Despite their straightforward name, the best cycling sunglasses do more than stop you from squinting as you reach the end of your incline. Unlike cheap sunglasses found on rotating displays in Walmart/Asda, dedicated cycling sunglasses have a myriad of great features, from upping the contrast to reducing glare, from reacting quickly in the face of sunny spells to keeping grit, grime, flies and worse out of your eyes.
In this guide, we rounded up all the brands that design and manufacture the best cycling sunglasses, including Rapha, Koo, Oakley, Tifosi and SunGod, and ranked their best products based on 1) how well they protect your eyes from glare 2) how do they fit and 3) how cool they look. This last bit is probably the most important thing, so we placed a lot of emphasis on it when deciding which cycling sunglasses to rank top.
Need some new cycling gear? We have loads of cycling guides on T3, including the best cycling jersey, best cycling helmet, best cycling shoes and best cycling backpack product roundups, to name a few. We aren't even going to list all the actual bike guides we have; there are so many of them. We guess you just have to find them yourself!
Best cycling sunglasses to buy right now
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Rapha's latest Pro Team Full Frame Glasses are a work of art. As expected from the London-based brand, the new Pro Team Full Frame Glasses have a distinct, ultra-stylish look and are choke-full of useful features that all cyclists would appreciate.
The lenses use 'Rider Optimised Surface Enhancement' technology and provide more contrast in broad daylight, making you more aware of your immediate surroundings as well as potential obstacles in the distance. The lenses are also interchangeable, and each pair comes with a spare clear lens so you can swap the coloured lenses out on dark, rainy days. You get two glasses for the price of one.
The Grilamid TR90 material used for the frame is super light – the Rapha Pro Team Full Frame Glasses weighs only 30 grams – and flexible, yet it doesn't feel flimsy on the head. The base lens curvature of Pro Team Full Frame Glasses features a narrow radius and hugs your face snugly, but not too tight, thanks to Megol arm grippers that also provide stability in wet conditions (when your hair is full of sweat).
Despite the tighter radius, the Rapha Pro Team Full Frame Glasses don't restrict the view as they use oversized, fully wrapped lenses with vents at the top and on the side of the lens for ventilation. The glasses come with an adjustable nose piece to increase airflow even more and reduce fogging.
Probably the most impressive feat of the Pro Team Full Frame Glasses is the price: you get all the goodness that's packed into these glasses for only £120 (approx. $160), which is crazy as most high-end cycling glasses cost way more than this. Like it or not, with the Pro Team Full Frame Glasses, Rapha created a product that will make other cycling accessory manufacturers think twice about their upcoming product line.
We praised the Rapha Pro Team Full Frame Glasses for being excellent value for money, and the same applies to Tifosi's Rail. The main difference is, the Rail is even cheaper than the Rapha yet offers a slew of premium features you'll only find in cycling glasses twice the price.
Take, for example, Tifosi’s Clarion Mirror technology. Clarion Mirror lenses feature a hydrophobic coating that repels water and sweat to help prevent moisture from gathering on the lens. This effect helps visibility and makes it easier to keep the Rail clean. [Please note: not all versions of the Rail come with Clarion lenses]
Speaking of visibility: the Enliven-enabled feature a Color Capture technology that "fine-tunes the wavelengths of light that matter most; making greens, blues, and reds pop with definition", as Tifosi explains on its website. Thanks to this, the contrast of the Rail is excellent; it's easier to identify objects and notice danger lurking around the corners.
Best of all, there are three lenses included in the price: whichever colourway you choose of the five different options, an AC Red High Contrast lens and a clear one for low-light eye protection. You can store all three in the carry case also supplied with the Rail.
If we were to split hairs here, we could mention that the frameless design makes the Rail less sturdy than framed glasses. At the same time, the Rail is lighter and allows a greater field of view than framed glasses. And it's also dirt cheap.
Oakley knows how to make great sunglasses, and the Oakley Flight Jacket Prizm Road is a fine example of the craftsmanship and innovation the California-based brand provides. Thanks to the brow-less design, your field of view won't be compromised by the frame, even in a racing position.
The Prizm lenses will further enhance your vision. These lenses act like an Instagram filter for the real world: they improve contrast and alter colours to reduce harsh tones so you can see more clearly, even when the sun is glaring right in your face.
