See the big picture – why do cyclists wear big sunglasses?


23.08.23 at 12:50 pm

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There are plenty of quirks that tend to be associated with cycling, from clip-clopping in and out of cafes to an obsession with saving every gram of weight from their equipment.

Few of these foibles are as intrinsically linked to our sport as oversized sunglasses, however. We cyclists take great pleasure in donning a pair of giant goggles, but few other athletes use them – and sometimes question why they are so popular among bike riders.

So why do we do it? Is there some secret performance benefit to big frames, or is it simply another example of foppish biker behaviour? Better yet, if big sunnies are a fad, are we poised to see the return of the comically tiny, swimming goggle-style sunglasses favoured by pro riders of the ‘90s? Fashion is cyclical, right?

Protection is paramount

Safety and protection are always concerns on two wheels, and choosing to wear large sunglasses can improve rider safety in a number of ways.

Firstly, by covering a larger surface area your eyes are better protected from the wind and any flying debris that may come hurtling your way. This can be particularly helpful when travelling downhill or through a headwind.

Of course, the primary function of sunglasses is to protect our eyes from dangerous UV rays. Big sunglasses cover all of your eyes and prevent any rays from getting into them. This helps protect against permanent eye damage that could occur should you ride without sunglasses for a prolonged period.

While sunglasses don’t really protect you from crashes, your eyes are a weak part of the body and by covering them, big sunglasses provide a modicum of reassurance against any spills you may have.


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A post shared by Oakley Bike (@oakleybike)


See more, enjoy more

Big sunglasses can be great for improving your vision and your general awareness on the bike. By not having to squint in the sunlight or wipe debris out of your eyes, you are free to keep a watchful eye on the road at all times.

This can be beneficial for everyday rides or while racing, especially if you consider yourself a sprinter. In bunch sprints, you need to have awareness of everything that is going on around you in order to avoid a crash. Wearing smaller sunglasses moves the frames closer to the centre of your field of visions, and may obscure your peripheral vision, meaning you are unable to see those alongside you. Larger glasses prevent this and improve your chances of staying upright.

Style matters

While protection and visibility are certainly important factors in the popularity of big sunglasses, style is undoubtedly the first thing most cyclists consider when choosing their next set of spectacles. Big sunglasses have long been a crucial part of many cyclists’ image, as they suggest the person wearing them knows what they’re doing and is suited to such an athletic look.

There is also no reason why you can’t wear your cycling sunglasses while off the bike. They can cost a lot of money, so it’s important to get the most use out of them as possible. Many cyclists will wear their gear during everyday life and their sunglasses can help give a sense of their love for the sport.


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We all follow the professionals

These days, most professional cycling teams have eyewear sponsors that provide their riders with sunglasses to wear during races and training. In turn, the team is expected to promote the brand and encourage their supporters to purchase sunglasses for themselves.

Sprinting legend Mark Cavendish is well-known for his relationship with US-based eyewear brand Oakley. Cavendish has frequently introduced new models and has long provided an emotional connection between the brand and its consumers.

I’d be lying if I said I haven’t considered buying a pair of sunglasses based on nothing more than seeing Mark Cavendish win while wearing them.


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A post shared by Mark Cavendish (@markcavendish)

Marginal gains

Over the past decade, cycling has become obsessed with the concept of ‘marginal gains’.

Aerodynamic performance is one of the key areas of research, with big sunglasses able to provide a slight aerodynamic advantage over the less refined smaller styles of the 1990s and 2000s. The reason for this is that the full coverage nature of larger sunglasses helps air flow around your face, and potentially saves you a couple of precious watts.


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A post shared by Mario Cipollini (@mario_cipollini)


The level of advantage that certain sunglasses give you is up for debate as some believe they are a mere placebo that gives the illusion of speed. Either way, you can decide if your sunglasses make you go faster or simply make you look cool.

Did you know that Yellow Jersey offer a range of comprehensive bicycle insurance policies which can can cover damage and loss of your sunglasses whilst riding?  If you need some assistance, just give our friendly support staff a call on 0333 003 0046.

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