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Looking for the best pair of cycling sunglasses? We researched over forty models before purchasing 15 of the best to test and compare side-by-side. Our selection has an emphasis on cycling performance both on and off-road where wind protection and coverage are key. The vast majority of our testing took place on the bike, but we also tested these glasses in a variety of sports including trail running and backcountry skiing. The right pair of shades can make or break your ride, so we developed five key metrics on which we scored each model: lens quality, fit and comfort, eye protection, frame quality, and performance in the field. Performance across these categories determined which models earned our recommendation.
A good set of glasses are just one part of a great cycling kit. Whether you're into mountain biking or road cycling, our experts have recommendations for you. Of course, we've also tested and reviewed sunglasses for casual wear (for both men and women) as well as sport sunglasses for other activities.
Editor's Note: This review was updated on May 25th, 2022, with the addition of the Julbo Fury, 100% S2, and Tifosi Rail models.
The Smith Wildcat tops the chart as a fantastic pair of all-around cycling sunglasses. This large-lensed model performed well across all of our test metrics without fail. We tested the Chromapop Red Mirror lens that transmits 15% of visible light and protects from 100% of UV rays. Smith's Chromapop technology increases contrast and definition in bright light without any distortion at the edges of your vision, and the large, impact-resistant lens makes sure your eyes stay protected. The Wildcat's fit and comfort were the best of any model in our test with a soft, flexible TR90 frame construction that easily flexes to fit various face sizes without pressure or discomfort, and hydrophilic rubber contact points at the nose and ears are grippy and comfortable. The nose piece adjusts vertically and has two width settings to fit a variety of nose shapes. As a bonus, the Wildcat comes standard with a spare clear lens for low light conditions and a rigid, zippered storage case.
It was hard to find any faults with the Wildcat. This pair of sunglasses doesn't have a real weak point, but the one potential issue we encountered with these glasses was with their dust protection. Due to the off-the-face fit and good breathability, we found that they didn't keep the dust out of our eyes quite as well as some other models we tested. This was only really a problem when mountain biking closely behind another rider in dry, dusty conditions. Even then, it was barely noticeable, but it means that we wouldn't recommend these as a direct replacement for more protective mountain biking goggles.
Fit: Large-Extra Large | Lens: 3 Included, Smoke, AC Red, Clear
Versatile lens selection
Good wind and dust protection
Difficult lens swaps
Can fog when stopping
They aren't the least expensive model that we tested, but the Tifosi Sledge offers the best ratio of price to performance in the test. This model comes standard with a selection of three high-quality lenses to choose from, making these glasses viable in any light condition. From dark, forested mountain biking to bright coastal road riding, we couldn't find a light condition in which these glasses couldn't handle. Each lens provides sharp, distortion-free optics and 100% protection from UV rays. Unlike some of the other budget-friendly models in the test, we couldn't detect much, if any, reduction in optical quality from the most expensive glasses we tested. The sturdy grilamid frame fits close to the face, providing excellent protection from wind and debris, and the soft rubber contact points had us wearing these all day without any discomfort.
While the close-wrapping fit gives much-welcomed security at higher speeds, we also noticed that these glasses can fog up easily when you come to a stop. We never had fogging issues while moving, but we quickly learned to remove these glasses and stow them on our helmet during any mid-ride rest stop to avoid steaming up. The small vents at the top of the lens work great as long as there is some airflow, but at a sweaty, mid-ride standstill they're no match for the fog. Additionally, the lens swapping process is a little bit finicky. It's almost impossible to do without getting grubby fingerprints all over the lens, but luckily Tifosi provides a microfiber storage bag for cleaning. These minor drawbacks weren't enough to dissuade us from giving this model a high recommendation for riders looking for some versatile shades at a reasonable price.
In this new era of massive cycling glasses, the Glendale provides the closest imitation of goggle performance in glasses of all the models we tested. We appreciated their eye protection so much that they had to be our favorite for coverage and wind protection. The massive lens measures 165mm wide and 65mm tall and offers sharp, high-contrast optics. Constructed from impact-resistant polycarbonate, the lens will also keep your eyes safe from potential impacts out in the field. The Grilamid thermoplastic frame wraps close to the face to protect from dust and wind interference at high speeds and has air scoops below the lens to prevent fogging at low speeds or humid conditions. Hydrophilic rubber contact points at the nose and temples allow you to wear these glasses all day without pain or discomfort.
