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Published Feb. 3, 2022

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

You knew that Oakley was going to be on this list, right? You’d be hard-pressed to find a “best of” list of sunglasses that didn’t have Oakley front and center.

The Sutro (named after Mt. Sutro in San Francisco) is our pick for best overall sunglasses because they feature some of the best qualities that the Oakley brand is known for. The design is simply cool, featuring a cylindrical lens that curves around in such a way that, even though it possesses a full-frame, the frame won’t obstruct any part of the rider’s view. Made of Plutonite (Oakley’s proprietary polycarbonate plastic), the company said the lenses block “100% of UVA, UVB, and UVC rays plus blue light up to 400mm.”

Product Specs
  • Frame style: Full-frame
  • Weight: 1.10oz (31g)
  • Lenses: Interchangeable
  • Light transmission: 20% (other lenses available)
PROS

Frame made of patented nylon composite that is light and durable

No-slip Unobtainium nose pads help keep glasses securely on your face

PRIZM lenses designed to enhance contrast and detail

CONS

Large lens style is cool, but not for everyone

Long arms may make fitting smaller heads/helmets difficult

Tifosi Optics has made a name for itself by making quality sunglasses at great prices. Their Jet sunglasses are a prime example of their ability to create something functional and stylish at a fantastic price.

The frame is made of the same Grilamid TR-90 (a durable and flexible homopolyamide nylon material) as their more expensive sunglasses. They hug the face comfortably and are quite effective at blocking wind and dust. Plus, the nose pads keep these glasses from slipping even when you sweat.

The lenses are made of a quality polycarbonate that is shatterproof and resists scratches. The Jet’s lenses are not polarized, however, so if you’re riding in places (along rivers or fat tire biking in the snow) with a lot of glare, you may not appreciate these as much. But if a lot of your riding is on the road, on trails, or under trees, there’s a lot to love.

Product Specs
  • Frame style: Semi-rimless
  • Weight: 1.0 oz (29g)
  • Lenses: Interchangeable
  • Light transmission: 15% (Smoke lens)
PROS

Lightweight nylon frames are tough and flexible

Scratch-resistant, shatterproof lenses

Comes with a hardshell case

CONS

Not really made for wide faces

Non-polarized lenses

Editor’s Choice

Tifosi’s second entry on our list is the sharp-looking Crit Matte Gunmetal sunglasses. There are several variants of the Crit, most of which are priced lower than the Gunmetal version. This one made the Editor’s choice based on form and function.

Like other Tifosi models, the Crit is made of lightweight and durable Grilamid TR-90 nylon material, making for a comfortable fit. The nosepiece and earpieces are both adjustable and made of hydrophilic rubber, so they can stay in place no matter how hard the workout.

The Crit comes with smoke polarized Fototec lenses, which adapt to changing light levels. Additionally, the lenses are vented, which helps to keep the lenses from fogging. Like other Tifosi glasses, you can customize with different colored lenses (the matte gunmetal model’s smoke lenses have a classic gray tint).

Product Specs
  • Frame style: Semi-rimless
  • Weight: 1.1 oz (31g)
  • Lenses: Interchangeable
  • Light transmission: 15.2% (Smoke Fototec). 9.4% (Brown Fototec)
PROS

Lightweight nylon frames are tough and flexible

Polarized scratch-resistant, shatterproof lenses

Photochromatic (Fototech) lenses adapt to light levels

CONS

Phototech lenses adapt to low sunlight, but are never completely clear

Best for Women

Let’s be honest: While there are (of course) plenty of real differences between men and women that require distinct designs for each in regards to sportswear, in the case of sunglasses, these differences are largely cosmetic. What matters is how it fits, and for many women, a more narrow or medium-sized frame fits better. If you want a smaller-fitting pair of Oakleys that perform well and look great, the EVZero may be the sunglasses you’re looking for.

Made with the company’s proprietary O-matter material, these rimless sunglasses are light, weighing in at less than one ounce. Both the lenses and the frames are available in an assortment of colors.

Like the Sutro, the EVZero lenses provide 100 percent UV protection. Even though they’re a bit smaller than Oakley’s Sutro (about 1/5th of an inch less lens height), you still get complete eye protection and an unobstructed field of view.

