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Best cycling glasses 2021: The ultimate cycling eyewear, from £70

Joe Coombs
3 Sep 2021
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Protect your eyes, enhance your vision and cut a stylish dash with our pick of the best cycling glasses

Even if you’re blessed with 20/20 vision, a good pair of cycling-specific glasses is an essential accessory for the keen cyclist. Cycling glasses defend against the elements, stopping insects, dirt, road spray and harmful UV rays, and improve visual acuity in different lighting conditions to help you see the road or trail more clearly.

Naturally, when it comes to cycling glasses, fashion is a big part of the appeal, but the best marry sharp, stylish design with comfortable fit, ample eye protection and vision-enhancing lenses. Some also have interchangeable lenses so you can tailor them to suit the weather conditions or the type of riding you’re doing, and all are designed to be worn with a helmet, so won’t press into your nose or temples when they’re worn with one.

No matter what type of cycling you do, or if you’re a fair-weather or an all-weather cyclist, there are a pair of cycling glasses that fit the bill. Read on, and we’ll explain what you need to think about before you buy and reveal some of our favourite pairs in the mini-reviews below.

READ NEXT: Check out our favourite waterproof cycling jackets


Best cycling glasses: At a glance

  • Best budget option: dhb Fractal | Buy now
  • Best under £100: Bolle Shifter | Buy now
  • Best with interchangeable lenses: 100% S3 | Buy now
  • Best premium full-rim: Scicon Aeroshade | Buy now
  • Best premium half-rim: Smith Optics Attack Max | Buy now

How to choose the best cycling glasses for you

What makes a good pair of cycling glasses?

Interchangeable lenses are a great feature, as these allow one pair of glasses to adapt to almost any riding. You can opt for a darker tinted lens on sunny mornings and switch to a lighter tint (or even clear lenses) in the evening when your eyes don’t need protection from the sun. You can also experiment with coloured lenses for enhancing contrast in different light conditions.

Venting is another important feature to look out for. Glasses can fog up quickly when you’re hot and sweaty, and especially when you’re cranking slowly and painfully up a steep hill. Vented lenses can help prevent condensation from breath or perspiration from fogging up the lenses, so you can bike uninterrupted.

Oleophobic/hydrophobic coatings on lenses are crucial for all-weather cyclists. These coatings repel any water, oil, grease or other liquids that have been flicked up from the road, keeping your vision clear. Without an effective coating of some kind, glasses can become smeared with rain or road spray, and in the worst conditions, this can mean you’re forced to remove your glasses and shove them in a back pocket.

Anti-scratch/shatterproof lenses: Lenses can be quite delicate; all it takes is a rogue rock being flung up by a passing car or just an absent-minded wipe with some gritty, mud-covered gloves to damage them. That’s why we recommend looking out for anti-scratch or shatterproof lenses, as this will reduce the risk of damage.

If you’re going for a long bike ride with glasses on, you want them to fit comfortably, otherwise they’ll be a thorn in your side for the duration of the ride. This is why things like adjustable temple tips and interchangeable rubber nose pads can be godsends, as they help you to get the perfect fit.

Does the colour of the lens matter?

A lens colour isn’t merely a shallow cosmetic factor. Each colour actually has different properties and benefits for different scenarios.

  • Clear lenses: Provide protection against the elements, bugs and debris, and can potentially also provide UV protection depending on the quality of the lenses, but they won’t stop you squinting on brighter days. Great for night riding or duller days, and a good choice when riding in dense woodland.
  • Grey lenses: Reduce glare without warping true colour perception and can be used in low and bright light. A good option for everyday use.
  • Brown lenses: Enhance depth perception and increase contrast. Can be used in a variety of conditions.
  • Blue/purple lenses: Increase colour perception and reduce glare. To be used in low light conditions.
  • Yellow lenses: Enhance your vision by improving clarity when light levels are low. To be used during low light rides.
  • Pink/red lenses: Offer the greatest contrast and they also boost visual depth. Can be used in a variety of conditions.

What types of lenses are there?

Photochromic lenses: These adapt to the lighting conditions, darkening in bright light and becoming progressively clearer as light levels drop. This makes them great for changeable weather, and they’re a top choice for off-road rides where you find yourself rolling through dark, wooded areas and then back out onto brighter open trails.

A big benefit of photochromic lenses is they get rid of the faff of switching lenses. Do bear in mind, though, that they don’t achieve quite the same range of tint variations that you’d be able to get when buying separate lenses: they don’t go completely clear, and they don’t go as dark as lenses suited to the brightest days. Also, bear in mind that they respond to UV light rather than just sunlight full stop, so they don’t change tint behind UV-shielded glass such as that used in car windscreens.

