Stylin’ Mountain Bike Sunglasses Throwdown

photo: Leah Barber

Mountain bikers have a style all their own. Take baggy shorts for example; functionally, baggies fall short of tight, lycra shorts on most measures, yet many of us wouldn’t be caught dead in tights on the trail. In the same way, I’ve found “lifestyle” is a code word cycling eyewear companies use to label sunglasses designed with mountain bikers in mind. (You’re welcome.)

So sure, other cycling-specific sunglasses may offer better coverage, swappable lenses, and lighter weights. But style-wise, every pair of shades in this throwdown kicks brown pow all over those glasses.

100% Hudson

The Hudson sunglasses from 100% I tested feature HIPER Blue mirrored lenses in a Grilamid TR90 frame. With rubberized nose and temple pads, the Hudsons stay glued in place and on the face. I found the optics to be among the most clear of all the sunglasses in this test, with a pleasantly subtle brown/rose tint. The Hudsons do an excellent job blocking out the sun, without overly shading details like rocks and roots.

At 24.3g, the Hudsons fall in the middle of the throwdown in terms of weight, weighing exactly the same (to the tenth of a gram!) as the Bolle 527s described below. The temple ends have a nice curve to them which helps keep the sunglasses in place, and it also means these work well with a vented bike helmet.

100% says the Hudsons feature a HYDROILO coating designed to repel water, dirt, and oil. Clearly the stuff on my fingers isn’t water, dirt, or oil because I’m constantly cleaning lenses on ALL of my sunglasses, including the Hudsons.

In all my years of testing sunglasses, I have yet to find a lens that doesn’t get smudged, scratched, or fogged, usually within the first day of use. Honestly, mountain bikers ask a lot of their sunglasses. Sitting below the brow, sunglasses are doused with salty sweat, and they tend to get dropped, packed, and poked as we ride down the trail.

Fortunately the Hudsons have emerged from my testing relatively unscathed. The included microfiber cleaning bag is an important accessory, and is highly recommended over using a jersey or t-shirt to wipe the lenses after a ride.

If I had to choose just one pair of sunglasses as my favorite in terms of styling, I would probably choose these. Of course everyone has their own style, which makes this a totally subjective assessment. At $150, these are among the most expensive glasses on this list.

MSRP: $150.

100% Blake

The Blakes are another option from 100% with similar styling, though offering a bit more coverage than the Hudsons. I tested these with the standard “smoke” lenses and found them to work well. Unlike the HIPER mirrored lenses in the Hudsons, the smoke lenses offer a more neutral gray tint and a medium amount of shading.

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The temple arms on the Blakes appear to be identical to those on the Hudsons, with the same rubberized tips on both the temples and nose pads. The nose pads are not adjustable, yet despite the lack of adjustability, I found them to fit my face great right out of the box. At 26.3g, these are the second-heaviest sunglasses I tested.

MSRP: $110.

Adidas pacyr

The pacyr is one of the newest additions to the adidas Sport eyewear collection. Adidas touts the non-slip temples and adjustable nose pads for running, and I found the pacyrs to work just as well bombing down rough singletrack on my mountain bike. I tested the Brown Havanna version, though Adidas offers at least 9 other color / lens combinations.

The lenses in the glasses I tested are made from polycarbonate like all the others here, and Adidas does offer the ability to add prescription lenses. While my glasses don’t feature polarized lenses, Adidas offers these as well. I found the Brown Havanna pacyrs to offer decent shading, though with a noticeable brown tint and just medium protection. While they felt a bit under-gunned in full sun, they weren’t so dark that I needed to take them off when dipping into forested singletrack.

The pacyrs were the most comfortable sunglasses in my test, thanks to their light weight (21.9g, the lowest of all the glasses in this test) and wide-set temples. These glasses tend to sit farther off the face than others in this test, which allows for great air flow. Coverage is good despite sitting farther from the face, and the pacyrs feature the largest lenses of any others in the test. Not only that, I dig the combo of brown lenses with the classic tortoise shell pattern in the frame and temples.

The pacyrs survived the Singletracks Brutal Weekend. photo: Paul Foster.

Combined with a helmet, the long, straight temples tend to crowd into my helmet retention system, which can get a little uncomfortable on long rides.

MSRP: $119.

