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Best mountain bike sunglasses: The best MTB sunglasses to improve your trail vision

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Best mountain bike sunglasses
(Image credit: Smith Optics)

The best mountain bike sunglasses will truly make your ride, whereas a bad pair can ruin your day out. Look for features that will enhance your ride and make it a lot more enjoyable, such as polarized lenses and anti-fog designs. 

Sunglasses don't just protect against the sun's harmful UV rays, they also protect your precious eyeballs from dust and trail debris, such as rocks and sticks. Plus, they can make you look great as well. 

With all of these considerations in mind, Bike Perfect has compiled a list of the best mountain bike sunglasses out there today. Unsure what to look for? Well, we run down everything you need to look for in a pair of mountain bike sunglasses below.

The best mountain bike sunglasses

Smith Optics

(Image credit: Smith)

Smith Wildcat

Best for maximum coverage optics and an exceptionally stable fit

Lens type: ChromaPop | Frame type: Full frame | UV protection: Yes | Changeable lenses: Yes | SRP: $209 / £165 / €199

Goggle-style coverage at a glasses weight
Brilliant optics
Stable, adjustable fit
Premium price
Lenses scratch relatively easily

Compared to average glasses the Optics are absolutely outstanding. While recent weather means we’ve not had a chance to wear the dark ChromaPop lens in the Wildcats, we’ve worn them loads in Squad goggle guise. We’ve always loved the clarity they deliver and how fresh they keep our eyes feeling even in changeable conditions. Considering the full wraparound coverage and the flexible/replaceable frame design the complete lack of distortion from the '5 base' cylindrical lens is exceptional, too. That particularly helps in low light or long day situations where eyes can get confused more easily and have to work harder to assess the trail and surroundings.

The amount of coverage - particularly with the nose spread to bring them in close - is right up there with a mid-sized goggle, too. Obviously, the frame edges aren’t completely sealed against roost or rain but you’ll definitely find you’re blinking a lot less when things get wet or filthy. They shed water off the lens pretty well too and there’s certainly no reduction in the totally solid fit security when wet. 

Smith Optics Wildcat review

Koo Demos

(Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Koo Demos

Wide wrapping lenses for great coverage

Lens type: Zeiss | Frame type: Full | UV protection: Yes | Changeable lenses: No | SRP: $179 / £139 / €149

Brilliant Zeiss optics
Firmly stable
No upper edge gap
Decent ventilation
Lenses can't be changed
Large gap between glasses and face
No clear lens option

Koo is the sunglasses partner for the helmet manufacturer Kask, and has a small range of sunglasses from casual to premium on- and off-road performance models. Spectros and Demos are at the top of this range, with the Demos being more orientated to off-road use, whether that's mountain biking, cyclo-cross or adventure riding.

They come with a fixed Zeiss lens that wraps around the face to give better peripheral vision. The lens is vented and the glasses sit reasonably away from the face to keep them fog-free, although it does invite the possibility of more dust, bugs or debris getting inside.

Thin arms, two-position adjustable nose piece, ribbed nose pieces and Megol elastomer strips meant they played well with helmets and stayed securely in place when riding.

Koo Spectro and Demos cycling sunglasses review

Merida Race 3 sunglasses

(Image credit: Graham Cottingham)

Merida Race 3

Merida shows that eye protection doesn't need to cost a fortune

Lens type: PC toric lens | Frame type: Half frame | UV protection: Yes | Changeable lenses: No | SRP: $TBC / £30 / €TBC

Decent eye coverage
Vented lenses help avoid fogging
Adjustable nose piece and arms
The heavy tint is perfect for very bright days
Close fit doesn’t suit larger faces
Lenses are untreated and prone to smudging

The best mountain bike sunglasses come at a premium which isn't always justifiable for all riders, especially when all it could take is one crash to write off your nice eyewear. Merida fills this gap with its Race 3 half-frame glasses which come with some neat features for a very affordable price.

