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Cyclist with sunglasses on and a camera strapped around his back looking down while he rides his bike

How To Choose Sunglasses and Protect Your Eyes on the Bike

Cyclists need to protect their eyes. There’s no windshield guarding you against the wind or oncoming debris, and even riding for a few seconds with obstructed vision is seriously dangerous.

Most cyclists realize this. But what you may not know are the best ways to make sure you’re protecting your eyes and keeping your vision strong. 

The good news, as always, is that longtime cycling Coach Darryl MacKenzie has put a little thought into the matter. Read on, and he’ll help you find a good pair of cycling sunglasses. Here’s how to choose sunglasses — and a few other cycling eye care tips for you along the way. 

Why Cyclists Need Sunglasses

First things first: you need eye protection for bike riding. And not just any pair of sunglasses will provide the right protection.

“Eyeglasses are imperative, but it’s more important to have sunglasses specifically,” Coach Darryl says. “You really need eye protection that’s specific for cycling.”

In other words, don’t just throw your regular glasses or basic everyday sunglasses on and call it good. You want to be sure you’re using sunglasses designed for cycling. Because of their wider, larger lenses that cover more of your eyes and face, cycling sunglasses:

  • Protect your eyes from flying rocks, dirt and other debris that’s blowing in the wind or flying up from the tire of another rider or vehicle.
  • Keep the wind from getting around and into your eyes, which is essential to avoid eye-watering that makes you unable to see.
  • Provide more UV protection — not only do they keep the sun out from all angles, but you can buy some sunglasses that block nearly 100% of the sun’s harmful UV rays.

If you have any vision impairments or trouble reading up close, you can easily find corrective lenses for your cycling sunglasses. Using prescription lenses is critical to ensure you can see well on the road. If you have trouble reading your Garmin or another cycling computer up close, you can even have progressive lenses put in so you can safely check your route.

When it comes down to it, cycling without good sunglasses isn't worth the risk. You need to be able to see clearly when on the road. Good sunglasses block the glare of the sun — and do so much more — so you can see where you’re going. 

How To Shop for Cycling Sunglasses

Still curious how to choose sunglasses? Even if you narrow down your options to well-made sunglasses designed for cyclists, you’ve still got some finer points to consider. Cycling sunglasses aren’t one-size-fits-all. You need to look at four features when you’re shopping for a new pair of eye protection glasses for bike riding: 

  • Coverage: How well do they cover your eyes and completely block sun, wind and debris from getting in? You don’t want any cracks that allow wind leakage to get to your eyes and cause them to water.
  • Frame shape: Will the frame allow you to mount a cycling mirror in the right way so you can see behind you? Some curved frames make this difficult to do.
  • Sweatability: How easily do they slide down your nose when you sweat? The better they stay up, the better it is for your ride.
  • Prescription friendliness: This has gotten much better in the last few decades. Even the most extreme prescriptions are doable, but some glasses are more adaptable than others.

Because he wants to make sure he can check all these features (especially the first two) in person, Darryl never buys his cycling sunglasses online. In fact, he goes to the optician with a fan and his cycling mirror. That way, he can check if the mirror will attach correctly and simulate wind to see if the glasses will fully block it from reaching his eyes.

Other Ways To Guard Your Eyes

Two other issues can cause problems for your ability to see clearly on a ride, and they’re worth mentioning here.

The first relates to your sunglasses. When you ride in cooler weather, you may be tempted to take them off because they start fogging up. Don’t do it! Just slide the glasses about half or three-quarters of an inch down your nose. This is enough to let some cool air flow around the back of the lenses so condensation can’t form on the front side. Keep them low for about 20 seconds, and you should be all set.

The second issue isn’t related to cycling sunglasses, but it’s a problem many cyclists encounter: eye irritation from sunscreen. Sweat mixes with the sunscreen on their forehead, which drips into their eyes and starts to burn. Before they know it, many cyclists can’t keep their eyes open because of the pain. 

The solution to this one is even simpler:

“Don’t put sunscreen on your forehead!” says Coach Darryl.

Ultimately, your helmet should be enough to keep the sun off that part of your face, so there’s no reason to risk this problem.

Keep Your Eyes on the Road 

When it comes to cycling safety, nothing is more important than your ability to see clearly. Everything happens fast, and you’re sharing the road with heavy, dangerous vehicles

Don’t be shortsighted. Make sure you can keep your vision 100% clear when you’re out enjoying a ride. 


Look for more insights from Coach Darryl over at his website.

Photo by Rille Camera Strap on Unsplash