Cycling sunglasses lessen glare and visual strain in direct sunshine. But more importantly, they guard your precious eyes against flying debris, errant branches, or pesky bugs. These hazards can be naturally occurring, or the wheels you follow can throw them up, sometimes with vicious force. Good cycling sunglasses also route the wind around your eyes, keeping them from drying out. This is especially important for those who ride in contact lenses.
The glasses must fit well and provide enough coverage to maintain their protective qualities. This fit must be retained even when sweating profusely. But cycling sunglasses must also vent well to prevent fogging in humid conditions. And remain tolerable in scorching conditions.
Our cycling editor, Seiji Ishii, was our head tester, and he’s been sampling cycling glasses for nearly 40 years. From the original Oakley Factory Pilot Eyeshades in 1984 to the current crop of plentiful cycling-specific sunglasses, Ishii has tested countless shades to find the best.
Cycling sunglasses run the gamut as far as pricing. Some are less than $40, while others are $400. We found through the decades that you do get what you pay for. Paying more, to a point, almost always delivers higher-quality optics and a longer usable lifespan. Occasionally, Ishii will don a pair he’s had since the 1990s. They cost more than his monthly rent in the same era. Eye protection was that important to him.
We are constantly testing cycling glasses, using them for every ride. From fast road group rides and long journeys on gravel to mountain biking on singletrack and bike park terrain, we never ride without eye protection. Cycling sunglasses shield our eyes from the elements during winter suffer fests in frigid temperatures. They also do their job in the sweltering heat and oppressive humidity of summers in the south. The glasses on this list survived extensive testing before consideration.
Read on for our recommended cycling sunglasses from the seemingly endless and ever-growing list of viable candidates. For a full rundown on what to look for in a pair of cycling sunglasses, head down to our buyer’s guide, and take a look a our comparison chart to see these sunnies’ specs and pricing side-by-side.
The Best Cycling Sunglasses of 2024
- Best Overall Cycling Sunglasses: RŌKA Matador Air
- Best Budget Cycling Sunglasses: Tifosi Rail Race
- Best Photochromic Cycling Sunglasses: Optic Nerve FixieMAX Photochromic
- Best Cycling Sunglasses for Mountain Biking: Koo Demos
- Best Cycling Sunglasses for Maximum Lens Coverage: Sweet Protection Memento RIG Reflect
- Best Cycling Sunglasses for Smaller Faces: Smith Bobcat
- Best Cycling Sunglasses for Larger Faces: Rudy Project Kelion
- Best Cycling Sunglasses for Challenging Light Conditions: Oakley Encoder Strike
- Best Cycling Sunglasses for Changing Lenses: Shimano S-PHYRE Magnetic
- Best Cycling Sunglasses for Sustainability: Vinco Sola
- Very good wind protection for lens size
- Very light feel on the face
- Excellent, crisp optics
- 2-year warranty
- Feels flexible compared to others
- The best value in cycling sunglasses
- Adjustable nose piece and temples for customization
- Good wind protection for lens size
- Flexible compared to others
- Lifetime warranty
- Good value
- Excellent lens optics
- Tight temples for a very secure feel
- Might be too tight for larger heads
- May not be enough venting in extreme conditions
- Sturdy frame
- Tight and secure fit
- Many frame colors and lens options available
- Might be too tight for larger heads
- RIB Bixbite lens has excellent contrast
- Comes with three different nosepieces for better fit
- Deep and wide lens coverage without looking ridiculous
- Rigid frame produces a stable fit
- Good value
- Venting might not be adequate in extreme conditions
- Super-light feel on the face
- Fits smaller faces well but still provides ample coverage
- Wide field of view for size
- May not vent well enough in extreme conditions
- Lens felt thin compared to others
- Verified weight 36 g
- Frame material Rislan Clear bioplastic
- Lens material polycarbonate, optical polyurethane for photochromic
- Unique button-activated split frame makes lens swaps easy
- Wide fit with adjustable ear stems and nose piece makes for a great fit on larger heads
- Integrated Rx lens insert available
- Might be too wide for smaller faces
- Frame might not be rigid enough for some
- Excellent tint and optical clarity for challenging trail light conditions
