Despite their straightforward name, the best cycling sunglasses do more than just stop you squinting as you reach the end of your incline. Unlike cheap sunglasses found on rotating displays in Walmart/Asda, cycling sunglasses have a myriad of great features, from upping the contrast to reducing glare, reacting quickly in the face of sunny spells to keeping grit, grime, flies and worse out of your eyes, there’s quite a lot they can do.
But now you know you need some, don’t just take the change you have left after buying a stunning new road bike, go for the coolest-looking pair and be done with it. There are a few little considerations to keep in mind first.
The days might be shorter in the spring and you might want to consider indoor training using a turbo trainer or an exercise bike, but if you venture out, make sure your eyes are protected against the low-angle sunlight which always hits you right in the face, regardless of the direction you're heading. Keep your cool by sporting the best cycling jersey and protect your noggin by wearing the best cycling helmet.
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 choice of lens colour 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 special kit, or you just 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 just 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 it a bit too colourful, but even if you aren't interested in getting fully customised shades, you might want to get one that has an 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 as they 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 but especially if you live in an area where it rains a lot, non-polarised lens can come in handy when trying to avoid potholes covered in water.
The best cycling sunglasses, in order of preference
Rapha's latest Pro Team Full Frame Glasses are a work of art. As expected from 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 spare clear lens so you can swap the coloured lenses out on dark, rainy days. Basically, 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 lens with vents at the top and on the side of the lens for ventilation. To increase air flow even more and reduce fogging, the glasses come with an adjustable nose piece.
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, 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 next product line.
Cycling sunglasses come in many shapes and sizes but very often the combination of frame and lens colours are chose for you. This won't be the case when you buy your new SunGod Velans cycling sunglasses as these bad boys can be customised to 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 fully 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 black lens which admittedly blocks out more light.
The 8KO lens have hydroleophobic coating to help repel water and oily substances from the surface of the glasses and they are also scratch resistant, not to mention the 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, just 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 lifetime guarantee on its Velans (and Vulcans) range: if the frame breaks, SunGod will repair the glasses for free. And let's face it, we all fall from our bikes every now and then, and by getting the SunGod Velans, at least we don't have to worry too much about the glasses.
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 racing position.
Your vision will be further enhanced by the Prizm lenses. 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 for when you to provide your eyes 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 a bit 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 to be told, we haven't tested this so we can't say this for sure.
Some might know the Italian brand Tifosi from their road bikes, but they also manufacture eyewear products for a variety of purposes, including running, golf, fishing, gaming and, of course, cycling glasses. The Tifosi Eyewear’s Alliant Gunmetal Fototec Light Night Lens is a good example of what the brand has to offer.
The lens of these glasses are made out of one single piece of hard-wearing plastic, in order not to obstruct your view. The lens also comes with Glare Guard technology, which is not provides UV protection but also filters out glare. The lens also comes with vents throughout its design to keep the lens ventilated to ensure that it doesn’t fog up either.
The stripped back frame is constructed from super-light Grilamid TR-90 material. The frame comes with adjustable ear and nose pieces so you can adjust it to the shape of your face. Because there is nothing worse than glasses not fitting properly on longer rides.
It doesn't get much cooler being able to design and wear your own Oakley Custom Holbrook. 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 normal acetate frames. It is also more hot and cold resistance 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 just 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 lenses are for people who appreciate quality and don't mind paying for it either. For the premium price, however, you will receive some truly premium features and materials.
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 be living under a rock up until now. The German manufacturer is renowned for their clear lenses and they are being used in photography as well as for binoculars, for example.
For this reason, the Koo Open Cube is provides an extremely clear field of view, which is further enhanced by the single lens construction. the lens are also ventilated so they don't fog up as you ride.
The Koo Open Cube is also highly customisable: both the arms and the nose-pad can be adjusted so the glasses sit on your face more easily. Using the pivotable arms, the Koo Open Cube can be tilted in three different positions, depending on your preference.
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.
Oakley's eyewear is usually on point, and these are insanely good.
They're comfortable to wear, the frame is lightweight, and the clarity of the prizm lenses is exemplary, with no interference to forward vision when you're looking down, nor peripheral vision when looking straight ahead.
You can easily forget you're wearing the Jawbreaker, and they’re adjustable at the temple to three different lengths, to accommodate for various helmets, and big heads.
Simply great specs all round, in short.
POC makes some of the most safety-conscious and technical products this side of fellow Swedes Volvo. These weatherproof sunglasses aren’t afraid of anything, least of all fog and drizzle. The polycarbonate lenses are treated so that water simply pearls off (no windscreen wiper fingers for you!) and dirt and grime banished.
All of the lens tints available have been optimised for road cycling, meaning you’re more likely to spot potential hazards like potholes in time to skirt disaster. Thanks to a Grilamid flame, they’re also flexible, giving these glasses a winning combo of near-weightlessness and durability.
The photochromic lenses in these sunglasses not only adjust to changing light conditions so you don’t have to keep pulling over and swapping pairs; they’re also treated with a super-hydrophobic coating to repel water in the foulest weather, and resist fogging when the sun shows its face again.
Changing lenses can be a little fiddly, but it's arguably worth it, given how comfortable they are, despite gripping your face like a limpet. Some may find that some of the frame creeps into their line of vision when going downhill, but that's hardly the end of the world.
Grilamid construction shows its face, on your face, once again here. But Tifosi’s Marzen sunglasses are decidedly stylish compared to most rivals, looking less like specialist kit or a basic fly disguise, and more like sportier Ray-Bans.
They are rather more technical than the coffee-shop looks might suggest, however: ‘Swivelink’ technology lets you swap between ‘sport’ and ‘lifestyle’ arms at will, and grip when on the sprint is remarkably good for such a cool-looking pair of specs.
These wraparound sunglasses have been lauded by reviewers for their secure fit, meaning they stay put even when you’re sweating like a pig (or 'gently misting', or 'glowing'; whatever turn of phrase you prefer) while tackling an incline.
Changing lenses is extremely simple, with four lenses taking you from gloomy days to ultra-bright sunshine, via a simple clicky system. Given that you get said four lenses, a comfortable, close fit, and a high-coverage design for under £40, you can definitely call this pair of specs a bargain. It doesn't look cheap, either.