The Glendale only falls short in regards to its fit. This massive model has a large fit and doesn't offer a ton of adjustability to suit smaller face sizes. Our smaller-headed testers had some problems with the frames sliding down the front of their face when the going got rough out on the trail. The adjustable arm tips helped with the problem, but we worry that these glasses might not fit well on those with smaller faces. That said, for high-speed road and gravel riding, our small-headed testers still loved these glasses.
Fit: Large | Lens: 2 included, Soft Gold Mirror, Clear
No fit adustment
Air movement behind the lens
Lens fogging is an issue that exists almost across the board with cycling sunglasses, but the 100% S2 does an excellent job at minimizing it. Throughout our testing process we never experienced severe fogging with this model, even when stopping immediately after a long and sweaty climb. The large, high-coverage lens sits far enough off the face to allow consistent airflow, even at low speeds. Small vent ports at the bottom of the lens also help to promote airflow. Over the years we've been conditioned to remove our sunglasses to avoid fogging any time we take a mid-ride stop, but the S2 slowly rid us of that habit during our testing process. In addition to the fog-free fit, the S2 also offers great coverage and a versatile fit that should work for a variety of head shapes and sizes. The Soft Gold Mirror lens that we tested worked well in bright to medium light conditions, and the included clear lens had us covered in low light situations.
With the great breathability and fog prevention comes a few minor downsides to this model. The ventilation means that at high speeds you can feel some air movement behind the lens, and we found that, like the Wildcat, these glasses don't do a great job of protecting your eyes from dust when following close behind another mountain biker. Regardless, unless you're trying to use these glasses as a mountain bike goggle replacement, dust protection isn't a huge issue. Overall this is a great model, and we recommend it to anyone who is tired of having to deal with fogged-up lenses.
The Oakley Sutro is a popular model of cycling shades that not only performs well but looks good doing it. Due to their somewhat unique styling, they have become popular with many people not just for riding bikes, but also for casual use and other activities. While many may see them as a fashion piece, they are, in fact, an excellent pair of cycling shades, and that is evident not only in our testing but also the large number of riders wearing them in the pro peloton. In typical Oakley fashion, the Prizm lens provides excellent optical clarity with enhanced contrast, and it is wrapped in a high-quality, durable frame. The Prizm Road lens we tested has 20% VLT, and we found it to work well in a range of light conditions, plus they offer a variety of other lens options. The large lens provides loads of coverage and protection from the wind and a very large field of view. Our testers loved these glasses for road and gravel rides and moving at higher rates of speed.
While we loved almost everything about the Sutro, we found that they weren't perfect. Testers with average-sized heads loved the fit, but those with wider heads noted that the arms tended to squeeze and cause slight discomfort over time. We also found that they didn't manage sweat quite as well as some other options. Overall though, we feel these are excellent cycling sunglasses with plenty of style and crossover appeal.
If you're looking for a close resemblance to the more higher-end models at an outstanding price, look no further than the X-Tiger. These boldly styled shades performed competitively across most of our rating metrics, yet cost a mere fraction of the high-end competition. Our expectations of these sunglasses were relatively low, yet we were pleasantly surprised by nearly every aspect of their performance. We found them quite comfortable with a wide range of fit and a secure grip that never felt too tight. The massive lenses provide good coverage and adequate protection from the sun and wind for most high-velocity activities. The TR90 frames appear rugged and durable, and nearly on par with the more expensive competition. In the field, we enjoyed the fact that they stayed in place very well, and we never experienced any issues with fogging. They also come standard with three lenses for varying light conditions, a rigid zippered case, a storage bag, two sets of earpieces, and a lens cleaning cloth.
While we were quite impressed with the X-Tiger glasses' overall performance, the lens quality left a little to be desired. The cylindrical lenses aren't perfect, and we noticed some distortion around the periphery. We also found that the mirrored lens had a very neutral, muting quality, and it didn't increase contrast or enhance color the way higher-end models do. Otherwise, we feel these very inexpensive sunglasses perform far above their asking price.
Our sunglass testers have decades of experience in the outdoors and have been religiously using many of the brands we tested for much of that time. Jeremy Benson is an obsessive year-round cyclist. He's the author of two guidebooks published by Mountaineers Books, Mountain Bike Tahoe and Backcountry Ski and Snowboard Routes California, he stays busy all year in the mountains from his home base in South Lake Tahoe, CA. Whether backcountry skiing in the winter months or training for and racing gravel and mountain bikes the rest of the year, he has developed an appreciation for quality eyewear that protects his eyes from the sun, dust, debris, and especially the wind. A former sponsored ski athlete, Benson has years of experience in product design and testing and has been working with OutdoorGearLab for over three years.
