See the light: the importance of cycling eyewear, whatever the weather

Why 'sunglasses' aren't only for when it's sunny

As cyclists we wear padded shorts to protect our derrières, a helmet on our heads and gloves to shield our palms in the event of a crash.

But at this time of year – or, rather, any time of year, given the UK climate – when the weather is gloomy and the roads are strewn with all kinds of detritus, cyclists often neglect wearing the correct eyewear – or any at all. After all, if the sun’s not shining, do you need to wear sunglasses? Or is it just as important to wear glasses when the sun’s nowhere to be seen?

Wearing sunglasses through the summer is the norm and sunglasses are as much a part of a cyclist’s kit as a jersey or bib shorts, but when it’s murky and overcast, rather than ditching dark glasses, it should a case of switching out our lenses to let more light in.

Most cycling sunglasses now have interchangeable lenses, helping you to make the most of the light available – and to protect your eyes

It’s why many cycling-specific sunglasses now have interchangeable lenses – not as a fashion statement but to make the most of whatever conditions you have, whether it be a mirrored lens for blazing sunshine, a yellow lens for overcast doom and gloom, or a clear lens for riding in the rain or at night.

“I’m not trying to look like a hipster in clear lenses, believe it or not, there is some logic,” Team Dimension Data rider Nathan Haas told RoadCyclingUK.

“In a race like Milan-San Remo you’d be blown away by the sheer amount of grit on the road that gets flung into your face, and when it’s so overcast a tinted [sunglasses] lens isn’t an option but you still need to protect your vision.”

It’s a given that we shield our eyes from the sun’s rays, but we also need to protect them from anything that could fly into them. When it’s wet out, that’s even more likely due to rainwater scattering debris across the road, while, on the flip side, in the warmer months it’s not uncommon to hit bugs – and the wind will make your eyes water year-round

Swedish brand POC understands the advantages of clear or light-enhancing lenses and offer a range of aftermarket options for different conditions.

“At POC we have a clear mission based around safety and reducing the consequences of accidents,” says POC’s eyes business manager, Jonas Söderqvist. “Eyewear is a vital component for a safe ride, especially during the cold and darker times of the year. That’s the time when visibility can be very mixed, such as on a wet, grey day in the winter.

Team Dimension Data rider Nathan Haas varies his eyewear according to the conditions (Pic: Laura Fletcher/Cassette Media)

“To deal with this we have developed a range of different lens tints for our glasses that give better contrast for road surfaces, have anti-fog and ripple treatments to keep lenses clear at all times.”

The key when determining the suitability of a lens in POC’s range is Visible Light Transmission, which measures the percentage of light coming through the lens and reaching your eyes. The higher the percentage, the clearer the lens and the more light gets let in.

Eyewear should be a year-round essential

POC’s range of Carl Zeiss lenses available for the Do Half Blade sunglasses ranges from ‘black’ and ‘violet silver mirror’, with a VLT of ten per cent and recommended for “very sunny” conditions to a ‘clear’ lens with a VLT of 90 per cent and suitable for “low visibility”.

We’ve been testing the ‘light pink’ lens with a VLT of 84.1 per cent, and they are exceptional when riding in oppressing low light conditions, with a light-enhancing effect to boost contrast under gloomy skies, which means it’s, quite literally, like viewing the world through rose-tinted glasses.

Whether sold separately, as in the case of POC, or with a number of options included as standard, as is frequently the case, interchangeable lenses allow the rider to fine-tune their vision according to the conditions. The benefits are two-fold: helping the rider to make the most of the light available, whether it’s reducing glare or enhancing the gloom, and, crucially, protecting the eyes.

“We’re lucky enough to work with Oakley and the selection of lenses is really good,” says JLT-Condor rider and former British champion Russell Downing. “There’s something for all conditions.

Clear lenses are best for riding at night, or when it’s particularly overcast or raining, though in the wettest conditions rain water and road spray can obscure vision through even a clear lens

“Clear lenses are popular with the team, as are the photochromic lenses that adapt to the amount of light, darkening slightly in bright sunlight and getting lighter when the light fades. That’s great when the sun is beginning to set towards the end of the race, like in the Tour Series.”

Most riders wear protective gear to ensure damage limitation in the event of crash but our eyes? We only get one set, so it’s worth looking after them.

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