A decent set of sunglasses is an essential part of any mountain biker’s wardrobe, for a number of reasons. The most obvious is protection from bright sunlight to give you a clear view down the trail, with less glare, less squinting and less damage to your eyes from harmful UV rays.
They also provide physical protection from flying trail debris, whether that be roost from another rider’s back wheel, spray from puddles, bugs, or errant tree branches.
Are Mountain Biking Sunglasses Different From Regular Ones?
In short, yes. Mountain bikers have a need for a different set of specs to other people.
Standard riding goggles. We’re all familiar with standard riding goggles – they’re the kind you see a lot of bikers wearing. They look a little like the kind you might wear for watersports, or as swim goggles. These must be made of a special type of material, as they generally have a tight seal against the skin of your face, for full protection and immersion. They also provide some protection for the ears, which regular sunglasses don’t.
They generally have zips in the front to allow them to be removed and used as normal glasses in non-riding times (if you’re ever in an accident, the last thing you need is a pair of zipped-up glasses getting in your way!) They’re often rather heavy, and sit more-or-less over the ears, rather than resting on them, as standard glasses do.
They’re generally not the kind of glasses you can wear comfortably when not actually riding your bike. Unless you’re a triathlete.
Sports sunglasses. In the past couple of decades, ‘sports sunglasses’ have become more and more popular, and fashionable in their own right. These generally sit on your nose as standard glasses do, and don’t have any kind of seal against your skin. These are not the kind of glasses you’d wear to ride a bike – they’re quite flimsy and fragile in comparison to riding goggles.
There are exceptions. For instance, the Oakley Jawbreaker sunglasses have a long-lasting reputation as the gold standard for protection from trail debris, with a sturdy goggles-style frame. But these aren’t glasses you can sit at your desk in.
Some classic Oakley Jawbreaker specs, with the distinctive pinch-style ear and filter.
What Kind Of Sunglasses Do I Need For Mountain Biking?
There are several scenarios you could find yourself in as a rider, and it’s important to have the right kind of specs for these:
Commuting in bad weather. You might not have thought about it, but even if you’re not a full-time commuter, you’re likely to find yourself coming into work in the rain, on a bike. You’ll need weatherproof, flexible sunglasses that are comfortable enough to wear at the same time as a helmet.
Staying safe on exposed trails. If there’s any kind of flying debris, the last thing you need is to be rocking goggles that you can’t see out of. But you still want very good protection from the sun. Regular sunglasses just won’t cut it! You’ll want a pair of powerful specs that will protect your eyes from the elements and glares.
Riding in the dark. If you’re riding at night, you’ll need good-quality night-riding specs that can help you see well enough, but also ensure you don’t dazzle oncoming traffic.
Flat, hot climates. If you live in a sunny part of the world, you’re more likely to need sunglasses with UV protection than most people. But you still need a pair that can give good protection and clarity – regular sunglasses will leave your face exposed to harmful UV rays. Sports sunglasses are simply not designed for riding, with their flimsy frames and fragile lenses.
A final consideration to bear in mind is the kind of riding you do. If you’re an aggressive, downhill rider, you’ll need a pair of sunglasses that can handle the punishment that your love for gravity brings! If you’re more of a long-distance cross-country rider, you might want single-vision glasses or an open spare pair to swap out for descents – you really don’t want to be trying to change a lens when you’re bouncing across a trail!
For downhill riding, you’ll need frames that can withstand the punishment of rocks and roots, and lenses that aren’t going to fog up.
What Kind Of Lenses Do I Need?
The main thing you need to know about lenses is what kind of lens is right for your riding style. You’re likely to need:
Single-vision lenses. These provide a good balance of strength, visibility, and protection, and are best for longer-distance riding.
These provide a good balance of strength, visibility, and protection, and are best for longer-distance riding. Zero-cancellation lenses. Ideal for helmet-wearing and open-ended trail riding, these special lenses help to reduce the strain on your eyes caused by brightly reflecting objects.
Ideal for helmet-wearing and open-ended trail riding, these special lenses help to reduce the strain on your eyes caused by brightly reflecting objects. Transition lenses. These are useful if you like riding in all kinds of light, but is particularly useful for changing weather conditions.
