Eyesight for riding.

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  • Eyesight for riding.
  • andrewh

    Idle musings, been on the DH bike for a few days for the first time since 2014 and thoroughly enjoying mincing around the Golfie and inners at what to me feels like very fast speeds, even if Strava indicates otherwise.

    My eyesight is OK. I am short-sighted, prescription is -1.5 in one eye and -1.25 in the other, whatever that means. Optician has told me I’m borderline for having to wear glasses to drive. I have a pair which live in my van and I always wear them when i drive it. I never wear them anywhere else.

    I definitely can’t wear them for riding. I have tried many kinds over many years. The issue is to do with a funny ‘eyebrow bone’ (I suspect not it’s proper name) meaning any glasses sit really, really close to my brow and fog up the instant I do something which makes me even a little bit sweaty. I’ve tried contacts and just don’t get on with them, with or without clear lenses over.

    Riding without glasses or contacts is fine on the road, and mostly fine for XC although on some descents I find myself wishing I could see better, especially in dappled sunlight through trees, but riding the DH bike has really brought this home, the extra speed in the techy stuff, and it just being more techy.

    So, am I missing out? Do people with a similar level of short-sightedness ride OK without and that’s just how it is or do you find yourself going faster/making better line choices with your glasses on? How much difference do they really make for someone with my level of vision?

    If my sight really is fine I should just MTFU and stop worrying about it. If others think this level of shortsightedness is holding me back I should do something. (specially made/adapted glasses? Experience has taught me this is likely to be expensive and fruitless. Eye surgery? Like the idea of perfect vision without lenses of any sort, but a bit sqeamish)




    I wear contacts and googles for all of my DH biking, or sunglasses for XC or off road biking (I am a tad long sighted though)

    Contacts or pony up the cash for surgery done by Julian Stevens at Moorfields. You get used to contacts, you’re mental for riding DH with -1.5.


    andrewh it sounds as though your eyesight is like mine

    Some days I think I can see fine but with specs everything is in HD

    Tree gaps, rock ruts, foliage, lines, everything. It’s not possible to concentrate more than 100% and if you don’t have to consciously think about what you’re looking at it makes a big difference to your riding

    Anecdotally the SIL had £8k of corrective eye surgery a few years ago but she still has problems. On good days she can see fine but on bad days she still needs specs

    Premier Icon jam bo

    at -2.25 I can’t ride without contacts or glasses.

    you’ll get used to contacts, if you’ve only tried cheap dailies, try some better quality ones.

    Optician here – Try more contact lenses until you find ones that suit you. Go to an optician, explain your requirements, take their advice. Your Rx is ideal for sports cl use.

    I’ve been wearing contacts for riding since my eyes were -1-ish and I was struggling with leaf-covered trails on an autumn ride.

    Contacts are now -1.75 and glasses are -2.25; wear them all the time.

    Similar prescription – used to wear contacts and clear/yellow/dark lenses depending on conditions – now have prescription oakleys with interchangeable lenses.  Brilliant.  Can’t imagine riding without being able to see properly even at the slow speeds I get to!  In your case, I would suggest contacts.  Most places do trials of disposables.  Be prepared for lots of flaffing getting them in, but you get used it it.  Also, I used to find they irritated after too long – a really good indicator of dehydration.

    Premier Icon joebristol

    I’ve got -1.5 and -1.75 in terms of short sight. If I try and ride without glasses it’s a nightmare seeing detail until I get too close for comfort to features. Low light is even worse than daylight.

    Ive got 2 pairs of Oakleys that I’ve had polycarbonate prescription lenses fitted to. Oakley minutes (original version from years ago) and Oakley half jackets. Both are pretty good, but the half jackets are less steamy so I tend to wear them off road and the minutes on road where steaming is less of an issue.

    Even on the road I don’t like riding without my glasses on. At your prescription ( which I was close to with both eyes being -1.5 a few years back) I would be wearing glasses 100%.


    -1.5 to -2.0 here. I used to wear my day to day prescription glasses on 95% of rides the remaining 5% justifying daily contacts and sunglasses. I was never happy with either so bit the bullet and went for transition+prescription. I’m well chuffed with them and whilst there is some risk over damage and prescription changes I’m much happier out riding in any conditions including night riding and have had no issues in dappled light/woods riding. You’ll need to be sure you want to do this before you drop £200+ on this approach but I have no regrets.


    I’m only at -0.75 and -1 and I still see a massive benefit from contacts. Even on the road bike it helps with seeing potholes when you’re in dappled light or at high speed.

    I first realised I needed them when I was struggling on night rides.

