The best cycling sunglasses do a lot more than just shield your eyes from the sun. Here is our round-up of the best cycling sunglasses available right now.
Eye protection is nothing new to cycling, having first appeared more than 100 years ago in the form of military-style flying goggles. These goggles, while bulky in appearance, kept grit, debris and rain from entering the eyes but slowly disappeared from the peloton as modern frame designs became more fashionable and easier to wear, and cycling sunglasses were born.
As a result, many cyclists began wearing aviator-style sunglasses and spectacles during the '50s, '60s and '70s – especially those with visual impairments. As technology improved, so did the rhetoric behind eye protection and the role it served in contemporary sport, not just cycling.
To find out what you should consider when picking your next pair of sunglasses, you can find our guide on what to look for below.
What to look for
Recently, the design and shape of cycling sunglasses have come full circle and back to where it all started – large, goggle-style lenses are presently the flavour of the month. Despite the influx of newer and trendier upstarts, Oakley remains a major force in the industry as the eyewear war continues to blur the lines between style and function.
Cycling sunglasses are as much about fashion as they are function, but their main purpose still hinges around the primary role of protection, be it from bugs, debris, rain or the harmful UV rays of the sun.
It’s easy to get lost in all the marketing jargon and the sheer number of choices available when shopping for a new pair of cycling sunglasses so it’s important that you know your hydrophobics from photochromics – we’ll explain later. While all the major brands offer a range of design styles to accommodate the facial attributes of most individuals, it’s highly recommended that you test fit a pair to ensure a snug and comfortable fit.
The most important part of any pair of cycling sunglasses is the frame geometry and fit. After all, what’s the point of having the best lenses in the world if the fit is terrible?
Most of the major players offer built-in flexibility and adjustability around the arms and nose bridge for a somewhat tailored fit. There are three distinct frame types: full frame, half frame and frameless, each of which has a substantial bearing on lens size, eye coverage and field of view.
There are various lens types designed for specific conditions and environments, some of which are also interchangeable depending on the manufacturer.
Most reputable brands offer a variety of special lenses designed to enhance vision and performance, these include photochromic (change from clear to dark in the light), hydrophobic (repel water), polarised (reduce glare), oleophobic (smudge resistant) and prescription variety of lenses.
Industry stalwarts, Oakley, has developed its own distinct lens technology, called Prizm – which amplifies clarity and improves depth of field.
Quite easily the best performance cycling sunglasses on the market
The Rudy Project Defender is based on the RP Aggressor sunglasses from the early ‘90s. Available in a host of different frame, bumper and lens colour combinations, the Defender does appear to pander to the needs of the modern cycling fashionista but that’s a good thing.
Perhaps the Defender’s most impressive feature is that of the photochromic lens. Offering a combination of superb transitional performance regardless of the light conditions not to mention stellar anti-fog properties thanks to the Powerflow Ventilation System, these cycling sunglasses are very difficult to trump in terms of outright performance.
Offers a better view when your head is down
The EV stands for ‘expanded view’ and these glasses from Oakley certainly do as they claim. The lens is raised by about 5mm so it sits higher at the top of the frame than most other models. This gives you perfect peripheral vision when you’ve got your head down.
Thanks to the ventilation port in the lenses, plus the airflow channels in the arms, fogging should be a thing of the past. The fit is supremely comfortable, hugging closely to the cheekbones for a secure hold.
Minimal in design, packed with features
POC’s Crave Clarity sunglasses have a minimal design, but are rammed with features. The frame is lightweight and flexible, making them suitable for other sports as well as cycling. The hydrophilic rubber nose pad and arm inserts are designed to remain grippy in wet conditions, so if you sweat a lot or often ride in the rain, have no fear.
The category 3 lenses are treated with anti-fog and repel water and dirt, to help keep your vision unobstructed while you’re on the move. Multiple colors are available, and if you happen to own a POC Tectal MTB helmet, you’ll be glad to know that the Crave Clarity glasses are designed to work seamlessly with it.
Clever magnetic tech makes lenses last longer
Smith’s MAG interchangeable lens technology was a game changer when it was first unveiled. Rather than popping lenses into place, which adds stress to them as well as the frame (not to mention greasy fingerprints), Attack lenses are secured in place with a clever magnetic closure system.
This should help the lenses to last longer and stay sharper over time, since they’re enduring less handling. The lens options include Chromapop lenses in seven colors, while the frame features a hydrophobic lens coating to prevent smudging and repel water, while the hydrophilic Megol rubber nose and temple pads hold it securely into place, even when wet.
Lenses that respond to the light conditions
Oakley’s Flak 2.0 sunglasses are perfect for almost any light conditions, and offer unparalleled clarity. Choose between an array of colored Prizm lenses, which enhance color, contrast and detail to make the most of any activity, and a photochromic lens that darkens as the light conditions intensify.
All lenses offer UV400 protection, and adopt Oakley’s High Definition Optics technology, which eliminates distortion to offer razor-sharp vision. The stress-resistant frame is extremely lightweight and comfortable to wear, and durable enough for a full day on the bike. Mated with unobtanium earsocks and nose pad, the Flak 2.0 sunglasses offer excellent grip in all weathers.
Without a doubt Oakley's finest cycling sunglasses ever
The Oakley Sutro cycling sunglasses are the company's best product to date, the benchmark for eye-care performance and protection. They offer unrivalled clarity, an unobstructed field of view and never fog up, no matter the conditions - an added bonus is the secure and stable fit. They're also significantly cheaper than rivals from POC and 100%.
However, what sets the retro-styled Sutros apart from the segment staples are not merely its performance credentials but rather its adaptability as a product - not only is it suited to the elite-level cyclist and recreational rider but it also doubles up a casual option, too.
The Sutro will ultimately go down as one of Oakley's greatest models yet and be held in the same regard as the model that started it all - the Factory Pilot Eyeshade. Wear them, enjoy them and race in them but also be aware they're likely to become a collector's item down the line.
Interchangeable polarized lenses at a fraction of the price
If you’re not looking to shell out on a big name, these polarized sports sunglasses from Torege offer exceptional value.
You get three interchangeable lenses, which are available in multiple colors (along with several frame color options), and are treated with a UV400 protective coating. Made from polycarbonate, the lenses are designed to be impact- and scratch-resistant, meaning they’ll withstand the test of time.
The rimless jacket frame design is reminiscent of more high-end models from the likes of Oakley, and offers a clear lower field of vision. It’s all topped off with a soft rubber nose pad for a comfortable fit.
Casual sunglasses that do the job
If you’re looking for a casual pair of cycling sunglasses that will work for everyday cycling, and you’re not interested in interchangeable lenses, opt for the budget-friendly Hulislem S1s.
They still offer polarized lenses in different colors, treated with UV400 protection and what Hulislem calls dual lens polaric ellipsoid technology. This essentially means you’ll get increased depth perception, color contrast and clarity, with natural colors maintained. Plus the stress-resistant O-Matter frame is rugged enough to withstand everyday riding.
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