Best Cycling Glasses for Performance and Aesthetics

Best Cycling Glasses for Performance and Aesthetics

Cycling is a low-impact sport that helps keep your heart pumping and your body conditioned. Many people enjoy going on a bike ride as an alternative to other methods of cardiovascular exercise that are particularly taxing on the muscles and joints, like running.

If you’ve been bitten by the cycling bug, you’re probably looking for the very best in terms of high-quality gear. Every seasoned cyclist will tell you that the proper gear makes all the difference between a great ride and one that is filled with irritations and minor distractions.

Part of every cyclist’s gear should include a solid pair of cycling glasses. Cycling glasses protect your eyes from hazards and also provide shelter from damaging sunlight. They also help cut back on glare and provide a more comfortable cycling experience. The problem is, not every cyclist is wearing them, and that’s a big problem.

The Stoggles team is on the case. Together, we’ll explore why cycling glasses are so important, what risks cycling poses to your vision, and what to look for in terms of cycling glasses specs.

It's time to break a sweat; let's discuss.

Why Cycling Glasses Aren’t Optional

Technically, everything is optional (even helmets in some states), but common sense shouldn’t be. Cycling glasses protect your eyes while you’re soaring down a hill at 30 mph or even while you’re pacing at 10-15.

At these high speeds, even a small piece of debris or a drop of rain can seriously damage your vision. Just like wearing gloves protects your knuckles from extreme temperatures and damage while you are riding, glasses protect your eyes, which are arguably much more vulnerable and really need that coverage.

If you’ve just started cycling, you might not realize the potential harms lurking around the next curve that could hurt your eyes and seriously impact your vision.

Here are just a few:

Insects

Riders have all taken a gnat to the eyeball or, even worse, swallowed one while participating in an outdoor sport. However, a fly or other insect with a hard exoskeleton can become as powerful as a paintball when it makes contact with your eye at high speeds.

Even if you’re lucky enough to avoid the “hard shell” bugs, gnats and mosquitos in your eyes are painful, distracting, and definitely require a pit stop for removal. You might even have to wrap up the whole day, and we can't get behind that.

At the same time, wearing goggles wouldn’t be a good option because you’ll prevent needed airflow on your face and end up feeling uncomfortable — or worse, dealing with fog. 

Road Rubble

Just like your car’s windshield can take a rogue pebble from the semi in front of it, you as a cyclist can sustain serious injury when dirt and debris are flung into your face from passing cars, other cyclists, or your own front tire. This applies to every terrain type. Whether you are mountain biking or gravel riding, the ground is coming to get you.

Unlike your car, cyclists who aren’t wearing protective, shatter-proof glasses have nothing to protect them from damage. Beyond rocks and pebbles on the trail, dust and dirt from the road and from surrounding foliage can also interfere with your vision and create the need to pull over. 

Regular sports glasses may not provide the levels of protection you need. Cycling eyewear has lens material that is typically more durable than regular sports glasses.

Sun

UV damage is cumulative in your eyes. You might not notice that your vision is suffering from sun exposure initially, but over the years your vision may begin to decline, and you may develop UV exposure-related conditions, like surfer’s eye, photokeratitis, or macular degeneration. Even in low light or dim light conditions, UVA and UVB rays are still a threat.

Cyclists are especially at risk because of the glare from light reflected on the pavement where you are riding. These harmful UV rays create a corneal sunburn, which is more serious than the type of sunburn we get on our skin.

All of these add up to eye damage that is sometimes irreversible and, at best, takes you out of your cycling game for a few weeks until you’re healed. 

Cycling sunglasses need to be different from your regular sports sunglasses, though. If they don’t meet other criteria to keep your eyes safe from other cycling conditions, your eyes will still be at risk.

Weather

If there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear, then every cyclist should own some performance eyewear that can protect their eyes from the elements. The speeds you reach during your ride can turn raindrops into projectile pellets that are painful and dangerous.

Wind is another huge factor while cycling. Wind can be a two-fold problem. Wind can cause your eyes to tear and water excessively if you’re exposed to it for a shorter period of time (like under an hour). Prolonged wind exposure (the type you’d have from longer rides) can cause extremely dry eyes, which can be uncomfortable and painful.

Fog

Fog is such a nuisance to cyclists it gets its own category, separate from weather. Even if you look outside and don’t see a single cumulonimbus cloud in sight — your problems are far from over. In fact, fogging is worse on a sunny day. When it’s hot out, and you break a sweat, the fogging levels are accelerated, so you can’t even enjoy the cloudless sky (or see where you are going). Your worst enemy when it comes to fog is actually your body temperature and sweat, and not necessarily the environment unless you’re in a closed room.

