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.
Obviously, the larger the lens, the more coverage it will offer against these dangers, but it’s also important that they wrap around to give some side protection, cut out light from entering and prevent wind from making your eyes tear up.
Of course, that coverage needs to be balanced with how they fit on your face – if the lens or frame contacts you, then it means they’ll fog up more easily and it can also be uncomfortable or make the glasses move around on your face.
Many riding glasses use a half-frame design, where the lens is only partially attached to the frame, This allows a greater and less obstructed field of vision, but it does mean that the lens is more exposed to damage when not being worn.
Depending on your facial features and head size, different frames might work better for some people than others. Although we try to point out which glasses work well for different people, it’s hard to beat trying them on.
Make sure they integrate well with your chosen helmet, too, and don’t dig into your head or create other pressure points. Whatever anyone might claim, looks are also important, but that’s very much a personal choice and often there will be a selection of frame colours on offer for a model.
More expensive glasses tend to have more features, such as easily interchangeable lenses plus adjustable fit of the noisepiece and arms. The quality and clarity of the lenses will go up with price too. A better lens will distort your vision less, giving better vision and also preventing eye strain.
Many high-end glasses now have light sensitive photochromic lenses, which have a special coating that reacts to light. This means you can use a single lens for very bright days as well as more overcast ones, but even the best can take a bit of time to react and cheaper ones can take a even longer.
Now you’ve got the basics, here are the best sunglasses for mountain biking that we’ve tested recently.
Best sunglasses for mountain biking
- Alpina Twist Five CM+: £60 / €80
- BBB Avenger: £50
- Madison Stealth: £35
- Oakley Flight Jacket Photochromic: £217 / $226 / AU$295 / €218
- dhb Fractal Revo: £70 / $94 / AU$120 / €81
- Julbo Fury Reactiv: £155 / €190
Alpina Twist Five CM+
- Price: £60 / €80
Alpina’s red mirror lens gives a warm feel to the visuals and it’s nicely curved without causing any distortion.
An adjustable nosepiece and angle-adjustable arms help give an excellent fit and security on the face. Small screws all around the frame add to the feel of high build-quality and good value. Aesthetically, they’re less sporty and more pub-friendly, which could be a plus or minus for you.
The smaller lenses give less coverage than some glasses, though, increasing the chance of mud finding its way through. More of the frame is visible than on the other styles too, although this didn’t bother us on the bike.
- Price: £50
Despite sitting very close to the face, especially over the cheeks, these BBB glasses have good ventilation, thanks to cutaways at the top of the lens. The nosepiece is adjustable, allowing you to tweak the fit somewhat.
Three lenses are included – a dark tint, yellow for low light, and clear – making them great value. It’s fairly easy to swap lenses by popping them out of the frame. We had no issues with the optics.
They’re broad-framed though, so the arms interfere with some helmets. We needed to do some fine-tuning with the nosepiece to get the fit just right and stop them touching our eyelashes.
- Price: £35
Their low weight makes the Stealths incredibly comfortable to wear all day, being barely noticeable on the face. This is echoed by the frameless design, which gives full visibility. An adjustable nosepiece aids the fit.
For £20 more you can get a three-lens pack, including clear and yellow lenses. Swapping them is easy, achieved with a twist of the arms.
Because the lens isn’t the deepest, splashes can find their way up under the glasses. We also found they lacked a little security over rougher terrain, due in part to the flexibility of the frame.
Oakley Flight Jacket Photochromic
- Price: £217 / $226 / AU$295 / €218
The high-quality photochromic lens changes quickly from clear to dark, and no frame at the top means unhindered vision when your head’s down.
Oakley’s build quality is excellent, as are spares availability and back-up. The adjustable fit ensures they stay in place when you’re sweaty, while the ‘Advancer’ nose bridge lets you move the lens forward from the face to prevent fogging.
We found the nose bridge tricky to adjust on the fly, though. It also changes the weight distribution, giving a heavier feel. Swapping lenses also isn’t as easy as on other Oakley models. The price tag is a shocker too!
dhb Fractal Revo
- Price: £70 / $94 / AU$120 / €81
With a reflective lens that blocks over 80 per cent of light, the Fractal Revos are best suited to open terrain on sunny days, where they reduce brightness and glare greatly.
The full frame, designed for small to medium-sized faces, never impinged on our vision, and the highly-sprung frame and arms grip well even on rough trails, yet remain comfortable on all-day rides.
We found that the dark, blue-ish lens isn’t ideal in dappled light, where the reduced contrast makes picking out trail obstacles tricky. For the price we’d expect an adjustable nosepiece and a higher-quality feel.
Julbo Fury Reactiv
- Price: £155 / €190
Plenty of protection is provided by the large lens, but because it’s only held by the frame in a few key areas, ventilation is excellent, with no undue fogging.
A flexible, rubbery section on the split arms adds comfort over the ears and, combined with the nosepiece, gives a secure fit. The photochromic Reactiv lens reacts to light fairly quickly, but not as fast as Oakley’s equivalent.
Unfortunately, they lack the premium feel you’d expect for the high price, with a non-adjustable nosepiece and a bit of a flimsy feel due to the lens not being attached all the way around the frame.