The best cycling sunglasses worth wearing

The best cycling sunglasses that will let you ride fast, ride safe, and look cool.

Best Overall

Oakley Sutro

Oakley Sutro

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Best Value

Tifosi Jet Sunglasses

Tifosi Jet Sunglasses

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Editor’s Choice

Tifosi Crit Matte Gunmetal

Tifosi Crit Matte Gunmetal

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During the first year or two after I started cycling, if you had asked me “what’s the best cycling sunglasses out there,” I would have answered with a flat “the cheapest that will stay on your face.” In hindsight, that is bad advice. Frugal, yes, but bad. 

I know better now, especially after my cavalier attitude led to me catching a bug just below one eye that actually gave me a black eye for a week. My wife gave me a pair of her glasses, which although not a premium brand, were a lot better than the cheap, not-even-cycling style glasses I had been wearing. I couldn’t believe the difference. Not only could I see better, but the wind no longer dried my eyes out and the bugs just bounced off. I was converted. 

Picking the right glasses will not only make your ride more enjoyable in the sun and wind, they can also protect your eyes from damage in the event of a crash (or a collision with an unfortunate bug). If you’re new to cycling, I hope to spare you the hard lessons I learned. This guide lays out some of the best options out there for your cycling needs.

Best Overall

Oakley Sutro

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Best Value

Tifosi Jet Sunglasses

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Editor’s Choice

Tifosi Crit Matte Gunmetal

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Best for Women

Oakley EVZero

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Best Alternative Brand

100% S2 Sport Performance Sunglasses

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Most Stylish

Oakley Radar EV Path

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Best Affordable to Rival Premium Brands

Rockbros Polarized Sunglasses

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Best for Triathlons

100% S3 Sunglasses

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Best for Wide Faces

Julbo Rush Sunglasses

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Best for Narrow Faces

Tifosi Wisp

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Best for Mountain Biking

Smith Attack MAG MTB Sunglasses

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Why you should trust us

I’ve been cycling in various forms for over a decade now. I started mountain bike riding shortly after leaving the Air Force more than 10 years ago. I’ve been able to ride the trails in parks and mountains in Georgia, Alabama, and Ohio. Over the past few years, I’ve started logging a lot of miles on the road as I try to keep up with my cyclist wife, and the last two years I’ve tried my hand competing in the Air Force Marathon Blue Streak Time Trials (which, I may add, I have not yet finished dead last in. No further questions).

Types of cycling sunglasses

In terms of style, cycling sunglasses curve around the face and are typically wider than other sunglasses. This is important because this shape offers additional protection against wind, dust, and bugs. There are a number of ways to categorize different styles, but here, we’ll break them down into frame types.

Full-frame

Full-frame lenses are where the lens is completely held in place by the frame. The advantage of this style is that they offer more strength and durability than the other styles listed. Plus, they look more “classic” or “traditional.” One drawback of this style is that the frame can partially block your view when looking to the sides, up, or down.

Semi-rimless

Also called “half-frame,” this style of frame holds the lenses along the top, but typically doesn’t cover the sides or bottom. The result is a more modern look, which has the advantage of blocking little of your peripheral vision, or your vision if you look down. The potential tradeoff is in durability, so if you drop your glasses or roll over them, there’s less frame to protect the lenses.

Rimless

Also called “frameless,” these frames hold the lenses at small contact points either on the top or the sides. This provides completely unobstructed views to the sides, up, or down, and they look very modern. The downside is even less durability and protection than semi-rimless glasses.

Key features of cycling sunglasses

Visible light transmission (VLT)

This rates the amount of light that the lens allows to pass through. Typically, sunglasses allow in about 15 to 20 percent light (or in other words, they block 80 to 85 percent light). For those operating in very bright areas (such as snowy places), lower VLT may be ideal. But if you’re in darker places (like mountain bike riding in forests), you may want a higher VLT.

UV protection

UV protection is a key function of any pair of sunglasses. When you’re cycling, you can be out in the sun for hours. While lots of sunlight might make for a beautiful ride, prolonged exposure to the sun has been linked to increased incidences of certain eye diseases. Make sure that any sunglasses you purchase protect against UV.

Polarized/non-polarized

All sunglasses will protect you from bright light, but polarized sunglasses (usually imbued by a specialized chemical treatment to the lenses) help protect your eyes from reflected light. So why would you need these? Polarized glasses are best for if you’re riding in very bright areas for long periods of time, or along highly reflective bodies (like water, or snow-covered landscapes). 

Benefits of cycling sunglasses

Protection against sunlight and wind

This one is obvious. When people ride, they tend to do it for a long time. Hours, even. Prolonged exposure to sunlight and wind will dry your eyes out, and that sort of exposure increases your chances of eye disease over time. 

Protection against dust, debris, and bugs

I already mentioned how I got a black eye from a bug because of my poor choice of sunglasses. Damage from something flying right into your eye is a real risk without sunglasses

Protection in case of a wreck

Everyone takes a spill at some point. Most wrecks result in little more than some scratches and choice expletives, but some can be nasty. Your helmet goes a long way to protecting your noggin, but they do little for your eyes. Sunglasses add an extra layer of protection if things get ugly on your ride. 

Pricing considerations of cycling sunglasses

Budget

There are some good sunglasses available for under $50. Most tend to be non-polarized (although there are some like the ROCKBROS listed above that do have polarized lenses), and some may not feel as sturdy as pricier options. The most significant trade-off tends to be a lower clarity of the lens and less “crispness” in your vision when looking through them. On the other hand, if you lose them, you don’t feel quite as bad.

Mid-range

Between $50 and $150, you will often have a lot of great options to choose from. Interchangeable lenses, polarized lenses, and proprietary features that enhance things like color contrast or enhance low light clarity are plentiful. 

Premium

Larger wraparound, durable, and lightweight options can be found among these premium options at more than $150. Brands like Oakley and 100% dwell in this market. 

How we chose our top picks

In selecting our top picks, we used a mix of personal experience with the brands, reviews of published product data, and evaluation of buyer reviews. Each product on our list was carefully selected after comparison to competitors deemed similar in product capability or target market.

FAQs on cycling sunglasses

You’ve got questions, Task & Purpose has answers.

Q. What are photo-chromatic lenses?

A. These are lenses that adapt to light levels. In other words, when it’s brighter out, the lens darkens to block more light, and when it’s darker out, the lens lightens to block less light.

Q. What glasses do pro cyclists wear?

A. Not the cheap ones. Pros can be seen sporting Oakley, Rudy Project, and Koos, among other premium brands. 

Q. Are polarized sunglasses good for cycling?

A. Sometimes, but it often doesn’t matter. Polarized glasses are often mirrored and darker than non-polarized, so they are great for long rides in bright areas, especially near water. 

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W.E. Linde

Contributing Writer

W.E. Linde spent 12 years in the Air Force as an intelligence guy and loved both his enlisted and commissioned time. Now a civilian, he toils away as a healthcare business analyst by day and wannabe writer by night. He currently writes for Duffel Blog and for the humor site Damperthree.com.