Fog in movies usually suggests something dangerous or spooky is about to happen. Well, art imitates life in this case: Fogging is dangerous.

Foggy conditions require you to remove your glasses and wipe them down, an inconvenient and often impossible task when you’re in the middle of a ride — most importantly, leaving you vulnerable to potential risks of having an accident. Rainy weather increases your chance of having a cycling accident, and the combination of rain and fogging glasses can intensify the risk. Even if you have the best cycling glasses ever, if you don’t wear them in the fog, you run the risk of crashing in front of all your biking buddies or worse.

It is imperative for cyclists of any level of expertise to invest in a solid pair of anti-fog cycling glasses. If you wear prescription lenses that have an anti-fog coating, don’t think you can just sub those out. Your regular eyewear likely doesn’t have the durable frame material (or lens material) you need to protect you from other cycling hazards. Standard anti-fog sprays or coatings won’t help, either — the truth is, you need advanced tech that’s both hydrophobic and hydrophilic… like Stoggles.

Allergens

You may not suffer from seasonal allergies, but you probably do experience irritation when you’re near smoke, car exhaust, or smog. While riding, you may not be able to control every external stressor your eyes encounter.

Wearing cycling glasses can protect your eyes from these offenders and help protect you from developing conditions like seasonal allergic conjunctivitis.

To prevent the threat of allergen interaction, you want to ensure you have glasses with a good-fitting nosepiece and a secure fit overall. This will prevent a lot of intrusion from pollen, smoke, and pollution. 

What’s the Real Threat?

All of these hazards add up to one major issue: distraction. Cyclists can’t afford distraction for their own safety and the safety of others.

Research shows that cycling distractions account for a high percentage of cycling-related injuries and emergencies, and many of these are preventable and avoidable simply by wearing protective cycling glasses. The most common distractions to cyclists are road conditions and weather, two issues that you can mitigate by wearing protective eyewear.

Let’s take a look at what ignoring your “option” to wear safety glasses while cycling can bring you in terms of ocular damage and field of vision impairment.

Eye Injuries Related To Cycling

You’ve dealt with the knee pain, neck and back pain, and numb, tingling arms that are the hallmarks of the serious cyclist. However, if you don’t wear protective safety glasses while cycling, sustaining an eye injury isn’t an “if” it’s a “when.”

Each year there are more than 30,000 sports-related eye injuries. These contribute to the more than 2,000 eye injuries sustained per day in the United States. Of these injuries, cycling accounts for 11%, second only to hard ball-related sports.

It’s more than just a bit of sand in your eyes; cycling presents real vision risks. These can include corneal abrasions, subconjunctival hemorrhage, blowout fractures, and foreign objects lodged in your eyes.

Corneal Abrasions

Corneal abrasions are scratches on your cornea. These can cause damage to your eyesight at worst, and at best, create discomfort that feels essentially like there is perpetually something stuck in your eye.

While cycling, you’re subject to corneal abrasions from hazards like low-hanging branches, debris that enters your eye, and the wind. Most of the time, corneal abrasions heal on their own, but in some cases, you’ll need medical attention.

If you develop an abrasion while cycling, you’ll be sidelined until it heals, which can take days to weeks depending on the severity of the scratch.

Subconjunctival Hemorrhage

A subconjunctival hemorrhage is a burst blood vessel in the eye. The blood vessels in the eye are delicate and easily rupture under force or trauma. Sometimes, you may not even realize you’ve incurred a hemorrhage, but you’ll know once you glance in the mirror.

Subconjunctival hemorrhages look like a large area of pooled blood in the whites of your eyes. Although they look scary, they’re normally not serious and will heal on their own. Unfortunately, you won’t be very popular at children’s birthday parties until they’re gone.

Blowout Fractures

Possibly the worst cycling-related eye injury you can sustain is a blunt trauma to the eye that results in a blowout fracture. The sheer velocity due to your road speed weaponizes even the smallest particles of sand or tiny insects.

Larger objects, like rocks, sticks, or fragments of broken glass can become lethal to your vision. Blunt trauma happens when an object strikes your eye at an increased speed. These injuries result in more than just a shiner. You could develop a blowout fracture, which are easily sustained injuries in these scenarios.

