The Cycle Life

The 6 Best Bike Shades for the Dirt and the Road

Triathlete Davide Giardini wears Rudy Project sunglasses. Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

The 6 Best Bike Shades for the Dirt and the Road

After six months of rigorous testing, we present our favorites

Cycling sunglasses do more than shield your eyes from sun. They're also the only defense between you and every bullet-like projectile that gets kicked up by the wheels and blasted at your face. We tested these five new bike-specific shades—and one goggle—for nearly six months. In the looks and protection departments, they aren’t all created equal. Here's how they stack up.

Oakley Prizm Trail Jawbreaker ($220)

  Photo: Aaron Gulley

We wanted to hate these glasses because you have to be Mark Cavendish to make them look good. But retro ‘80s styling aside, we could find no fault with the Prizm. The lens-change mechanism is the smoothest, easiest system we’ve tried, and the semi-mirrored lens we received, which was made for trail riding, did an incredible job of bringing out depth and adjusting between sun and shade (and was also fine, if a bit bright, on cloudless road rides). Finally, the shape of the lens and the all-around vents made for the best performance of any glasses we tried: no sweat drip and no fogging. Style be damned!

Best For: The bold sytle-conscious among us who want top-shelf shades. 


Rudy Project Ergomask ($225)

  Photo: Aaron Gulley

The clarity and sharpness of Rudy’s optics are second only to Oakley's, and the monster one-piece-wrap lens makes for an unobstructed field of vision. There’s a bumper on the bridge that kept the glasses off our face and prevented fogging, and the fully adjustable nosepiece is the best of the bunch. Despite its dark tint, the silver-mirrored Laser Black lens worked for all but the dimmest of days. Not everyone liked the Terminator looks, however, and the soaring price tag meant that most testers were reticent to buy, even with the three-year frame warranty.

Best For: Discerning lens geeks. 


Bollé Diamondback ($110)

  Photo: Aaron Gulley

Like the Rudy Ergomask, the Diamondback has a one-piece lens, though the nylon frame that encircles it has some fashion flare. And the contrast paint job matches the mirrored lens coating for even better looks. Unfortunately, the optics aren’t as clear as the more expensive models on this list, and the lens shape has a way of collecting sweat. We did appreciate the rubberized temples and nose, which kept the glasses well positioned. Heads up: these glasses are not for people who appreciate high-precision specs, but we’d keep them around for mountain biking, especially since they cost half of some of the other glasses on this list (and are therefore cheaper to replace).

Best For: Mountain bikers on a budget. 


Smith Squad MTB Goggle ($60)

  Photo: Aaron Gulley

Not all situations call for goggles, but when it’s dusty or muddy and wet, the extra protection can mean the difference between sending and crashing. The new Squad, which is Smith’s first dedicated mountain bike goggle, is one of the finest of the breed we’ve tried. They never fogged, even on a couple of sticky, rainy days in Crested Butte, thanks to the extra-tall padding and vents around the face. And the lens-switch capability (ours came with both mirrors and clears) was surprisingly straightforward. We also liked the rubberized strip on the elastic band, which gripped the back and side or our helmet and made it easy to push the Squads up out of our face. Best of all: they offer the most protection for the least amount of money.

Best For: Dusty or sloppy conditions when you need real eye protection. 


Ryders Face Anti-Fog Photochromic ($130)

  Photo: Aaron Gulley

The oversize lenses and curved shape of these nylon frames meant the Face fit snugly to our mugs and provided ample coverage for even the driest-eyed among our ranks. And they looked good on nearly everyone who tried them. The rubberized nosepiece prevented slippage, though it’s not adjustable so a couple of riders had a hard time with fit. Ryders’ big push is for their new anti-fog treatment, which worked quite well, preventing steaming in front and causing outside moisture to bead off. The optics were the poorest of the bunch, however, and the orange tint, which supposedly was photochromic, was too bright for everything but the dimmest days. As such, we’d either get these Faces for rain days only or opt for a darker lens for all-around use. 

Best For: Fog-free riding. 


Smith PivLock Arena Max ($160)

  Photo: Aaron Gulley

The PivLock Arena Max brings a new shape to a time-tested design, and the result is arguably the finest all-around riding glasses money can buy, for mountain or road. The frameless design means they’re so light you barely notice them. Yet unlike the Rudys or Oakleys, the styling is sharp, not over-bearing, even in the oversize Max edition. Our Purple Sol-X Mirror lens was ideal for blaring, mid-afternoon rides, and the bundle included a clear and red lens for variable light conditions. Switching was simple, though we did snap the end off the adjustable nosepiece while making the swap (thankfully, the break was cosmetic only). 

Best For: People who want only one pair of shades.

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