The Best Cycling Glasses of 2021
The best cycling glasses are one of those products that are all about style but they have to perform too. Not only do they have to perform but they have to perform in a huge range of conditions.
Most people think of sunglasses for summer riding. That’s just one aspect of the best cycling glasses but it is an important one. When it comes to summer riding there’s early mornings with low light. Keep riding through high noon and you might find yourself moving in and out of high contrast shadows. If you are lucky enough to have the fitness to keep riding then there’s evening twilight time. In some cases, there might even be night rides.
Cycling glasses have to cover a lot more than just summer rides. Even when the sun isn’t coming out, glasses are an important part of your gear. In the winter the short days mean you are more likely to be spending time riding in low light at either end of the day. Then in the middle of day the sun may never come out but you need to deal with weather.
Through it all there is also the wind to deal with. A fast descent leads with substandard glasses can leave your eyes teared up from the wind. It’s hard to see and a bit scary. The best cycling glasses are there for you through the sun, the low light, the wind and the rain. They are with you on the summer rides but also the winter rides.
With all that in mind, as we come through the first quarter of 2021, I have a couple of pairs of glasses that are my current go to options.
Smith Shift MAG
First up in my best cycling glasses of 2021 is the Shift MAG. I’ve used Smith glasses for a lot of years and ski goggles from them for even longer. It’s not all that important in the scheme of things but they come from a small town in Idaho, and so do I. They have a technical style to them and the important lens technology is Chromapop.
Chromapop is all about separating the colors out. The idea is to filter out the crossover between red, green, and blue, so that each color stands out more. It’s one of those things that you are sure must be marketing speech designed only to sell more glasses, then you experience it. It’s surprising how noticeable Chromapop is. The world just has a bit more contrasty and everything has a pop to it.
The Shift Mag is an evolution of other Smith glasses I’ve reviewed before. Just like previous Smith glasses you get multiple lenses and it’s easy to swap them. I used the Chromapop Black option paired with a white frame. This is a lens designed for the brightest days. Visible Light Transmission is only 10%.
When you need a clear lens there’s one included for an easy swap. The top of the frame is part of the lens and the whole lower section separates. This is a change but a good one as there are less pieces involved. The mechanism for swapping the lenses is at each temple and requires a gentle push along with a tug to pull the lens from the frame.
Highlights of the Smith Shift MAG for me come down to the shape of the lens and what’s included. The lens is large, as is the style these days, but it’s also very flat. The shape works really well to keep wind out of your eyes. I also tend to take advantage of the clear lenses for gravel cycling in bad weather. I know I won’t see the sun but I need my eyes protected. Smith includes both lenses plus a nice hard case that is excellent for traveling.
Adidas Eyewear SP0004
Whenever I am heading out for a full sun day, or a no sun day, I tend to grab the Smith glasses. The rest of the time I grab the Adidas Eyewear SP0004. It’s not a name that rolls off the tongue but it has a place in any list of the best cycling glasses.
Like Smith, Adidas has been a long-time favorite option for me. The reason that Adidas glasses are a go to is because there are very few photochromic lenses with a mirrored finish. Like most photochromic lenses, they don’t quite get clear. They also don’t get as dark as the darkest lenses out there. For any kind of middle ground though it’s a joy to use the technology. If you ride long enough to experience a shift in sunlight it means no stowing your glasses as the light changes.
Some of the other notable features on the Adidas Eyewear SP0004 center around the frames. Considerable thought has gone into the design of the arms so that the tip doesn’t touch the lens. This is typically one of the first places the best cycling glasses get damaged and it’s nice to see the consideration. Along with the thought for the frame arms you find consideration for ventilation at the top of the lens and a 4-position adjustable nose piece. You can use the nose piece to dial in the distance from the lenses to your face.
Finally, my favorite thing about these Adidas glasses has to be the style. It’s completely subjective but I love it. It’s contemporary look that I would actually be fine using them off the bike. Given that they come with an excellent hard case you could at least consider it if you are packing light for a cycling holiday.