Polarised lenses are coated with a film that reduces glare and reflections. This film filters out horizontal light (the light that causes glare) while allowing vertical light waves (the light we use to see clearly) to pass through. This helps you to see with improved clarity and is especially useful in spring when the sun frequently reflects off standing water and wet roads.

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What do lens categories mean?

While browsing for sunglasses, you may have seen them categorised by a number, such as “category 3”. This number refers to the lenses’ VLT (Visible Light Transmission). Higher VLT figures indicate lighter lenses that let through more light. Lenses of higher VLTs are put into lower categories, while lower VLTs are put into higher categories.

Category 0: Clear or very light lens, little to no protection against sunlight. Predominantly used for protection against debris or impact.

Category 1: Usually a light yellow or generally pale colour. Not good in sunny conditions, but good in overcast conditions or low sunlight.

Category 2: Typically found in many colours. Provides decent protection against partial sunlight.

Category 3: The most common category of sunglass lens. Good against strong sunlight and glare.

Category 4: Typically a very dark brown or grey lens. Ideal for mountains, deserts or anywhere where sunlight and glare are intense and continuous. Not to be used by drivers or road users as the darkness of the tint can impair your vision.

The best cycling glasses to buy in 2021

1. dhb Fractal: Best budget cycling glasses

Price: £70 | Buy now from Wiggle

Since 2004, Wiggle’s own brand dhb has been designing an ever-wider range of cycling accessories and clothing. Its Fractal glasses are another job well done: these slickly designed shades partner bold, in-your-face looks with big, UV-blocking lenses.

The category 3 lens has a VLT of 8-18% which is perfect for the brightest days, and the wide, wrap-around design offers plenty of protection from the sun, weather and anything that might flick up from the road or trails.

One thing to bear in mind is that they’re very streamlined, which is great for smaller to medium-sized faces, but those with larger heads may not find them as comfortable for longer periods.

Key specs – Frame type: Full-rim frame; Lens category: 3; Weight: 34g; Oleophobic/hydrophobic lens? No; Additional features: N/A

Buy now from Wiggle


2. Bolle Shifter: Best cycling glasses under £100

Price: £99 | Buy now from Wiggle

The Bolle Shifters are Romain Bardet’s weapon of choice, yet are still relatively affordable. Available with nine different lenses (in addition to prescription lens options), the Shifters are ready for almost any weather conditions.

The large, one-piece NXT Phantom lens has vents at the bottom to prevent fogging and has 100% UV protection. What’s more, the oleophobic treatment shakes off any grease, oil or water that comes your way.

With a large frame and curved temples, the Shifters provide oodles of protection and more than enough peripheral vision for any cyclist. The rubber nose pads help them to fit snugly, although the huge lenses and bold design do make them more suitable for larger faces.

Key specs – Frame type: Full-rim frame; Lens category: 0-3; Oleophobic/hydrophobic lens? Oleophobic; Additional features: Available with prescription lenses, rubber nose pads

Buy now from Wiggle


3. Rapha Pro Team: Best affordable hydrophobic cycling glasses

Price: £120 | Buy now from Rapha

Although their price isn’t too lofty compared to other offerings, these Rapha Pro Teams boast many features that cycling buffs will appreciate. Namely, a hydrophobic lens that has been given anti-fogging and anti-scratch treatment, Grilamid construction and snaplock hinges for durability and ease of use.

They’re also available with three different lens colours: purple/green, pink/blue and black/mirrored, each with different levels of light transmission. Each lens is suitable for different riding conditions, and every pair comes with a clear lens for 100% light transmission, making them suitable for low light or nighttime rides.

Interchangeable nose pads are also included with the glasses, a useful feature for ensuring they fit as many face shapes as possible.

Key specs – Frame type: Full-rim frame; Lens category: 0-3; Oleophobic/hydrophobic lens? Hydrophobic; Additional features: Anti-fog, anti-scratch lens, snaplock hinges, comes with a clear lens, interchangeable nose pads

Buy now from Rapha


4. Oakley Sutro: Unconventional looks, stunning lenses

Price: £140 | Buy now from Wiggle

Almost four decades after American cycling great Greg LeMond won the 1986 Tour de France sporting a rather nifty pair of Oakley Eyeshades, Oakley is now the biggest name when it comes to cycling glasses. After all this time, one of the Eyeshade’s descendants, the Sutro, is now winning Grand Tours, this time with Colombian prodigy Egan Bernal.

