While sunglasses can be a great fashion statement, their most important job is to protect your eyes – from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays and from debris that can injure your eyes or cause vision problems.
What You Need to Know About Ultraviolet Radiation:
What Eye Problems Can UV Radiation Cause?
The sun’s UV radiation is a major cause of sunburn, eye damage, and skin cancer. Some of the sun’s effects on the eyes include:
- Cataracts: a clouding of the eye’s lens that can blur vision the part of the eye that focuses light. An estimated 20% of cases are caused by extended UV exposure.
- Macular Degeneration: results from damage to the retina that destroys central vision. It is a leading cause of vision loss for older Americans.
- Photokeratitis: a sunburn of the cornea. This can result from long hours of bike riding without proper eye protection. It can be very painful and may cause temporary vision loss.
- Pterygium: a tissue growth over the white part the eye. Long-term exposure to UV rays, wind, and eye irritation from dry and dust can all contribute to the problem.
- Dry eyes: exposure to UV rays can dry out the eyes, cause eye fatigue and even accelerate the onset of other eye problems.
- Skin cancer around the eyelids is also linked to prolonged UV exposure.
The risk of eye damage from the sun is related to length of time and the intensity of exposure. There is no magic number for the time and intensity, as the sun’s radiation affects people differently. The effects are cumulative, so even short, frequent periods of exposure can lead to problems.
Types of UV Radiation
UV radiation from sunlight produces three types of rays:
- UVA rays – have the longest wavelengths and can damage your central vision. Specifically, these can damage the macula, the part of your retina at the back of the eye.
- UVB rays – have a shorter wavelength that affects the front part of your eye (the cornea and the lens), and can cause some forms of cataracts. Some UVB rays will be absorbed by the Earth’s ozone layer, and is diffused further by the time it reaches us.
- UVC rays – have the shortest wavelength and are mostly absorbed by the Earth’s ozone upper atmospheric layers.
Most of your exposure to UV radiation will be in the form of UVA rays, with a smaller amount being UVB rays. UV levels are also more of a concern for cyclists at higher elevations where the atmosphere is thinner.
What’s Important When Selecting the Best Sunglasses for Cycling?
Most Important Features:
When purchasing sunglasses for cycling or any outdoor sport, it’s important to choose a pair that matches your environment and your activity level. In addition to UV protection, sunglasses will protect your eyes from wind, rain, snow, dirt, dust, bugs, and other flying objects while you are riding. Here are the main things to consider:
- Look for sports sunglasses that block 100% of the sun’s UV radiation to keep your eyes healthy and prevent any problems.
- If you have a choice of lenses, gray is the best color for all-around use because it doesn’t change the colors that you see in your surroundings.
- Wraparound lenses or frames have several benefits:
- They offer the best peripheral vision, which is especially important for safety when riding in a group or in traffic.
- They help keep the wind from drying your eyes, while allowing enough air circulation to prevent the lenses from fogging.
- Choose polycarbonate lenses – they are virtually indestructible. They are also lighter than glass lenses and will not fog up as easily. Note: Plastic lenses can be susceptible to scratching, so look for quality lenses that have an anti-scratch coating.
- If you will be riding in different weather conditions, or using your sunglasses for other outdoor activities, you should consider sunglasses with interchangeable lenses. You can change the lenses to fit the environment, whether you’re cycling in bright sunlight, in cloudy overcast conditions, or need clear lenses when riding at night.
- If you are buying a quality pair of cycling glasses, make sure they come with a hard or semi-hard case to keep them safe. Ideally, the case should also hold all your lenses and cleaning supplies.
Which Sunglass Lenses Do I Need?
The lenses are arguably the most important part of any cycling glasses. Having a choice of lenses means that you can use your sunglasses in different weather conditions. Sunglasses with inter-changeable lenses will likely come with three different options. The color, or tint, of the lenses will dictate in what conditions you should wear them.
First, have a shaded lens with 100% UV protection for all-around use in bright sunlight. These should not be so dark that you struggle to identify the road surface when riding in a shaded or heavily wooded area.
Second, have a lens with an orange or yellow tint, which will highlight imperfections in the road surface when riding in overcast conditions. This will make it easier to see rough road surfaces and avoid any mishaps.
Third, the sunglasses should come with a clear lens that will protect your eyes when riding at night.
Wraparound lenses will give you the most coverage and help keep wind and debris out of your eyes (which is especially important for those wearing contact lenses).
Lenses with a hydrophobic coating are very useful when riding in conditions where sweat and precipitation can impede your vision. The hydrophobic coating repels water and sweat, and ensures that the lenses remain clear. Hydrophobic lenses are also less likely to get dirty or retain fingerprints, making it easier to keep them clean.
Finally, look for lenses with an anti-scratch coating to protect them from accidental scratches, especially if you’ve invested in good quality sports glasses.
Tips on Frame Selection
The most important thing to look out for here is a frame that fits well. The ear pieces should fit snuggly, holding the glasses securely in place whether you’re looking up, down, or swinging your head from side to side. However, the sunglasses shouldn’t be so tight as to be uncomfortable.
The nosepiece is also important to ensure a proper fit. Look for sports glasses with an adjustable nosepiece that can be shaped to fit the dimensions of your nose. You don’t want the glasses sliding down your face, which will happen if the nosepiece is too big, or falling off your face if the nosepiece too small.
Lightweight, half-frame and frameless cycling glasses with wraparound lenses will be your best all-around choice for the widest possible field of view. Lightweight plastic frames are safer and more durable than metal frames. While some cyclists prefer a one-piece design, a hinged frame might be your best choice since they can be easily stored in a compact, protective case for traveling or when not in use.
Amano Cycling offers high-quality Swiss Eye sports sunglasses for cyclists, runners, hikers, skiers, and other outdoor enthusiasts. They meet all of the above criteria and are manufactured according to strict safety standards. All models are optical class 1 and provide 100% UVA, UVB and UVC protection.