    Premier Icon spooky_b329

    2.25 ish here…I wear contacts for proper rides on the bike but for shorter stuff, I’ll use glasses.  Mine are pretty close to my eyebrows, maybe 5mm.  But you should be able to move them away from your eyebrows by adjusting the nose pieces (bend towards your nose)

    Premier Icon Wally

    -6 and -7  🤓

    Premier Icon duncancallum

    Just had an eye test n I’m in the same boat my line choices are now a bit unique

    Need to try contacts

    Premier Icon Esme

    “I’ve tried contacts and just don’t get on with them”
    What’s the problem, exactly?  They’ll be ideal, once we’ve sorted you out!

    Premier Icon joebristol

    TBf I tried contacts once and couldn’t get them in. Vision Express insisted on putting them in for you the first time and it wasn’t a great experience. Trying to keep your eye open whilst someone sticks

    one on the end of their finger in isn’t easy – nearly got one in but the daft bint dropped it right at the last minute.

    I’m deserving of some stick too for being squeamish and a bit of a wuss with eyes.

    I have very similar prescription (-1.25 and -1.75 IIRC) and I’d never ride off road without glasses or contacts. In fact, I never do *anything* without then – the world seems like a low res bootleg VHS without my eyes working compared to a 4k HD.

    Seriously though, just use contacts. I use daily disposables for riding and it’s just dead easy.

    Having said that, I’m sure you can find some glasses that will work. Oakley make ‘Asian fit’ glasses for people with… flatter faces.

    Premier Icon seosamh77

    I’m -0.5 and -0.25 these days, twice as bad as I was 5 years ago, not enough to bother too much about glasses(I spent 25 quid on a pair just to see), but if I’m tired and it’s dark it really annoys me!

    Gets some glasses, you’re blind! 😆


    I was dreadful with contacts when I started out. Couldn’t put anything in my eyes and my eyes were really sensitive too. But I persisted and have been using contacts for sport for over 30 years now…. I find high water content disposables are fine.

    Iirc, I’m -1.25 and wear glasses pretty much all the time off the road bike. But on the roadie, I wear standard wrap around cycling specs, just a little more cautious in the shadows.

    Trying to keep your eye open whilst someone sticks

    one on the end of their finger in isn’t easy – nearly got one in but the daft bint dropped it right at the last minute.

    You sound like an utter pleasure, enjoy your shitey eyeballs.

    Not really. Practice touching the white of your eye, every evening before bed, for a week. You’ll soon get over it

    Premier Icon molgrips

    It’s REALLY worth MTFUing with regards contacts.  Really.  Stick at it, the benefits are huge.


    My eyesight requires correction to do anything, so contacts are a must for me as smashing up prescription glasses got stupidly expensive.

    However I still have to wear protective glasses. Dust in the eyes wearing contacts is a nightmare. Cheap Bolle safety specs (about £7 for stuff like Contour) do the job. I scratch and wreck them often but just buy more. There are plenty of different fits so something might work. You can get prescription versions of some Bolle stuff but more limited and obviously more expensive.

    Do you wear any kind of eye protection at all? As other have said a pair of safety specs that cost a couple of £ could save your eyesight. I never ride my bike without a pair of glasses on to keep, dust, dirt, mud, gravel chips and insects out of them.

    My eyesight is -9,-10, I protect what little eyesight I have left with prescription safety glasses, people have to wear them at work so there are designs out there that won’t fog up unlike the fashion ones.


    I’m -2.25 in both eyes, but even when I was closer to your prescription I found glasses or lenses helped particularly in poor light.

    You need to find a design of glasses that doesn’t fog up – coatings and/or vents.


    Hmm. Thanks guys and girls. Plenty of food for thought.

    Consensus seems to be that with my level of vision I should indeed do something. So, what should it be? Thinking out loud follows…

    Really don’t get on with glasses of any kind, and I’ve tried quite a few. Eyebrow bone is very prominent (or nose bridge too far back) Either way, the gap between the eyebrow and the top of glasses is next to nothing and in a lot of cases actually nothing, leading to instant and severe fogging.

    I tried contacts back in 2014. I raced at the Megavalanche and decided that given that it was much more techy, and probably faster than most of what I’m used to I should do something. The other factor was that I was wearing a full-face and goggles. The goggles weren’t too bad from a fogging point of view (as indeed is the visor on my TT aero-helmet, both have the crucial gap between lens and face to allow ventilalton)  The goggles were fine for a while but it was the year with horrific weather and once I’d got through all of my tear-offs I just had to remove them to be able to see out through all the crud sprayed all over them.The big problem was then mud and grit in my eyes with the contacts. This has put me off using contacts for riding generally, with no protection in front of my eyes I don’t want debris in the them with contacts. I can’t just wear clear protective lenses for the reasons above.

    I race 24hr XC as my ‘main thing’, this messing about on DH bikes is just a bit of fun. So, given that quite a lot of this is riding in low levels of light an improvement in vision would be very helpful. But, quite a lot of it is also done when not really with it mentally and various other issues that just arise during the race, (singlespeed-hand anyone?) which might also make getting rubbish out of my eye with contacts in impractical. Someone above mentioned dehydration making contacts worse. This shouldn’t happen, but of course can, more likely in long point-to-points than 24s though.

