Eye protection for cyclists
There’s more to how to choose eyewear for cycling than just going for what looks cool. But what else do you need to know to choose the right pair?

Do you need special glasses for cycling?

It’s not just a gimmick to make you spend more money. Cycling-specific glasses from a reputable brand are designed with safety in mind. As Pro Cycling Outlet’s Dave Walsh says, “Anyone who’s been hit in the eye by a bee at 50kph knows how important cycling glasses are!”
Don’t be tempted by regular shades, even from the same brand, as they’re much more likely to smash on impact and injure your eyes or face. 
Also, opt for high-UV filter lenses and wear them all year round because minimizing exposure, even on cloudy days, helps reduce the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration in old age.

Why are glasses so important while cycling?

Cycling glasses

Cycling glasses are as much a part of cycling safety as your helmet, especially at high speeds. Getting something in your eye on a ride runs the gamut of risk from a moment’s inconvenience … to a fatal accident while your vision is impaired.  Not to mention the potential pain glasses probably save you numerous times on a single ride. Even a tiny foreign body trapped between the upper eyelid and the cornea is agony because the cornea is 300–600 times more sensitive than skin, according to the American College of Ophthalmology. An eye bath won’t dislodge the object because the lid is so tight it holds it in place where it then abrades the hyper sensitive cornea. You’ll might even need medical assistance to remove it and antibiotic eye cream to prevent infection.
In an even worse case scenario, if the foreign body is made of any metal containing iron (aka ferrous metal), it can cause inflammation and permanent scarring of the eye if it’s not treated properly. 

Choosing the right shape sunglasses

Koo glasses

Shape is the next most important factor when choosing cycling glasses. The wider and larger the lenses, the more protection your eyes get from sunlight but also (including at night) from road debris, insects, dust and even pollen in the air that can damage or irritate your eyes. 
Wide lenses, or wraparound styles, are important for protecting your eyes against the wind too. In the same way that constant exposure to wind and air flow dries out your skin, eyes lose moisture during rides if not adequately protected. For this reason, some cyclists use eye drops – ask your pharmacist for help choosing the best ones for you. But you should also make sure to drink plenty of water and blink often to keep a constant tear film washing over the eye.
So, when you’re choosing cycling glasses think eye safety and eye health and you’ll have covered two important bases. The third factor to think about is lens colour as different colours are suited to different light and terrain conditions, which then also has a bearing on safety. 
Once you’ve got the basics down in terms of eye protection, you’ll already know you need to choose cycling-specific glasses for safety and to protect your eyes from UV and wind.
But, cycling glasses selection can get even more nuanced when you start looking at the benefits you can get from the colour of the lenses. Here’s a basic guide to help you go beyond just picking your favourite colour.

Does the colour of cycling glasses matter?

Cycling glasses

Choosing the colour of the lenses is more technical than you might think as different colours enhance different things and change what you see. In general, darker isn’t necessarily better because you’ll often be switching rapidly between sunny stretches and the shade under trees, tunnels or bridges where you won’t be able to see clearly enough. So, base your choice on the light and shadows of your planned ride and the terrain as road and mountain biking conditions have different requirements. 
By the way, we’re talking about the tint of the lenses themselves, which is not necessarily the colour the glasses appear on the outside, especially if they’re mirrored. 


Clear lenses are best in low light, like night time or overcast days, and not recommended for bright, sunny conditions even if they contain a UV filter.


Yellow tints improve contrast because they filter out blue light, which makes them good for less sunny days but not recommended in bright light. Yellow helps you pick out moving objects at a distance, which is especially useful for road cycling.


Similarly, pink lenses also improve contrast and reduce tiredness, but the downside is that they distort colour perception. Pink lenses are particularly effective in low light conditions such as dawn, dusk, mist and fog. 


Amber lenses block less light than brown but more than yellow and are good for poorly-lit trails and shady areas, as well as brightly-lit city night rides. The darker the tint, the more suited to very sunny days.


Brown also filters out blue light as well as enhancing green, so improves contrast and depth perception. Surprisingly, perhaps, brown is just as protective against light as grey or black – so don’t wear at night – and suits bright, sunny days.

Black and grey

For daily use in bright sunshine, black and grey are typical choices for road cycling. They stop your eyes getting tired as quickly and don’t distort colours. But the darker they are, the more they interfere with your ability to see depth and contrast, so they’re less suitable for mountain biking in shadowy places.


Green also works to reduce glare on sunny days and improves vision in the shade. But, green offers truer colour and contrast perception than grey, black and brown. That’s because green neutralises other colours so you perceive them more evenly and it also makes contours appear more defined. For these reasons, you can think of green like an all-rounder that works in both sunny and low-light conditions. 

Mirrored and polarised lenses

While not colours, these two lens types are worth mentioning.
The mirror effect is a coating overlaying the lens so is independent of the lens colour itself. You’ll need to know the lens colour to know what other effects you’re going to get. Mirrored cycling glasses are best suited to well-lit conditions, not shade, because they deflect rather than absorb light. They, therefore, do reduce glare, but people mostly like them because they look enigmatic and cool as no-one can see where your eyes are resting. 
For better glare reduction, polarised lenses filter light, as opposed to just deflecting it, so they also improve vision, clarity, and colour perception. Polarised lenses also offer protection against horizontal light, like light reflecting off water.

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