Sunglasses and Why You Need Them

Optilabs SunglassesSunglasses are one of those things we can’t imagine bike touring without.

Before we started cycling, we hardly ever wore sunglasses and didn’t realise how much we would come to love them. Now, our prescription sunglasses from UK-based Optilabs are one of our most treasured possessions, right up there along with the bikes themselves.

Here’s why we love our sunglasses so much:

  • Sunglasses protect our eyes against damaging UV rays.
  • They cut the light down to a tolerable level, so we’re not squinting when riding into the sun.
  • Debris like dust, dirt and even bugs that come flying through the air don’t get in our eyes.
  • On a cold day, sunglasses protect against the wind. Without them, the cold wind makes our eyes water.
  • Our vision improves with sunglasses. We don’t understand why, but we can see much more clearly in our rear view mirrors, for example, with sunglasses than with our regular glasses. Maybe it has to do with cutting the light on a sunny day down to a more tolerable level?Andrew in his Optilabs glasses

CYCLING SPECIFIC SUNGLASSES
When you’re shopping for sunglasses, get a pair that are made for cycling. This means they should:

  • Wrap around your face to make it almost impossible for road grit and UV to reach your eyes, even from the side. Wraparound lenses are also more aerodynamic.
  • Fit snuggly, so the glasses will stay put, even on bumpy roads.
  • Be extra durable and resistant to cracking when dropped or bumped.

Lens Construction…

Interchangable Lens – Some sunglasses have a non-prescription outside lens and a prescription insert that sits just behind the exterior lens. You can get several lenses so you can change the tint of the shades. You can also remove the prescription lens altogether if you want to wear contacts. Some people report problems with fogging in wet weather with this type of lens but they are helpful if you plan to ride in a wide variety of conditions and light levels.

Single Lens – The option we prefer is a single prescription lens. This tends to be more expensive because of the difficulty in manufacturing a curved lens to fit the sport sunglass frame but the quality of the glass is very high and you aren’t carrying around extra lenses. Since we always aim to cycle during the day and stop well before dusk, we rarely have a problem with our sunglasses being too dark for the available light levels.

Lens Material…

Lenses can be made of glass or acrylic but polycarbonate is the better option. Polycarbonate is excellent at resisting impacts, is lightweight and the quality of the optics is also high. Glass, by contrast, is heavy and breaks relatively easily, while acrylic lenses aren’t durable and the optic quality is also dubious.

That said, if you do any amount of bike touring, chances are you’re going to drop your sunglasses occasionally. The constant barrage of dirt and rocks will also take a toll and no matter how well you look after your glasses or what material they’re made of, you’ll eventually have to replace them. In our experience, this is after 18-24 months of daily use.

ABOUT OUR GLASSES*
We both cycle in glasses from UK-based Optilabs. Andrew has done so since we began bike touring in 2006 (he bought a pair of glasses from Optilabs at the start of our trip). Friedel began with Oakleys but swapped to Optilabs after about 18 months.

From Friedel’s perspective, the quality of the Optilabs glasses is as good as the Oakleys but Optilabs are cheaper and they have great customer service. We never got a reply from Oakley when Friedel had a question about the lenses, while Optilabs has always replied instantly to our queries.

Purchasing the glasses from Optilabs is easy. Everything is done online so all you need to do is enter your prescription details. At first this was a bit concerning since we’ve always purchased glasses directly from the optician but Optilabs are the only online company we found with a full money-back guarantee. If you get the glasses and don’t like them, it’s no problem to return them within the first week.

OTHER BRANDS
When you’re shopping around, you can also research other popular brands. Some of the more common sunglasses cyclists wear are Rudy Project, Oakley, Adidas and Bolle.

Aside from Oakley (see our notes above), we have no direct experience of brands other than Optilabs, so it’s hard for us to judge their quality.

*Disclosure: We bought our first 2 pairs of glasses from Optilabs as normal customers. They started sponsoring us halfway through our world trip. They provide us with free sunglasses.

Comments

  1. Callum Walls
    26th January 2010 at 4:54 pm #

    With so many colours of lenses to choose from it can be daunting to ensure that you pick the correct colour of lense to suit your needs.

    With varying lighting conditions in the UK this can be quite tricky and you dont want to carry multiple lenses to cover every situation.

    I find that a red tint works most effectively. It ensures that in early morning when light is low, the red pigment will brighten the outlook but come midday when the sun is at its highest it still copes well without the need to change to a darker lense. Yellow had always been the favourite for early morning but is rendered useless come the middle of the day forcing you to change lenses.

    However, in saying that I prefer to ride in clear lenses. on the every odd occasion that it is sunny will I ever change them out. Degregated lenses offer a tinted section at the very top of the lense which catches your peripheral vision and offers that extra protection.

    Then of course you get your photochromatic lenses more commonly reffered to as transition lenses. These will change colour depending on the amount of light. Most will change gradually giving your eyes time to adjust, this is all well and good but if you were to cycle from open space into a covered area such as lines of trees, this change doesnt happen quickly enough. These really aren’t suitable for mountain biking but on longer road rides they can be of some advantage.

    Have a look at Rudy project glasses. An Italian manufacturer of sports sunglasses. They offer about 25 lenses for various conditions and multiple frames from wire frame to wrap-around designs as well as a small selection of casual models.
    Specifically the Rudy Rydon range is comfortable and affordable with every lense option available. expect to pay about 65.00 GBP upwards (approx 100.00 USD). The legs and nose piece are also adjustable to suit every face shape. Inserts are available for spectacle wearers too which sits snuggle behind the lenses. Your optition can also make the lenses to suit a prescription (although this is very expensive)
    If you are feeling flush the Rudy Project Ketyuum are sooo comfortable but at over $200 you need to be a dedicated cyclist. A mix of titanium and carbon and super light!

    Rudy Project also offer a scratch replacement scheme where if you have scratched your lenses so much that they are un-useable they will replace free of charge (Or they certainly used to, anyway)

    Specialized also make some great sunglasses for cyclists, comfortable, light and very well priced. I have used the Specialized Singletracks in the past for mountain biking and they work very well for me. These aren’t adjustable, though. The benifit form buying Specialized goods is that hey are designed specifically for cycling and have been extensively tested.

    A little tip as well for glasses. Smear a little neat washing up liquid on to the back of the lense ensure a thin layer all over and let it dry. It will dry clear and will stop the lense from fogging up when you are stationary. Repeat every few weeks or so.

    CALLUM

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