The mirrored lenses aren't treated, so are prone to finger smudges, however they offer a dark tint that's great for very bright conditions. The lenses are vented to stop fogging and have a mirrored finish for a premium look despite the less-than-premium price.

They do sit very close to the face though, so are better suited to riders with smaller heads. The frames are made from TR90 thermoplastic, which is flexible enough to help with fit and the thin arms are adjustable and sit well with helmets.

Oakley Radar EV Advancer mountain bike sunglasses

(Image credit: Oakley)

Oakley Radar EV Advancer

A great option for humid rides

Lens type: Prizm | Frame type: Half frame | UV protection: Yes | Changeable lenses: Yes | SRP: $216 / £176 / €197

Advancer nose piece helps de-fog
Prizm lenses enhance color and contrast
Hydrophobic coating only on the outside of the lens

The Oakley Radar has been one of the most popular mountain bike sunglasses for some time. A few years back, Oakley launched the EV or extended vision version, and now it has adapted the no-fog Advancer nose piece to the platform. With a vented lens, the Advancer nose piece can push the spectacles a few millimeters away from your face with the flip of a switch to improve airflow behind the lens.

For the latest iteration of the Radar, the EV Advancer features a new larger lens cut that extends coverage, and a more rounded lower edge to make it less likely to cut your face in a crash. The nosepiece and ear stocks feature the brand's Unobtanium rubber which gets tackier as you sweat, and the glasses are available with Oakley's Rose Prizm Trail lens.

Smith Ruckus mountain bike sunglasses

(Image credit: Smith)

Smith Ruckus

The most hassle-free lens swapping system on the market

Lens type: ChromaPop | Frame type: Frameless | UV protection: Yes | Changeable lenses: Yes | SRP: $159 / £199 / €189

Easy swap lenses
ChromaPop lens offers best-in-class optical clarity
Prescription lenses available
Huge lens likely to swamp small faces

The Ruckus is the latest evolution of Smith's PivLock easy-change system. The lens is changed by rotating the arms 90-degrees and inserting the egg-shaped nub into the new lens and returning them by turning them back down. The arms no longer fit directly into the lens, now they go into a reinforced plastic mount on the edge of the lens, a welcome improvement as it was easy to scratch the lens with the previous system. 

Smith's color blocking technology is called ChromaPop and filters two specific wavelengths of light (blue and green, and green and red) that cause color confusion. The brand says this allows for improved definition, more natural color, and unmatched clarity, allowing your eyes to pick up more detail. 

The Ruckus comes with two lenses: a dark mirrored lens; and a Contrast Rose Flash lens.

100% S3 mountain bike sunglasses

(Image credit: 100%)

100% S3

The best sunglasses for changeable light conditions

Lens type: HiPER Multilayer Mirror Lens | Frame type: Half frame | UV protection: Yes | Changeable lenses: Yes | SRP: $195 / £169 / €210

Lightweight
Suited to smaller faces
Photochromic lenses
Pricey

Over the past few years, 100% has gone from a company best known for its motocross gear to a cycling powerhouse with a sizable range of performance sunnies. 

For the brand's latest S3 model, 100% took features from two of its previous products to create one of the best mountain bike sunglasses on the market. The S3 uses the understated brow from the S2 model and borrows intake vents from the Speedcraft sunglasses.

The S3s are offered in a range of color options and feature hydrophobic and oleophobic lens treatment, which repels water, oil, and dirt from the scratch-resistant lens. 

Bolle Shifter mountain bike sunglasses

(Image credit: Bolle)

Bolle Shifter

Best for those who need prescription sunnies

Lens type: Phantom Vermillion Gun | Frame type: Full frame | UV protection: Yes | Changeable lenses: No | SRP: $170 / £150 / €170

Distortion-free lens with anti-fog
Every lens option available on prescription
Retro style might be too out there for some

We love the retro style of the Bolle Shifter. In fact, Bolle styled the Shifter after the iconic Chrono Shield model, however, even with its roots in the 1980s the Shifter is not devoid of modern technology.

