Nov 20 2008
I wear protective eyewear whenever I get on my bike. This wasn’t always the case. But after too many close calls, I saw the light—eyes are exquisitely vulnerable on the road and or trail.
Bicyclists’ eyes are exposed to a range of hazards, from blowing sand to debris kicked up by passing vehicles. Mountain bikers have the additional hazard of branches and twigs to worry about. Then there’s the risk of damage to the eye from the sun itself. Ultraviolet rays cause cataracts, and a pair of UV-blocking glasses will help protect your vital orbs. Glasses should be worn in all weathers, day and night, and clear lenses make this possible. And a good pair of glasses can help reduce or eliminate the tearing which comes with the rush of cold air you get over your eyes when riding in temperatures near and below the freezing mark. Reducing tearing isn’t just aesthetic. Seeing isn’t easy when your eyes are flooded with tears.
For more about the benefits of eyewear, choosing the right pair, and taking care of them, read “Protective Eyewear for Paddlers.” Here, though, I’ll show off my eyewear collection, with the assistance of a pair of willing models, Morgan and Sir Joseph.
In the photo below, Sir Joseph wears Bausch & Lomb amber shooting glasses, made of photochromic safety glass. These were the first glasses I wore when cycling, a relic of my skeet shooting days, and while they’re excellent for their intended purpose, they’re not very good for bicycling. They sit high on the face, interfering with the helmet. And they’re very heavy, with curved metal bows that dig into the ears when you’re leaning forward.
After a season suffering with the shooting glasses, I bought two pairs of polycarbonate wrap-around safety glasses made by the HL Bouton Company. One pair has clear lenses, the other has smokey lenses, and the lenses snap out of the plastic frame should replacement be necessary. Despite my less than delicate treatment of the Boutons, they’ve remained scratch-free for five years. I keep both pairs in my bar bag all the time so that I always have the ones I need.
Morgan (who’s vain and likes his cycling cap) shows off a pair of clear plastic Uvex safety glasses which wrap around to protect the sides of the face. Next to him, leaning on the box, is a second pair of Uvex safety glasses but with mirrored gray lenses. Like the Boutons, the Uvex glasses have polycarbonate lenses. The gray Uvex lenses are not as dark as the Bouton smokey lenses, and cut glare in all but the brightest environments.
The features I find most important when choosing eyewear for cycling are:
- ANSI and 100% UV-blocking standards
- Straight bows
- Wrap-around lenses for full coverage
- Anti-glare capability
Safety lenses are less likely to shatter if hit by flying debris, or should you be unfortunate enough to take a dive off your bike and hit something hard with your face. Straight bows easily slide under the straps of a helmet. Wrap-around eyewear offers terrific protection from glare and debris, and they shed water in the rain and when it’s snowing. As mentioned earlier, they help prevent tearing in cold winds, too. But the wrap-around feature can also lead to fogging under certain conditions. LIfting the glasses away from the face normally clears the fog in short order.
Curved lenses are great, but they’re not easy to carry when they’re not on your face. They don’t fold flat, and slipping them into a pocket is almost impossible without snagging something or scratching the lenses. A protective pouch like the one to the right will protect the lenses, and belt loops on the side let you slide the pouch onto the strap of your messenger bag or a belt.
Eyewear is synonymous with fashion nowadays, and fashion costs big bucks. But while you can spend a lot of money on a pair of glasses, it’s possible to get good lenses for less than the cost of a fast food meal. Shop around, try them on when wearing your helmet, and then make your decision. Your eyes will thank you.
- “No Grit, Sherlock! Keeping Crud Out of Your Eyes”
- “The Eyes Have It! Protective Eyewear for Paddlers” Tips for cyclists, too.
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