Think cycling eyewear, think ‘cool’ and ‘style’. It’s easy to presume they’re simply a fashion-driven accessory. Not so. Cycling, like any extensive outdoor activity, subjects participants to high UV (ultra-violet) levels, even on cloudy days. Prolonged UV exposure can make eyes red and glare-sensitive, at worst it can lead to cataract and macular degeneration. The modern ‘wrap-around’ eyewear style closely associated with cycling – as well as other outdoor sports such as cricket and boating – is as functional as it is fashionable. The key is all-round eye protection. Not only does the design offer a 100-percent UV barrier and glare filtration, but the lenses offer a shape and strength to effectively deflect stones, dust and even insects. More recently eyewear manufacturers have acknowledged the growing need for spectacle prescriptions to be incorporated into cycling glasses. For those with focusing disorders such as myopia (short-sightedness), a prescription can be made into interchangeable-style wrap lenses in all of the usual tint varieties. For higher prescriptions, the frames can accommodate a lightweight ‘insert’ which carries the prescription behind the main lens. Gone are the days of bending conventional glasses under helmets or clip-on sunglasses. Modern cycling eyewear is now a huge investment for the big brand names. So it’s no surprise, then, that new technologies emerge from extensive research and development programs. Cheaper brands can only attempt to replicate the technology and will often be a poor substitute for the real thing. As the old adage goes, you get what you pay for.
Some of the special features to look out for in cycling frames include anti-fog vents, adjustable nose and ear pieces, and lightweight frame materials. Combinations of titanium, carbon-fibre and aluminium allow for light and tough frames that will withstand the rough treatment endured in a sporting environment.
Lenses need to be flexible, both in material and in tint choices. The material is usually based on polycarbonate, which provides enough impact resistance to withstand a bullet (should you get in the way of one), or at least a leading rider’s mud debris. They are also flexible enough to bend almost in half without snapping. The bigger brand names provide great warranties and deals on lens replacements should they meet with misfortune.
The beauty of interchangeable lenses is choice. Wear a light yellow tint for riding in dull conditions, or choose brown for the brighter days (see tint colour guide table). Photochromatic technology allows the lenses to darken automatically when directly exposed to UV and to lighten when you’re cycling through sheltered or shady areas. Polarising tints have the great advantage of selectively filtering glare on the horizontal plane, such as reflections from the road, water and car bonnets. These technologies can be combined into a popular ‘all conditions’ lens.
Tint colour guide.
Colour Light conditions Description
Brown/Amber High glare Improve contrast
Grey High glare Neutral, used in fashion sunnies
Green Moderate to high glare All purpose tint
Yellow Low light Improve depth perception and contrast
Rose Moderate light Comfortable for long periods of wear
With so much choice and technology available, it’s worth buying your cycling glasses from a supplier who knows the range and can ensure you choose a design that fits your face and your needs. For prescription eyewear, it’s essential to have your optometrist or optical dispenser involved from the outset. Buying locally ensures servicing for the lifetime of your glasses.
Fashion accessories? Well yes. But well-chosen and well-worn cycling glasses will protect vision and enhance the riding experience. It’s the best of both worlds.
Material source Kirily Bowen – Wills Street Eyecare, ph.5443 1815
See you on the road soon God willing