    Someone else has mentioned prescription safety specs. Probably the only kind of glasses I’ve not tried yet. I have some I wear when using the grinder or similar (not prescription) Will go for a ride in them and see if they fog up and how comfy they are. if that works will try some prescription ones. On a similar note, does anyone know where somewhere that lends out ‘test glasses’? Even just clear non-prescription ones. If I can find a pair that actually work I can then buy a proper prescription set of the same. Don’t really want to spend a couple of hundred on prescription glasses until I know they will work (been down that route before!)

    Someone else mentioned £8k for surgery. Is that normal or was there something unusual needing done there? Keep seeing adverts for much less on the internet but that is something I would definitely go for the best rather than the cheapest! Anyone had it done, thoughts/experiences?

    Thanks again

    http://safetyspecs.co.uk/ will send out frames for you try for fit.


    Tried and tried contacts but eyes are just too dry. My mum says I had a tear duct opening procedure as a wee nipper. Even with the moist ones and using drops every hour my eyes felt horrible at the end of a day wearing them and no way I could do two in a row. Even without them in an air conditioned office my eyes are feeling very dry and sometimes need drops.

    Anyway, for trail glasses I get two for one from Goggles 4u, normally £30-£40 for two pairs, the look can be terrible, it’s a bit hit and miss, but at the price I can happily throw them in a bag without worrying. Current pair look awful but they’re big so cover all my eye, transition to a slight tint, have never steamed up (may be due to the wonderful conditions!) and cost around £20. Know it doesn’t solve the fogging issue but I find I’m much happier hanging the cheaper set of specs off my bag when climbing or throwing them in a bag if they get annoying. Never had a problem in the worst of conditions with them steaming up when descending.

    You can get prescription inserts for goggles, they would sit further away from your face but I’ve always found goggles worse for steaming up. Never found a cheap set up for that though.


    Dry eyes with contacts? Shouldn’t be a problem for me, they run at any sort of speed.

    Question for those who use contacts, do you use them alone and if so how much of an issue is mud and grit in the eye? I can’t wear lenses over them (subject to giving Mr Wool’s chaps a try to see if any suit) Maybe them and contacts are better than prescription ones?

    Premier Icon cookeaa

    -2.5/-2.5 here even when I had a weaker prescription like yours OP I didn’t enjoy riding without being able to see properly, you wouldn’t choose to drive half blind so why ride a bike in that state?

    For one thing you end up straining your eyes and probably fatigue yourself more.

    I never got on with contacts, something about poking things into my own eye just doesn’t compute for me. So I’ve tried various types of glasses (RX and regular) and even goggles over glasses, eventually you land on a pair that don’t steam so easily either with drilled lenses or simply a shape that lets them vent with your unique face shape.

    Go see another optician…


    -1.50 and borderline to drive. Not a chance, I wouldn’t drive till I got some specs, your insurance wont be valid and worse still you can’t see properly. Go and spend £25 quid on a pair from your high street opticians now.

    Seriously what is your optician thinking?

    Premier Icon mattbee

    Contact lens wearer for last couple of years after 8 years persistence with glasses.

    Its an amazing difference. Hate riding in my prescription specs now.

    Had a few issues with dirt ingress at 24:12 last year but it was really really wet.

    Rode in dust last night with no shades on as I’d forgotten to swap lenses so they were too dark & no issues. Just remember to blink a bit more.

    Regarding moisture levels, drying our eyes etc I first tried daily disposable lenses but they dried my eyes out too much so I tried monthlies which are fine. Optician said that dailies are higher moisture content but as they dry out through day they effectively draw moisture from the eye.

    Took me a good month to get used to putting in & taking out but it’s secone nature now.

    Premier Icon d4ddydo666

    Jesus, I’m blinder and stoopider than I realized… -1.75/-2.5 and see better without them when it’s raining on the trails, which is most of the time (great living in the North); no one would accuse me if being especially fast mind!

    Always assumed getting muck in yer eyes while wearing contacts would be a Very Bad Thing, surprised to see such a strong advocacy for them…


    Yes and no with the muck/dust in the eyes and contacts. Sometimes I can get away with it without protective glasses, but once I get that spec of dust/dirt in there, even microscopic in size, it’s really annoying. To the extent I was blinking loads to try and clear my eye and rather than stopping I kept going not able to look at the roots I was going over and OTB.

    Testing safety specs, they’re peanuts money so just buy a few. Some places might do a discount for a bulk buy or demo set.

    Possibly fit issues you have with regular glasses are different with activity safety specs. Or they can be tweaked. Some have rubber nose thingies and might be possible to replace these with a different fit. Don’t know.

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