The Vermilion Gun lens uses Bolle's Phantom NXT technology, which boasts both photochromic and contrast, improving technology. The lens also gets an anti-fog treatment, which in combination with the vented lens can prevent you from getting misty even on slogging slow climbs. Even though the frame goes all the way around the lens, it's located well out of your line of sight, even in the riding position.

Best mountain bike sunglasses: What you need to know

With so much choice out there, it can be really difficult to make a decision. Luckily we're here to help, so if you're struggling to figure out which mountain bike sunglasses would suit your needs more, here is everything you need to think about first.

Coverage

When it comes to protecting your face from errant trail debris and stabby branches, the larger the lens, the better the coverage. However, too big, and not only will you look like the third member of Daft Punk, but your glasses will likely interfere with your helmet. 

Ideally, the best mountain bike sunglasses have some curvature to wrap around your face for a bit of side protection but also to prevent wind and light from sneaking around the edge and making your eyes water.

Lens

Leave your sunnies with glass lenses at the trailhead. We love a good set of Ray-Bans or other fashion-focused shades, however, if they have a glass lens, you're putting your eyesight in danger. At the risk of flogging a dead horse, the primary duty of eyewear on the trail is to protect your eyes, so when that pebble your riding mate kicks up hits the glass sitting in front of your peepers at 60kph, what do you think is going to happen? Instead, look for sunnies with polycarbonate lenses or similar impact-rated material that won't shatter into your eye.

Having the right color and tint lens is also going to make a huge difference in you seeing that slick root well before you ride over it. Lenses with amber or rose tints increase contrast and help your eyes pick out trail details. Photochromic lenses are also a good option, especially if your local trail network goes from wide-open meadows to thick tree canopy cover. 

Many optical brands are offering color filters on their lenses, like Oakley's Prizm and Smith's ChromaPop. Each brand's system is slightly different, but they all use special dyes to filter individual colors to increase contrast and for better detail recognition and depth perception.

Also, look for some type of hydrophobic coating at the very least on the outside of the lens. When moisture and oil come into contact with your glasses, whether it be from a stream crossing or sunscreen infused sweat dripping out of your helmet, a lens with this coating will bead and run off instead of smearing and obstructing your vision. 

It's also worth looking for a bit of venting in the lenses to prevent them from fogging as you slog up a steep fire road.

Frames

The frame of the best mountain bike sunglasses will largely determine their fit. Avoid metal-framed glasses as they are not designed to withstand any kind of impact, and in a crash, they will create sharp edges around your eyeballs and face. 

The majority of riding glasses are half-frame, meaning the frame will connect to the lens on the top half, leaving the bottom edge exposed; though a new crop of riding sunnies like the Oakley Flight Jacket and Ryders Roam see the frame run along the bottom edge of the lens. There are also plenty of full-frame and frameless glasses too.

Touchpoints

A good pair of glasses should only touch your nose and your head just behind the ears. You want to look for a rubber nose piece with a bit of adjustability built-in, and the ear stocks should have plenty of length, but shouldn’t be so long they interfere with the retention system on your helmet.

As these three points are what keep your glasses stuck to your face, in addition to the rubber nose piece look for grippers on the ear stocks, which should provide enough tension to hold the glasses on but not give you a headache.

Colin Levitch

Born and bred in Colorado, and now based in Australia, Colin comes from a ski racing background and started riding as a way to stay fit through the summer months. His father, a former European pro, convinced him to join the Colorado State University collegiate cycling team, and he hasn't stopped since. It's not often he pins on a number nowadays, and you'll likely find him in search of flowy singletrack, gravel roads and hairpin corners. Colin has worked at BikeRadar.com and is a regular contributor to Australian Mountain Bike and Cyclist magazines. 

Rides: BMC Team Machine SLR01 Trek Top Fuel 9 Ibis Ripley