Eye protection generally comes in two forms, sunglasses or goggles. From the casual sunnies the endur-bros wear from the trailhead to the bar to the go-fast sunnies lycra-clad XC whippets prefer, sunglasses offer a light and well-ventilated solution to eye protection. Sunglasses have their issues, there are gaps around the sides for sticks and dirt to get in and are only as secure as their grip on your nose and ears. Then, of course, there are goggles. The best mountain bike goggles offer the most coverage and protection for your peepers.
Strapped on around the helmet, they fit snuggly against the face using foam padding with no chance of shaking loose no matter the rock garden. The trade-off for the added protection is goggles are quite a bit warmer than sunnies and aren't something you'll want to wear if you have a massive day of climbing ahead.
Best mountain bike goggles you can buy
Smith Squad Chromapop
Breezy MTB specs
Lens: Chromapop, Clear | Price: £85 / $85 / AU$150
Smith's Squad MTB goggles put ventilation at a premium, scrapping the thin layer of foam that usually covers the vents on the top and bottom of the goggles for max airflow. With an open lattice design and a wide nose bridge, the frame is soft and malleable to fit a wide variety of faces comfortably.
Each colourway comes with a tinted Chromapop lens and a clear lens and the swapping process is one of the easiest we have come across — both feature integrated tear-off posts and are treated with Anti-fog.
The Chromapop technology filters light at two specific wavelengths (blue and green, and green and red) that causes colour confusion. Smith says this allows for better clarity and definition, more natural colour to help you spot trail hazards faster.
Leatt Velocity 6.5
Bulletproof MTB goggles
Lens: Mirrored, Ultra Contrast, Clear | Price: £99 / $80 / AU$129
Leatt claims when you look through the Velocity 6.5's double-pane antifog lens, you have an unobstructed 170-degree field of view. The brand also says the injection moulded lenses are literally bulletproof, meeting the US Military Ballistic Impact Standard for impact, while the double lens keeps mist at bay.
The lenses themselves are tear-off and roll-off ready, and the pop-in-pop-out lens swaps are painless, but make sure you have a clean goggle bag ready because there will be fingerprints. Leatt also includes a removable nose guard for added protection.
Wide outriggers help with helmet compatibility, and the frames feature a dual-density compound that improves fit, seal and comfort.
Giro Blok MTB
No tunnel vision here but still plays nice with most helmets
Lens: Zeiss Vivid, clear | Price: £80 / $80 / AU$100
Lots of goggles have harsh angles and sharp points that make you look like something out of an 80's futuristic thriller. The Giro Blok, on the other hand, offers a clean aesthetic and a vast range of view. Designed around the brands ‘Expansion View Technology' the frame sits well out of the edges of your vision, and the cylindrical Zeiss Lens is available with the brand's Vivid contrast-enhancing technology.
In the box, you also get a clear lens, both of which have tear-off posts, and Giro even includes a 10-pack to get you started.
The frame itself is quite big, so if you wear a small helmet, the Blok might be a bit too bug-eyed. The inside of the goggle features triple-layer foam backed with microfleece facing to keep you comfortable for an entire day in the bike park.
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Well designed goggles that play nice with a range of faces and helmets
Lens: Prizm Trail Torch, Prizm Lowlight | Price: £195 / $210 / AU$270
No matter the product, anything with a big 'O' on the side is going to cost a solid chunk of change, but in our experience, Oakley gear is well worth the money and the Airbrake MX goggles are no exception.
The O-matter frame is high quality and features a broad nose bridge that should suit schnozzes ranging from honkers down to the button variety. The Airbrake also features a nifty version of the brands SwitchLock which allows for fingerprint-free lens changes.
Available in the Prizm Trail Torch, Prizm Low Light tints, the lenses are made from Oakley's Plutonite which offers distortion-free vision.
Best for those who are hard on lenses
Lens: Clear, Mirror, Vented Dual Pane | Price: £70 / $75 / AU$120
The 100% Racecraft goggles are actually motocross goggles, but other than staving off shotgun blasts of roost propelled by a 400cc engine, MX and MTB goggles need to perform basically the same task.
With outriggers connected to the strap and a flexible co-moulded urethane frame, the Racecraft work with a wide variety of helmets and faces. Looking through the goggles the field of view isn't quite as large as some of the Racecraft's competitors, and the tear-off tabs can sneak into your peripheral vision.
