Spend any time on a bike path and you’re bound to notice a stream of bulbous lenses adorning the faces of the spandex-clad set. There’s good reason for that. When you’re riding along at 20+ mph or descending mountain roads, the last thing you want is a bug, rogue rock or tear-inducing cold air obscuring your vision. Big lenses make sure your view stays unobstructed.
Off the bike, things are different. Rocks aren’t flying in your face (or, they shouldn’t be at least), and only the most determined bugs are making a beeline for your eyes. Those large lenses become both unnecessary and leave you looking like you got lost headed to a sci-fi convention. Better to stick with casual shades off the bike.
On the flip side, though, those casual shades don’t perform nearly as well on the bike. Luckily, you don’t have to decide between the two. Many of our favorite cycling eyewear brands make casual sunglasses that you wouldn’t bat an eye at off the bike, but which are infused with sporty features.
Often, these kinds of sunglasses are labeled as “lifestyle.” Beyond the large lenses, performance lifestyle eyewear has a few key benefits. Big cycling sunglass brands test their lenses to ensure they’re highly impact resistant, stopping projectiles dead in their tracks and preventing lenses from shattering, which can be dangerous for your eyes. Lenses in performance lifestyle sunglasses are also sometimes created specifically to provide the best contrast for seeing objects in an urban environment. For example, look for Clarity lenses for POC sunglasses, or Prizm lenses for Oakley. Lens coatings help repel water, dirt, oil and other grime for unobstructed views as well. And though not true for every performance lifestyle sunglass, many styles provide lenses with a little bit of extra coverage—just not so much extra that you’re back at those giant cycling lenses again.
And then there are frames themselves. The temple arms in performance lifestyle sunglasses are often tipped with rubber material that becomes grippier when wet or sweaty, so rather than slip off your face on hot days, the sunglasses stay firmly in place. The same goes for the nose, getting a rubberized treatment, and sometimes an adjustable nose bridge as well.
Most brands that make cycling sunglasses also make lifestyle eyewear. Take a look around for a pair that fits your style and keep an eye out for the features described above. Here are some choices we like:
The POC Will is a nice take on classic square-shaped sunglasses, offering a slightly larger coverage and Clarity lenses for optimal contrast. It comes in black and tortoiseshell frames for those who like to keep things classic, or a light citrine orange or basalt blue if you prefer to mix in some color. This model is a favorite of a certain editor here at Around on Bikes who is a sucker for anything that literally has his name on it.
$130; 5 colors; poc.com
Roka Phantom Alloy
Performance aviators? Yes, please! The Roka Phantom Alloy proves you don’t have to sacrifice an ounce of style for performance eyewear. Made with Carl Zeiss lenses, rubberized touch-points and anti-fog/anti-scratch coatings, the Phantom is perhaps the most incognito performance eyewear out there.
$125-$175; 6 colors; roka.com
Like we said before, you can find just about any style of sunglasses made for performance riding. If round lenses are your jam, the Smith Range is a cool pair to look at. It gets a rubberized nose, although no rubber on the temple arms unfortunately, and features Smith’s ChromaPop lenses, which enhance colors.
$149-$179; 4 colors; smith.com