The best cycling sunglasses are a smart buy, whether you ride on the road or the trail. The clarity of vision the lenses provide and the protection they afford make them an essential purchase.
Hazards such as grit, insects and overhanging branches can seriously damage your eyes when you’re hurtling along at 25mph or more, and even rain can really sting your eyeballs.
Aside from protecting your eyes, you need your glasses to be comfortable and to stay in place. Versatility is important too, which is why some cycling glasses come with different coloured lenses, while others allow you to specify prescription optics.
Let’s not forget aesthetics, either. After all, we all like to look good, and it might even save you money if it means you don’t need another pair of glasses for non-riding days.
Here’s our pick of this year’s shades so you can choose your perfect pair.
What to look for when buying cycling sunglasses
Lens: Different tints can improve perception and protect your eyes. Photochromic lenses change tint when exposed to UV light, while distortion-free lenses help keep vision clear.
Frame: Low profile designs keep frames out of vision and allow easy lens swaps. In sports glasses, polymer materials reduce weight and allow lens retention systems to be easily formed.
Arms: Whether flexible, mouldable or rigid, the arms must grip the head snugly without pinching to keep the glasses stable. Look out for rubber pads, which grip the head, and ventilation ports for maximum comfort.
Nose bridge: Whether it’s a single curved band or a pair of pads, adjustability on the bridge can keep the frames out of your vision by altering how high on the face the glasses rest.
Best cycling sunglasses: our picks
Dragon Alliance EnduroX
- Contrast-boosting transition lenses with great optical clarity
- Comfortable, adjustable and secure fit
- Robust, half-frame design that’ll survive some rough treatment
- Price: £135 / $220 / AU$ 300
- Buy now from ShadeStation.co.uk
Optics company Dragon Alliance might not be that well known in the cycling world — at least, not yet — but it's big in the snowsports and moto world, known for producing cool-looking performance goggles and glasses.
The Enduro X glasses are its outdoor activity offering, designed for mountain biking and trail running.
There are four versions of the Enduro X glasses to choose from: the black framed version with yellow tinted transition lenses we tested; a black frame with copper and clear lenses; black frame with grey and clear lenses; and white frame with red ion and clear lenses. All of which feature a half-frame design.
Optical clarity is excellent with only a very slight and subtle distortion at the periphery of the field of view. The transition lenses reacted impressively quickly to brightening conditions, swiftly changing tint from the contrast-boosting yellow to a dark shade.
Transitioning the other way was slightly slower, resulting in a temporary need to use 'the Force' to navigate after entering a dark wooded section after bright sunlight, but the optical clarity was such that it was still possible to make out the terrain for the few seconds it took for the lens to adjust.
We also tested the resilience of these glasses by dropping and (accidentally) stepping on them as well as crashing in them. The glasses came out intact, but with just some slight scratching on the lens after being stepped on — so it's probably best if you avoid doing that where possible — but completely unscathed after the crashes.
The lenses are interchangeable and the other glasses in the range mentioned above come with two lens options so you can swap between clear and shaded options.
Vents at the top help to prevent fogging. In fact, these glasses performed exceptionally well in humid and cool conditions, conditions where we’ve suffered a lot with lens fogging from other brands. They will steam up a little when you stop, but clear almost as soon as you start moving again.
Oakley Jawbreaker Prizm Road
- Excellent distortion free lens
- Tall shape works well when on drops
- Sticky rubber at nose and temples keeps them locked in place
- Price: £175 / $210 / AUS$ 280
- Buy now from Wiggle.co.uk
Oakley's Jawbreaker Prizm Road sunglasses are, for the most part, an excellent pair of shades for road cycling. The optics are crystal clear with no distortion and the Prizm tint clarifies road surface as well as provides the basic UV protection and shade for your eyes.
The 53mm tall lens works well for riding in the drops. The extended upper piece lets you see up the road when your head is tilted down.
The 131mm width wraps around the face considerably, with scalloped lower sections making room for your cheekbones.
The Jawbreaker frame isn't really visible (save those annoying logos), unless you're really rolling your eyes, and it has saved us more than a few times when accidentally dropping the glasses.
