New year, new shades. If you lost your favorite pair of sun dimmers out on the trail, or maybe the lenses are scratched up like an old CD, then it’s time to snag a new pair. We tried a big handful of riding glasses over the past few months, and have a solid lineup to show, that vary in price and style. From the image above, it looks like single-piece, shield style lenses are IN. If they’re not in for you though, we do have a few pairs with two lenses that look less Robocop-ish.
|100% Legere Round||$130||17.2|
|Blitz Fusion Nordic Light||€104.95||35|
|KOO Open Cube||€199||33|
|Pit Viper Jet Ski||$99||36|
|Rudy Project Cutline||$185||36.4|
|Sweet Protection Ronin Polarized||$150||30.4|
Personally, after riding single-piece lenses over the past couple of years, I like them more than two separate lenses. Usually, there is a larger field of vision, they cover more of your peripheral, and still allow the rider to have a decent peripheral vision without obstruction.
The 100% Hypercraft fit this description to a tee. The have a wide, unobstructed and well covered field of view. They are also exceptionally light, comfortable, and vented. The looks however, will be divisive for some. I didn’t mind the appearance, especially given their performance, but they’re on the racy end of glasses.
The Hypercrafts come with an extra set of clear lenses, and they are very simple to change. Just pop the temple off the corner of the lens, and snap it into place on the other lens. Although $155 isn’t cheap, it feels like a solid value for the Hypercraft. They are a killer pair of glasses for riding in any conditions. The darker lenses aren’t too dark for deep in the woods, and they are easy to convert on the trail to the clear lenses.
100% Legere Round
I didn’t have much hope for the Legere Rounds on any count. They look a little too stylish for me. I’m on the eighth year of driving an economical Subaru with hail damage and paint chips, but I gave them a shot — on and off the trail.
They hold up superbly on athletic ventures. The Legeres are so light they feel like they’re barely on your face, but at the same time they don’t feel flimsy or brittle.
The lenses are a perfect tint for most summer days. They obviously aren’t the darkest, but work well most of the time. Clearly they won’t provide a lot of coverage from wind, and aren’t built for aerodynamics. But, the Legeres are great if you forgot your riding glasses in the garage, and you happen to have these in the car. They stay in place, even with a lot of sweat, and honestly, look really good too.
Bliz Fusion Nordic Light
Hangin’ a little closer to the goggle-size side of riding glasses, these Fusion Northern Light shades form Bliz provide broad coverage from both sunlight and trail debris. The polycarbonate lens is reportedly 10x stronger than plastic, so they should withstand a crash or an encounter with a tree branch.
The blue lens, which Bliz categorizes as a filter category 2, is a medium-dark tint, perfect for more open trails and exposed riding. The tint is a bit too dark for my local forest coverage, though for dirt road rides and higher alpine adventures it’s just right.
The main frame sits far enough from my face to remain clear of brow sweat most of the time, and the temples and nose piece are adjustable to fit all sorts of faces. The fusion Northern Light sunglasses come with one lens, a carrying box and bag, a second nose piece, and interchangeable “jawbone” bits so you can swap the color of the lower frame.
Tested by Gerow. MSRP: €104.95. Available at Bliz.com
On the chillin’ side of eye protection, the KOO California have what I think of as a classic jazz saxophonist look. The lenses are broad, covering a large portion of my wider-set eye sockets. While the après-ski shape doesn’t lend a great deal of airflow, they are good for faster rides on flowy singletrack or dirt roads.
This pair have a polarized Zeiss lens, which I don’t find ideal for mountain biking as it seems to diminish shiny reflections on wet rocks and roots. Fortunately, the California shades are also available with two different non-polarized lens options, with seventeen different frame colors to choose from.
The California sunglasses include a carrying case to keep them in good shape before or after rides.
KOO Open Cube
All the way across the pond from the California shades, KOO has some classic cycling glasses like this pair of Open Cubes. KOO is an Italian sibling brand of Kask, and the pro peloton research that both brands focus on is clear in these lenses. They breathe well enough to stay clear, fit nice and snug on your skull, and they are wildly adjustable. The nose bridge and temples both have precise click adjustments to dial them in.
