When the dirt sprays like a shotgun blast from the buzzsawing tire lugs in front of you, proper vision protection is paramount. Without roost from the hyper-tuned engines of motocross, what purpose do goggles serve for mountain bike riders? I was asking myself this question often, until I went down a run in deep dust wearing a well-designed pair of purpose-made mountain bike goggles. Now, I strap them on for any descent-focused ride.
The top reasons goggles can be a great addition to your gravity riding wardrobe are that they keep your eyes from watering in the rushing wind, keep contact lenses or glasses cleaner, provide a broader range of UVA/B/C coverage than sunglasses, are often impact resistant, and they guard your eyes against debris, insects, mud, and dust. If those aren’t compelling factors, consider that goggles are more durable than most sunglasses, the strap makes them harder to lose and easier to store, they often include several lens options, you can mount tear-off and roll-off lens covers when it is muddy, and most lenses are less expensive than those in high-end sunglasses.
We recently collected a variety of eye masks to share with readers, in the hope that one of them might improve your viewing experience out on the trail. Each pair has a similarly functioning strap, held in place by a few strips of silicone, so I won’t focus on straps in this review.
Additionally, I found very little variance in the foam face-cushion that softens the frame against your skin. The elements that seem most important include the field of vision, breathability, and model-specific lens features.
I slotted the O’Neal B50 eye-guards first because they were my favorite pair out of the five I tested. I have a broad pupillary distance of 63mm, and the B50 spread the largest field of vision of any goggle I have worn. The B50’s wide view angle is thanks in part to their magnetic lens attachment. The lenses are held on by eight magnets, instead of using traditional plastic clips around the frame, allowing them to open up the view considerably.
Cleaning the lens while riding is a uniquely simple process. Simply pull the lens off, clean it with the provided microfiber pouch, then slap it back on. You don’t have to remove the goggles or stop in order to keep them clean. On hot days you can pull the lens off to give your eyes some fresh air while you wait for your buddies to wipe the dust from their eyes.
Alongside their impressive field of view, these goggles won my favor for their ability to deal with fog. The double-pane lens is nearly impossible to fog, and when I did manage to give it the steam the lens cleared as soon as I started riding. I raced an enduro in the snow while wearing the B50, and with ventilation along every edge of the frame, the goggles kept the temperature just right inside. The lens’s anti-fog properties worked so well that I was able to climb with them on, adding a little extra warmth on my face.
- Magnetic lens attachment allows you to remove and clean the shield in seconds
- Integrated tear-off pins
- Anti-reflective coating, 100% UVA/B/C protection,
- Blue Blocker coating that filters the blue light from 430 nm where the blue light is the most harmful
- Goggle pouch included
- Spare lenses available in clear, gray, yellow, radium red, radium blue, and silver mirror
Like the O’Neal pair above, Leatt’s new Velocity 6.5 goggles open a massive field of vision through double-pane, anti-fog lenses. The company claims that their visual span is a whopping 170°. The military-grade, bulletproof lens panes are tapered to provide the most natural vision possible. With their flower-petal soft fleece lining, these goggles were the easiest to forget about of the five reviewed here.
The eight different lens options can be changed in a matter of seconds by releasing the “out-riggers” and popping the lens free from a few frame anchors. This feature is particularly useful on rainy rides when you want to remove the lens and clean it between runs.
The wide-set out-riggers attach the strap further away from your face than other goggles, allowing the frame to sink further into diverse full-face helmet openings. The lens and frame’s self-draining design makes the Velocity 6.5 a fantastic option for hotter riding, when you want to keep your eyes salt- and dust-free.
- $89.99 (Available at Amazon and other retailers)
- Bulletproof and impact tested to: ANSI Z87.1-2015, Military Ballistic Impact Standard (MIL-DTL-43511D), Certified CE EN 1938 :2010
- Permanent anti-fog function built into the inner lens polymer
- Roll-off and tear-off ready, with a pack of tear-offs included
- Self-draining lens/frame design
- Easy clip-in/out lens change (Second simplest in the test)
- OTG – Over-the-glasses fit
- Optional lenses available from 22 to 83% light transmission (VLT)
- 17 colorways available
In addition to designing a well-ventilated goggle with a broad field of vision, Melon offers the most aesthetically customizable vision protection on the market. You can select the color and design of the strap, frame, and lens, and all three components are interchangeable. Riders can choose a different look for every ride of the week if they like.
I chose the galaxy strap, galaxy frame, and Blue Chrome lens, and what arrived in the mail was the best-looking pair of goggles I have owned by a long shot. They stand out in photos, and nearly everyone I meet on the trail wants to know where they can get a pair.
Of the three single-pane goggles I tested, the Parker MTB MX had the best ventilation and anti-fog system. Though I didn’t wear this pair while racing in a blizzard, I have not had trouble with them fogging or getting sweaty on slower sections of trail. The frames sit a good distance from my face, and with multiple rows of ventilation on all sides, they feel comfortably cool.
- Hundreds of color and design combinations
- 100% UV protected
- Anti-fog coating
- Tear-off pins
- Vented to direct airflow across the lens
- SwitchFast strap system changes the look in 10 seconds
- Fleece facial layer
- 6 lens tint options
Shred is an Italy-based brand, well known in the snow sports world, now working their way down the dirt trail. Their Nastify McGazza signature goggle sports the nickname of famed freeride specialist Kelly McGarry. McGarry died of a heart attack while riding in 2016, and his friends, family, and team, including Shred Optics, have since created the Kelly McGarry Foundation to provide grants and financial support to a range of mountain bike projects.
The Nastify goggles are decidedly simple in design, lightweight, and by far the most flexible frame and lens combo in the roundup. You can twist the frames until they are nearly doubled-over, without releasing the lens. However, the malleable lens can quickly be pulled free from the frames when tugged in the right direction, and are held in place by a channel cut all the way around the frame.
With large vents across the top and bottom, the Nastify Mcgazza goggles breathe well, but feel slightly warmer than the other pairs included here. Shred also makes a larger pair of goggles called the Amazify that will fit over glasses, and expand the field of view with their Shredwide design.
- No tear-off pins available
- Contrast boosting lens technology
- Fleece-face lining
- Includes goggle case and sticker kit
Based on prior experiences with Smith’s sunglasses, I had high expectations for their Squad MTB goggles. The frames and strap come in a variety of colors, from earth tones to crossing-guard fluoro, and almost as many lens tint options.
These were the only goggles I tested with clear lenses, and they were nothing other than that: clear. While it is nice to have a fully transparent lens on hand, I found myself wishing for a bit of tint on most rides. Fortunately, Smith sends two different lenses with each pair of goggles so you can swap in the appropriate tint before heading out for a ride.
The field of view in the Squad MTB goggles was notably smaller than any of the other pairs in this review, and felt constricted while riding. The narrower view was so distracting that I took the goggles off half way down every run, preferring dust in my eyes over skewed vision. Smith makes a wider version of this goggle, called the Squad XL MTB, that they recommend for riders with wider pupillary distances.
- €100 (Available at Backcountry and other retailers)
- 5 ChromaPop lens options available
- Anti-fog treatment
- Wide open ventilation
- Tear-off/roll-off pins
- 9 frame/strap colorways
While any of these goggles will work for most folks, I would highly recommend looking into a pair with a double-pane lens. The ability to ride in all conditions, without suffering a foggy-goggle from sweat or moisture in the air, is a game changer. The growing number of companies switching to dual-pane shields suggests that everyone will eventually make a truly fog-free lens.
Which goggles do you wear to keep your eyes clear and focused?