- Excellent rigidity for style of frame
- Hydrophilic rubber on nose piece and ear stems had excellent adherence under heavy sweating
- Great venting
- Some may prefer deeper lens coverage for more protection
- Most expensive cycling sunglass in this guide
- Verified weight 30 g
- Frame material Grilamid TR90 polyamide
- Lens material Grilamid TR polyamide
- Magnets make for quick lens changes (2 are included)
- Excellent visual contrast in the Ridescape Road lens
- Lens can pop off when opening or closing the frame
- Expansive lens coverage area and field of view
- 2 sizes available
- Stainless steel lens mounting hardware
- Adjustable temples and spring loaded hinges
- 2-year warranty and refurbishing service available
- Might not vent well enough in extreme conditions
- Feels heavier on the face than others
Sunglasses Comparison Chart
|RŌKA Matador Air
|Tifosi Rail Race
|Grilamid TR-90 polyamide
|Optic Nerve FixieMAX Photochromic
|G85 nylon plastic
|Sweet Protection Memento RIG Reflect
|Rudy Project Kelion
|Rislan Clear bioplastic
|Polycarbonate, optical polyurethane for photochromic
|Oakley Encoder Strike with Prizm Trail Torch Lenses
|O Matter nylon
|Shimano S-PHYRE Magnetic
|Grilamid TR90 polyamide
|Grilamid TR polyamide
Why You Should Trust Us
Our cycling editor and head tester for this guide, Seiji Ishii, has been turning the pedals for 40 years. In that time, he has gone from wearing wireframe aviators to the best cycling sunglasses the industry has churned out. From the infamous Oakley Eyeshades to the current crop of highly technical cycling-specific eyewear, Ishii has spent countless hours and thousands of miles behind the lenses.
Ishii takes eye health and safety very seriously. Although not through cycling, he lost a portion of his vision in his left eye for 6 months. So, he understands how debilitating it is to lose even a small portion of vision. He also has a fat and protein deposit on one eye from cycling in the Texas sun as a teen without sunglasses. Ishii understandably doesn’t turn a single pedal stroke without cycling sunglasses protecting his eyes.
If Ishii needs help testing the numerous cycling sunglasses on his plate, he elicits the services of lifelong cyclists he’s known and trusted for decades. He is also friends with current and ex-World Tour team members and staffers and often asks them for equipment opinions and advice.
How We Tested Cycling Sunglasses
Our team, led by cycling editor Seiji Ishii, logged thousands of miles while continuously testing every cycling sunglass they could obtain. Roads, gravel, trails, and bike parks were all testing grounds over the years. Some models excelled at certain venues, and a few performed well in all.
We compiled notes and mentally logged impressions on every aspect of the glasses listed in this guide. Protecting the eyes was at the top of the list of desired attributes. This meant shielding them from flying debris, branches, dust, and wind.
Comfort was a high priority, especially over long distances and hours. Security went hand in hand with comfort, as glasses that don’t stay put cannot offer consistent protection. This was especially true in the hot summer months while mountain biking. Sweat and jarring motions made the cycling sunglasses’ job of staying in the correct position much harder. Finally, the glasses had to be compatible with helmet straps.
Most brands offer cycling sunglasses with a variety of lens tints. The best tint depends on a myriad of conditions. These range from weather, tree cover, time of day, type of terrain, speed of riding, and others. And much of it is a personal preference. Some glasses come with a tinted lens and a clear one. And finally, we tested a few photochromic lenses. We noted how lenses affected contrast, clarity, and color correctness when something stood out.
While the sunglasses in this guide could be plenty useful off the saddle, check out our guide to the Best Sunglasses for the Outdoors if you’re looking for different styles.
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose Cycling Sunglasses
A legitimate question is, “Do I need sunglasses that are specific to cycling?” Yes, you do. Safety is the primary concern as you hurtle your eyeballs at speed through the air. Some things are annoying, like dust. But other things are potentially catastrophic, like stones thrown up by cars or bicycle tires. But there are other reasons to ride in cycling-specific sunglasses.
