A decent set of sunglasses is an essential part of any mountain biker’s wardrobe, for a number of reasons.
The best mountain bike sunglasses protect you from bright sunlight. They help give you a clear view down the trail, with less glare, less squinting and less possibility of 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 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, the glasses will fog up more easily and can become uncomfortable or move around on your face.
Many mountain bike glasses use a half-frame design, where the lens is only partially attached to the frame, This enables a greater and less obstructed field of vision, but it does mean 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 best 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 pressure points.
Whatever anyone might claim, looks can also be 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 MTB sunglasses tend to have more features, such as easily interchangeable lenses, plus adjustable fit of the nose piece and arms. The quality and clarity of the lenses will go up with price too. A better lens will have improved clarity and distort your vision less.
Many high-end mountain bike 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 even longer.
Now you’ve got the basics, here are the best sunglasses for mountain biking we’ve tested recently.
Best sunglasses for mountain biking
- £170/$185 as tested
Available in a wide choice of lens tints, the S3s on test had the HiPER red mirror lens, which we found to be incredibly versatile and covers a wide range of light conditions.
With impressive clarity and pop, it’s without doubt one of the best pairs of mountain bike sunglasses we’ve tested. The coverage is great and the frame remained outside our peripheral vision.
The glasses are also very comfortable and stay securely in place no matter what you’re riding over. There were no compatibility issues with our helmets and a clear lens is included.
The glasses don’t quite score full marks because they don’t have the best lens ventilation (but we didn’t steam them up). The nosepiece is flimsily attached and you also pay for the performance.
- £60 as tested
The Madison Crypto glasses offer excellent optical clarity and the large lens means optimum eye coverage in all conditions.
All three lenses are effective at their jobs, with the amber being the most versatile and usable in a range of light conditions. Swapping lenses is easy thanks to the flexible frame, which is easy to manipulate.
The nosepiece is highly adjustable, and the curved arms are secure and comfortable.
These glasses didn’t interfere with any of our helmets. Despite no obvious ventilation, they stay fog-free.
The bronze mirror lens shows fingermarks easily, and the curved arms can be tricky to get over your ears with a lid on.
- £140 as tested
- Wide field of view
- No hard case
The Koo Demos MTB glasses weigh in at 31g and feature a chunky angular frame with thick curved arms that contour the head, giving a wrap-around feel.
Anti-slip rubber inserts extend down the arms, which keep the glasses in place on rough terrain, while adjustable nose pads ensure a tailored fit.
The Zeiss lens provides great clarity, though the type of lens available is fixed to certain frame colours with the photochromic lens only available with a white frame.
The lack of a clear lens option and a soft case were a let down to our tester, with many glasses in this price range offering these as standard.
Oakley Sutro Lite Photochromic
- £173/$214/€200/AU$279 as tested
- Lens adjusts well to light conditions
- Non-adjustable nose piece
The Sutro Lite is smaller than the Oakley Sutro, but the half-frame design means the glasses still offer a large field of view.
While not as dark as regular lenses in the brightest conditions, the photochromic lens does well at adjusting to light – with our tester finding the lens usable even in dusk hours.
A fixed nose piece position makes the glasses hard to adjust to different facial profiles.
Oakley Sutro Lite Sweep (Vented)
- £149/$189/€170/AU$230 as tested
Oakley’s contrast-enhancing Prizm Trail Torch lens is impressive at highlighting features on the trail, while still cutting out glare and providing a good tint for use in bright light. The nose piece is exceptionally soft and comfortable, and the glasses don’t rattle or move at all while riding.
The arms of the lens do not interfere with helmets and the ventilation is excellent, thanks to the drilled lens, without the Sutro Lites being too breezy.
The downside to the Sutro Lite Sweeps is that the coverage isn’t the best and the colourful frame is visible, but not obtrusive, when riding. The distinctive styling divided opinion among our testers.
Rapha Pro Team Full Frame Trail
- £120/$165/€145/AU$210 as tested
The Rapha Pro Team Full Frame Trail’s wide wraparound shades are very comfortable. There’s a silicone gripper and a flexible tip on the shortish arms, which helps them stay in place over bumpy sections.
The glasses sat nicely against our tester’s face. With five frame and lens options available, our rose-tint set was versatile in all conditions and reduced glare admirably.
The lens has plenty of ventilation, too. An additional clear lens and different nose piece are provided in the box.
The disadvantages of the glasses are that they don’t offer as much coverage as other options and the nose piece isn’t the supplest. Smaller testers found they could slip down on rough trails.
Scott Pro Shield
- £100/$110/€120 as tested
- Good airflow and field of view
- Robust frames
The Pro Shields have an excellent field of view, thanks to their tall frame. We tested the orange lens, which performs well in a wide variety of trail conditions, from overcast to dappled light.
While lens ventilation is on the more minimal side, the frame sits away from your face, so airflow is still good. The temple tips are short and tuck behind the ears for a secure and comfortable fit that avoids helmet straps. Extra points for the styling, too.
This particular lens isn’t best suited to bright direct sunshine, although glare wasn’t a big issue. Another downside with the Pro Shields is that they don’t fit smaller faces so well.
- £50 as tested
Despite sitting very close to your face, especially over the cheeks, these BBB glasses have good ventilation, thanks to cutaways at the top of the lens. The nose piece 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.
- £65/€72 as tested
With four lenses and a cleaning cloth in addition to the usual soft and hard cases, the Viris Raptor glasses offer excellent value.
The yellow lens boosts light effectively, while the rose adds contrast and the mirror works best in bright, clear conditions.
Optically, they’re good, with no tiring of the eyes on longer rides. There’s ample nosepiece adjustability, and arm grippers help prevent the glasses from sliding down. Fogging is minimal.
They can rattle against your lid and it can be hard to get the arms under the shell of more protective helmets. Lens swapping can be a bit tricky too.
The following sunglasses scored fewer than four out of five in our test but are still worth considering.
- £35 as tested
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 nose piece 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
- £217/$226/€218/AU$295 as tested
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 enables you to 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 isn’t as easy as on other Oakley models. The price is high too.
- £83/$140/€110 as tested
The Julbo Furys are among the most secure glasses we’ve tested, with short arms that fitted well with a range of helmets. The soft rubber temple tips rested comfortably above our ears.
The green mirror lens tested works best in bright sunlight, where it cuts glare very well. The lens has plenty of ventilation, which helps keep it fog-free. We didn’t find the frame distracting when riding.
The glasses don’t have the most premium feel. The lens tint didn’t work so well in darker conditions, but lighter options are available. The top of the frame also sits quite low down, putting it in your field of view.
Melon Kingpin Trail
- £130/$159/€150/AU$229 as tested
Featuring a quality Zeiss lens, these shades are fully customisable, with a choice of seven frame colours and six lens tints plus a photochromic option. An interchangeable low-light lens is also included.
Our amber (from the inside) lens worked well in a variety of conditions, provided generous coverage and did a good job of minimising glare. The frame is only faintly noticeable, in peripheral vision.
Unfortunately, it’s difficult to get the glasses to sit well, with their long arms fouling some helmet cradles. Add the skinny temple pads, and they don’t always feel secure. They also lack lens vents.
dhb Fractal Revo
- £70/$94/€81/AU$120 as tested
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 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 nose piece and a higher-quality feel.
Julbo Fury Reactiv
- £155/€190 as tested
Plenty of protection is provided by the large lens, and 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.