half-frame version of the popular Sutro. Big ol’ field of view. Shown in the video with Oakley’s Prizm lenses that are designed to enhance color and contrast. Now then. Oakley are simultaneously all that’s great and all that’s off-puttingly eye-rolling about premium eyewear. With registered® trademarks™ all over the place and some of the highest of folluting marketing spiel out there, they often don’t do themselves any favours. That said, ‘Unobtanium’ is one of the greatest marketing names of all time, respect is due for that. Anyway. Like most Oakleys, these Sutro Lites are incredibly lovely to wear. You forget you’ve got them on. They’re sharp, clear, even and just… really annoyingly great if you want to pick holes in them because of their attendant flowery PR guff!
Madison Crypto Glasses 3-Pack
- Price: £59.99
The Madison Crypto tick pretty much every box. They offer great coverage, come with a variety of usable lenses, and cost less than half (more like a third of some) of a lot of competition. We really can’t find anything to complain about, and if you’re looking for some new riding glasses that will have you covered for all seasons and light conditions, then you should give the Crypto a go.
Smith Optics Bobcat
- Price: £184.99
Not only do the Smith Bobcat glasses look great, they are by far one of the comfiest sets of glasses we’ve used. The fit is properly comfortable and they’ve worked well with a good range of helmets and retention systems. The lens is also a quality piece of kit, and while we may have found this one a little dark at times, there are others in the range to pick and choose from to suit your riding style and terrain. If you’re looking for a set of all-day-wearable sunglasses then the Bobcats are well worth a look, but they do come at a bit of price.
Julbo Rush Photochromic
- Price: £165.00
One of the very few Photochromic glasses that we’ve got along with. The Julbo Rush’s just work, and work well. The frames are really comfortable and offer plenty of adjustment for different heads and helmets. The lenses are great with quick transitions and no fogging and they’re proving to be pretty durable. Recommended.
- Price: £19.99
And now for something completely different. You can think of these are either swimming goggles on steroids, or motocross goggles on… whatever the opposite of steroids is (diet pills?) Anyway, these Spoggles were initially ‘discovered for MTB’ by the bods over at MBR Magazine a few years ago and it turns out Spoggles have a lot of fans out there. From a purely function and value combo point of view, they’re unbeatable.
What do you rate?
As ever, your opinion and experience is worth hearing. What glasses have you liked? Leave a comment below.
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