100% offers lenses for the Racecraft in 20-tints, which are surprisingly affordable at starting at £9 / $10 / AU$20 and you get a removable nose protector too.
Supremely comfortable MTB goggles
Lens: Clarity | Price: £60 / $70 / AU$140
POC's Ora Goggles are designed to interface with its helmets with no gaps or pinching around the edge, and the frame offers plenty of flex to conform to your face.
The Ora's actually come in two specs, a DH version complete with pins for tear-offs, and a trail and enduro version with no pins or foam over the vents for max airflow — POC sells replacement lenses with the pins. The Ora is also available with POC’s Clarity contrast increasing lens.
The foam is a microfiber backed three-layer foam which is soft against the skin and hugs your face to offer a wide range of view.
Obstruction free vision
Lens: Tinted and Clear | Price: £75 / $90 / AU$TBC
Scott has been making goggles for nearly half a century, and this experience shows with its latest Prospect Goggles. First and foremost, they are huge, measuring 50mm taller than their predecessor the Hustle.
The strap comes lined with silicon, and the articulating outriggers should make them compatible with just about any helmet out there, both full and open face. Scott has also opted for a wide nose bridge with generous padding which makes for a comfortable fit for noses big and small.
In addition to increasing the thickness of the lens, Scott has also updated its Lens Lock system, which uses four locking pins which go through the lens to prevent it from popping out in a crash. Unfortunately, this system works a little too well, and lens swaps aren't easy.
Melon Optics Parker
Best value for money goggles on the market
Lens: Chrome tint | Price: £40 / $50 (approx) / AU$72 (approx)
At the top, we said you get what you pay for when it comes to goggles, but there are exceptions to every rule, and in this case, that's the Melon Optics Parker. With the ability to customise the colour and design of the frame, strap and lens, the Parker MTB goggles can be tailored to suit your personal tastes, but also means spare parts are readily available.
The materials used aren't quite as premium as the likes of Oakley or Smith, but in practice, they hold their own with goggles double the price. For how closed the frames look, the ventilation is superb, fogging is a non-issue, and the field of view is pretty well unobstructed.
O'Neal Blur B50
Magnetic lens swaps
Lens: Mirror, Iridium, Clear | Price: £80 / $90 / AU$128
The near frameless goggle with a magnetic-based lens change system is extremely popular for ski and snowboard goggles, with at least a dozen brands offering a nearly identical version with their logo on the strap. O'Neal has traded cold smoke for brown pow and brought this design to the dirt with the B-50.
Instead of the lenses being secured to the frame with notches cut in the edge of the lens, the B-50 sees magnets on both pieces which allow the lens to snap into place. O'Neal makes the lenses in six tints, ranging from a Red reflective to clear.
Beyond the easy lens swaps, the other reason this design is so popular in the snowsports arena is it allows for a near-180-degree field of view completely unobstructed by the frame.
Everything you need to know
You get what you pay for, and goggles are no exception. There is a chasm in quality between a cheap set of goggles from a no-name brand and something from a well known optical company. More expensive goggles will feature interchangeable lenses and straps, higher quality foam and venting, and the lenses themselves may also have hydrophobic coatings and contrast improving tints.
With that said, goggles take lots of abuse and lenses are going to get scratched, so it's important to weigh the above against the price.
Goggles that don't interact well with your helmet or plug your nostrils because the nose bridge is too narrow are going to cause more problems than they solve. We recommend trying goggles on before you buy, and bringing your helmet with you to make sure everything works together.
If you ride sunny Southern California, a darker lens will leave you more comfortable, but if your trails snake through the trees with dense overhead canopy, light or even a clear lens will be the go-to.
Lots of companies have their own version of a contrast boosting technology, and they all work to varying degrees.
Depending on the lens, some brands will add hydrophobic and anti-fog coatings to their lenses, and these can be a godsend in wet weather or riding behind your rootsy riding mate.
Your lenses are going to get scratched, and there is not a whole lot you can do about it. When you're shopping for goggles, have a look at how much spare lenses cost.
5. Field of view
Tunnel vision is the last thing you want bombing down narrow singletrack. When you look through a pair of goggles, take note of if you can see the frame in your peripheral vision.