The sunglasses arms race | Enormous shades are the least subtle Tour tech trend of 2020

Just why do cyclists wear big sunglasses?

Team CCC rider Belgium's Greg Van Avermaet arrives to attend the start of the 6th stage of the 107th edition of the Tour de France cycling race, 191 km between Le Teil and Mont Aigoual, on September 3, 2020. (Photo by Marco Bertorello / various sources / AFP) (Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP via Getty Images)

Perhaps influenced by the increasing proliferation of PPE in our everyday lives, the adoption of enormous goggle-like sunglasses by most riders in this year’s Tour de France is one of the least subtle tech trends on show at this year’s race.

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Though we’re not talking Sagan-like podium-goggle antics (I will stop watching bicycle racing if anyone dons a pair of these in a road race), newly-released sunglasses from the likes of Koo, 100%, Scicon and these limited-edition shades from Oakley are all uncompromising in their pursuit of ultimate bigness.

Worn alongside mandatory post-race face masks, the combination of large sunglasses and next-to-no skin on show has given the 2020 peloton an odd robot-like look that has been noticed by more than a few. Here’s a brief history of oversized sunglasses in pro cycling, who’s riding what this year, and why riders wear them in the first place.

Adam Yates, 107th Tour de France 2020 - Stage 6
Race leader Adam Yates has fully embraced the robot-like mask and glasses look.
Marco Bertorello/Getty Images

A brief history of big cycling sunglasses

Truly big sunnies were first popularised by Greg LeMond when he donned the now-legendary Oakley Eyeshade for the 1984 edition of the Tour. Soon, half of the peloton were seen in them and the oversized sunglasses arms-race kicked off in earnest. 

The early nineties rolled around with a barrage of similarly oversized designs – think the Bolle Edge II – with things eventually becoming increasingly weird, small and insect-inspired as the decade progressed. 

The Oakley M-Frame and its many imitators then dominated the Lance-era and shades remained roughly the same size until 2015 when the then-revolutionary Oakley Jawbreaker – popularised by Mark Cavendish – was released. 

Every brand and their dog has followed suit, culminating in this year’s big-shade-energy-dominated race. 

UNDATED: Greg LeMond looks on in an undated photo. (Photo by Robert Riger/Getty Images)
Robert Riger/Getty Images

Who’s riding what? Oversized sunglasses at the 2020 Tour

You don’t have to look far to spot huge sunglasses in the peloton – have a look through our gallery above for starters – but there are also a number of brand new models at this year’s Tour, including:

Why do cyclists wear big sunglasses anyway?

Tour de France Stage 3, Egan Bernal, Oakley sunglasses
Defending champion Egan Bernal sporting a set of Oakley Sutro shades.
Marco Bertorello/Getty Images

I have long been a strong proponent of oversized sunglasses.

Perhaps the fact I’m the son of a cabinet maker and grew up around scary spinning blades has given me a stronger aversion than most to the idea of things going in my eyes.

Large sunglasses give greater protection to your eyes and the soft tissue around them.

Picture by Alex Whitehead/ - 31/08/2020 - Cycling - 2020 Tour de France - Stage 3: Nice to Sisteron - Peter Sagan of Bora–Hansgrohe at the start.
If they’re cool enough for Peter Sagan…
Alex Whitehead/

Goodness forbid should you crash, larger frames may also be less likely to impact the soft tissue around your eyes.

By virtue of their size, they also tend to obscure your peripheral vision less than smaller frames. In my experience, anyway, they can also be less prone to fogging up.

I am not alone in my love for the large life – BikeRadar technical editor Alex Evans summed up his feels on the trend as “make sunglasses bigger – better optics, fewer flies, and increase mirrored finishes while you’re at it”.

Technical writer Simon Bromley and editor George Scott also simply said of the trend, “cool”, and that’s an assessment I stand by.

On that last point, there’s no point in denying that in the midst of a several-hundred-rider strong peloton, comically oversized sunglasses are more likely to stand out on the sweaty billboard that is professional road racing.

EVREUX, FRANCE - JULY 10: Belgian Wilfried Nelissen (L) and Italian Mario Cipollini arm wrestle in Evreaux, France, 09 July 1993 before the start of the sixth stage of the Tour de France. Cipollini finished second regaining the overall lead from Nelissen. (Photo credit should read VINCENT AMALVY/AFP via Getty Images)
Why were these glasses every allowed out in the wild?

Call me a cynic if you like, but, if standing out wasn’t the end goal with cycling sunglasses, why were designs such as the Oakley Over The Top, Assos Zegho or Briko Raider 2 ever allowed out into the wild?

Alongside the aforementioned new releases, an as-of-yet unreleased pair of Oakley sunglasses – which are rumoured to be the Oakley Sutro Lite – have also been spotted this season. Classics such as the POC Do Blade have also made an appearance.

BERGAMO, ITALY - AUGUST 15: Remco Evenepoel of Deceuninck Quick-Step team speaks during an interview before the start of 114th Il Lombardia 2020 on August 15, 2020 in Bergamo, Italy. (Photo by Sara Cavallini/Getty Images)
Remco Evenepoel, who crashed out of the Giro Il Lombardia last month, had earlier been spotted wearing a set of as-of-yet unreleased Oakley sunglasses. These are rumoured to be the Sutro Lite.
Sara Cavallini/Getty Images

Big sunglasses are clearly here to stay, and I’m all for it – we all look silly enough as it is in cycling kit, so why not take it to the extreme? If the world of high fashion can make them work, so can we.

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But what do you think of large cycling sunglasses? Are you a fan or are they simply a passing fashion fad? Vote in the poll below of let us know what you think in the comments.