Buyers Guide to the Best Mountain Bike Glasses

by 24

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…

Here’s looking through you, kid

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.

Comfy frames FTW

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.

You can have all three

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

100% S3

100% S3

  • 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

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

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

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

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. 

Tool Freak Spoggles

Toolfreak Spoggles

  • 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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Viewing 24 posts - 1 through 24 (of 24 total)
  • Buyers Guide to the Best Mountain Bike Glasses
  • johncoventry
    Full Member

    I assume all the above are available with prescription lenses ( as you are short sighted) and the prices quoted are for normal lenses?

    Full Member

    Never seen the point of having to switch out lenses.

    One minute you’re riding open trails in the sun, then about to go into a worded area. Do you stop & change lens?

    I’ve had Specialized Singletrack glasses (photochromic) and they’ve been ace.

    Free Member

    Another +1 for photochromic! Never have to think – year round they’re just always ‘correct’

    Full Member

    Second the query around prescription glasses. I’m also shortsighted and keen to find a set of glasses that offer coverage without needing an insert!

    Full Member

    I use optilabs and am happy with them but am always interested in what else is available.

    Full Member

    I need quite a strong prescription so can’t have contact lenses or the official Oakley prescription glasses. I have used optilabs and got on well with them. I have now used reglaze direct to put prescription lenses in a pair of Oakley chainlinks. They give advice on which frames would work for your prescription and do different things, varifocals, etc. I have been very happy with mine.

    Free Member

    I’m really liking my Viris Raptor glasses, they’re £60 come with a good variety of lenses too. Just waiting for them to offer the tinted lenses as spares as they only offer the clear ones as spares

    Full Member

    For those asking about prescription (blind like me) check out rad8 not on the list above but you’ll find a review on here and I xannot rate them ir their customer service (when I headbanged a pickup) higher.

    Used to use Oakleys, but even with photochromic these rad8’s are better (in my experience) and much cheaper too.


    Full Member

    Another shout for Rad8 glasses. Been using the latest 507 glasses for nearly a year and they’ve been awesome.

    Full Member

    rad8 prescription user here too, absolutely love them for sunny days and nightriding, the transition is quick and they go absolutely clear

    Full Member

    I have Rudy Project Rydon direct glazed (Gen8) from rxsport and although pricey they’ve been great for me.

    Full Member

    So which with best when you can’t use a brown based Len’s because of colourblindness

    Full Member

    I got Rad8 based on reviews on here, and they’re nice enough but definitely not fogproof. They fogged up on my second ride, and most rides end up on my helmet because of this. A bit disappointing given the claims 🙁

    Full Member

    Found my Rad8 ones fitted very close so no airflow to keep them from getting fogged up. Replaced with Melon Optics Alleycat which I’m fully satisfied with.

    No links to the reviews of these?

    As usual with MTB websites’ “best something” pages, it’s a weak claim when many popular options haven’t even been reviewed.

    Full Member

    I’m a fan of the Banana Industries glasses. Decent quality and a good chunk cheaper than bigger brands.

    Full Member

    I wear contact lenses for cycling, with some eyewear over-the-top, as it were. The glasses in this guide are all plain non-prescription glasses. We shall be doing a prescription riding glasses guide at some point later this year though. Thanks to all the prescriprion glasses users for their input so far!

    Sorry for the confusion. I have updated the intro just now.

    Free Member

    I’m a fan of cheap, clear glasses for riding and what I’d really like is some of the big, goggles-sized ones for £15 rather than £150.

    Any options like that yet? Needs someone like PX to get on it.

    Anyone tried the Sproggles? Might be another way of skinning the same cat.

    Full Member

    Free Member
    I’m a fan of cheap, clear glasses for riding and what I’d really like is some of the big, goggles-sized ones for £15 rather than £150.

    I’d imagine those Madisons are about as close as you’ll get. I’ve got the Madison Enigma’s and for me they work as well as my Oakley Race Jackets (if not better as the Oakleys are pretty worn), think the Crypto’s are a bit bigger and can be had with a single lens for around £30 e.g.

    Free Member

    Cheers, I wasn’t aware of them.

    £30 is justifiable if they’re a bit nicer quality than safety specs.

    Though with a name like Crypto, are they going to plummet in value next week?

    Full Member

    Free Member
    I’m a fan of cheap, clear glasses for riding and what I’d really like is some of the big, goggles-sized ones for £15 rather than £150.

    I have bought some Julbo glasses a couple of years ago, on a whim as I used to have a pair 20 years ago. They are often in the sale and seem very good for the £30 I paid for them.

    Free Member

    Bolle safety glasses start from around £1.99 and they have a huge range of styles. In the £8 – £12 range they have tinted lenses, hydrophobic and scratch resistant coatings, comfortable nose, ear and brow pads etc. that I find every bit as good as cycling glasses but at a fraction of the price. Available from Screwfix, Toolstation, online or even free from many employers 😉

    Full Member

    The intro mentions a prescription lens glasses review to come, but to get in early, discovering a couple of months back that you can get off-the-shelf bifocal (with clear uppers, and reading lowers) safety specs has been game changer for me as my age-related long-sightedness means I struggle to use my GPS or phone for nav these days without my readers. These, at ~£20 are ace:

    Full Member

    Another vote for Rad8, prescription lenses.

    Full Member

    @reeksy – are yours prescription Rad8s? Mine are and I was disappointed to find they don’t have the anti-fog treatment that the non-prescription ones have (although I have no idea how good this is). Emailed Rad8 and they apologised, sent me some antifog spray and said they’d update the description on the website to make it clear. The antifog spray wasn’t very good though so now I use Zeiss stuff, works well but need to remember to apply before every ride.

    Other than that I’m well pleased with them, work perfectly in all light conditions and I think they have improved my riding as I always used to struggle, having astigmatism meant weighted contacts which would jiggle around over rough ground. The only thing I don’t like is that photochromics always look a bit “special”, IMO. I also had a frame break for no apparent question but Rad8 sent me a replacement without quibble

Viewing 24 posts - 1 through 24 (of 24 total)

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