On this page, I will discuss why and how to choose a road cycling glasses suitable for you. So, why we need cycling glasses from the start? Why not choose any sunglasses or prescription eyeglasses instead? Cycling glasses surely give you a cool look on your bike, but is fashion the only reason to purchase a pair? Here, I show you some features that make cycling glasses more special than non-cycling specific pairs.
Shield from elements
When you ride your bike with a pair of prescription eyeglasses or simply naked eyes, you will soon find out you will struggle when riding under sunlight. Strong sunlight, especially sun glare at sunrise or sunset, can blind you and squint your eyes. That will distract you from seeing where you are going and disturb your riding position.
Dust,wind,stones, and insects
Another element you want to shield from your eyes is the dust along with the wind. When you ride fast on your bike, especially on your road bike, you will feel the dust from wind can blind and squint your eyes too. In warmer days, bugs are flying on the road. They can hit your eyes and face, which is very annoying to deal with. Small stones can kickoff from the road and hit your bike and body. Without any eyewear, what an insect at 30km/h (road bike typical speed) hitting your eye will do for you conceivably one day in future? In my opinion, a pair of cycling glasses is a worthy investment after you own a bicycle.
Eye Coverage of cycling glasses
The first feature you notice of is that the cycling-specific glasses wrap around the head and fully cover the eyes while most other non-specific glasses do not. The wrap around design provides a much better eye coverage so that elements are shielded and your eyes are protected.
The second feature is that the shield lens on a cycling glasses can be something with two individual lenses or a one-piece lens. Performance-wise, the one-piece lens gives a better degree of coverage because there’s coverage above the nose bridge sits and it can be made further back to around the sides of the head. Coverage around the head sides is a favourable design as we don’t like the end of a lens at the corner of vision.
Protection from crashes
Flexible & impact resistant structure
Cycling glasses are structurally made flexible. You can bend a little bit on the frame, the arms, the nose grip, and even the lens. The flexibility of the eyeglasses’ structure is important as it absorbs the impact to the eyes in case of crashes.
The other thing is that the cycling lens is made of impact resistant material, meaning the lens would flex and won’t crack into pieces that possibly hurt the eyes.
Better fittings & grip system
The nose bridge, in most cases, is rubberized and adjustable to help the glasses stay in place. Some of the higher end glasses feature fully replaceable nose bridge. Oakley and Rudy Project are two examples of the manufacturer that provide fully replaceable nose bridge.
The arms of the glasses are where the glasses stay in place beside the nose bridge. They are, in all cases, adjustable for the tightness above the ears. You might not want the arms too loose because there’s a chance the glasses could come off when you are looking down or in case of hitting potholes and accidents. On the other hand, above the ears is where you feel pain if the arms are too tight. Personally, I would test ride for an hour to two before I settled on the fitting.
Another special feature on the arms of a typical cycling glasses is a kind of grip system at the end of the arms. That grip system could be rubber sleeves that cover both arm ends or grippy little tabs at the end. In my opinion, the fitting of the glasses plays the most important role to keep the glasses stay in place. The grip system on arms is simply to make sure the glasses won’t come off.
Better vision in any lighting
The great thing that cycling glasses might come with is a set of interchangeable lenses which increase their versatility. Light conditions on the road change from time to time. To make glasses useful for year-round and in most conditions, it makes sense to have the right lens in each condition. In my opinion, you need three key lenses to cover most conditions.
Lens for strong light conditions
The first lens you should have is the tinted and reflective one for bright sunny days. Usually, dark neutral coloured lenses are the most effective in blocking sunlight. However, there is a concern that you might ride under a shadow after passing a crest or through a tunnel on sunny days. In those cases, light condition changes rapidly that force you blind because you cannot see through the dark lens in low light conditions. It is wise to choose a dark but not the darkest tint for road cycling.