The Open Cube glasses come with two separate lenses, and the dark version was too tinted to see anything in the forest. The clear lens works well for most rides, apart from fully exposed singletrack. Swapping lenses is a quick and easy process that takes less than a minute once you get the hang of it.
The Open Cube shades come in twelve different colors, and they are one of the very few pairs of sunglasses that are also available in an Asian fit.
Pit Viper Jet Ski
Of course these shields from Pit Viper deserve the name Jet Ski. Their bright, splatter-painted frames evoke vivid images of Prince whipping across a lake and jumping wakes while frettin’ sick basslines. If you’re in the market for a set of shades that don’t copy the competition’s aesthetic, Pit Viper has you quite literally covered.
The sturdy polycarbonate lens is said to provide 100% UV protection, with a stated 22.3% light transmission. Windshield tinting on the Jet Ski is just light enough to make them useable under the forest canopy while providing abundant shade in the sun. A bridge at the brow keeps the lens away from your face, and the temple lengths are adjustable to suit a variety of ear locations.
I expected the lettering on the lens to obstruct the field of view, or at least be annoying, but it’s about as noticeable as the tear-off mounts on any pair of goggles. I also suspected that these glasses might be better for looking cool than functioning as eye protection, but I was pleasantly proven wrong. They work every bit as well as a lot of other wide-lens sport glasses that I’ve tested to keep stuff out of my eyes, they don’t fog unreasonably, and they maintain that sweet 90’s splash.
Each pair of Jet Ski Sunglasses includes a hard case, a “Limp Cloth,” and a set of “Tie Downs” to affix them to your dome if you decide to actually take them out on a jet ski.
Tested by Gerow. MSRP: $99.
The POC Define sunglasses are a little more suited to the casual trail rider. They use Clarity lenses and work well for riders with smaller faces.
The temples and nose bridge are rubberized, helping them to stay in place. I had an issue with one pair, where the screw that holds the nose piece popped out and wouldn’t screw back in, but POC says that may have been because it was an early media sample.
These white Defines have been issue-free. The temples can feel tight after a while, but they do stay in place. The Clarity lenses work well, bringing down highlights and helping with contrast in bright situations.
The hinges on the temples snap into place and the glasses feel stout, although not heavy.
Rudy Project Cutline
Rudy Project glasses are usually on the expensive end, but I have yet to be disappointed by a pair. The Cutlines are new from Rudy Project, and are full of features. The nose piece and temples are adjustable for a good fit and the temples also come off easily with the push of the little silver button on the inside, making lens changes quick.
These are on the larger side — and feel bigger than any other pair in this roundup. For folks with smaller faces, this might not be the best fit. They were too large for my preferences, but still, they don’t feel like they’re too big when they are on. The rubber bumpers can also be removed for a smaller profile.
Venting works well with multiple intakes around the glasses, and the lenses can be made with a prescription. The Cutlines feel like the most technical sunglasses in the bunch. For anyone that is interested in something like the Cutline, but smaller, the Defenders are a great option.
Tested by Matt. MSRP: $185. Available at Amazon.
OK, you’ve had it with the technical, fighter pilot style shades and just want something easy and affordable that will protect your peepers. Ryders Eyewear, based out of Vancouver, BC sent us a couple options that fit the bill. The Bowerys are a conservative, straightforward pair of sunglasses with enough tech to make them a good choice for mountain biking, but not too much to be a turn off.
The darker lenses on the Bowerys can be a little much in dark, wooded spots, but should be okay for most general riding. The slits in the top inside of the frame help bring a little bit of air in to reduce sweat, but these were one of the hotter pairs amongst the group, and they tend to slide a little bit when it gets sweaty. The grey end of the temples are rubbery and conform to the head.
The lack of features is probably the biggest appeal for the Bowery however, and the fact that they are a straightforward set of shades at a reasonable price will appeal to a lot of riders.
Tested by Matt. MSRP: $90. Available at Amazon.
The Ryders Main up the sporty look from the Bowery with an angular single-piece lens. All of the Ryders lenses are rated at UV400, and block all of UVA, UVB, and UVC rays, says Ryders. All of their lenses are also impact-resistant and have an anti-fog coating.
