Sticks and stones may break our bones, but taking either in the eye is also painful. Whether for riding exposed singletrack on bright days, or keeping dust and mud out of your delicate peepers, a good pair of riding glasses are a necessary piece of gear for most mountain bikers. Over the past several months our staff has tested a handful of shades, each with their own technical benefits and style points.
Have a look at what our eyes would say about each pair.
The stylish Brecken frames from Bollé weigh in at a cool 29 grams, and that light weight helps to keep them from slipping off your face. The Brecken frames include a standard or polarized set of lenses (shown), and can be ordered with prescription lenses upon request. Bollé says they gave the lenses an anti-reflective treatment, hydrophobic treatment, and oleophobic treatment. That’s a lot of tech for one pair of shades.
I have a large head, and wide face and the Brecken frames fit quite well. Their temples squeeze my head just enough to keep the glasses from rattling around on my nose. The shape does allow more air, and possibly dust, in from the sides, but this might be a sacrifice some folks are willing to make to have a less performance-oriented aesthetic. The polarized lenses are a bit too dark for some sections of trail, limiting vision when the sun’s rays are blocked. For rides in moderate to direct sunlight, the Brecken shades are a good looking option.
Bollé’s B-Rock performance shades are sporty, but their full wrap shape doesn’t add much heft at 33 grams. The frame’s adjustable temples make them a good choice for folks with larger domes or uniquely-placed ears, and the lens offers ample coverage for wide-set eyes. The B-Rock lenses are similarly packed with technical lens features, including anti-fog treatment and oleophobic treatment, and the phantom lens coloration helps boost colors and clarity on the trail.
With ample coverage to keep the dust, wind, and sun out of my eyes, the most impressive element of these glasses is how difficult it is to make them fog. It is super humid where I live, year-round, and the B-Rock shades have been a great piece of gear on days when I need to keep my shades on.
The Julbo Aerospeed sunglasses are designed for performance through and through. The wide lens offers excellent coverage with nary a blind spot and is well-vented to minimize fogging. The photochromic REACTIV Performance lens is clear in dark conditions with 87% visible light transmission (VLT), and shaded in bright light down to 12% VLT, which has obvious benefits for mountain bike rides that move from forest to field, and back again. Of course the lens is also coated to repel oil and water too.
Aerospeed sunglasses are comfortable thanks to the flexible nose pads and rubber-like temple tips. The tips allow the temples to sorta float above the ear and the material does a good job holding the glasses in place. At just 27g (actual), the Aerospeeds almost feel weightless.
Available in six frame/lens combinations, including non-photochromic options.
The Julbo Stream sunglasses may not be as dialed for mountain biking as the Aerospeeds, but man they look cool. The upshot is I can have a single pair of shades for wearing on the bike and to wear in casual situations.
As you can see in the photo above, the polarized lens cuts down on glare, allowing trail details to really pop. The Streams are solidly constructed with a heavy (35g), chunky feel to them. The bridge is pretty basic with a little no-slip padding, and the coated temples are nearly ramrod straight. There’s a bit of vertical venting hidden within the thickness of the frame.
Leatt doesn’t list the Core sunglasses on their website anymore, but you can still find them available online (for now, anyway). Priced around $45, these look good and protect eyes against bright sun and errant branches on the trail.
Leatt Core sunglasses sit wide on the face and have scooped temples for comfort. There aren’t any fancy materials or coatings on the bridge or temples; the matte finish does a decent job keeping them in place by itself. Despite the thick frame, these weigh just 31g.
In keeping with the other shades we tested, POC’s Crave sunglasses tip the balance at a meager 29 grams. The ample frames hug the sides of the head well, and POC’s hydrophilic rubber nose gripper keeps them in place even when sweat is working to slide them free. The interchangeable lenses work well in bright sunlight and are a bit darker than I would like for forested riding.
With the largest lenses in the test, the Craves provide impressive coverage to keep your eyes clear and clean. The frames are designed with “snap-in hinges” to allow them to come apart on impact rather than breaking. I find this feature frustrating, as the frames come apart if I simply take the glasses off too quickly. For less ham-fisted riders this shouldn’t be an issue.
Revant is known for their prescription lens replacement service for popular sunglasses made by other brands like Oakley and Ray-Ban. They also have their own line of sunglasses, available with standard or prescription lenses, and I tested a model called the F1L.
The F1Ls feature fat, angular temples that thin as they go toward the back of the head and over the ear. A rubberized bridge and temple tips keep the glasses from slipping off on sweaty days. Compared to the Leatt and Julbos above, the F1Ls sit a bit closer to my brow and cheeks. The lenses I tested — polarized and with a coating Revant calls MirroShield — offer excellent protection on the sunniest days, though are too dark for most forest rides. At 31g, these are fairly lightweight among the lifestyle sunglasses tested.
