On the road, cycling sunglasses do more than shield your eyes from bright sun and UV rays. They block the wind that causes your eyes to tear up while keeping rain, dust, and other debris from obstructing or even damaging your vision. Like your helmet, a proper pair of sunglasses should be considered an essential element of your riding kit.
Trivex Lenses and Injected Molded Frames Make a Difference
Trivex lenses, such as Rudy Project’s ImpactX lenses, are the most impact- and shatter-resistant lenses available. The material’s durability has been approved by the military, making it the top choice for protection. These protective lenses are flexible enough to curve around your face without negatively affecting your field of vision. Glass provides the best optics but is heavier, not shatter resistant, and isn’t produced for sports wrap frames. These limitations make Trivex the best all-around lens material. Most sport sunglasses are made with impact-resistant polycarbonate lenses, but Trivex is stronger and clearer.
To hold those lenses in place, you want frames made from injected molded plastic that’s flexible and nearly indestructible. Stay away from metal (it gets cold to the touch in freezing temps and hot in broiling temps) as well as cheap plastic, which can break under pressure. High-quality frames will bend but not break and flex without losing their original shape.
The Perfect Size and Fit for Cycling Sunglasses
When it comes to sunglass lens size, coverage is the key for cyclists. The width should be slightly past the corner of your eyes, and the depth should be just above and not touching your cheeks. Find the lens that provides the coverage you need and fits comfortably on your face yet still fits under your helmet. An ample coverage lens means a larger field of protected and clear vision. Practically speaking, that means you can better spot the squirrel about to dart across your path.
The question of whether to go with full frames vs. rimless or semi-rimless is a personal one. In general, lenses without bottoms, sides, or thin wire frames will ventilate better and be able to shed water easier than those with frames. The Vent Controller feature on Rudy Project performance sunglasses does one better; it lets you adjust how much air can flow through your lenses and dry out any moisture inside.
Rudy Project rimless frames have Quick Change Technology that makes it easy to swap lenses out based on riding conditions. Ideally, you’ll want to keep a low-light lens set for cloudy, dark days, a dark set for bright sun, a clear set for after-dark rides, and an all-around set for everything in between.
Once you choose your frames, check your fit. In biking, a snug fit is more important than weight — although premium sunglasses designed for cyclists will usually be as light as a feather anyway. Try a pair on and do what you can to try and shake the glasses off your head. Next, do the same while wearing your bike helmet. The top of the glasses shouldn’t hit the bottom of your helmet, and the arms shouldn’t get in the way of the straps or retention band behind your ears.
The Best Sunglass Lens Colors for Road Cycling
These are the best all-around colors for all conditions. With these colors, you’ll enjoy high contrast, better clarity, and excellent depth perception. They aren’t the darkest, so you can still see well when riding on cloudy, overcast days, but they have enough color to handle direct sunlight.
If you’re riding in the forest or the tropics, brown is the way to go. The darker tint blocks more light while still delivering the high contrast and clarity you want.
Red, Orange, Purple
These colors are best for flat light or cloudy days. If you’re riding snow-free roads in the winter, these are an excellent option for those conditions as well. The same holds true for rides in foggy coastal environments.
Colors to Skip
Black or gray cut glare but do nothing to heighten contrasts or depth perception like the colors above can. Yellow lenses can be helpful in dim light or on overcast days, but they won’t help with the range of light conditions that other colors can handle. Thinking about getting clear lenses? These are fantastic for night rides — that’s about it.
Visible Light Transmission Ratings Made Simple
Among the colors mentioned above, each will have a Visible Light Transmission (VLT) rating associated with it. Listed as a percentage, the rating explains how much visible light is reaching your eyes.
0-15%: Super dark lenses, ideal for extremely bright sun (Brown, Black, Mirrored)
16-40%: Ideal for all-purpose, all-conditions biking ( Red, Copper, Purple)
40%+: Perfect for low-light, foggy, and dusk/dawn conditions
Polarization, Photochromic, and Other Options for Cycling Sunglasses
Polarized sunglasses are ideal for water and snow sports; they block horizontal light, such as the blinding glare you encounter on a boat or ski slope. They do the same for glare bouncing off wet concrete or asphalt roadways. This makes them perfect for road riding after a rainy day with one caveat: Polarized lenses generally fall on the darker spectrum of sunglasses, so they may not be an excellent choice for rides at dawn or dusk or in low light.
Photochromic lenses automatically transition from clear in dark environments to dark in bright sun. Their versatility comes from injecting UV-sensitive molecules that react to the presence of UV rays and light into the lenses themselves. With the advent of colored photochromic lenses, cyclists can get by with one pair of biking glasses for every road. And if you wear prescription lenses, a photochromic Rx lens in the right color will satisfy your visual needs in every way.