Blowout fractures happen when your eye is literally pushed back forcibly by an object. The pressure exerted by your eyeball on your orbital socket is strong enough to fracture the delicate bones of the orbital socket, resulting in a blowout fracture.

Blunt force traumas can also cause other issues, like subconjunctival hemorrhages, ruptured eyeballs, dislocated lenses, detached retinas, and vision loss.

Most of the cycling glasses sold at your favorite pro shop aren’t tested to withstand blunt force impact, or if they are, they aren’t tested at a high enough force to matter. If your glasses shatter, you’ll not only experience the trauma of the object hitting your eyes, but you’ll also be at risk of developing tertiary issues related to the cracking and breaking of your lenses and frames.

Foreign Objects

What’s a little dirt in your eyes on a ride? Actually—a lot. We’ve already talked about how even the smallest fragments of dirt or the tiniest insects can have a massive impact when they hit your eyes at higher speeds. But, consider the impact of dangerous objects lodging in your eyes.

Not only is vision loss a real concern, but the sheer level of distraction that comes along with having something caught in your eye can make your ride incredibly dangerous and place you at a much higher risk of sustaining a bodily injury.

With all these risk factors, it would make sense that every cyclist should wear protective glasses. Unfortunately, they just don’t.

Why Aren’t Cyclists Wearing Glasses?

To put it plainly, Comfort. When cyclists are asked why they avoid wearing cycling glasses, it's because those glasses feel like a punishment. The most important factor for cyclists is remaining comfortable while they ride, even to their own detriment.

Ironically, it’s clear that not wearing cycling glasses can also make you uncomfortable if you sustain an eye injury.

Other reasons for not wearing glasses include:

  • Fogging. This is a major complaint from cyclists who have worn glasses in the past and no longer wear them. Glasses that fog in alternating weather conditions can make it impossible to see and force you to pull over to wipe them. After so many wipes, you’ll eventually just remove them.
  • They need corrective lenses. If you wear prescription glasses, you might think wearing cycling glasses just isn’t an option. If you don’t fork over a hefty sum for prescription cycling glasses, you’ll have to wear a pair that fits over your normal glasses, which can be uncomfortable and distracting.
  • Bonus—Aesthetics. Let’s face it: traditional cycling glasses aren’t attractive. The shape and color are usually the last items the manufacturers check off, so you’re left with glasses that might actually work. Unfortunately, they are so unattractive you can’t bear to put them on your face.

At Stoggles, we get it, and we understand the need to have both aesthetically pleasing glasses and glasses that work.

If you’re avoiding cycling glasses and crossing your fingers that you won’t sustain a cycling-related eye injury, it’s time to stop playing Russian roulette with your eyesight.

What To Look For in Cycling Glasses

Once you’re convinced that you need them (which by now you should be), finding the right pair of cycling glasses is a matter of shopping for the ones that check all the boxes. We promise that it’s completely possible to find cycling glasses that are attractive, comfortable, and protective.

Here are the top five criteria every pair of cycling glasses should meet:

1. Comfortability

The single most important factor to consider when purchasing cycling glasses is comfortability. If your glasses aren’t comfortable, you just won’t wear them. Even if they’re shatter-resistant, anti-fog, and have a streamlined style, it’s all useless if they aren’t attached to your face.

The best way to determine if a pair of cycling glasses will be comfortable is to try them on with your helmet and wear them for a brief ride. You’ll be able to tell fairly quickly whether or not they’re comfortable or completely irritating.

Comfort options to consider when test-driving your specs? How do the nose pads or nose bridge pieces feel? If your glasses have adjustable nose pads, make sure they fit properly and don’t feel like they pinch or slide. 

Next, consider the arm bands. Do they fit nicely behind your ears or jut out past them? Do they feel too tight or too loose? Lastly, how well can you see out of the lenses? If the lenses are too small, they may create a problem with your line of sight. If they have specialized lenses (like photochromic lenses or mirror lenses) they may not be suitable for wearing under all lighting conditions. 

2. UV Protection

UV protection is different from sitting in the shade. That means the darker glasses do not equate to the level of UV or UVB protection they have.

Good cycling glasses should offer UV protection. The level of shade (the amount of tint on the lens) and/or polarization you desire is completely personal. You can tell if your glasses have UV protection because they will be indicated on the product label or on the glasses themselves.

Most quality lenses will have UV protection embedded in the lens or will be made from a naturally UV protectant material, like the lightweight polycarbonate. Sports sunglasses that are coated with UV protection may wear out more quickly and require replacement.

