Cycling sunglasses are so much more than an accessory. Riding without them isn’t just uncomfortable, it’s also unsafe, especially if bright sunlight impairs your vision or if dust, debris, or bugs blow in your eyes. Like any good pair of sunglasses your pair for cycling should block sunlight, but it also needs to be able to withstand whatever the road and wheels hurtle your way and stay securely in place as you bump over uneven surfaces in an aggressive riding position. After decades of experience cycling in all kinds of weather, we’re picky about the sunglasses we buy because we know what works well and what doesn’t. We’ll share the must-have features of cycling sunglasses, how to buy the right pair, and our go-to sunglasses brand and styles.
What to look for when buying cycling sunglasses
If you cycle regularly and in all seasons, you’ll need sunglasses for all weather conditions. You can make sure your sunglasses are adaptable for all weather in one of two ways. High-quality sunglasses often have lenses that adjust to different lighting but are usually more expensive. Alternatively, you could choose sunglasses with interchangeable lenses. If you choose to buy different lenses, you should have one that shields you from intense sun, another that brightens in cloudy weather, and one that protects your eyes at night.
The sun is not all cycling sunglasses shield you from–protecting your eyes from wind or dirt is another important reason for wearing them. Cycling sunglasses with peripheral coverage and a wrap-around frame provide the greatest protection. Your lens will also offer more or less coverage depending on the shape you choose. The level of coverage cycling sunglasses provide sets them apart from everyday styles.
Sunglasses have to withstand a lot more while cycling in them than they would while walking or driving. They’re more likely to get stretched or dirty, so it’s a good idea to invest in high-quality sunglasses that will last longer. The rough terrain we encounter while riding can cause vibrations and impact to our sunglasses, but a sturdy pair of sunglasses should absorb these shocks without breaking. Flimsy sunglasses may not provide adequate protection against UV rays, wind, debris, or impact.
Comfortable sunglasses are crucial for any cyclist who spends a lot of time in the saddle. An uncomfortable pair can cause distractions and headaches that can negatively affect your cycling performance and make your ride less enjoyable. You shouldn’t have to fight to keep them on your face or even think twice about them while riding. Cycling sunglasses that don’t fit properly can slip down your nose, bounce around on rough roads, or even fall off during high-speed descents. When you’re comfortable, you can focus on the road ahead and maintain your concentration for longer periods.
Top cycling sunglasses features
1. The lens
Lenses are the most important part of cycling sunglasses. They determine how clearly you see in different weather conditions and harsh environments. Higher-end lenses usually provide greater clarity. Many cyclists opt for color-enhancing lenses that make their surroundings more apparent with enhanced contrast. Cycling sunglasses lenses should never be made of glass. It’s heavy and too easy to crack, which can be dangerous if something cracks them while cycling.
Types of lenses for cycling sunglasses
Lenses in cycling glasses can protect in any weather, not just sunshine. But different types of lenses have different abilities depending on the percentage of light they allow through. Some lenses work best in cloudy weather, others work best on mildly sunny days, while others are excellent at blocking intense sunshine.
- Photochromatic lenses are the most versatile type. They adjust the tint to provide greater clarity at different lighting levels. If the weather unexpectedly changes on a ride, photochromatic lenses adjust to meet it. If you ride at various times of the day or in any weather, these lenses are a great choice.
- Mirrored lenses provide excellent UV protection with a reflective and often intensely colored coating. They also reduce glare to help you see the road or trail more clearly.
- Polarized lenses are treated to filter out horizontally polarized light that reflects off flat surfaces and creates an intense, dazzling glare. When riding in bright sunlight, these lenses can significantly reduce eye strain. However, if it’s not sunny outside, polarized lenses make your surroundings darker and harder to see, but they’re a great choice for long rides on sunny days.
- Progressive lenses, also called multifocal lenses, are designed for cyclists whose eyes need help focusing at different distances. These lenses progress from a large viewing area at the top, an intermediate viewing area in the middle, and readers at the bottom. If you have great vision, then a single lens is all you need.
- High-contrast lenses accentuate the clarity of colors commonly found outdoors, like greens, blues, and browns. They make it easier for cyclists to spot obstacles and divert quickly.
