Eyewear for Mountain Biking

Our eyes are without a doubt one of the most important organs that we have. Since you only get the one pair, protecting your eyes during the rough and tumble of mountain biking is crucially important. Thankfully, there are many different companies that specifically manufacture both safety glasses and regular glasses for mountain bikers. In addition to these two examples, are there any other types of eyewear for mountain biking?

The best type of eyewear for mountain biking is a pair of goggles that are equipped with interchangeable lenses based on the MTB activity at hand. Additionally, there are also sunglasses and special lenses that are available for MTB dynamics based on the level of debris that will be spread in the air. 

If you’re thinking about buying some riding glasses, then this is the article for you. In this guide, we are going to review and describe the various different types of mountain biking eyewear and the different features to look for when making the best decision on what pair works best for you. From goggles to specialty lenses, to regular glasses geared towards mountain biking, this article will cover them all. 

Best Sunglasses For Mountain Biking

MTB glasses are commonly referred to as sunglasses, so as not to be confused with the sunglasses you wear to avoid the sun. Whether you’re a casual rider or a professional, you know that quality equipment is one of the keys to high performance in mountain biking. Any mountain biker will tell you that the right pair of sunglasses can make all the difference. 

Let’s take a look at the different features you should consider when shopping for a pair of mountain bike sunglasses that will keep your vision clear and your eyes protected. High-contrast lenses are a must for mountain bikers. They allow you to ride in and out of shadows without being distracted by inconsistencies in light. Your high-contrast lenses will neutralize the lighting of your environment. 

What this is, it allows you to focus on the terrain that lies ahead. We recommend choosing a lighter lens rather than a darker one. This is because a darker lens may block out too much light and prevent you from seeing all the obstacles in your path on the trail.

Most lenses in mountain bike sunglasses are designed to increase contrast, so you can react more quickly to your surroundings and enjoy a safe ride. There are two types of lenses that can serve mountain bikers particularly well: polarized and photochromic (also known as transition lenses). Polarized lenses are excellent for mountain biking because they filter out the intense glare you’re likely to see on water, snow, and metallic objects. 

Photochromic lenses, meanwhile, throw off depth perception. That being said, photochromic lenses are still great for mountain biking because they adjust to changes in your environment.

The choice between polarized and photochromic lenses will ultimately come down to your personal preferences. Take the time to understand the benefits of both so you can make an informed decision.

Keep Comfort in Mind

The fit of your sunglasses is going to impact your comfort level when you’re on your bike, so you want to make sure you’re happy with how they feel. Sunglasses tend to become less comfortable as they sustain more wear-and-tear. If they’re not comfortable right out of the gate, don’t expect them to improve over time.

Also make sure your sunglasses cover your entire field of view. You don’t want portions of your vision left exposed to bright lights and glare. That doesn’t mean you have to settle for big, bulky frames, either. Plenty of frames offer a modern, laid-back style while still providing enough coverage and wrap to keep everything under control on the trail.

cyclist wearing sunglasses
Image credit: Deposit Photos

When you’re using your sunglasses on a mountain bike, there are some types of frames and lenses you just don’t want. Avoid dark lenses so you can see everything that’s in your way when you’re riding. Also, avoid lenses that sit too close to your eyes. 

Padding on the nose of your sunglasses prevents them from slipping off your face due to perspiration. If a frame lacks that feature, try going in another direction. Metal frames are a no-go because they bend easily on impact.

Oakley Sunglasses For Mountain Biking

Without a doubt, Oakley sunglasses are a popular go-to option for cyclists, and with good reason. While often more expensive than some of the competition, there’s no denying that its shades are well-designed, high-quality and, at times, unmistakably distinctive. 

The current collection of Oakley cycling-specific shades features a wide range of frame styles to suit all tastes and face shapes, from the traditional to the truly out there, there’s something for everyone.

This assurance has been added to by Oakley’s new custom sunglass program. This lets you choose your own frame parts and lens for 14 different models, offering up to a claimed 40-million different combinations, which is a new style for eons of mountain biking.