Zach Wick has been obsessively riding and racing road and mountain bikes for the last 18 years and has accumulated extensive knowledge of performance eyewear in that time. Zach spent his teenage years road racing as an elite amateur, racking up a state championship in the process. He has since broadened his horizons to include mountain biking, cyclocross, and gravel riding. He has years of experience in product design working in a mountain bike brand's test lab and has developed an astute eye to differentiate between quality products and pretenders.
These two put every model in our test through the wringer to ensure we provide the best information possible. Over the course of several months, we tested these glasses while racking up countless hours of road, gravel, and mountain bike ride time along with some additional time spent trail running, hiking, and backcountry skiing. They used their years of experience and expertise to tease out subtle differences in what turned out to be an incredibly high-quality group of sunglasses. They also applied their knowledge of product testing in a lab to run non-destructive tests and decipher which models were toughest.
We rated each pair of cycling sunglasses in our test based on five key metrics: lens quality, fit and comfort, coverage, frame quality, and field performance. Each model received a score from 1-100 in each metric for easy comparison, and the metrics are weighted according to their importance. For cycling sunglasses, we heavily weighted the lens quality, coverage, and field performance metrics. Additionally, we compared our overall performance score for each model against its price to determine which models offer the best value.
We don't rate the products we test based on their price, but we appreciate a good value. Most of the sunglasses we tested are high-end models geared towards optimal performance and protection for your eyes. These aren't your ordinary gas station sunglasses, and the sun protection, optical quality, comfort, and durability they provide typically comes at a premium. The glasses we tested fall into a wide range of prices. While the more expensive end of the spectrum usually comes with higher-grade materials, we found that, as with many things, price doesn't necessarily reflect value.
With price tags at a fraction of the high-end competition, the X-Tiger glasses performed admirably in many of our rating metrics. They sacrifice a bit in terms of lens quality, but we feel they bring serious value to the table. Likewise, the Tifosi Sledge is among the least expensive models in the test, with performance that rivals the more expensive competition.
Lens quality is the first thing you notice when donning a pair of sunglasses and is one of the most important things to consider when seeking out new specs. Every model in our test was designed with high-speed outdoor activities in mind, often specifically mountain biking or road cycling. In these settings, it's important that a lens provides sharp, clear optics without distortion and protection from the sun. We used each model in a variety of light conditions to test its versatility and protection. It's important to consider a lens' UV protection and visible light transmission, optical quality, and durability when searching for a good pair of performance sunglasses.
The cycling sunglasses that we tested protect from harsh sunlight to varying degrees. All of the models protect from 100% of harmful UV rays but differ in their visible light transmission (VLT). VLT ranged from 12 to 68 percent among the models we tested. Lower light transmission is generally easier on the eyes, but low-VLT lenses are darker and typically only perform well in bright light. We found that models around the 20% VLT mark, including the Oakley Sutro (20%), POC Aspire (22%), and Oakley Flight Jacket (20%), performed in the broadest range of light conditions while still providing adequate protection. The Smith, 100%, and Tifosi models we tested each come standard with at least two lenses, allowing the user a wider range of viable light conditions without having to purchase aftermarket lenses or additional pairs of sunglasses.
Only one model in our test included a polarized lens, the Pit Viper Originals. Polarized lenses provide extra protection for the eyes by blocking horizontal light waves, but also let in less light than their non-polarized counterparts. We found that the Originals' lens performed well in bright light conditions, but, at 14% VLT, we wouldn't recommend them for medium or low light. However, Pit Viper offers the Originals in a variety of lens tints for different light levels.
All of the models we tested have lenses with quality optics. Deciphering differences in optical quality at this level of performance can be difficult as differences are often very minor, but a few models stood out from the pack. Of all the models we tested, the Oakley Flight Jacket and Smith Attack Max impressed us the most. Their spherical lenses combine with Oakley's Prizm and Smith's Chromapop technologies to provide super-clear, distortion-free optics with increased contrast and definition. The cylindrical lenses of the Smith Wildcat and Oakley Sutro feature the same technologies and provide the same high-contrast optics but without the benefit of the spherical shape.
Most cycling sunglass lenses are designed with durability in mind, and almost all of the models in the test included impact-resistant lenses. For the most part, we found that every model's lens stood up to our test. Very few of them showed any sign of wear and tear by the time we finished testing them. A few models, including 100%'s Glendale, Speedcraft, and S2 feature anti-scratch coatings on their lenses that work wonders. We were surprised when, after repeated t-shirt cleanings, none of these models had any apparent scratches or imperfections.