2. The frame
The frame of cycling glasses supports the lens, secures the glasses to your head and provides protection. Quality cycling sunglasses have frame arm grips that keep your glasses from slipping down the bridge of your nose, and a rubber and adjustable nose piece. Half-rim sunglasses may be slightly lighter than full-rim glasses, but the full rim adds reinforcement to the lens.
Cycling sunglasses should be durable but also lightweight for performance and comfort. Because heavier sunglasses create more wind resistance, weight matters for competitive cyclists concerned about aerodynamics. Even if slight aero gains don’t matter much to you, lighter sunglasses won’t slide down your nose easily and are more comfortable on long rides.
On a high-intensity ride, the last thing you want to worry about is your sunglasses slipping down your sweaty face. Cycling sunglasses should grip your nose and temple and fit snugly on your face. Many frames have arms that bend without breaking so you can adjust them to suit your face shape. You also have to think about how the glasses will fit under your helmet and in an aggressive riding position. For this reason, cycling glasses often have straight-back temples that fit securely with helmets.
In addition to interchangeable performance lenses, rubber frame grips, and adjustable arms, cycling sunglasses have additional features that enhance performance and protection. Here are several other beneficial features to look for.
- Anti-fog treatment: When your glasses fog up during a brisk ride, it hinders your visibility. Anti-fog treatment prevents condensation from coating your lenses.
- Anti-scratch treatment: As you would assume, this treatment protects your lenses from abrasions and is especially crucial when off-roading.
- Hydrophobic treatment: This treatment aids the flow of water droplets off your lenses so rain doesn’t drench them and impede your vision.
- Impact-resistant lenses: These lenses are exceptionally durable and less likely to crack or break if dropped or in an accident.
- Reflective elements: Nearly all pieces in your cycling kit will have reflective elements, including sunglasses because it’s critical to stay seen on the road at night or early morning.
- Wraparound lenses: Most cycling lenses don’t just cover your eyes, they extend around to your temples for full coverage from the sun and debris.
5 of our favorite Roka sunglasses
Roka sunglasses are our cycling sunglasses of choice because they’ve proven reliable ride after ride. They offer a whole spectrum of lens options and critical features for performance-ready cycling sunglasses. Their pro-tested lenses come in photochromatic, polarized, high-contrast, and even prescription, with features for fog and water resistance. And all glasses are customizable to meet your tastes and performance needs. Roka sunglasses are among the lightest on the market, and their comfort level is so high that the only downside is having to take them off.
Roka sunglasses’ best features:
✅ Premium performance lenses and coatings
✅ Interchangeable lens
✅ Super sticky grip
1. Roka GP-1X Sunglasses
- Cost: $230 (prescription form $335)
- Frame colors: Matte Black, White
- Lens colors: Dark Glacier Mirror, Glacier Mirror, Dark Carbon, Gold Mirror, HC Fusion Mirror (+ custom lens options)
The Roka GP-1X sunglasses can handle any kind of weather and tough rides in even the roughest conditions. With their durable construction and advanced lens technology, they provide unbeatable protection against wind, rain, and harsh UV rays. Whether you’re battling intense heat, heavy rain, or blinding glare, these sunglasses have you covered.
2. Roka CP-1X Sunglasses
- Cost: $250 (prescription from $335)
- Frame colors: Matte Black, Gloss White
- Lens colors: Dark Glacier Mirror, Glacier Mirror, Gold Mirror, Dark Carbon, HC Fusion Mirror (+ custom lens options)
The Roka CP-1X is the perfect pair of sunglasses for high performance. Featuring full-frame protection, protective coatings, and a super grippy Geko grip, they’re built to withstand even the toughest conditions. Thanks to their ultra-lightweight and stable titanium core wires, they’re also incredibly durable and easy to wear for hours on end. These sunglasses will stay securely in place, no matter how hard you push yourself.