Oakley’s cycling sunglasses are also defined by the brand’s Prizm lens technology, which took a whopping 15 years to develop, with each lens’s tint designed to optimize visibility and contrast in different light conditions and sports. 

For example, a specific tint is used to enhance the clarity of road surfaces, helping to reveal potholes, which can often be hidden by glare when on the trail. These may sound like bold claims, but the company’s expert testing team is united in its agreement that Prizm really does make a difference.

Oakley frames are donned by a huge number of cyclists around the world. So if you’re looking for a list of the best Oakley sunglasses available, you can find a universal consensus across nearly any and every MTB rider. So which Oakley model is best?

Tour de France Radar EV Path 

This bigger-lensed alternative to the standard RadarLock offers a broadened field of view and, according to Oakley, around 25 percent of Oakley’s sponsored riders opt for the larger version. 

The Hydrophobic coating on the lens exterior is outstanding for keeping rain and road spray from obscuring your vision.

Both polarized and photochromic lens tints are available, and the quick-change lens system makes the process much easier for switching. Fit and stability are also outstanding, and throughout the product’s testing the glasses didn’t have to be repositioned at all. They’re not a cheap option but the performance justifies the cost.

Oakley Jawbreaker For Mountain Biking

Eye protection comes just second to the helmet for injury prevention, and in the world of optics Oakley sets the standard. The iconic brand has seamlessly integrated the frame and lens, maximizing the performance of cycling-specific optics. With the Jawbreaker, Oakley uses its High Definition Optics (HDO) and Prizm technologies to create a lens that is clear, prevents optical distortion and performs admirably when it comes to impact resistance. 

While the average mountain biker rarely has to deal with roost, it is nice knowing that this model’s lens will not shatter if you stuff your face into the shrubs that silhouette many local trails across the country. The lens’ light salmon tint provides goggle-like coverage with fantastic contrast to delineate upcoming trail abnormalities. 

Roots, holes and rocks pop are also accounted for allowing the rider to more confidently prepare for the craggiest of terrain. While it is extremely easy to swap lenses, the Prizm lens works so well in nearly all light conditions that the only time you should consider a swap would be for a night ride.

When push comes to shove, lenses with large surface areas, such as the Jawbreaker, are notorious for fogging up when you start to really work on climbs. While no pair of glasses is perfect, it is great to see this with the Jawbreaker’s resistance to fogging. The only time you may experience a steamed-up lens is on rare days with 100-percent humidity, and occasionally when stopped atop a climb. 

The six large vents on the lens–four on top and two on the bottom–are the correct size and in the right location to maintain enough air circulation to keep the lens clear regardless of how much you’re sweating.

But what’s a good lens if the frame that attaches it to your face is uncomfortable? The Jawbreaker’s adjustable arms and nose pad allow customization to ensure the frame is forgotten about moments after you put it on. At first, you may feel the glasses inching down your nose on jarring descents, but a quick swap to the second nose pad option will remedy this problem, and the glasses will stay put.

The Jawbreaker Prizm Trail offers virtually unobstructed and undistorted forward and peripheral vision and comfortably sits on your face. The Oakley dynasty’s reputation of visual enhancement and quality product is maintained with this lens/frame combination.

Can You Use Ski Goggles For Mountain Biking?

Everyone who ever skied knows that ski goggles are essential equipment when skiing on the slopes. But can you use ski goggles when mountain biking?

Yes, you could use ski goggles for MTB. But, and of course there is a but, ski goggles are made for skiing and the conditions that are when you ski on slopes in snow. They are also called snow goggles because they are used for other sports taking place in the snow. They work best in the snow because they usually block some light, which there are more of when skiing, because the snow reflects the natural light.

Even though you could use ski goggles for mountain biking, you would be better off using DH (Down Hill) goggles or MTB goggles that are made for non snow sport activities.

If you insist on using ski goggles for mountain biking, which might be a good idea if you exercise both sports, then you need to look for ski goggles with changeable glasses. 

This way you can just make the shift to clear glasses when mountain biking and use orange, yellow or grey when skiing. There is a big difference between the goggles you usually use for skiing and the goggles you usually use for mountain biking. The main difference is what they are made to help do.