As for fit, the Oakley Flight Jacket Prizm Road has a few tricks up in its sleeve: for example, you can adjust the nose bridge into a secondary position with just one click, opening airflow to combat fogging and overheating. The temple pieces are also adjustable for improved fit and helmet compatibility.
Talking about helmet compatibility: since Oakley produces helmets too, the Oakley Flight Jacket Prizm Road was designed to work perfectly with helmets. The arms of the glasses go around the straps of the helmet so they won't get compressed against your head, causing discomfort. Should you have a compatible helmet, the Oakley Flight Jacket Prizm Road can be stored on the helmet to provide your eyes with even more airflow. Or, you know, when the glasses are not needed because you aren't speeding down a road.
There is only one quibble with the Oakley Flight Jacket Prizm Road: it feels less sturdy than some other items on this list. It doesn't feel flimsy, but it also doesn't feel like something that would survive more than a couple of drops. Truth be told, we haven't tested this, so we can't say this for sure.
Be sure to check our Oakley discount codes to get the best price.
Cycling sunglasses come in many shapes and sizes, but the combination of frame and lens colours is often chosen for you. This won't be the case when you buy your new SunGod Velans (retailer link) cycling sunglasses, as these bad boys can be customised to the very last detail.
And when I say every detail can be changed, I mean it: you can choose the colour of the upper frame, the lower frame, the lenses, the grip lock and even the little logo on the side to create unique cycling sunglasses no one in the world has unless you go for the preselected colour varieties, of course.
As well as being fully customisable, the SunGod Velans glasses also use cutting-edge lens technology: the 8KO lenses are constructed from 2 mm co-nylon (whatever that means) and are optically superior, according to SunGod. The review model used had the Silver Blue lens and provided a softer contrast than the Rapha Pro Team Full Frame Glasses, although the latter had a black lens, which admittedly blocks out more light.
The 8KO lens has a hydroleophobic coating to help repel water and oily substances from the glasses, and they are also scratch-resistant, not to mention 100% UV protection.
As for ergonomics, the SunGod Velans FF provides a broad field of view, especially around the top of the frame, in which direction you'll most likely look as you ride. I could see the bottom of the frame but if that bothers you, go for the half-frame variety (it's cheaper anyway). The adjustable nose piece is extra (£20 more, to be precise), but the Velans does come with four different nose pads to help you find the fit that suits your face the most.
SunGod also offers a lifetime guarantee on its Velans (and Vulcans) range: SunGod will repair the glasses for free if the frame breaks. And let's face it, we all fall from our bikes now and then, and by getting the SunGod Velans, at least we don't have to worry too much about the glasses.
Bollé's Volt+ is said to be the first sunglasses lens ever created using artificial intelligence. And indeed, the Volt+ lens makes the world look crisper, sharper and more colourful; definitely an upgrade from your standard vision.
The company tested over 20 million combinations to develop a patented solution which delivers a "richer colour experience than is humanly possible", says Bolle. In addition to enhancing all colours, Volt+ also offers high contrast vision, improved depth perception and high-performance polarisation.
Compared to other similar technologies, such as Oakley's High Definition Optics, Bolle's VOLT+ lens comes across as less saturated and overpowering. Colours are enhanced but not changed thanks to the lens' ability to maintain white balance – no matter what the light conditions are.
The Prime features Thermogrip rubber that keeps the sunnies in place during riding, and the TR90 nylon frame makes it comfortable and flexible to wear. Better still, the large, angular aviator sunglasses radiate style, both on and off the saddle. If we were to criticise anything, we would say the build quality of Bolle Prime VOLT+ is not spectacular, especially for the price; the lens wobbles a bit in the frame, but this doesn't mean you should consider the Prime VOLT+ as your next cycling sunglasses purchase. You definitely should.
Check out the Prime VOLT+ at Bolle (retailer link).
It doesn't get much cooler being able to design and wear your own Oakley Custom Holbrook (retailer link). Combining the timeless design of the Holbrook frame and cutting-edge cycling glass technology, the Oakley Custom Holbrook is a cut above the rest for sure.