3. Roka Madator Sunglasses
- Cost: $240 (prescription from $335)
- Frame colors: Gloss White, Matte Black
- Lens colors: Dark Glacier Mirror, Dark Carbon, HC Fusion Mirror, Gold Mirror (+ custom lens options)
The Roka Madator sunglasses are designed for bold and adventurous cyclists. With their no-warp frames and max ventilation, they provide unbeatable performance and protection on even the most challenging rides. Whether you’re hitting the trails or cruising on the road, these sunglasses will stay securely in place and provide clear, unobstructed vision.
4. Roka Madator Air Sunglasses
- Cost: $230 (prescription from $335)
- Frame colors: Gloss White, Matte Black
- Lens colors: Dark Glacier Mirror, Gold Mirror, Dark Carbon, HC Fusion Mirror (+ custom lens options)
When you’re cycling in hot and humid weather, you need sunglasses that can keep up with the demand for increased airflow and maximum clarity. These sunglasses have been rigorously tested in the harshest conditions, and they’re specifically designed to provide unparalleled comfort and protection in even the most extreme temperatures.
5. Roka Torino Sunglasses
- Cost: $225 (prescription from $280)
- Frame colors: Matte black, Sky Blue/Orange,
- Lens: Dark Carbon (Polarized), Dark Arctic Mirror, Gold Mirror (+ custom lens options)
The Roka Torino glasses are specifically designed for racing and aggressive riding positions. They sit higher on the face to provide unobstructed vision when you’re riding at full speed. The lenses are perfect for snow, sand, and water, and provide unbeatable clarity. Their retro-inspired design brings a sense of nostalgia to your rides.
All Roka sunglass lenses are customizable. Our favorites are available in the following lens options.
|Roka Sunglasses Lens Comparison|
|Color||Light Transmission||Sun Level||Environment||Series|
|Clear||91%||Low||Low light and night||Matador, Matador Air, GP, CP|
|Photochromic Carbon||88%–15%||Variable||Adjusts in varying light conditions||Matador, Matador Air, GP, CP|
|Yellow||84%||Low||Low light, overcast, night||CP|
|HC Ion Mirror||40%||Low||Dawn, dusk, overcast||Matador, GP, CP|
|Glacier Mirror||26%||Medium||Partially sunny, slightly overcast||Matador, Matador Air, GP, CP, Torino|
|HC Octane Mirror||20%||Medium||Partially cloudy to sunny||GP, CP|
|Green Mirror||19%||Medium||Sunny, slightly overcast, changing light||CP|
|Ranger Polar||17%||Full||Sunny and slightly overcast||Torino|
|HC Fusion Mirror||17%||Full||High-contrast for partially cloudy to bright and sunny||Matador, Matador Air, GP, CP|
|Gold Mirror||16%||Full||Sunny and slightly overcast||Matador, Matador Air, Torino|
|Dark Glacier Mirror||14%||Full||Bright and sunny||Matador, Matador Air|
|Dark Bronze Mirror||12%||Full||Bright and sunny||GP|
|Dark Carbon||12%||Full||Bright and sunny||Matador, Matador Air, GP, CP, Torino|
|Black Mirror||11%||Full||Intensely bright and sunny||GP, CP, Torino|
|Teal Mirror||11%||Full||Intensely bright and sunny||Matador, GP, CP, Torino|
|Dark Arctic Mirror||10%||Full||Intensely bright and sunny||Matador, GP, CP, Torino|
|Fire Mirror||10%||Full||Intensely bright and sunny||Matador|
Quality cycling sunglasses lenses are suitable for riding in all kinds of weather. But before you brave the cold or rain, make sure you’re well-prepared with our top tips for cycling in the rain or cold weather. And gear up with the best cold or rainy weather cycling gear or any of our pro-approved men’s and women’s cycling apparel or accessories.
Other popular buying guides to complete your cycling kit:
- 10 of the Best Bike Helmets Guide
- Cycling Jersey Size, Fit, & Style Guide
- 9 of the Best Winter Cycling Jackets
- How to Buy Cycling Tights
- How to Buy Bike Shorts
- How to Buy a Base Layer
- The Ultimate Guide to the Best Bike Socks
- 10 of the Best Cycling Shoes for Road Riders
- 10 of the Best Padded Bike Shorts for Women
You may also like: