My opinion would be a resounding yes!
I think they are one of the essential bits of kit to buy when you first get a bike regardless of whether you are a glasses wearer or not (for more essential kit, check out my article on where to spend your first £175 after buying a bike).
Glasses will protect you from 3 things when out on the bike:
- The wind when you’re moving fast. The last thing you need when shooting down a hill is your eyes streaming and losing visibility. When moving at spend or trudging into a headwind your eyes can take a real battering and glasses can go along way to stopping this.
- Road debris/bugs. The moment I decided to buy some glasses was when I got hit in the eye by a bug shooting along a busy road. Whilst I certainly came off better than it did I was lucky it wasn’t something more serious. I managed to hold my line and pull over but it certainly gave me a shock. A key consideration when buying glasses for the bike is shatterproof lenses. It’s amazing what can be thrown up off the road so make sure you are well protected.
- The sun. Similar to putting sun cream on your skin you eyes also need protection. Even glasses with clear lenses will often offer some UV protection. Even 10 or 15% is better than nothing at all. For the really bright days having darker glasses reduce glare and keeps you safe, though be aware that these can make it difficult when navigating through the shade.
The key features I look out for when buying a pair of cycling glasses are:
- Anti Shatter Lenses
- UV Protection
- Inter Changeable Lenses
Do I Need Expensive Glasses?
No! You will see a lot of guys in their £100 Oakleys and this is fine if you have the money, but my advice is to start cheap and see how you get on. When I first started out I was wearing safety glasses which are about £7. I’ve been wearing them for three years now and have only recently upgraded! I would suggest you probably need clear glasses for the winter and sunglasses for when it’s bright but some glasses come with interchangeable lenses which is really handy.
So Why Do People Buy Expensive Glasses?
I think there are 5 reasons why people buy expensive cycling glasses.
1. Better fit. I’m not 100% convinced on this point. Whilst companies will sell the benefits of expensive frames I have found cheap ones to be just as comfortable.
2. Visibility. Cycling specific glasses try to increase visibility by having more lens and less frame.
3. They look ‘cool’. Well they think they do anyway!
4. Interchangeable lenses. Glasses with interchangeable lenses allow you to sport the dark stuff on sunny days, and during evenings switch to clears (or mildly tinted) when your eyes don’t need shade but need wind, dust, and bug protection.
5. Anti-fog. Many sport sunglasses have venting to help prevent fogging on the lenses, either from breath or facial perspiration; when I’m huffing and puffing, for some reason I like to direct it upwards… the venting definitely allows the lenses to clear the fog faster.
The good news is many of these features are available on cheaper models too. Whilst you will find these features are better on more expensive glasses it is a law of diminishing returns. The more expensive glasses are undoubtedly better but start out in something cheaper and get to know which features are really important to you first.
Cycling Glasses Tips/Recommendations…
My recommendation would be to start cheap and see how you get on. My first pair of cycling glasses have lasted me three years and I still wear them now.
My recommendations are as follows:
BOLLE SAFETY GLASSES
This is where I started out. With £7 safety glasses. I still have them and only stopped wearing them recently.
They have clear lenses, though they still offer more UV protection than no glasses at all. The lenses are shatterproof and you won’t feel guilty if you end up breaking them. The only downsides to these are that they can fog up quite easily and I find they slip down my nose a bit when in the drops, however everybody will have a slightly different experience. Also, they are clearly not perfect for really bright conditions as there is no tint to the lens. I’ve always ended up wearing a different pair on really bright days.
Now we’re starting to get expensive! At £15 these are the glasses my wife wears when cycling.
They are an upgrade from the Bolle ones mostly because they have three types of lens and these are the ones I steal if the sun is out! The three lenses are designed to keep you covered in bright sunshine, normal conditions and also low light. Again I’ve never had a problem with these. The plastic feels quite cheap because it is, but at £15 for essentially three sets of glasses you can’t go too far wrong.
After I’d been cycling for a few years I decided to treat myself.
Because I’d spent so many years in my Bolle Safety glasses I carried on with what I knew and upgraded to the Breakaway. I paid about £70 for them (they quite often come up in the used section on Amazon as returns, this is where I got mine). Do I notice a big difference from the safety glasses? Yes, but they are subtle differences.
The first thing is they stay in place much better. No more pushing them back up my nose when in the drops.
Secondly, the lenses are great. They change tint depending on how bright it is and you can buy different colour lenses (such as yellow for low light riding). They are also shaped better meaning less air coming round the sides and into your eye.
They also don’t fog up so much. This is really noticeable when pushing hard on a climb, as with the safety glasses I would have had to take them off. Whilst I’m glad I got them, I certainly wouldn’t have paid this kind of money when starting out. These were the first expensive pair of glasses I bought and I suppose I was expecting something revolutionary. They are very good but it’s hard to say they are 10 times better than a £6 pair (or 20 times at retail price).
Like a lot of things when cycling they are a fantastic luxury to invest in when you have the money but don’t waste money early on. You’re better off spending on things like more comfortable shorts or gloves. However, if you’re at the stage of upgrading, then I’d thoroughly recommend investing in a pair of these.