This cutting-edge technology includes the nylon-infused plastic O Matter frame, which is said to be twice as strong and 25% lighter than standard acetate frames, and it is more resistant to hot and cold than standard plastic frames. Every last detail of the frame can be customised, down to the colour of the Oakley logo and the rivets at the front of the glasses.
The Custom Holbrook also features High Definition Optics lens, which, according to Oakley, has less distortion than similar curved lenses. There are multiple lens customisation options: you can choose between polarised and Iridium options, as well as Oakley's own Prizm tech that enhances colour, contrast and detail, even in broad daylight.
Needless to say, you will create a design that no one else will want to wear because otherwise, you could get the bog-standard Holbrook, right? We recommend not going crazy and adjusting a few details the most, paying extra attention to the lens technology as that will be the most important thing when on the bike. And not wearing an Oakley with a green frame, bright yellow lens and American-flag-coloured Oakley logo will be your top priority off the bike.
The Koo Open Cube (retailer link) lenses are for people who appreciate quality and don't mind paying for them. However, you will receive some truly premium features and materials for a premium price.
For one, the Koo Open Cube (a.k.a. Koo Open3) uses Zeiss lenses, and if you don't know who Zeiss is, you must have been living under a rock up until now. The German manufacturer is renowned for its clear lenses, and they are being used in photography and binoculars, for example.
For this reason, the Koo Open Cube provides an extremely clear field of view, which is further enhanced by the single-lens construction. The lens is also ventilated, so they don't fog up as you ride.
The Koo Open Cube is also highly customisable: the arms and the nose-pad can be adjusted, so the glasses sit on your face more easily. Depending on your preference, the Koo Open Cube can be tilted in three different positions using pivotable arms.
As mentioned earlier, for all the premium features, you will have to pay the price and indeed, for the cost of the Koo Open Cube, you could buy six Tifosi Marzens (listed further below). We aren't saying it doesn't worth it, though; the Koo Open Cube wouldn't be on this list if we thought it was overpriced for what it has to offer.
How to buy the best cycling sunglasses
When cycling, whether it’s on the road or halfway up a mountain, we’d do well to remember the advice of The Libertines and not look back – or forward, for that matter – into the sun. But it's more complex than that.
The lens colour choice doesn’t just come down to whether you’d rather look like Johnny Depp in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas or Johnny Depp in real life. Like different classes in an old-school RPG, each colour gives away a particular power: yellow lens sunglasses up the contrast, making it easier to differentiate between road and sky on those all-too-abundant grey days; blue lenses reduce glare and stress on the eyes and are useful in low light, and brown or amber lenses improve depth perception.
Clear lenses, while not much cop in bright sunlight, are obviously better if you’re more of a night rider, as they’ll keep all that grit and other miscellaneous flying nastiness out of your eyes without rendering you legally blind.
After that, you have good old grey, a classic option if you’d rather your special kit didn’t look too much like a special kit, or you don’t need your world to be that much higher definition while cycling.
Photochromic lens sunglasses, finally, are the most exciting of the bunch. Their tint changes depending on the intensity of the light, just like Reactions lenses in everyday glasses, meaning you don’t have to pull over and change your specs when the sun vanishes behind or comes out from a cloud. You can keep on truckin' (cycling).
What colour lens is best for cycling
Despite what some hardcore cyclists might think, the colour of your lens does matter. Sure, most people go over the top when they design their own cycling sunglasses, making them a bit too colourful. Still, even if you aren't interested in getting fully customised shades, you might want to get one that has amber or orange-coloured lens for better visibility.
According to Zeiss, "Amber and rose lens tints increase visual acuity", and the Australian Cycling Forum states that "Orange and yellow lenses are ... well known for improving depth perception in low light conditions."
Are polarised lenses good for cycling?
Polarised cycling glasses are a – err – polarising subject. Some will say polarised lenses are essential to reduce glare, while others will point out that these lenses might reduce depth perception. We recommend getting non-polarised lenses, especially if you don't cycle near large bodies of water often. Especially because non-polarised won't reduce glare much (although you can tweak this effect by getting the right colour lens), you will be able to spot wet patches and puddles on the road in time and avoid them.
If your cycle usual route is around a lake, you might want to bite the bullet and get polarised cycling lenses. Still, especially if you live in an area where it rains a lot, a non-polarised lens can come in handy when trying to avoid potholes covered in water.