Whether you are a professional rider or just get out on the weekends, you want the best equipment possible so you can perform at your best. Ask any avid mountain biker and they will tell you that having the right pair of mountain bike sunglasses makes all the difference when out on the trails. We're here to tell you what goes into finding the best MTB sunglasses so you know how to shop smart.
Table of Contents
1. What to Look for in Mountain Bike Sunglasses
2. Frame Technology
3. Lens Technology
Polarized vs Non-polarized
4. Features to Stay Away From
5. Top Mountain Bike Sunglasses
Sunglass Rob goes over some key things to know when buying your next MTB sunglasses—the dos, the donts, and the definitely nots.
Comfort and lightweight frames should be top of mind for mountain bike sunglasses. Most sporty or MTB-specific frames are made of a lightweight and comfortable nylon called TR-90. Different brands have different names for this material; Oakley's O-Matter is one example.
Rob emphasizes to avoid acetate or metal frames for mountain biking. Acetate frames like on the Ray-Ban Wayfarer are great for casual wear, but they're slightly heavier and not as flexible so they're not ideal for mountain biking. Metal frames, on the other hand, are lightweight but break easily in a fall and can even pierce your skin if you're in a bad crash.
You want your temples to fit comfortably and not be too long or too short. Look for straight temples or with a slight hook to them, as these are best for helmet compatibility. You also want rubberized grip on the temples and nose pads. Make sure your sunglasses of choice have grip in at least one of those places, but preferably both.
Wind, dust, and other random debris can get kicked up as you're on the go so having a wraparound or 8-base frame will protect your eyes more than a flatter frame. Rob notes that a lifestyle look has been more popular for MTB lately, so if you're after that more everyday style, opt for a 6-base frame so that you still have some coverage on the bike.
Rob's #1 tip for MTB lenses? Less stop, more pop!
Contrast-enhancing lenses, like a rose or amber tint, are the most important thing to look for. They'll give you the ability to go in and out of shadows without losing the details of your environment. It's better to go lighter rather than darker for MTB, since your eyes will adjust to a lighter tint but a dark lens can muddy the trail.
Rob says it's important to not go for a grey lens. This is something he sees a fair amount, but grey lenses don't provide contrast enhancement and might cause you to miss a rock or bump in the trail.
Luckily for you, most brands have their unique contrast-enhancing lens. For Oakley, it's PRIZM Trail, which is designed specifically for a mountain bike environment. These lenses are made to boost the contrast in the colors that your eye is most sensitive to while also filtering out the noisy, distracting colors. PRIZM Trail helps you to react quickly to your surroundings, making for a safer ride.
Similarly, SMITH proprietary lenses are called ChromaPop and heighten contrast, allowing you to pick up on all the necessary details on the trail. There's also 100%'s HiPER lenses, another great contrast-enhancing technology.
Photochromic lenses, better known as transition lenses, are great for mountain biking because the lenses darken as more UV light comes in contact with the lens, and lighten as sunlight lessens. A common misconception with transition lenses is that they will change instantly. If you are riding in and out of shadows, they'll start changing right away but will still take a bit of time to adjust. However, they are a great option to meet multiple riding conditions. Another plus to photochromic lenses is that you don't have to bring multiple pairs of sunglasses or lenses to change out.
Another alternative to photochromic lenses, interchangeable lenses mean you can get one frame for multiple sports or lighting conditions and switch out lenses as needed.
We get asked a lot if polarized lenses are good for mountain biking. The answer is no. As Rob explains, a polarized filter that blocks glare usually results in a darker lens, and we explained why darker lenses aren't a good option for mountain biking earlier.
The other reason is that studies have shown polarized lenses can throw off depth perception. Being able to judge your distance from oncoming terrain is crucial in mountain biking since your reaction time is related directly to what you perceive on the trail. Besides, there's usually very little glare on your typical trail anyway, so there's no need for a polarized lens.
Rob's biggest caution tip is to avoid glass lenses. We love tempered glass for everyday sunglasses, but it's too much of a liability in MTB. You can damage your eye or even lose it if you take a tumble.
Aside from not getting glass lenses, we already suggested avoiding acetate or metal frames, dark grey lenses, and polarized lenses for mountain biking.
As you may know, the Rx in SportRx means we do prescription! Here are some of our favorite prescription mountain biking sunglasses. You can check out our full list of the Best Prescription Mountain Biking Sunglasses by following that link.
The best MTB sunglasses of 2020, the SMITH Pathway truly has it all. Hit the trails in total style and comfort with the feather-light Pathway and see every obstacle before you with eagle-eyed ChromaPop lenses.
SMITH Pathway Key Features:
- Evolve eco-friendly frame material is durable and lightweight
- ChromaPop lenses enhance color and contrast for a whole new level of clarity
- Megol rubber nose pads and temples for increased grip
Rudy Project Spinair 57
Keep it casual with the Spinair 57 athleisure frames. If you're looking for sunglasses that can do it all, Rudy Project is your best bet. They make frames that can handle the toughest, bumpiest rides and transition flawlessly to a beer with your buds after you make it to the bottom.
Rudy Project Spinair 57 Key Features:
- Lifestyle look with sport performance
- Adjustable rubber temple tips
- Soft rubber nose pads
Prescription Mountain Bike Sunglasses Online at SportRx!
Need prescription mountain bike sunglasses? Done. When you shop with us, you’ll find video guides and tooltips throughout the build process as you customize the perfect pair. An answer to all your questions is at your fingertips, and if you want to chat with an expert, Contact Us. We’ll put you in touch with one of our friendly in-house opticians who can help you build your prescription mountain bike sunglasses.
Ditch risky online shopping with the See Better Guarantee. Try your sunglasses for 45 days. If you’re not satisfied, send them back. Get a full refund, exchange, or credit towards a better pair. And return shipping? Covered. Get your pair of prescription mountain bike sunglasses at SportRx today!