Why You Need Cycling Sunglasses
Other outdoor-oriented sunglasses can block out harmful UV rays and a specific amount of light. But cycling sunglasses offer much better protection from wind and flying debris. The lenses are shatterproof, usually with more coverage area than other glasses. This helps them keep the riding-induced wind from drying eyes and contact lenses.
Cycling sunglasses must also be supremely comfortable, as cyclists routinely ride for several hours in demanding conditions. It’s one thing to drive in an air-conditioned car for three hours. But quite another to toil away under a hot sun or relentless winds for the same duration. In addition to comfort, they must also be stable in these conditions. Brands work hard on materials that remain tacky on the skin during heavy sweating while providing the right feel to avoid irritation during long, bumpy stints in the saddle.
Cycling sunglass brands must also design glasses for the head down, eyes up point of view in some riding positions. The sunglass temples must also clear helmet straps.
And finally, especially on the road cycling side, riders can be very fashion-conscious. Combining good looks with the other required elements that make sunglasses functional in cycling can be tricky and difficult.
Best Cycling Sunglass Brands
Of all the sunglass brands active in cycling, Oakley holds the top spot in terms of recognition and, many will argue, function. It was the first to offer a cycling-specific sunglass with the Oakley Factory Pilot Eyeshade. The sunglasses were huge for the time, with adjustable earstems, a sticky rubber nosepiece, and a sweat brow pad. They debuted at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. Then, in 1986, Greg LeMond won the Tour de France in the Eyeshade and vaulted the brand into widespread acceptance in cycling.
Oakley has remained at the forefront of cycling, its models evolving with cycling’s ever-advancing speeds, lower weights, and fashion. Oakley sponsors many of the highest-ranking and highest-profile cycling teams and athletes. This keeps the brand and cycling sunglasses models on constant display for discerning cyclists.
Ishii has been riding and racing in Oakleys for decades, and it’s hard for him to find faults with most of the models he’s worn for thousands of hours. But other brands inserted themselves in cycling as it exploded during the LeMond and Lance Armstrong eras of road racing. The consistent growth of mountain biking buoys the brands. And most recently, the quickly growing popularity of gravel biking has expanded the market.
Cycling brands that produce anything from garments and helmets to hard components have thrown their hand into the highly competitive market. And it seems every year, more brands join the cycling sunglasses fray. Brands also step in sideways from other sports like skiing or motorsports. They likely see the popularity of cycling expanding and don’t want to miss the boat. Shimano, Sweet Protection, and KOO (a subsidiary of Kask) are examples of ancillary brands joining the cycling sunglasses market.
The most important part of any cycling sunglasses is the lens. This is what stops the potentially injurious object from reaching the eyes. Lenses must be shatterproof, and brands use polycarbonate, nylon, or a form of polyamide. The lenses must resist penetration by hard objects at high speed. They must also be reasonable in weight and provide enough optical clarity for high-speed pursuits.
Some brands certify their lenses as Optical Class 1, which is “for work with particularly high vision requirements for permanent use.” Ishii feels any reputable cycling sunglass brand adheres to this as a minimum level of performance.
Mineral glass may be used in other outdoor sunglasses and often provides superior optics. But they don’t have a place in cycling as they are not shatterproof and are much heavier than polycarbonate, nylon, or polyamides.
Next, the lens must shield the eyes from harmful UV radiation and filter out enough light to be able to perform well in specific conditions and to reduce eye strain over long hours. According to the National Eye Institute, we should all look for “lenses that provide 99 to 100 percent protection from UVA and UVB or marked as having a UV400 rating.”
Ishii has a deposit of fat and protein on one of his eyes called a pinguecula. This resulted from riding in the sun as a teenager without sunglasses. Sometimes, these deposits affect how tears cover the eye, but luckily, Ishii has not suffered any issues other than cosmetic. But he always wears cycling sunglasses now.
As a final note on lenses, mirrored finishes are popular among the cycling crowd. They do contribute to the effects of the tint, often improving contrast, but most are more prone to scratching. Non-mirrored lenses will have a much longer scratch-free life. In both cases, one must be careful during cleaning as cycling sunglasses are not nearly as scratch-resistant as mineral glass.
