Sunglasses are an important accessory for any cyclist. They are one of the first things you notice when someone turns up for a ride, and have been a coveted accessory for many years, as long as I can remember anyway. There are a lot of different brands out there who make sunglasses, but unfortunately very few brands who make truly great glasses. My two top picks are Oakley and Salice.
Is there a ‘right’ way to wear sunglasses for cycling?
In my opinion the answer is always yes! Glasses should always be worn straight with arms over helmet straps. This is to keep helmet straps tight against the head and stop them flapping in the wind - creating extra noise and drag. You should definitely give your glasses a good clean before the ride too, you wouldn’t turn up to work with dirty shoes, so why not give your weekend ride the same level of respect?
Cycling sunglasses and style
I’m a stickler for making sure you look as stylish as possible while out on the bike, and in an ideal world, your sunglasses should always match your kit. That said, having a drawer full of sunglasses isn’t for everyone, so if you’re just going for one pair then standard black or white frames look good with pretty much everything.
There was a period through last year when old-style glasses were really in back fashion, like the Oakley Heritage Edition for example. But that period was pretty short lived. More recently, I’ve noticed that multi-colour camo or paint spatter frames are popular, likely because there are number of different colours in the design, and so they go with a wide variety of kit styles. Personally I’m a huge fan of these more ‘out there’ multi-coloured styles – and they compliment the type of designs we like to work to at Le Col, including our Anti-camo and Battleship jerseys.
What type of lenses should you go for in cycling sunglasses?
Just as with the frame colours, there’s a lot of choice when it comes to lenses too. Before deciding on what lenses to go for, it’s a good idea to have a think about where you might actually be wearing your glasses.
Iridium lenses are the top-dollar choice. They eliminate much more light, and most importantly 100% of UVA, UVB, and UVC light. The added bonus is that they look great too. These technical benefits and style mean that you’ll pay more for an iridium lens – so if you’re looking for glasses to go with your second-hand commuter bike, and riding in kit that’s a few years old – then flashy iridium lenses might be a bit over the top.
However, if you’re out and about in your ‘Sunday best’ then Iridium lensed shades are a great accessory to bring your outfit together. Just as with the frames, your lens choice should compliment your style of riding and the kit you’ve chosen to wear that day.
Clear lenses are best if you ride or race in the rain. When you’re out on a long ride, or doing a stage race, clear lenses are crucial to keep the muck and grit out of your eyes. They’ll also help to prevent your eyes from drying out – riding into a wind that’s blowing into your face all day can really cause your eyes to sting!
Sometimes it can be difficult to know when to take your glasses off on a wet and windy ride, and my advice would be to just apply your common sense. If the glasses are really hampering your vision and increasing the likelihood of having a crash because you can’t see a thing – then of course, take them off. But if it’s just a case of the glasses steaming up every now and then, then do what you can to keep them in place. I’ve ridden in wet and windy stage races and removed my glasses because they were steaming up, but by the end of the stage my eyes were really red and sore! It’s about finding the balance you’re comfortable with out on the road.
What do sunglasses mean to the pros?
Let’s be honest, pros look pretty slick 90% of the time and so, just like Bono, they can get away with wearing shades whenever they like. Tactically, there’s not any real benefit to hiding your eyes behind particular lenses so that your opponents can’t see them. Cycling isn’t a game in that sense, you either have the legs for the race that day, or you don’t, and that’s got nothing to do with what your eyes are doing.
A well-honed poker face will go a lot further in convincing the other guys in the group that you’re feeling strong in a race. Laurent Jalabert had an amazing poker face back in the late 90's, and early 2000's.
Plenty of pro teams will end up using glasses that match their team helmets. Sponsors tend to negotiate the two products as part of one deal, which leaves the pro rider with little choice on what to wear. If the riders had a choice, I know that almost all of them would pick Oakley or Salice.
Knowing a pro by their glasses choice
Pro’s certainly have a preference when it comes to their glasses of choice. When you’re riding in the peloton it’s easy to identify particular riders based on their eyewear alone. My friend Jeremy Hunt, when riding for the Cervelo Test team a few years ago, would wear fluo glasses every day. It was always easy to pick him out, even though they didn’t match his kit (at all!), which was black and white that year. Also Geraint Thomas has a favourite model which makes him easily identifiable in the bunch.