Fit and Comfort
While lens quality is an essential piece of the cycling sunglasses puzzle, the fit and comfort of a model carry just as much weight. A high-quality lens is useless if the glasses give you a headache after five minutes. It's vital that your glasses fit your face well and not create discomfort when you can be wearing them for up to ten hours at a time (depending on just how hardcore you are). We rated models in this metric based on their fit versatility as well as the comfort of their frame materials. To generate our rating for each model, we had each of our testers try them out and provide notes on how they fit naturally, whether they could be adjusted to fit correctly, their feel on the face, and if they created discomfort over time. To make sure we got the full picture of each model, we also recruited the help of friends and family with diverse head sizes.
It became clear midway through our testing that one model stood out from the rest. The Smith Wildcat was a unanimous favorite among everyone who tried them on. The Wildcat's TR90 frame construction is soft and flexible and can expand to fit most head sizes without a hint of pressure on the temples. The adjustable nosepiece can conform to most nose shapes, and its hydrophilic rubber contact points are comfortable, grippy, and allow the frames to disappear from your thoughts when they're on your face.
With their wide range of adjustability, the Pit Viper Originals impressed us in this metric. The arm angle, arm length, and nosepiece adjustments on their frame combine to make their fit super versatile. Everyone who tried on our set of test Originals could adjust the fit to suit their facial structure, no matter their head size. This made them easily the most versatile fit of any model in our test. If it weren't for their hard plastic frame construction, they could have been one of the most comfortable models in the test as well. In contrast to the Originals, the Oakley Sutro offers no adjustment, and we found that it had a slightly more limited range of fit. Larger-headed users often found that the Sutro would put pressure on the sides of the head and create discomfort over time.
Most of the models we tested offered a limited range of adjustment and a decent range of fit. The POC Aspire, 100% Glendale, and Tifosi Sledge are all comfortable but lack the adjustability to match the top performers in this metric. They all have fixed nose pieces and bendable arm tips for a close contour to varied head shapes. We found that this adjustment was helpful, but not enough to adequately adjust the fit between small and large heads. These models tended to fit large heads, but small-headed testers struggled to get them dialed in. We found that models with a nose-piece adjustment like the Scott Sport Shield could adapt to a wider array of head sizes.
The latest trend in cycling sunglasses has been ever-increasing lens sizes. Due to the fact that brands have been focusing on improving coverage and protection for high-speed activities, many of the test models more closely resemble goggles than their counterparts from the 1990s and early 2000s. When you're flying down a fast descent on a road or mountain bike, your sunglasses must protect your eyes from the wind as well as potential impacts from bugs, rocks, branches, or anything else that could be flying through the air. We had a run-in with a broken glass bottle on a road ride that sent tiny shards of glass flying through the peloton during testing. In situations like this, your glasses should give your eyes security so you can stay focused.
To thoroughly rate each model's coverage, we considered the size of their lenses, how closely they wrap to the face, their materials and construction, and their performance at high speeds. We ran each model through a series of downhills on our road, gravel, and mountain bikes in various conditions and tracked their ability to block wind interference.
Most of the models in our test have a very similar lens construction. Each of their lenses is plastic as opposed to glass, and most are made of polycarbonate. All of them provide impact protection that meets ANSI Z80.3 standards for impact resistance, so we weren't concerned about a lens breaking from a rock strike out on the road. We didn't run into any situations during testing where a lens failed to protect our eyes or face from an impact.
The 100% Glendale was the highest-coverage model we tested. Its 165mm wide by 60mm tall lens is the biggest in the test, and the frame's close-to-the-face fit provided the best wind protection. The Glendale most closely mimicked goggle-quality coverage of all the goggle-esque sunglasses we tested. The Tifosi Rail, 100% Speedcraft, Smith Wildcat, Oakley Sutro, and Scott Sport Shield had the next biggest lenses in the test and provided excellent coverage. The Wildcat fit a little bit further off of the face than the two 100% models and experienced a little bit more wind interference, but it was nothing serious.
Due to their spherical lenses and close fit, a few medium lensed models also provided excellent coverage. The Oakley Flight Jacket's lenses aren't exactly small, but at 140x53mm, they weren't among the largest in our test. Despite their size, they offered some of the best coverage in our test. We didn't experience any wind interference at high speed, and we had no concerns about the smaller lenses not protecting our eyes.