Polycarbonate lenses are a good option because it offers extreme durability with the benefit of a clear lens, so you get superior UV protection even on cloudy days. 

A note about polarized sunglasses: These types of glasses are often recommended to help with glare, but for cyclists, they can present a problem. If you are a road cyclist, polarized lens options can make it impossible to see oil slicks or icy patches, and make it virtually impossible to see and read data from digital screens on your bike or devices. 

Shatter Resistance

This is tricky. Many cycling glasses are advertised as shatter-proof or impact-resistant, but it’s important to find out just how impact-resistant they actually are. For the highest level of protection, you want glasses that are ANSI Z87.1 certified. This means they’ve been tested:

  • ANSI High-Velocity Impact Testing. For this test, a .25 inch diameter ball bearing is fired at the glasses at a speed of 150 feet per second. No contact with the underlying head form during the test is allowable for certification.

This test is usually repeated from different angles, ensuring all the portions of the glasses, including the lenses and frame are safe.

You can find the ANSI Z87.1 certification on safety glasses, like the ones we carry at Stoggles.

4. Anti-Fog Coating

Glasses that fog are a pain in the lens. Not only is it distracting, but for a cyclist, it can be virtually impossible to enjoy your ride if you constantly have to pull over to clean your glasses or find yourself unable to see.

Anti-fog wipes aren’t the solution, and stopping mid-cycle to clean your glasses can be a huge hassle that can also separate you from your peloton if you’re on a group ride. Anti-fog coating prevents lenses from fogging, even if you cycle through steam.

Not all anti-fog coatings are created equally. You’ll need to trust your brand to know whether or not their anti-fog coating is properly applied and read reviews to ensure you can trust the coating to work when you need it to. At Stoggles, we took over 9 months to perfect ours, and it’s a level above anything else you’ll find on the market. 

5. Style

Style is important! There we said it so that now you don’t have to. Even the toughest among us care about our style, and if a pair of cycling glasses feels comfortable and are protective, you won’t wear them if you don’t feel confident in them.

Style and safety are why Stoggles exist. We know safety, and we saw the need for safe and stylish safety glasses that protect your eyes under any circumstances. We’ve got you covered, and we know you’ll love the way you look in our glasses.

Our specs are available in frame shapes that are hip, stylish, and flattering to all faces. Choose from retro cat-eye to classic aviators or basic shapes like square, oval, or rectangle. 

The Stoggles Difference

Stoggles was created to fill in the gap between style and safety. Why? Because PPE is important, and you shouldn’t have to choose between looking great and staying safe. You should be able to have both.

Stoggles are available in muliple different frame shapes and sizes. We recommend the square for round, oblong, or oval faces and the round for square, heart, or triangle-shaped kissers. If you want more options, rectangle, cat-eye, and aviator work for practically anyone. 

All Stoggles are available in nine different colors, including clear. We recommend grabbing a few of your favorites to match your favorite cycling shirts.

Safety

Stoggles are the ultimate in eye protection. Made to ANSI Z87.1-2020 standards, they’re seriously impact-resistant and shatter-proof. Unlike many cycling glasses, Stoggles are also crafted with side and top shields to ensure your eyes are enveloped with protection.

You’ll also get the benefit of UV protection because all Stoggles are made from naturally UV-blocking polycarbonate frames and lenses. Our lenses are also anti-fog, scratch-resistant, long-lasting, and durable, so you’ll never have to worry about your eye safety when you’re riding.

Side and Top Shields

Wraparound lenses seem to dominate the cycling glasses arena, and those make good options for some people. However, if you need prescription lenses, most often you can’t put an Rx lens in a wraparound pair. 

Stoggles are made with side and top shields to help give you the same level of all-around protection without causing issues with your prescription. 

Pedal Towards Safety

You need to protect your eyes to enjoy your cycling to its fullest. There’s literally zero reasons you shouldn’t be wearing cycling glasses with the availability of our stylish, comfortable, and protective frames.

Pass the competition and set the pace for your friends by donning Stoggles and keeping your eyes safe while you ride.

Sources:

Eye Injuries in Youth Sports, and Where They Come From | ACSH.org

Distraction of cyclists: how does it influence their risky behaviors and traffic crashes? | NCBI

Subconjunctival hemorrhage (broken blood vessel in eye) - Symptoms and causes | Mayo Clinic

ANSI/ISEA Z87.1-2020: Current Standard for Safety Glasses

Photokeratitis: Treatment, Healing Time, Causes, Symptoms & Prevention | Cleveland Clinic

Share Article
View All Articles