A high-quality set of all-weather glasses with the best lenses for all conditions is a must.
Polarized lenses. These will reduce the glare from water – a very useful feature for wet or rainy weather.
These will reduce the glare from water – a very useful feature for wet or rainy weather. Other advanced options. You might need prescription lenses – something that the majority of glasses-wearers won’t. You might have to have ultra-light lenses or maybe even something reflective or tinted. These are all options depending on your specific needs.
What Else Should I Look Out For?
Deerskin nose pads. Sometimes reading glasses can irritate your nose, which can sometimes rub through the nose pads on your glasses. Breathable nose pads are commonly made out of synthetic rubber with holes, and these can be irritating to wear, especially when you’re sweating. Deerskin nose pads are much kinder to the skin.
Sometimes reading glasses can irritate your nose, which can sometimes rub through the nose pads on your glasses. Breathable nose pads are commonly made out of synthetic rubber with holes, and these can be irritating to wear, especially when you’re sweating. Deerskin nose pads are much kinder to the skin. HD coatings. All glasses will have a coating designed to protect your eyes from glare. Some have a better coating than others, and these can reduce glare significantly.
All glasses will have a coating designed to protect your eyes from glare. Some have a better coating than others, and these can reduce glare significantly. Double-hinged glasses. A lot of bikers have glasses that are double-hinged. This kind allows for greater flexibility and comfort when riding, allowing you to put your glasses on easily and take them off, even when wearing your helmet.
A lot of bikers have glasses that are double-hinged. This kind allows for greater flexibility and comfort when riding, allowing you to put your glasses on easily and take them off, even when wearing your helmet.
This product was recommended by Andrew Nelson from Pump Advisor
The Tifosi Davos Cycling Sunglasses are a great choice when you’re looking for lots of options at a lower price point. They come with three different lens options that will suit the majority of light conditions. This package comes with a smoke lens, which has a darker grey tint suitable for bright daytime riding, a clear option for night riding, and a unique red lens which increases contrast – perfect for trail riding, especially when riding on dappled light trails in the middle of the afternoon. The adjustable nose-piece means you can micro-adjust the fit for ultimate comfort, not to mention they get some style points for a low-cost option too.
This product was recommended by Allie Yaldezian from Public Haus Agency
Knockaround Sports Frames come in a variety of awesome color combos, tailor-made for athletes. Rubber nose pads stop these sunglasses from slipping and sliding so you can stay focused, while polarized lenses prevent glare from slowing you down. Knockarounds are lightweight, comfortably fitted, and look great on most face shapes. Go the extra mile in style when you add these sports shades to your ride.
This product was recommended by Hannah Hinson from Cal Coast Adventures
These glasses check all of the boxes for us. They are fully wrap-around to protect the eyes. They have an adjustable nose bridge to fit most faces and fit comfortably under most helmets. The lenses offer color blocking technology called ‘Chromapop’ and filter specific wavelengths of light (blue and green, and green and red) that cause color confusion in bright and shaded areas. The brand says this allows for improved definition, more natural color, and unmatched clarity, allowing your eyes to pick up more detail. They are also 100% UV protected to keep your eyes healthy for many rides to come.
This product was recommended by Noman Asghar from Fan Jackets
It’s a high-quality sunglasses specially built for mountain biking. Its lens width is 38 mm, can work on rainy days. Available in set which includes sunglasses, leash kit, and iwear kit. Perfect for enthusiast biker.
This product was recommended by Sneha Mishra from SkateboardSeek
Julbo Monterosa are good for really sunny days with lots of snow. The side shields do a good job of blocking direct sun rays. What’s really amazing is how much glare is reduced in harsh light, these look and feel good on a smaller face, probably more for women, although there’s nothing extremely feminine about the cut, a guy can also easily wear them. These sunglasses not only look fabulous, but are super clear for poolside or mountainside. One advice for everybody is to read the package carefully for full range of use and where not to use these.
This product was recommended by Dan Tognotti from Bracelayer® Compression Apparel
The Oakley SI M Frame® 3.0 with Gasket PPE sunglasses are my go-to biking sunglasses for low light conditions. They sharpen my vision while mountain biking in trees and the gasket helps block out wind and dirt.