The Sutro’s frame is large and features rubber nose pads to help it securely fit on your face. What’s more, it’s made from durable O-Matter material, so it should have no trouble standing the test of time. The Sutro also boasts Oakley’s Prizm lens, which is made using its patented lens technology and improves clarity, contrast and colour, and fully protects against UV.

Key specs – Frame type: Full-rim frame; Lens category: 2; Oleophobic/hydrophobic lens? No; Additional features: Anti-shatter lens, rubber nose pads

Buy now from Wiggle


5. 100% S3: Best interchangeable lens cycling glasses

Price: From £140 | Buy now from Freewheel

If you’ve ever seen Mathieu van der Poel wearing a snazzy pair of cycling glasses and wondered what they were, chances are they were these 100% S3s. An evolution of their predecessor, the S2, the S3s enjoy a lens with full UV400 protection and ventilation to help it against fogging.

It’s also resistant to scratches and impacts and is oleophobic to repel dirt oil and water, while its slightly cylindrical shape aids your peripheral vision as you ride. The lenses are interchangeable, so you can always use the most appropriate one for the weather and light conditions.

The Grilamid frame is lightweight and shatterproof. Each pair comes with an additional clear lens for low light riding. The rubber nose pad helps them to comfortably fit on your face but if they don’t feel right, a different thickness nose pad is included with the glasses, so you can choose which works best for you.

Key specs – Frame type: Full-rim frame; Lens category: 0-3; Oleophobic/hydrophobic lens? Oleophobic; Additional features: Anti-shatter lens, anti-scratch, comes with a clear lens, removable rubber nose pads, interchangeable lenses

Buy now from Freewheel


6. Koo Demos: Sharp styling and crisp Zeiss lenses

Price: £129 | Buy now from Condor Cycles

If something is worn by Trek-Segafredo’s men’s and women’s teams, then it’s probably a fine bit of kit, and the Koo Demos are no different. They’ve been equipped with Zeiss anti-reflective polycarbonate lenses which come in various colour options, each with varying levels of light transmission. The large composite frame and lens fit almost entirely around your field of vision, which protects your eyes at all angles and gives you a panoramic view.

There are also four small vents, above and below the eyes, which prevent the lens from fogging up. The Demos also come with Koo’s two-position adjustable nose piece and anti-slip MEGOL temple inserts, which help you achieve and maintain the perfect fit, even when the glasses start getting moist with rain or sweat.

Key specs— Frame type: Full-rim frame; Lens category: 2/3; Oleophobic/ hydrophobic lens? No; Additional features: Adjustable nose piece

Buy now from Condor Cycles


7. Scicon Aeroshade: Best premium full-rim frame cycling glasses

Price: £170 | Buy now from Pro Bike Kit

Another high-quality Italian sportswear brand, Scicon actually made its name making bike bags. Recently though, the brand has successfully branched out into the sunglasses market with these Aeroshades.

The lens has ventilation slots at the top to prevent it from fogging and has been cylindrically milled for undistorted vision. This is enhanced by the uninterrupted frame and what Scion calls the Panorama Arch, which gives you a wide, unobscured field of vision.

The frame is quite big so is best suited for larger faces, but it does feature adjustable temple tips, so if the glasses feel a bit loose at first, you can always adjust them and get a more comfortable fit. The glasses also come with a clear lens so they’re suitable for low light riding. Scion will even replace either lens for free if they get scratched, which is a nice touch.

Key specs— Frame type: Full-rim frame; Lens category: Not given; Oleophobic/ hydrophobic lens? No; Additional features: Adjustable temple tips, comes with a clear lens

Buy now from Pro Bike Kit


8. Smith Optics Attack Max: Best premium half-rim cycling glasses

Price: £203 | Buy now from Alpinetrek

Although they cost a premium, the Attack Max glasses from Smith Optics go a long way in justifying the asking price. Firstly, each pair of sunglasses comes with two ChromaPop lenses (one rose, one clear) that, between them, are suitable for almost all riding conditions. Because of this, you essentially get two pairs of glasses in one.

The two lenses can be easily switched around using a simple clip on each arm of the frame, so you shouldn’t have any issues swapping them mid-ride if needed. Both lenses are also hydrophobic and the rimless frame allows them to provide an incredibly wide field of vision.

Key specs— Frame type: Half-rim frame; Lens category: 1-3; Oleophobic/ hydrophobic lens? Hydrophobic; Additional features: Interchangeable lenses

Buy now from Alpinetrek


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