Eyes on the Prize: 8 MTB Sunglasses Reviewed [2023]

Here are a handful of sunglasses we've been trying out on the trail this season.

It’s that time of year where you need to have your good glasses within reach. You never know when that sun will pop through the clouds and prompt a ride.

Riding glasses should do a few things for the rider. First and foremost, protect their eyes. Too much sun on your eyeballs is never a good idea, neither is mud or dust from your buddy in front of you burning down the trail. Glasses should also have a good field of vision and not obstruct your eye’s natural paths. Being able to see everything around you at a moving speed is vital to safety too.

Then, there are the other things cycling sunglasses should have: a light weight, scratch-resistant lenses, UV protection, easy-to-swap lenses, a good fit… and, well there’s a lot more actually.

Here are a few of the frames we’ve been wearing over the past few months and everything we know about them.

Performance Sunglasses

Julbo Edge sunglasses

Initially, I thought these were clear riding glasses. That is, until I got into the sun. Almost perfectly clear in low light, the Julbo Edge sunglasses offer good coverage without any blind spots thanks to a mostly wraparound design. Julbo says their REACTIV lens tech offers “the widest photochromic range and fastest reaction time on the market,” and in full sun the Edge sunglasses take on a surprisingly dark amber tint that almost appears reflective on the outside.

The single-piece lens snaps into place using strong magnets at the bridge. It’s one of the easiest systems I’ve tried, and ensures you don’t get greasy fingerprints on the lens. Since the lens is only attached at the center, it floats outside the frame and can get a little clacky on the roughest trails. The nose pads are adjustable for a secure fit to most faces.

KOO Demos Glasses

KOO Eyewear is a pretty recognizable name in the cycling eyewear world. These Demos are a new favorite. For folks with smaller heads, these fit nice and snug and are a sturdy, light weight. The Demos have a Zeiss Polycarbonate single wraparound lens, four air intakes, anti-slip temples and some have photochromic lenses.

The Demos have a fixed lens, so if you are someone who wants one pair with a clear and dark option, you’ll want to look elsewhere. They have an adjustable nose piece with pads that can be moved in and out. These Demos have a reddish tent that offers good contrast between highlights and shadows and have worked well with a number of helmets.

Smith Momentum Sunglasses

The Smith Momentum is another great quasi-goggle for those with smaller faces and don’t want to be engulfed with their shades. The Momentums feel stable and secure under any movement or shaking. The two-position nose piece is easy to adjust although changing lenses is more involved.

Fortunately, you don’t have to do that often with the photochromic lenses. They transition surprisingly quickly from tinted to clear and vice versa. The photochromic lens isn’t as dark as other dedicated dark lenses but they still have good protection and keep a natural color to them when peering out.

Smith Shift Split Mag

The Smith Shift Split Mags are another favorite in the roundup. They come in about two handfuls of different color options, have Smith’s ChromaPop contrast/color-enhancing technology, photochromic lenses, smudge and moisture-resistant coatings, and grippy nose pads and temples.

These have a flatter fit than the Momentums and fit very lightly on the face, but have been stable. The ChromaPop might sound like snake oil, but it produces a distinct difference in color and contrast, and makes for some very vibrant greens. One of the nicest features on the Shift Split Mags is how easily and quickly you can swap the lenses. The temples essentially pinch off and so does the nose piece, before mounting to the other lens.

Tifosi Rail XC

The Tifosi Rail XCs are one of the more affordable glasses in the group. They are made with a smaller and lighter design than the Rails and do away with a frame to maximize the field of vision and are marketed for either cycling or baseball. Tifosi says the lenses have 100% UVA/UA protection, a light and durable Grilamid frame, adjustable nose and temples, and a small to medium fit. The glasses include three lenses in total.

The Rail XCs have a light fit. Though Tifosi says the Rail XCs are on the smaller side of fit, the temples spread open quite a bit. They fit well and have good coverage, and swapping lenses is simple and quick enough. My only complaint with the Rail XCs is that they have fogged up on me pretty quickly after coming to a stop on cooler, more humid days.

Lifestyle Sunglasses

KOO California Sunglasses in Tortoise frame + polarized lens. Photo: Hannah Morvay. Words: Matt Miller.

KOO California sunglasses

  • Price: $139 – $180
  • Buy from Amazon

No one wants to keep those Robocop glasses on after the ride. KOO’s California sunglasses are a good pair to show everyone in the group that you’ve finally chilled out after the ride. The California’s have a polycarbonate frame with Zeiss lenses and a square wayfarer style. Slotted lenses allow a bit of air in and the temples curve inward for a snug fit. The only thing I’d like to see is some rubber on the inside of the nose, because these can slip downward with a little bit of sweat.

Roka Lola 2.0 sunglasses in Crystal Sage frame + dark carbon polarized lens. Photo: Jeff Barber. Words: Leah Barber.

Roka Lola 2.0 Sunglasses

  • Price: $220
  • Buy from Roka

Many of the Roka sunglasses fit smaller faces well and the Lola 2.0 sunglasses in the new crystal frame collection have just enough color and flair for a fresh and fun look. The frames are incredibly lightweight and like all Roka sunglasses, have the no-slip grippers at the nose and temple tips to help keep the cat-eye frames on your face. The polarized lenses are crystal clear, giving leaves and rocks nice definition. Custom combos are also available with a half dozen lens types.

Tifosi Swick prescription sunglasses

  • MSRP: Starts at $100 for prescription glasses; non-prescription starts at $25
  • Buy from Tifosi.

While it’s natural for many of us to wear prescription glasses at work, reading books, or watching TV, getting a set of prescription specs for riding, also known as our favorite pastime, can often take a backseat to other gear. Prescription sunglasses are expensive and sometimes hard to find. 

We’ve reviewed a lot of Tifosi glasses in the past and we’re usually excited by the value in the brand. Tifosi makes a lot of good cycling glasses that cost half as much as other premium brands. When they offered to send some prescription riding glasses, I was excited to try them out. 

Choosing the right prescription glasses is the hardest part: Most of the prescription glasses they offer fit in a more casual/active category and they offer few pairs of glasses that cyclists might look at as having potential for riding. Surely, this is part of the trick in having prescription lenses for two eyes and not just a singular shield across the face—most brands have the same challenge with prescription glasses. 

I wanted to try the Rivets, but was told my pupil distance was too narrow for these, so I opted for the Swicks. They have a classic square framed look which isn’t out of place for everyday trail riding. 

The glasses took a few minutes to adjust to on my first ride with them, but then I awoke to the vividness of prescription cycling eyewear and being able to see everything on the trail In high resolution. 

The Swicks stuck to my face just fine and I haven’t felt like they would fall off, but they do get a little warm and sweaty since there is no venting. I ordered these with Fototec light-adjusting lenses, and they worked well in darker forests and exposed hills. Overall, I’ve been happy with the Swicks.