Best sunglasses for cycling

Our pick of 2012’s best riding sunglasses

The most important qualities to look for in a pair of new cycling sunglasses are the clarity of vision the lenses provide and the protection they afford. 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.

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Tifosi Slip Interchangeable 

£49.99 / US$59.95

You get a lot for your money with these multi-lens cycling specs. First off, there’s a snazzy Oakley-style hard case and lens cleaning bag. The frames themselves are also Oakley-inspired, with curved arms that easily slip underneath helmet straps and hug your head. 

They’re light, robust and allow you to change lenses by pinching the frame as you tug them. It does involve a fair bit of bending, so plastic fatigue might be an issue if you do it too regularly. The three lenses – clear, ‘all conditions’ red and dark – offer good but not spectacular vision, but the frames stick to your head like glue.

From: TifosiZyro

Salice 006 ITA

£69.95 / US$105.95

These funky wraparound shades give a wide field of vision and excellent protection to your precious peepers. They’re a respectable weight, and the soft nose and gently curving arms mean they sit tight and don’t budge when the going gets hot. 

The one-piece lens is high and wide, so you’re never left staring at the top of the frame when your head’s down. They come with two lens colours, base and clear, both of which offer impressive clarity. These click out easily and go back in with mildly more effort. We’d happily wear these shades all year round and they represent great value.

From: Salice

Bianchi Aquila 

£44.99 / US$73

The look and feel of these Bianchi shades makes you think they’d be expensive, but for a modest £45 (US$73) we reckon they’re quite a bargain. Their low weight combined with their exceptionally grippy nose and arms means they stay securely in place without feeling like they’re clamped on. 

Three lenses are included in the box (smoke, clear and yellow) and they feature ventilation holes between the lens and frame that help minimise misting. Swapping the lenses is relatively straightforward, but there’s one particularly fragile area on each lens that looks like it could easily break. Still, as long as you’re careful then these are brilliant specs that don’t cost the earth. 

From: Bianchi 

Oakley Jawbone Prescription

£365 / US$459 

If you’re a speccy cyclist then these are a revelation. We expect optical clarity from Oakley’s standard lenses, but it’s still a surprise just how clear corrected vision is with the Jawbones – no fuzziness, just pin-sharp clarity with the best peripheral vision coverage on test. 

Even with a strong prescription and thick lenses they only weigh 35g and, importantly, look no different to normal shades. The simple ‘lock’ system means you can easily swap lenses.

From: Oakley 

Click here to read BikeRadars full review of the Oakley Jawbone Prescription glasses

Oakley Polarized Radarlock Path

£225 / US$260

These sexy-looking shades have a clever switch that enables you to slip the one-piece lens in and out the frame easily. Two lenses are included, one for bright light conditions and one for overcast days; the one designed for bright days is polarised and has the best clarity and glare-reduction we’ve ever experienced. 

The lenses also have ventilation holes, which help minimise fogging. The arms grip your head reassuringly and yet they’re so comfortable you barely notice you have them on. Our only minor quibble is that they’re small, so riders with big heads will be able to see above and below the lens.

From: Oakley

Avenir Delta 

£17.99 / US$28

For anyone looking to save a few quid on cycling specs, look no further than these functional glasses from Avenir. These budget sunnies come in for under £18 (US$30) – significantly cheaper than the competition – and are surprisingly stylish and comfortable. 

There are four lenses included – dark, yellow, clear and mirror – and they clip into the lightweight but sturdy frames with ease. Optical clarity is adequate and they wrap around your face to give good coverage and peripheral vision. 

From: Avenir

Click here to read BikeRadar’s full review of the Avenir Delta glasses

Rudy Project Hypermask 

£171.99 / US$204.99

These retro-styled shades might make you look like a 1980s triathlete, but there are less gaudy colours in the range to choose from. However, they work well, their wide lenses and super-bendy arms wrapping weightlessly around your face like two feathers caressing the side of your head, while vision clarity is top notch, partly thanks to a frameless design. It means nothing obscures your sight, even in a low time-trial tuck. 

They were heading for top marks in our test until they started to slip down our nose during one particularly sweaty ride. The adjustable nose piece helped, but it’s not quite grippy enough.

From: Rudy Project 

Adidas Evil Eye Halfrim Pro

£169 / US$230

The latest incarnation of the Evil Eye is excellent. Adidas’s Tri-Fit arms enable you to alter the angle of the lens, which is great if you mix road, off-road and TT riding so switch your head position on the bike. The two supplied lenses are excellent, the LST Active in sunny conditions and the LST Bright for low light. 

Two widths are available so you should get a good fit, the sticky nose bridge is non-slip and the rubber on the arms get grippier as you sweat. We used the Rx inserts which, like the lenses, are simple to swap in and out. They’re reasonably small, so peripheral vision feels a touch compromised. A direct glaze prescription costs an extra £100 or so.

From: Adidas

Click here to read BikeRadar’s full review of the Evil Eye Halfrim Pro glasses

Bollé Vortex

£108 / US$199.99

Coverage from the Bollé’s lens is excellent  – not quite up there with the Rudy Hypermask or Oakley Radarlock but close – and vision is super-clear. The fast changing photochromic lenses have a hydrophobic coating so moisture is cleared quickly and vents do a good anti-fogging job. The adjustable nose grip keeps them firmly in place on your hooter. 

We had a £60 Rx insert from iOptix and it had one of the biggest lenses on test. That means corrected vision – even peripheral – was impressive and the lens unobtrusive. They only come with one lens but it is removable and different lenses – and frame colours – are available. 

Oakley Split Jacket – Transitions Lens

£230 / US$200

The Split Jackets have a similar lens retention and removal system to the Jawbone. Release the nosepiece latch and lower the bottom jaw – and the lens – falls out. It’s excellent in use, with no more plastic-straining and lens scratching when you swap them over. 

Ironically the photochromic lens on our sample didn’t ever need changing. From clear enough to night-ride to tinted enough for snowy days, they were a genuine ‘one lens fits all’. 

From: Oakley

Smith Pivlock V90

£95 / US$139.99

It has to be said that Smith’s ‘Posh Spice’ look didn’t agree with everyone’s taste, but once they were persuaded to throw them on and ride, there wasn’t one tester who disagreed on their performance. The rimless design mean you’re barely aware they’re on, the coverage is the best on test and we really struggled to get them to steam up anywhere. 

We’re not keen on the Pivlock lens change system, which has already scratched our lenses – albeit right at the pivot where it doesn’t affect performance – but that was the only drawback to these glasses.

From: Smith Optics

What to look for when buying 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.

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