Price: $155 as tested. (compare prices and find lenses)
The Scicon Eyewear glasses are a versatile piece of performance wear, with an average weight of 32 grams depending on how you configure them. Nearly every piece of the frame is interchangeable, as are the lenses, making them a highly personalizable pair of shades. Owners can adjust the frame’s temple length, nose piece size, or add a frame guard for extreme conditions and to adapt prescription lenses to the frame.
I find the Scicon frames a bit too small for my face size, both in terms of width and height. After making as many adjustments as possible I am left with an uncomfortable amount of the frame in my field of vision. The optics and overall feel of the glasses are very comfortable, and for riders with smaller faces, these should be a good option to consider.
Price: 250 (Available at Backcountry and other online retailers)
At 28 grams, the S-Phyre X from Shimano are a light, tight, and clean looking pair of performance shades. The S-Phyre feature list is a lengthy one, with reversible nose pads for a custom fit, 80% polarized interchangeable lenses, photochromatic lens, full UV 400 protection, hydrophobic coating to shed water, and an anti-scratch treatment that is reportedly three times more durable than regular coatings.
The S-Phyre coverage is broad and low, but the frames don’t touch my face and transfer sweat the way some others do. The nose and temple grips are ample, and I have not had any trouble with these glasses rattling around on rough trails. Despite their dark appearance, the S-Phyre X work well on forested trails when the sun is out, and the included clear lenses take care of the rest.
Shred.’s Stomp sunglasses tied for the third lightest we tested, at just 27 grams. That light weight makes them less noticeable, and more stable at the bridge and temples. Shred says of their lens polarization, “This lens technology reduces glare by blocking all angles of light that are scattered and reflected from surfaces such as snow and ice.”
I am greatly enjoying riding in these shades. The “contrast boosting lenses” create a sharpening effect around objects that is helpful while scanning a trail. It seems as if some things are reflective, while others are their usual dull state, creating clearer lines and definitions around objects.
Price: $149.95 (Available at ShredOptics.com)
Take 20% off MTB Products at ShredOptics.com with code STRACKS20
Smith’s Outlier 2 XL weigh 35 grams of pure style. Their slightly higher weight is held in place with soft rubber at the temples and nose bridge, and they handily stay where you put them. The frames and lenses are huge, covering plenty of my vision and keeping my eyes free of bugs and dust. The company’s Chromapop lens technology brightens natural colors and sharpens objects in the field of vision for a crisper look at the trail.
Considering form and functionality in tandem, these were my favorite pair of the lot I tested. They look like cool fashion sunglasses but have all of the performance benefits of true sport eyewear.
Sunski believes sunglasses should look good, fit good, be affordable, sustainable, and work well for athletic endeavors. Sunski uses scrap plastic to make the frames. They also don’t use any plastic packaging and the glasses come in a recyclable (and recycled) cardboard packaging.
The Topeka are a Wayfarer-style of sunglasses and keep the sportiness dialed down to a minimum. They’ve turned out to be a great set of glasses on the trails, and work well for smaller faces. The Topeka have a sturdy hinge, and rubberized temples and a rubberized nose. They weigh 21.6g. The lenses are polarized and Sunski can replace lenses if they become too scratched. The only downfall I noticed testing, is that they can be a little dark in dark woods, otherwise they’re a great, affordable pair, and it’s great to see them put sustainability in the forefront of their company.
A lot of mountain bikers may not be familiar with Wiley X. I first tried them out more than ten years ago on my way to Iraq. Most Marines I was around eagerly wore them as they fell within uniform standards, offered good eye protection, and didn’t look half-bad. I was surprised to find out they made glasses for sport and had to try them out on the trail.
Wiley X was veteran-founded in 1987 with the intent to provide good eye protection to service members, and has since expanded their outlook to law enforcement, emergency services, and the great outdoors.
In all honesty though, I didn’t have much hope for the Peaks, as a set of MTB glasses. With the solid black frame, and lack of vents, I thought for sure they would feel sweaty and hot, but they have actually managed to stay rather cool. The lenses meet the ANSI XZ87.1 standards for high-mass and high-velocity impact protection. The grey silver lenses I received are a bit dark on dark trails, but other than that, I have been wearing them more than any others lately. Weight: 28.5g.
The Saints, also from Wiley X, are a much different style than the Peaks. With the half-open frames, the Peaks allow much more air and ventilation in, and the ribbed, rubber nose piece gets more air on the face, and grips better.
I personally prefer the Peaks over the Saints, but it’s mostly a matter of style. The Saints feel more athletic and stay in place better, with a tighter temple. The lenses are a Shatterproof Selenite Polycarbonate that meets military ballistic lenses. They would easily double as a pair of glasses for sport shooting. Weight: 26g.
We would like to thank the respective companies that provided sunglasses for review.