Ishii doesn’t feel photochromic lenses change quickly enough for mountain biking in the woods. The instant transition from bright to dark asks too much from the current crop of photochromic lenses. He has yet to find a photochromic lens that works well for this specific situation. Ishii prefers a non-photochromic lens for almost all mountain biking due to the consistent and rapid changing of light conditions.
The frame’s job is to keep the protective lens in the proper place, regardless of what is happening while cycling. This means staying put through the big drops of bike parks to hours of pouring sweat on summer road rides. Frames do this with a combination of frame size and rigidity, temple tension, ear stem adjustability or curvature, nosepiece fit, and tacky and often hydrophilic rubber on the nosepiece and ear stems.
First off, the frame must fit the face. The width is the primary dimension that affects fit. Wide faces must have matching wide frames, or the tension across the temples and ear stems could be uncomfortable. And vice versa: narrow faces require narrow frames, or there will be too little lateral tension. And the frames may not adjust far enough to provide a stable fit.
The width of the nose bridge is also a big consideration. If the nosepiece is too wide, the glasses will slide down. If the lens hits the cheekbones, sweat will accumulate. Also, fogging is more likely if the sunglasses slide down, putting much of the lens in closer proximity to the face. Luckily, many brands include different sizes or adjustable nose pieces.
Adjustable or spring-loaded temples can add to the tension and comfort across the temple. Adjustable ear stems add a lot of additional security. Finally, rubber-coated ear stems reduce sliding when the sweat rate is high.
For mountain biking, in particular, frame rigidity can be a concern. The frames should be able to resist potential branches to the face without deforming so much that they lose their protective qualities.
Rimless and semi-rimless frames can be much less structurally stout than those with a full frame unless the rigidity is made up for in the lenses. Some super lightweight glasses have twisted on Ishii’s face during contact with branches to the point of hitting his eyes.
Shape and Design
Cycling sunglasses’ shape and design are dominated by the need to protect the eyes from many angles and at speed. The lenses offer a larger coverage area than in other glasses, both in-depth and width. The lenses need to be deeper because the cyclist often looks down, and debris shot up by bicycle or car tires comes from this angle.
The lenses and frames also tend to be wider and can be a wrap-around style to better protect the eye during high speed or in cold, fierce headwinds. Wrap-around frames and lenses also protect better against errant branches on the sides of the trail.
The temples must clear helmet straps, so they usually sit further away from the head than on other sunglasses, or they may have bends and kinks to route themselves around. The glasses can also sit further from the face and have vents in the lenses to prevent fogging during high-output efforts in cold and humid conditions.
Pricing for cycling sunglasses runs the gamut, but generally, you get what you pay for. But there are models with stratospheric pricing ($300+) compared to most, and Ishii has yet to proclaim that these huge jumps in prices were ever worth the extra spend in terms of functionality.
According to Ishii, high-quality cycling sunglasses that elicit confidence in protecting eyes start just north of $100. The one exception is the brand Tifosi. It has many high-performance and fully capable cycling sunglasses for less than $80.
The best sunglasses for cycling will protect the eyes from flying debris, dust, and wind while filtering out the appropriate amount of light and delivering enough contrast for the riding conditions. They will have a secure enough fit to maintain their protective position while mountain biking in rough terrain but remain comfortable enough for long hours in the saddle. The best cycling sunglasses are also durable. They are able to take a hit from an errant branch and still secure lenses after hundreds of lens swaps.
Cycling sunglasses must have a larger lens coverage area to protect the eyes from wind generated by riding and the weather. They must also offer extended protection compared to other sunglasses against debris thrown up by a bike or car tire in front of the rider or a branch on the side of the trail. The lenses must be shatterproof, and the frames must withstand the aforementioned impacts.
The cycling sunglasses must stay put regardless of terrain ridden or the amount of sweat pouring off the head. Finally, the sunglasses must clear fog on cold and humid days and be compatible with helmet retention straps.
The cycling sunglasses that a professional cyclist wears are usually mandated by team or individual sponsor obligations.