Lens for low light conditions
The second lens you should have is a clear or yellow tinted one for low light conditions. When the weather is overcast or you ride at night, you will see better with low light condition lenses.
Lens for the most often conditions
For in-between conditions, there are wide varieties of lenses with many different coloured tints such as red, green, blue, pink, orange and brown etc. The tinted colour lenses give you better contrast and show the object edges on where you see. To find out which colour suits you the best, you can refer to the manufacturer website and look for the sunglasses demo in different scenery backgrounds.
Photochromic lens & flip-ups
If you resolve with only one lens on the glasses because you feel annoying to change lenses, you can start with a sunglasses with a photochromic lens. A photochromic lens can change tint according to the light intensity. However, those lenses cannot deal with rapid light condition changes; You ride through a tunnel for example. That’s why some manufacturers provide glasses with a flip-up lens or glasses with a tinted top graduated to clear bottom lens.
A road cyclist, especially on an aggressive racing bike or a time trial bike, will make a bent over position and look over the top of the glasses. A road cycling glasses give you enough coverage around your eyebrows so that your eyes are shielded when you ride on a more aggressive and aerodynamic position.
A pair of cycling glasses has straight arms so that you don’t have to mess around with the retention system of your helmet when you put it on.
The length of glasses arms can have an impact when it interacts with a cycling helmet. Some cycling glasses, Jawbreaker sunglasses from Oakley for instance, have adjustable arms to work better with different cycling helmets.
As mentioned before, the nose bridge and the arms of a cycling glasses are adjustable to fit any person. In addition, the nose bridge and the arm ends are rubberized instead of made of plastics to further enhance the comfort.
The wrap around shape of a cycling glasses is more aerodynamic than a flat shape of non-specific eyeglasses. A better aerodynamics will shave you time in racing.
Usually, most cycling glasses nowadays have small holes cut into the lens. Those small holes allow hot air to escape and well ventilate the glasses to prevent flogging. Some glasses come with lenses coated with the anti-fogging substance to further reduce fogging. Occasionally, it is normal that a little fogging appears on the lens when you make a complete stop at the traffic lights. However, a functional cycling glasses shouldn’t completely fog up at stop or mist up during a ride.
Hard Cases & pouches
Cycling glasses usually comes with pouches that let you store and also double up as lens cleaners. Higher end glasses would come with a good hard case that can store your glasses along with a set of replaceable lenses. If you travel often, hard cases could be very handy to put inside a suitcase.
For those who need prescription glasses, you can use contacts along with the cycling glasses but there are plenty of choices from manufacturers if you don’t use contacts. In my view, much more information is behind on those prescription lenses so I will post up a writing about that topics in future. Basically, there are mainly two ways to get prescription on cycling glasses.
The first way is to send your prescription to the manufacturers and have them custom made a lens for you. You need to get each lens from your lenses set prescription corrected if you do this way, which will be costly and take a bit longer to get to you. However, the advantage of doing this way is to have your glasses lighter weight.
The other way is to buy a cycling glasses that sold with a prescription adapter. The prescription adapter could be a pair of lenses or two lenses connecting together. In this case, you could ask your optician to make the adapter prescription corrected. Once you have your own adapter, you simply put the adapter behind the shield lens of your glasses. This way save you some money but you have a heavier glasses.
If you ride with sunglasses, it is a sound investment that you buy the cycling-specific one because you will get plenty of use. A road cycling glasses with many features makes it best used in road cycling. For instance, aerodynamic advantage from the wrap around shape, elements shielding, eye protection from crashes, anti-fogging features, better visions in the wide variety of light conditions, better comfort and cycling ergonomics designed in mind.
Keep clean of cycling glasses with soapy water and dry with lens cleaner after a ride. Even though some glasses have the anti-scratch coating, it’s still worth to check if there is any scratch on the lens. You can ask for replacement lenses from your manufacturer for a lower cost just in case of scratches. In my experience, Rudy Project offers that service if you order glasses from their website.