The nose-piece is adjustable for width and the earpieces for length. Both feature a tacky rubber that Oakley, in true Oakley fashion, calls 'Unobtanium'. Whatever the silly name, the stuff works quite well. When rattling across lousy road surfaces or even the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix, the glasses stay perfectly in place, no matter how much sweat is pouring off your face.
The Jawbreakers come in a variety of frame colors and special edition models. While we've tested the Prizm Road here, we've also found the Prizm Trail lens to perform very well off-road too, with the lens really helping trail clarification and pop in a wide range of situations.
Scott Spur LS
- Distinctive angular looks that allow plenty of lens coverage
- Swappable photochromic lens with extra clear lens
- Comfortable, grippy and lightweight
- Price: £99 / $99
- Buy now from Amazon
Scott’s Spur glasses (31g) have a distinctive angular design, but this isn’t just about looking good — it’s also about function.
The stepped-down arms are designed so that they are completely clear of your helmet, while still allowing plenty of lens coverage up to and above your brow. When you’re riding, this means no wind or light intrudes over the top of the frame, which is very welcome.
The lens itself is photochromic, which means it changes with the light. Under low light conditions the lens is a smoke grey colour, turning dark grey as lighting conditions brighten.
But however bright it is, the lens still provides 100 percent UVA and UVB protection. For really dull days, or if you’re riding in darkness, the Spur also comes with a second, clear lens.
The frame is designed to allow you to swap lenses quickly. Just fold the arm, pull on the lower section and it slides out of the way, allowing you to simply and swiftly remove the lens. It’s similar to the Switchlock system that Oakley uses on its RadarLock glasses, but is both less fiddly and quicker to operate.
The lens has small vents above the nose section and a couple more above the hinges. We found them effective too. Thanks to the combination of this venting and a hydrophobic — water-repellent — coating, we couldn’t get them to fog at all during all sorts of rides in drastically different weather conditions.
The frame itself is very well tensioned, holding your face without bouncing or slipping even when riding over rougher ground — helped by the grippy, soft-touch nose-piece and soft temple tips.
You can see the bridge while riding, which is the only criticism we can make of the Spurs, but not to the point of it being distracting.
Smith Optics Pivlock Arena Max
- High-performance cycling eyewear with crystal-clear optics
- PivLock system makes swapping lens a breeze
- Long arms and tall frames make contact with some helmets
- Price: £120 / $159 / AU$ 269
- Buy now from Chain Reaction Cycles
The latest-edition Smith Optics Arena Max V2's lens is quite big, measuring 48mm tall — that's 2mm smaller than Oakley's Radar EV — and is totally frameless, but they still weigh in at a feathery 29g.
With no frame to get in the way, the lens extends far past your field of vision both up and down, meaning that when tucked in an aero time trial position, you’re not peering over the top of the lens.
The large curved lens provides for distortion-free vision, and is one of the clearest we’ve used. Smith includes three lenses in the package: Red Sol-X Mirror, Ignitor and clear.
The Red Sol-X Mirror is quite dark, only allowing for 11 percent visible light transmission, and was our Australian tester’s choice for just about every road ride. With considerably more visible light transmission than the Red Mirror lens, we found the Ignitor lens at 32 percent VTL best suited to the varied light conditions of mountain biking.
All three lenses get hydrophobic coating front and back, meaning rain will bead off the outside and sweat will also bead and run off the inside of the lens. This coating also helps repel oil (such as from fingerprints), allowing it to be wiped off rather than smudging on the lens.
Like most other performance sunglasses with long straight arms, the tips do overlap with some helmet retention systems. As this is commonplace it’s not a major cause for complaint, but when the helmet moves, so will your sunglasses.
The arms also sit quite high and will make contact with some helmets as a result of riding-related jiggles, which can cause the glasses to slowly work their way down your nose. That said, the nose pads and temple tips are made from tacky rubber, which helps keep them planted on your face.
Unique to the PivLocks is the adjustable nose-piece, though it's not adjustable in the sense you might expect. Instead of the actual nose pads moving in or out individually, the rubber pads slide up and down bringing the pads together or pushing them apart respectively. It’s only a few millimetres but it does make a difference in where the lens sits on your face.