Best Lens Color For Mountain Biking

Depending on what brand of sunglasses you want to buy, the brand will offer a variety of lens colors. Some styles of glasses will allow you to change the lenses, which financially makes the most sense. If you are able to buy the sunglasses frame and purchase a variety of lens colors then you will certainly have the right lens for every ride and weather change. 

If you choose to buy glasses without interchangeable lenses then you will need to have multiple pairs of glasses in order to meet the needs of your MTB ride. While black is a common color to see in the store, it is not recommended for mountain biking. It is too dark for any trails with shade and black or grey won’t assist with clarity or depth perception. Black glasses are primarily designed for road cycling or if you only plan to ride on long, sunny gravel roads.

The color brown filters out blue light waves and therefore increases how green looks to our eyes. It improves contrast, clarity, and depth perception. Therefore, for bright and sunny days on the mountain bike, brown should be your top pick.

Amber is also a good choice of lens color for MTB however, I rarely see amber lenses anymore and when I do they seem so retro, but from what I have read more of us should be using these. Since amber blocks blue light, it increases contrast and can better help your eyes detect all those obstacles hidden in the shadows. These glasses are best for trails that are heavily shaded or dimly lit.

We’ve all heard the saying, “See the world through rose colored glasses.” That is because these glasses will actually change the shade of the colors that you see and it will brighten the world around you. These glasses are best for cloudy days. 

Orange is sort of a combination of all of the lenses we have just discussed. They are best for cloudy days, but can function in all types of weather. If you live in a foggy city or complete most of your MTB rides in the morning before the fog has lifted then you might consider purchasing a pair of yellow lenses. They increase clarity and allow you to see through the fog in the best possible way.

Apparently blue lenses are not a good option for riding because in order to increase contrast and depth perception you actually want to filter out blue light. Every cyclist should have a pair of clear lenses. When it is too dark outside, the trail is too dark, or it’s raining, I always wear clear lenses. They protect my eyes and face without influencing what I see around me. These are the only glasses that you should wear during a night ride. These are a staple.

Other Colors of Lenses to Consider

Transition lenses, also called photochromic lenses, adjust to the light around you. They are clear or close to clear when the light is dim or you are in dark trails, and they become darker if you are on light and exposed trails. They are great for rides when you are starting in the daylight and ending in the evening or if you live in terrain that is exposed on the climb up but dark in the trees on the way down.

The downfall of transition lenses is that because they are pretty good at a lot of things, they aren’t the best at anything. They will darken and lighten up as needed but you won’t get the benefits of contrast and depth perception like you will with these other color lenses. Additionally, if you are darting in and out of trees during MTB, they are unable to adjust quickly. It takes time for them to change shades.

Even with different colors of lenses available, there are different degrees of light protection within each color of lens.

Best Glasses For Mountain Biking 

Glasses are a small accessory that make a big impact on one’s ability to shred on the trail. Glasses are often easily forgotten when packing for trips or a day out on the mountain, but within a few minutes on the trail you’ll be missing your protective lenses. As with most protective equipment, you don’t need it most of the time, but on those rare occasions when you do need it, it is imperative. 

Glasses can protect you from dirt, dust, debris, tree branches, mud, and more. In addition to protecting your eyes from errant objects, it can protect you from winds that make your eyes water. By protecting your eyes from these things, you are able to spend less time blinking and more time reading the trail. Finally, glasses can save your eyes from more severe consequences like painful and traumatic crashes. 

If you’ve ever ridden at sunrise or sunset, then you know the intense brightness that can occur when the sun just peaks over the top of the mountain. It can really be blinding. Glasses with the proper lens can be the difference between enjoying your ride or feeling blinded by the sun. If you wear glasses when you drive, then I highly recommend that you take that prescription to the trails as well. 

It makes a huge difference to be able to see down the trail. While you might not be reading signs while out mountain biking, the further ahead that you can see, the better you will be able to navigate, track, and react to the trail.

Not all mountain bike glasses are created equal and even though you know they are an important part of your riding equipment equation; you might not know exactly what you are looking for.