Bolle 527

The Bolle 527 sunglasses are among the most popular in the company’s lineup. Even with high-performance polycarbonate B-20.3 lenses, the Navy Silver Nano version I tested is among the most affordable on this list, at $99 MSRP. For that price buyers get polarized, anti-reflective lenses with an oleophobic / hydrophobic treatment. Bottom line: these lenses are designed to push everything away, from the sun’s rays to oil and water.

In practice, I found the Bolle 527 sunglasses to provide some of the best sun protection in this test. The lenses seem to block all the bad stuff without noticeably reducing brightness. Another way to describe this is to say everything just looks clearer through the polarized, anti-reflective B-20.3 lenses, but not shaded. All that protection can result in some weird rainbow effects when looking through glass or at a smartphone, but that’s just part of the fun.

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At 24.3g, the Bolle 527 sunglasses fall right in the middle of the pack in terms of weight for this throwdown. Unlike most of the others in this test, the 527s don’t have rubberized temple tips, which could be welcome news for riders tired of hair snags. Instead of relying on sticky temple tips, the 527s feature swoopy, curved tips that wrap around the ear, keeping them in place.

Similarly, there are no nose pads, adjustable or otherwise, to prevent the 527s from taking a nose dive. However, I found the sunglasses to fit just fine and didn’t have any problem with slippage. Of all the sunglasses in this test, the 527s are the most comfortable when wearing a helmet thanks to the curved temples.

MSRP: $99

Bolle Ibex

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Bolle is introducing a new set of sunglasses to their lifestyle line called the Ibex. The Bolle Ibex sunglasses feature more of a chunky, wrap-around look which makes them heavier than all the others in this throwdown. Unlike the 527s I tested, the Ibex sunglasses feature “Thermogrip” padding on the temple tips and nose, though the nose pads still are not adjustable.

I tested the Matte Grey White version with Bolle 100 Gun lenses, which Bolle says are good for “high mountain environmments” (but they’re not recommended for driving.) The tall temples effectively act as blinders, further keeping the sun out.

Bring the Ibex sunglasses to Moab and Fruita, but leave them at home for that Pisgah trip.

MSRP: $130.

Roka Halsey

Wouldn’t you know it: the best “looking” glasses on this list are also the most expensive. No shortcuts here, I found the Roka Halseys offer the clearest, most neutral view while blocking squint-inducing rays. Like the Bolle 527s, the Halseys seem to offer the least amount of darkening, which is great for riding trails that throw up a mix of full sun and full shade.

Roka says the “glacier mirror” lens in the Halseys I tested is a “moderate contrast, neutral-color lens that provides comfort during everyday use in very bright and sunny conditions.” All the lenses and coatings Roka uses are by Carl Zeiss vision, and they’re coated and cut specifically to fit Roka frames.

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The clear frames I tried feel solid and substantial, and this is backed up by the fact that these weigh 25.7g, among the heavier sunglasses in this test. The hinges offer a good bit of resistance with virtually zero squeak. Black, rubberized temple tips keep the straight temples in place, though the downside is the temple ends tend to interfere with my helmet retention system a bit more than the others. The rubberized nose pads are not adjustable, but they utilize a clear white material so they blend into the white frame.

The Roka Halseys are probably my second favorite in terms of styling, with a similar shape to the 100% Hudson sunglasses I chose as my favorite.

MSRP: $170.

Tifosi Swank

The new Swank collection from Tifosi features a classic style at an affordable price: just $39.95 for non-polarized lenses, and $69.95 for polarized. Tifosi blows the others away in terms of color combos, giving buyers the ability to choose from 11 frame designs, 11 arms, and 6 lenses. That’s a whopping 726 possible combinations!

I tested one of the more subdued, classic color combos called Brown Fade. The glasses provide adequate sun protection, though obviously not as well as the polarized or reflective lenses on this list. The lenses seem to be on par with those in the Adidas pacyrs.

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While the Swank sunglasses I tested do not feature rubberized temple tips, they do have padded (though not adjustable) rubberized nose pads. Unfortunately I found the Swanks to feel a bit crooked on my face compared to others in this test. They are also on the tight side, so perhaps better suited to riders with more narrow noggins than mine.

Still, I love how lightweight these glasses are (23.4g, second lightest in the test) and the fact that if I drop them or lose them, I won’t fume at myself too long.

MSRP: $39.95

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