Product Specs
  • Frame style: Rimless
  • Weight: 0.80 oz (22g)
  • Lenses: Fixed lens
  • Light transmission: 11-12%
PROS

Rimless, O-matter frame with zero obstruction

Specialized nose pads and temples keep sunglasses in place

PRIZM lenses provide enhanced clarity and contrast

CONS

Non-polarized lenses (for those who insist on this, maybe a deal-breaker)

I don’t want to suggest that 100% is alternative in the sense of “unknown” or even niche. This company has been around since the 1980s, but their start was with motocross. Over the years, they’ve expanded their brand to cover other high-speed sports like skiing and cycling, and this kind of energy and evolution can be seen in their distinctive products.

The S2 has a semi-rimless frame made of TR90 material, a thermoplastic that is tough and flexible, allowing it to bend and conform more closely to the face. The nose pads and tips of the arms are made of an ultra grip rubber to keep the S2 in place during your workout.

The S2’s cylindrical lenses provide an unobstructed view (meaning the frame doesn’t block your sight at any meaningful angle), they are scratch-resistant, and provide 100 percent UV protection. Also nice is that the lenses are treated with a hydrophobic/oleophobic substance (HYDROILO) which repels water and oil. An added bonus is these glasses come with an extra clear lens that you can swap out with the darker lenses when needed.

Product Specs
  • Frame style: Semi-rimless
  • Weight: 1.0 oz (30g)
  • Lenses: Interchangeable
  • Light transmission: 12% (clear lenses 93%)
PROS

Interchangeable, scratch-resistant lenses

Hydrophobic and oleophobic lenses repel water and oil

Air scoops to help prevent moisture buildup

CONS

On the expensive side

Most Stylish

Our third and final entry from Oakley, the Radar EV Path, are some of the most stylish sunglasses you can find for any sport. With over 20 colored lenses to choose from, this will stand out as well as give you the performance you’d expect from premium sunglasses.

The Radar EV Path’s frame, like the other Oakleys on this list, is made of the company’s O-matter material (but also with metal icon accents for a bit of flair). The nose and ear socks on the arms are made of Oakley’s trademarked Unobtanium, which is a rubber material that helps keep these sunglasses in place even when you sweat.

The Radar EV Path Plutonite lenses use Oakley’s PRIZM technology to enhance color and protect from harmful UV rays, as well as HDO, or “high definition optics,” which provide for exceptional clarity. These lenses are also interchangeable, so you can update as needed if you just want a change of view. Standard lenses are not photochromic or polarized, but these are options you can purchase.

Product Specs
  • Frame style: Semi-rimless
  • Weight: 0.98 oz (28g)
  • Lenses: Interchangeable
  • Light transmission: 12%
PROS

Rimless, O-matter frame with zero obstruction

Specialized nose pads and ear socks keep sunglasses in place

PRIZM lenses utilize HDO for exceptional clarity

CONS

Expensive

Photochromic and polarized lenses add to cost

Best Affordable to Rival Premium Brands

Cycling is an expensive activity, so sometimes you need to look for bargains that won’t come back to haunt you in some way. It’s difficult enough to find a decent pair of sunglasses for under $40, much less with polarized lenses. The Rockbros Polarized Sunglasses really deliver here.

The frames are made of polycarbonate thermoplastic, which is durable and flexible, and the adjustable, anti-slip nose pad and rubber ear covers on the arms will help keep your sunglasses where they’re supposed to be. The company’s Amazon product page said they’re durable and “military impact,” whatever that means.

The lenses are polarized, which is very difficult to find at this price point. Plus, they’re mirror-coated, and with the various coloring available, look really cool. Surprisingly, these sunglasses also come with a hard carry case.

Product Specs
  • Frame style: Full-frame
  • Weight: 0.88 oz (25g)
  • Lenses: Fixed lens
PROS

Lightweight, despite full-frame design

Fantastic price

Polarized lenses

CONS

Don’t expect these to be as durable as the Oakleys

Not scratch-resistant

Best for Triathlons

If you’re one of those high-speed machines that thrive on the punishing challenges of a triathlon, then you need sunglasses that serve you well when running and cycling. That’s no easy thing, either. You need something that can stay on your face as you sweat your way through your race, and that won’t fog up regardless of the time of day.

100% merged the features of two of their premier glasses (the S2, which we talked about above, and the Speedcraft) to make a versatile set of sunglasses that will help you power through your cycling and running challenges. Like the S2, the frame is made from durable TR90 material, but it also includes lens vents to help prevent fogging.

The lenses are both hydro- and oleo-phobic, so they repel water and oil, which you’ll likely appreciate as you sweat through your triathlon. Like the S2, the ultra-grip nose and temple tips will keep your S3s from sliding off your face, so you can concentrate on the race. Plus, they’re scratch-resistant, which will help these last as long as you keep racing.