Like the Sweet Protection Ronins, the Mains have a frameless lens, meaning that the top part of the lens will rest or brush against the forehead, and accumulate a little more grime.
Without adjustable temples, the frame doesn’t stay in place quite as well as other glasses, but will fit better on riders with a medium to large face. There is some overspray on the black accents along the temples, so the Mains also miss some attention to detail.
Overall, they seem like a great fit for someone who wants a sporty set of riding glasses at a decent cost and aren’t too picky about features.
Tested by Matt. MSRP: $90. Available at Amazon.
I found the Graftons hard to get along with. They are a small pair of sunglasses, and better for riders with a small head, as the temples ended up widening more than the lenses themselves.
They also lack the peripheral vision that others in this review have, since the lenses are fairly narrow. The glasses do a good job staying in place, especially since the temple tips are moldable and rubberized. The nosepiece is also rubberized, but not adjustable.
If the Graftons had a wider lens, that covered the sides better, and were offered in a larger size, I think I would have taken to them a little bit more. The lenses do a great job at reducing highlights and livening contrast on the trail, and seem like a great option for riders with a smaller face.
Tested by Matt. MSRP: $80. Available at Amazon.
Sweet Protection Ronin Polarized
Sweet Protection continues to drop quality mountain bike apparel and protection. The Ronins compliment their line well, and have become a favorite. They have a technical look, but easily fit in on casual rides.
They have an anti-fog inner lense and a Super Oleophobic and hydrophobic coating which helps water roll off the lens, as to not become problematic for vision.
This technology seems to work pretty well, although it doesn’t stop sweat from gunking up the inside of the lens. If you’re OK with wiping the inside down occasionally, since the lens sits very close to the forehead, they’re a great option. I didn’t have any issues with the glasses sliding down. They vent well, although not the best out of the entire group.
On a more budget-friendly side of the ol’ sunglasses display, the Aethon from Tifosi offer a classic “cycling glasses” look and fit. The brand calls the lens I tested “Fototech,” which is their version of photochromic technology. The lens darkens with increased ambient light and clears or lightens in the shade. For mountain biking applications, this process happens far too slowly, leaving the rider squinting out the sun and over-tinted in the shade. For exposed riding, this lens could work well, but in the forest, one of the solidly tinted or clear Tifosi lenses would work better.
The frame colors are all customizable, and there’s a wide range of lens options to choose from. I found the bright lower frame piece on this pair distracting, as it crosses my vision any time I’m not in an aggressive position. While this might be a good reminder to maintain a consistently low position over the handlebars, I would prefer a different color that’s less distracting.
For folks who want the classic Sporty Spice look to their shades, the Aethon have it in spades. The glasses come in a hard clamshell case with a microfiber cleaning cloth.
Tifosi is an Italian word that translates to “supporters.” It’s what Italian’s call sports fans, for example. The Sledge glasses appropriately fit the “supporter” moniker, with their massive windshield coverage and forgettably comfortable fit. The lens is vented across the top, and the frame rests far enough from your skin that they don’t fog up quickly.
All three of the included lenses offer different tints, and two of them are great for riding darker trails in thicker forests. The frame is one flexible piece, so there are no small bits to drop and lose while changing lenses. Considering their price, comfort, features, and overall protection, these are some of the best riding glasses I have tested to date.
Sledge frames come with three different vented lenses, a microfiber cleaning cloth, and a clamshell case. If you ride trail networks with varying degrees of tree canopy, these are definitely worth a look.
Back to that jazz-drummin’ look, the Smoove from Tifosi are an afordable apré-shred set that also work well on fully-exposed faster rides. Their shape doesn’t lend the greatest amount of air flow, but if you’re consistently moving fast enough that won’t really matter.
The top of the frame does touch my eyebrows, allowing for a lot of sweat transfer, and there is no way to adjust the nose bridge. Depending on your face shape these frames might be better suited to soaking in the creek after a ride than they are for the ride itself.
If you prefer to reserve your sports shades for the trail the Smoove are a sweet deal to shade your eyes on the way there and back.
Thanks to the respective brands for providing these sunglasses for testing.