The lowest scoring model in our coverage metric was the Julbo Aero. With the smallest lens in our test at 130x43mm and an open, airy frame design, we experienced a fair amount of wind interference on high-speed descents. Compared with the traditional performance sunglasses of the last twenty years, the Aero is actually above average coverage-wise. Still, they don't quite match the top performers in today's large-lensed age.
Along with your lenses, it's essential that the frames of your glasses stand up to the test of time. When you're paying a premium for high-end glasses, you hope that the frames will stand up when dropped on the ground or thrown in backpacks and luggage. You also hope that they won't meet their demise the first time you take a quick dirt nap or asphalt slide on a bike ride.
To assess each model's frame quality, we scrutinized them to see just how much they could take. This involved a lot of flexing, twisting, and squeezing to test each frame's construction limits and make sure that none of them were too brittle. We also researched the material properties of each model's construction based on the material specs provided by the manufacturer and took into account each frame's adjustability and ease of lens swapping.
Our favorite models in this metric all included some combination of TR90, Grilamid, and TPU thermoplastic construction. These materials each provide high flexibility and bending strength, good toughness, and low moisture absorption. The Smith Wildcat, 100% Speedcraft, 100% Glendale were our favorite frames. Each of these featured some combination of these high-quality construction materials. Their frames' softness and flexibility gave us confidence that these models would survive just about anything we could throw at them and made for quick, easy lens changes.
While we didn't like the stiffer, harder nature of Oakley's "O Matter" frame material as much as the Wildcat or 100%'s offerings, we gave the Flight Jacket a top score in this metric for its well-thought-out design, including the Advancer nose piece that allows you to adjust the airflow behind the lenses and its multiple arm length options.
A few models had frames made of high-quality materials but didn't score as highly in this metric. The POC Aspire, POC Half Blade, and Tifosi Sledge each feature Grilamid thermoplastic frame constructions, but their frames are harder and less flexible than the Wildcat and 100%'s offerings. This worries us that the frames might snap in a crash or when TSA throws your bag on your next flight, and it also means swapping lenses can be a little bit tougher than with some of the more flexible models. These frames also provide minimal adjustment to dial in the fit.
While it offers a ton of adjustability, the Pit Viper Originals had one of the most concerning frames in the test. Its frame has a cheaper, more brittle feel than any of the other models we tested, and the adjustability creates a variety of potential failure points. We were extra tough on these glasses to ensure that they were up to snuff. They made it through unscathed, so we're still excited about the value they provide. However, if given a choice, we would opt for the frame material of the Wildcat or Glendale over the Originals any day of the week.
No matter how impressive a model's measurable traits are, it's still useless if it can't perform in the field. The field performance metric is the most heavily weighted in our test because it's an accurate and direct assessment of whether a model is worth the price or not. When using these glasses in the field, we focused on key traits necessary for cycling like lens fog prevention, lens water-shedding, stability on the face, and sweat channeling. If a $200 pair of sunglasses fog up or falls off your face every time you take it out for a mountain bike ride or trail run, it's useless.
To assess each model's field performance, we simply used them. A lot. We took each model on countless hours of bike riding, trail running, hiking, and even some backcountry skiing to get a well-formed picture. By the end of our test, we had a very clear idea of which models were the highest performers.
The Smith Wildcat, 100% S2, and Oakley Flight Jacket were our favorite models in the field. These models provided enough airflow to prevent lens fogging at low speeds while maintaining coverage and protection at high speeds. However, the Flight Jacket's adjustable nose piece allowed for the best of both worlds. We were also pleasantly surprised by the X-Tiger glasses in the field. These shades stayed in place very well, and we never experienced any issues with fogging.
The remainder of the models we tested all performed solidly in the field. On the whole, we didn't have much to complain about with any of these sunglasses. We had a little bit of trouble with the 100% Glendale's larger fit on some smaller-headed testers. They found that when the going got rough, the nose piece would slip down, and they would need to reach up and adjust. A small adjustment of the bendable arm tips helped with the problem, but we still have concerns about the Glendale's fit on smaller faces resulting in less stability than other models.
There's a lot to consider when searching for a new pair of cycling sunglasses. Today there are so many options that, even if you have a good idea of what you're looking for, the search can be daunting. We did the work (actually, it was a lot of fun) to provide you with the best information possible. By considering the lens quality, fit and comfort, coverage, frame quality, and field performance, and measuring each model up to these standards as well as comparing them extensively to one another, we aren't afraid to say we've covered most of the bases. We hope that this review helps you make an informed decision and leads you to the perfect pair of glasses for your sporting endeavors.
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GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.