Perfect Vision When Cycling: What Eyeglass Lenses are Best for Cyclists?

Speed, changing light conditions and airborne particles present special challenges to glasses for cycling: here are some tips from BETTER VISION.

Whether you're a professional cyclist or you just cycle for fun, a good pair of sports glasses is essential while cycling. High speeds on tarmac or off-road, frequently changing light conditions from bright sunshine to flickering light and shade, insects and dirt or grit flying into your face all make cycling glasses an essential piece of safety equipment for this sport. BETTER VISION can help you find out what to look for when buying a pair of cycling glasses and what your options are when it comes to choosing lenses.

Perfect vision when cycling: which spectacle lenses are best for cyclists?

Glasses for cyclists have to be genuinely all-purpose, safely protecting your eyes against harmful UV rays, airstream, insects, dust – even dirt and grit in the air. And all this while still providing wearing comfort: cycling glasses have to be light, and the nose pad and sides have to fit comfortably under a helmet. In addition, high-contrast vision is very important when cycling. The eye has to adjust to constantly changing light conditions and the play of light and shadow. Furthermore, the glasses have to offer proper glare protection.

Lenses for cycling glasses

In addition to well-fitting and sturdy frames, the right lenses are a must in any pair of cycling glasses. They have to provide protection against UV rays, wind and airborne particles, and also have to allow cyclists to see their way perfectly in bright sunshine, shadows and even bad weather. Carl Zeiss Vision has created a range of lenses that offer cyclists both uncompromising vision and great visual comfort. The lenses are specifically designed for light conditions that change from low light through strong brightness.

Polarizing lenses

Rapid and frequent switching between light and shade puts a strain on your eyes. When you add glare and reflections or back light to the mix, dangers, curves or lane changes may not be visible until it's too late. Not only does this mean losing time by having to brake, it can also pose a safety risk. Glasses – with or without correction – with polarizing lenses provide the ideal protection against glare and help filter out reflections from bright, smooth surfaces. When you aren’t dazzled by light, you can see better while cycling and identify risks earlier.

Curved lenses

The curvature of your frames is very important. The glasses have to fit your face perfectly in order to protect your eyes. Visual acuity throughout your entire field of vision is crucial, particularly if you need visual correction. Potential hazards need to be visible from peripheral areas as well. Many cyclists wear contact lenses under their sports glasses. But if dust or grit manages to get behind the glasses and under the contact lenses, it can present a real problem. Previously, the sporty, angled position of curved lenses created inconvenient aberrations in the periphery, due to the physical shape of the lenses. Thanks to the special technology used in the design and manufacture of ZEISS sports lenses, we are able to offer extremely precise vision even in the angled portions of the lens periphery. Whether you need progressive or single vision lenses – curved sports lenses from ZEISS put an end to vision loss, even in higher prescriptions.

The best lens colors for cyclists

Amber and rose lens tints increase visual acuity and are highly recommended for cycling. They provide the brightest field of vision and are ideal for weak to no sunlight. Thanks to their strength in color contrast, these tints are particularly recommended when cycling on roads. By improving your reaction times, they help improve your sporting performance and your safety. When there is little or no sunlight, it is more important than ever to have tints that enable you to recognize even the smallest details quickly and clearly. When choosing a tint for cycling, make sure not to select too dark a shade because you will be switching from very sunny stretches to shaded areas very quickly – under trees or bridges and tunnels, for example. We would advise cyclists against self-tinting lenses because, despite the excellent performance characteristics of modern self-tinting lenses, they still clear too slowly for the conditions in which they are used.

Gray lenses, although less efficient, are also recommended. They reduce glare and render colors true-to-life. They offer good vision all year round, even in bright sunshine.

As blue light is dominant in our atmosphere, our ability to see contrast is restricted. For example, the ground looks even to us, even when it isn't. Yellow lenses filter out more of the blue wavelengths of light, allowing us to see contrast better. This tint guarantees cyclists better vision with less light, in other words, in darker light conditions with less sunshine.

In average to strong sunshine, blue attenuator lenses (e.g., Skylet from Carl Zeiss Vision) are especially useful. They reduce the transmission of blue light wavelengths, thereby increasing the contrast while presenting colors in a neutral way.

Many sports lenses are also available in polarizing versions. A polarizing lens eliminates the vertically oscillating portion of light, which is typically formed by dazzling light sources, such as the wet surface of a road after rain.

Lens coatings and materials for cycling glasses

Your cycling glasses have to put up with a lot. After you've raced in them, they will be covered in more dust, dirt and insects than any other kind of sports glasses. Invest in a good CleanCoat layer to make the eyeglass lenses easy to clean. When hydrophobic lens coatings have been applied to the lens, perspiration, rain and other residues simply drip off. A good anti-reflective coating – especially on the back surface of the lens – minimizes distracting reflections that can be seriously disruptive and confusing.

Last but not least, the lenses on your cycling glasses need to be extremely sturdy and shatter-proof. We recommend lenses made of polycarbonate and polyamide (nylon) that can withstand a fall.

What you need to bear in mind:

  • When you go to see the eye care professional, take great care when deciding what you want your cycling glasses to be able to do.
  • Make sure to take your helmet with you to the fitting and check whether the field of vision is large enough for you.
  • Do the glasses protect you properly from the wind? Some eye care professionals are specialized in sports glasses and have wind fan, or racing bikes in their shops in order to simulate real-life conditions.
  • Are the glasses easy to put on and take off?
  • To test the color tint, make sure to wait for a sunny day before visiting the eye care professional.

Images: ASSOS