Last year, around this time, I went to the DMV to renew my license and during the eye exam test I realized to my complete surprise that I desperately needed prescription glasses. My head immediately flooded with questions, mostly prominently, “How would this impact my mountain biking?” I did my research, examined my options, and my first ride out with the proper eyewear changed my riding forever.
I suddenly found myself looking further down the trail because the objects far ahead were now rocks and roots and no longer just blobs. Finding the proper eyewear for mountain biking isn’t a luxury, it is a necessity. Here is your guide:
Why are Glasses Important for Mountain Biking?
Glasses are a small accessory that make a big impact on one’s ability to shred on the trail. Glasses are often easily forgotten when packing for trips or a day out on the mountain, but within a few minutes on the trail you’ll be missing your protective lenses.
Protection: As with most protective equipment, you don’t need it most of the time, but on those rare occasions when you do need it, it is imperative. Glasses can protect you from dirt, dust, debris, tree branches, mud, and more.
This is serious – an injure can keep you off your mountain bike for weeks. I wrote a great article – 10 Common Mountain Biking Injuries and Tips to Avoid Them
In addition to protecting your eyes from errant objects, it can protect you from winds that make your eyes water. By protecting your eyes from these things, you are able to spend less time blinking and more time reading the trail. Finally, glasses can save your eyes from more severe consequences like painful and traumatic crashes.
Brightness: If you’ve ever ridden at sunrise or sunset, then you know the intense brightness that can occur when the sun just peaks over the top of the mountain. It can really be blinding. Glasses with the proper lens can be the difference between enjoying your ride or feeling blinded by the sun.
Prescription Glasses: If you wear glasses when you drive, then I highly recommend that you take that prescription to the trails. It makes a huge difference to be able to see down the trail. While you might not be reading signs while out mountain biking, the further ahead that you can see, the better you will be able to navigate, track, and react to the trail.
Things to Consider When Selecting MTB Glasses
Not all mountain bike glasses are created equal and even though you know they are an important part of your riding equipment equation; you might not know exactly what you are looking for. Before buying your next pair of glasses, look at the specs for this information.
I wrote a complete guide to selecting sunglasses for MTBing. Here’s a link – Mountain Bike Sunglasses: A Complete Guide to Selecting the Best
Lens Color: Different color lenses actually assist your eyes adapt to different weather conditions. For example, rose color glasses are best for cloudy days, verses a yellow lens is best for the fog. Consider buying a few pairs of lenses and a frame that allows you to switch the lenses out depending on conditions.
Visible Light Transmission: VLT is the measurement that tells you how much light is allowed to pass through the lens. The lower the VLT percentage, the darker the lens will be.
Lens Coating: There are a variety of coatings that can be added to a mountain bike lens. Some coatings help to repel water, others help with anti-fog properties, and others help make the glasses stronger and mitigate scratches.
Ventilation: Ventilation is very important in sunglasses. The small vents help to ensure that the lenses don’t fog up, leaving you with less visibility than without glasses. Look for small vents at the top or sides of the glasses where the lens meets with the frame.
Size/Shape: Shape and size are really all personal preference, but it seems like most mtbers have strong opinions. Bigger, wider glasses allow for more protection and a larger view, but can also be heavier and bulkier. There are pros and cons for both. The only way to know what you like is to try some on.
Polarization: Polarized sunglasses help to reduce glare, but were originally invented to reduce glare off of water, so are they really necessary for mountain biking?
Should I Get Polarized Lenses for Mountain Biking?
Most mountain bike lenses are not polarized and there is a reason for that. Bottom line is that it just isn’t really necessary. Polarized lenses work by blocking horizontal lights that cause glare especially seen in snow, water, glass, and highway lines. When out on the trails it is very rare to encounter those surfaces and therefore polarization just isn’t as popular for mountain bikers.
PRO Tip for Keeping Glasses On: The best tip for keeping glasses on your face is to find a pair that fit you well to start with. Glasses are not one size fits all. If you wish to purchase your glasses online then I recommend going to a store just to try on a few different fits before making your final purchase.
Additionally, polarization can make it more difficult to notice the contrasts between objects and therefore make depth perception an issue which can be a big limiting factor on the mountain bike. All in all, going with a non-polarized lens might not only save you money, but it might actually help your vision.
What’s Best? Prescription Lens or Contacts for Mountain Biking
This really is a personal preference and it depends on your eyes and how they respond to different elements. There is no right or wrong way to wear your prescription while mountain biking, but there are pros and cons to each option.
