Group test: Cycling glasses
One look at the Tour de France peloton is all it takes to be reminded that cycling glasses are a big business, with expensive sponsorship deals. Thankfully there are plenty that don’t cost silly money yet still work well – and you don’t need to be any sort of racer to benefit.
Glasses protect your eyes when riding. On sunny days, it’s like wearing a normal pair of shades against glare. They also protect against wind and dry eyes, especially for contact lens wearers. Plus they protect against dust, debris, foliage, insects and anything else that might get in your eyes while riding either on or off road.
Styling is different from normal sunglasses. The coverage has greater wraparound, they are designed to stay on your head during activity, and they’re often vented to prevent misting up as easily. You can pick up safety glasses cheaply from DIY stores, but be aware they are made to do a different job and aren’t likely to be as comfortable when worn all day.
If you’re a prescription glasses wearer, your options are always going to be more expensive. Various companies offer either integral prescription lenses or clip-in lenses to fit behind normal cycling glasses.
1 Endura Hummvee Glasses
£43.99. Available from Endura.
These have a more casual look than many glasses so are suitable for general use as well as riding if you don’t like the style of cycling eyewear. I found them comfy to wear, well vented in use and not as big across the face as some designs.
However, you cannot change the lenses so you need to make your choice when you buy – they come in clear, what Endura call ‘high-vis yellow’ for intermediate light, or a mirror lens for full sun.
They come with a hard and a soft case for protection and cleaning. These were my partner’s favourite glasses of the four pairs on test.
Verdict: Good glasses but less versatile as you can’t swap the lenses.
2 Tifosi Intense Single Lens Sunglasses
£34.99. Available from Tifosi.
The lens is interchangeable but you have to pay for the other lenses; the full kit with three lenses is £20 more. If you’re not buying that, you’ll need to decide at point of purchase which tint to go for. Other than the three-lens kit, I couldn’t find separate replacements, so the value isn’t as keen as it looks.
The glasses are nice and lightweight (26g) but I didn’t find them as well vented as the others. The frame touched my eyebrows, which affected fogging during riding. They come with a soft bag for protection and cleaning, but no harder case.
Verdict: Factor in another £20 if you want spare lenses.
3 Decathlon Rockrider XC Pack
£19.99. Available from Decathlon.
Although Decathlon is aiming these at cross-country mountain bike riders, there’s no reason why they can’t have a wider application. They fitted just as well with my road helmet as my off-road helmet, and worked well in all riding situations. They’re well vented, too.
The price is great, especially for two sets of lenses – you get a clear set and a tinted set for sunshine. They come in blue or black, frames and lenses. You don’t get a soft carry pouch but there is a soft cloth for storing the spare lenses and cleaning. Swapping lenses is straightforward.
At 33g, the glasses are slightly heavier than the others here.
Verdict: A great pair of entry-level glasses and incredible value.
4 Madison D’Arcs
£34.99. Available from Freewheel.
These have the advantage of coming in two frame sizes; I tested the compact version, which suited my small head.
Smaller frames are sometimes an advantage as the lenses then don’t touch your cheeks in use, which can be comfier and help with venting. I found these stood off my face nicely, so the venting was very good.
The D’Arcs have three lenses, covering all light conditions, plus a spare nose piece and both hard and soft cases. Changing lenses is easy enough once you have done it a couple of times and get the knack. They are the lightest glasses on test at 22g.
Verdict: Overall, a great-value, practical and versatile glasses system.
Glasses are a very personal business. What’s best will be influenced by what shape and size your head is, and whether they play nicely with your helmet. That can only be ascertained by trying glasses on, so it’s worth taking your helmet with you when shopping.
For me, the clear winner in this test are the Madison D’Arcs, both in terms of their performance and versatility. The Enduras are great sunglasses, as good off the bike as on, so are practical for everyday use as well.
The Tifosi glasses didn’t suit my face and seem expensive for what you get. Conversely, the Decathlon glasses are a really good entry-level set of eyewear. It’s great to see sensibly priced glasses that work really well.