- Excellent lens coverage, with impressive all-round light performance
- Virtually immune to steaming up, thanks to large vents and water-resistant lens treatment
- Comfortable, secure fit for different head widths
- Price: £155 / $180 / AU$ 240
- Buy now from Amazon
The B-Rock’s frame is in two sections. The lower part incorporates the replaceable and adjustable hypoallergenic nose-piece that can be tweaked for a comfortable fit, and the upper reinforces the lens between the arms. A slim rubber strip on the frame below each eye and across the brow improves hold, comfort and sweat management too.
The frame has plenty of spring to conform to different head widths, plus almost half of each arm can be bent to conform ideally to your temples and helmet, with a compressible internal rubber strip providing extra grip.
Our pick of the four models available has a Trivex Modulator Brown Emerald lens, which has a light brown tint and multi-layer blue-green mirror coating. Trivex is lighter and stronger than the polycarbonate used in most sunglasses and has great optical qualities, offering superb clarity and sharpness.
Its water and oil-resistant treatments, plus large temple vents, keep it immune from steaming up and other contaminants, and the outer coating reduces dazzling.
Coverage is such that whatever your head position, vision is superb in all directions and the slim frame is almost completely out of sight and never distracting. The Modulator lens is photochromic too, meaning that it adapts to light levels.
We’ve found it equally impressive on the brightest days and when going in and out of heavily shaded areas on dull days. The brown tint really improves contrast in all light and the colour vibrancy is uplifting.
The glasses weigh just 32g and have so far played nicely with every helmet we’ve worn them with, and in hundreds of miles on- and off-road have remained firmly where we put them.
POC Do Blade glasses
- Striking Swedish sunnies with great optics
- Large lens and curved frame won’t appeal to everyone
- Comfortable to wear over long periods of riding
- Price: £180 / $230 / AU$ 330
- Buy now from Wiggle
The first thing you notice about these sunglasses is the size. The lens is large, coming up taller than most of the opposition. The effect of this is that it offers masses of coverage when you’re down in the drops — there’s virtually no intrusion from the frame into your view in even the most extreme position on the bike.
The flipside is that this can interfere with the brow of your helmet, and at the very least means there’s less airflow over the top of the frame. As a result, they did fog up from the top a little, although the mid-length vents at the top of the lens helped them to clear quickly enough.
The frame has a nifty bar in the centre of the glasses, which when pressed helps to release the lens if you want to swap it. The glasses don’t come with spare lenses, but the stock ‘Road’ lens has a level 2 tint, which is neither too dark nor too light and it works well in a wide range of light conditions.
The lens is made by Carl Zeiss, and is curved on both the vertical and horizontal axes, making the optics among the best we’ve found.
The slim arms have a moderate amount of flex. Combined with their low weight, the Do Blades are comfortable over long periods of time. There’s minimal pressure on your ears anyway, although if there was a little more flexibility in the nose-piece, fit would be marginally improved.
Aesthetically — and we all know this is important — these really do split opinions. They’re certainly striking, but their large lens and curved frame gives them a slightly feminine look, which some blokes might not like…
Smith Optics Pivlock Asana Women's
- Superb glasses for riders with smaller faces
- Great sizing, broad field of vision, decent venting
- Pricey, and fogging can occur on slow-paced riding
- Price: £85 / $189 / AU$ 249
- Buy now from Tredz
Smith’s Pivlock Asanas are a revelation for those of us with smaller faces, who can find it a nigh-on impossible task to find riding glasses that fit. The sleek, minimal frame ensures a broad, uninterrupted field of vision, and it comes with three interchangeable lenses that can be popped in and out using Smith’s straightforward PivLock system.
We found that the lower of two available nose bridge settings offered the best protection for our tester's eyes without the pad intruding into sight, as it did in the higher setting. The coverage provided by the Asanas is excellent and our tester didn’t get dirt in her eyes at any time during the testing period.
Slow-paced riding on sweaty days does lead to a little fogging, but as soon as the pace picks up they vent well enough to clear pretty quickly. The lenses have a water-resistant coating that clears rain well and has stood up well during three months of use.