Product Specs
  • Frame style: Semi-rimless
  • Weight: 1.2 oz (34g)
  • Lenses: Interchangeable
  • Light transmission: 12%
PROS

Vented lens system to protect against fogging

Hydrophobic and oleophobic lenses repel water, dirt, and oil

Comes with hard case and clear replacement lens, for dark or cloudy races

CONS

Like the S2, they’re not cheap

Enhanced lenses (e.g., photochromic or proprietary HiPER lens) are an extra cost

Best for Wide Faces

A common complaint that pops up with some premium sunglasses in various reviews goes along the lines of “I love them, but they’re too big (or small).” It sucks when the perfect pair of glasses feels like a vise wrapped around your temples. Luckily, Jublo has a fantastic set of sunglasses for folks that have wider faces (we’ll talk about narrow faces below). The Rush is made for you.

First, the frame is made to be highly adjustable. The 3D Nose Fit allows you to adjust the pads in any direction to comfortably secure the glasses to your face. Then, Julbo’s Flex 3 Temples are made to adjust laterally, vertically, and length-wise which, along with the 3D Nose Fit, will ensure these sunglasses aren’t going anywhere you don’t want them to go.

When you purchase your Rush, you’ll choose one of two lenses: the Spectron polycarbonate or the REACTIV photochromic lenses. Since the Rush is made to easily replace the lens, you may decide to get both lenses and swap out as desired. The Rush is vented to prevent fogging and provide for a wide field of view. Both styles of lenses are non-polarized, so depending on your preferences this may be a good or bad thing.

Product Specs
  • Frame style: Full-frame
  • Weight: 1.3 oz (38g)
  • Lenses: Interchangeable
  • Visible light transmission: 12% (Spectron), 17-75% (REACTIV)
PROS

Vented lens system to protect against fogging

Easily replaceable lenses

Photochromic lens option

CONS

Expensive

Photochromic lenses are an extra cost

Best for Narrow Faces

Tifosi scores yet another place on our list of best cycling sunglasses. These classic-style cycling glasses are specially made for the person with a smaller or more narrow face. Add to that a very competitive price (about $63 on Amazon), and you’ve got a great option here.

The frame is made of the same Grilamid TR-90 (nylon) material as the Crit Matte, so it’s lightweight and durable. It has adjustable earpieces and a hydrophilic nose piece to keep the sunglasses firmly on your face.

The polycarbonate lenses, like pretty much all Tifosi glasses, are easily interchangeable. They’re not quite as dark as the others listed here, but with 15 percent light transmission, they offer plenty of protection.

Product Specs
  • Frame style: Semi-rimless
  • Weight: 0.78 oz (22g)
  • Lenses: Interchangeable
  • Visible light transmission: 15% (Smoke)
PROS

Vented lens system to protect against fogging

Easily replaceable lenses

Photochromic lens option

CONS

Expensive

Photochromic lenses are an extra cost

Best for Mountain Biking

Mountain bike riding has its own unique challenges, especially if you’re into highly technical trails. It’s arguably even more critical for the mountain bike rider to be able to clearly see every shadow and root to help prevent an ugly crash or unplanned plunge into a ditch (I’ve done both a few times). You need sunglasses that not only shield your eyes against the sun and glare, but also enhance contrast and provide a clear view while under a canopy.

The Smith Attack MAG TR90 frame is lightweight and durable, just what you want on a mountain bike trail. Unlike most other sunglasses, these lenses come with auto-lock hinges that keep the arms open to make it easier to put them on (something that can be useful if you’re having a particularly muddy ride and need to clean them). The frame also has an adjustable nose pad to help secure it to your face.

The real value of the Attack MAG is in the lenses. You actually get two: a pair of maximum-coverage lenses that feature Smith’s ChromaPop technology (which enhances natural contrast), as well as a low light amber lens for when you’re in the thick of the woods and need to see more clearly (these lenses also use ChromaPop). Swapping out lenses is a breeze, so you have the option of doing so as your trail requires.

Product Specs
  • Frame style: Semi-rimless
  • Weight: 1.13 oz (32g)
  • Lenses: Interchangeable
  • Visible light transmission: 10% (Black) 65% (low light amber)
PROS

Hydro Oleophobic lens coating (repels water and oil)

Easily replaceable lenses

Comes with additional low light amber lens

Smudge-resistant lens

CONS

Expensive

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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