Prescription Contacts: This is definitely my preference. I like wearing contacts when I ride because I keep my peripheral vision, I can take my glasses off and still see clearly, and I don’t want to worry about my expensive prescription lenses getting scratched or lost.
The cons of contact lenses are usually that your eyes can dry out more easily or dirt and mud can get stuck under the lens. These are not experiences that I have personally had, but I do know people who struggle with those issues.
Things to Consider with Contact Lenses: If you decide to use contact lenses then your doctor will give you recommendations for the brand and type that you use. I highly recommend asking about single use, soft lenses though. On the mountain bike, your contacts will get very dirty and the single use are nice to be able to use and discard. Additionally, a soft lens will be easier to get used to and you are more likely to forget you’re even wearing it while you’re out riding.
Prescription Lenses: The biggest benefit to prescription lenses is that you won’t have any contacts to dry out while riding. If dirt gets in your eyes, then it will be easier to blink out the dirt than if it gets stuck under a contact lens.
On the other hand, with prescription lenses your vision ends at the end of your glasses and you can lose some of your peripheral abilities. Additionally, if the glasses fog up or you need to take them off for any reason then you will no longer have your prescription.
Things to Consider with Prescription Lenses: If you do decide to use prescription lenses instead of contacts then make sure that you pick a few different styles and colors so that you can use them in all conditions.
Where Can I Get Prescription Lenses for Mountain Biking?
Nowadays, prescription lenses aren’t that challenging to find. Most big name brands offer a prescription portion of their website where you can upload a prescription and have the sunglasses mailed to you with your unique prescription. Brands such as 100%, Oakley, ROKA, Adidas, and more all offer this prescription service. Another option, is to visit SportsRX online and pick from a variety of brands all on one website.
SportsRX: https://www.sportrx.com/ is a prescription sunglasses website that has a variety of brands and is known for its excellent customer service. You can browse through a variety of brands, select your favorite frame, lens, and have it made with your personalized prescription.
Pro Tips for Riding with Glasses
- Anti-Fogging: The first step to keep glasses from fogging up is to purchase glasses that sit a little bit further off of your face and that have ventilation holes near the top or sides. If you still struggle with foggy glasses, then you can use anti-fog wipes or spray. If you’re out on the trail and need a quick fix, then rub a little bit of saliva on the lens to keep the fog away.
A neat product that works great for reducing fog on your glasses is the fog is FOG GONE. Check the price at Amazon with this link – FOG GONE Anti-Fog Spray
- Keeping Clean: The reality is that glasses used for mountain biking are going to get dirty. That means that cleaning them properly is very important. You can purchase glasses cleaning kits, or you can just use a small drop of dish soap on each lens. If your glasses don’t need to be washed and instead they just need to be wiped off, make sure that you are using a sunglasses specific cloth because normal towels and paper clothes can cause small scratches on the lenses.
- Tips for Storing Your Sunglasses While Riding: Even if you do everything right, there will be times when you need to take your glasses off while riding. The best place to store your glasses are in the front notches of your helmet. If they don’t seem secure in the front, then try placing them in the back. Your pocket or hydration pack are not the most ideal options because they are no longer easily accessible and if you crash on your back then you will be likely be crushing your glasses beyond repair.
At the End of the MTB Trail
Don’t Miss Out: There are many reasons that I love mountain biking, but one reason that always stands out is the amazing places my bike takes me. Don’t miss out on the incredible views because you are too busy rubbing dirt out of your eyes or wishing you had your prescription lenses back home. Invest in a piece of equipment that could literally help you see the World differently.
Looking for Places to Ride?
- Montana is a mountain biker paradise, read the all about the places to go in this article. 18 Best Mountain Bike Trails in Montana
- Idaho is filled with MTB Trails. Single track seems to cover the state. Read more in this article – 11 Best Mountain Bike Trails in Idaho: Maps Included
- Speaking of mountain bike trails, it wold just be wrong not to mention Colorado. Check out this article – 13 Best Mountain Bike Trails in Colorado
Hannah Finchamp is a professional mountain biker for the Orange Seal Pro Team. When she isn’t riding her own bike she is coaching others to reach their goals as a Certified USA Cycling Coach and Certified Athletic Trainer. To learn more about the author please visit www.hannahfinchamp.com and follow Hannah on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/hannah_finchamp/?hl=en