Skip to content
Home » Bike Gear » Cycling Glasses » Buying Guides » Debunking the Myth of Expensive Sunglasses for Cyclists

Debunking the Myth of Expensive Sunglasses for Cyclists

Woman wearing cycling glasses while on a fat bike

This page contains affiliate links, and I may earn a commission if you use them. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Sunglasses are an essential piece of cycling gear to protect your eyes from sun, dirt, and bugs while out on the trails. However, popular belief states you need to spend big bucks to get proper protection and performance. This myth leaves many beginner cyclists overspending on designer shades instead of more important items like a helmet. The truth is, you can find high quality, durable cycling sunglasses built specifically for mountain biking at very affordable prices.

Cheap Sunglasses Provide the Same Eye Protection

A common myth is that you need expensive brands like Oakley or Smith to fully protect your eyes. But cheaper alternatives use the same lens technology to block 100% of harmful UVA/UVB rays, as explained in this article on sunglass eye protection. Less expensive sport models also meet ANSI safety standards that guard against impact, according to this piece on standards. As long as the glasses offer UV protection and impact resistance, they will properly shield your eyes on the trail.

The main difference between cheap and costly sunglasses is brand name, not performance. Even budget options from brands like Tifosi have complete safety features. They may lack minor comforts of pricier shades. But the protection stays the same. You do not need to overspend for essential eye defense.

Affordable Cycling Glasses Have Key Features

Beyond basic protection, many affordable sunglasses have features that aid comfort and function. These include rubber grips to prevent slipping, ventilation to reduce fogging, and swappable lenses to adapt to light conditions. Useful additions like these make cheaper shades perfect for mountain biking’s demands.

For example, a $30-40 pair from CoolChange has rubber pads to limit movement over rough terrain. They also have airflow channels in the frame to cut lens fogging. Plus, you get colored lenses to change for overcast days or brighter trails. These match premium brands at a fraction of the cost. This article outlines top budget cycling glasses with similar traits.

Customize Cheap Cycling Sunglasses

Another perk with affordable sunglasses is customizing them to fit your needs. Some budget brands sell frame-only then let you pick lenses. This allows options like polarization to lower trail glare or light reactive lenses to adapt to conditions. Mixing and matching builds cost-effective sunglasses tailored for your riding.

There are also accessories to modify inexpensive shades. For instance, LensCoat makes covers that snap onto frames to tweak size or function. You can get prescription lens inserts to use budget sunglasses without contacts. Customizing this way gets you ideal features for cycling glasses without the designer costs.

Used Sunglasses Provide More Savings

Looking to save even more cash? Consider used sunglasses via sites like eBay. Many brand names like Oakley or Native get listed deeply discounted after light use. As long as the frames and lenses have no cracks or scratches, preowned shades offer equal protection and visibility.

When buying secondhand, inspect images closely checking for damage. Also read seller reviews and item descriptions to confirm they work flawlessly, as suggested in this guide on used sunglasses. Purchasing from highly rated sources gets you quality glasses for a fraction of retail cost. Used products stretch your available budget.

Affordable Options Suit Mountain Biking

Do not fall for the myth only premium sunglasses give necessary protection. Legitimate sport brands have everything needed – blocking UV, meeting impact standards, useful features. Plus you can customize or buy secondhand inexpensive shades tailored for your trails at your budget. As this article explains, sunglasses really make a visibility difference biking. But shop smart so you do not overspend when that cash could buy a helmet or bike repairs. Sunglasses are essential mountain biking gear, but expensive designer brands are not.

Lens Technology in Cheap Sunglasses

High-end companies advertise advanced lens technology you need for performance. But much of this same technology got introduced years back and is now common and affordable. Basic UV protection first arrived in the 1970s. Photochromic or transition tint lenses emerged in the 1990s. More recently, companies developed hydrophobic coatings that repel water and grippy rubber nose pads around 2000. These and other key improvements provide in budget-friendly cycling glasses today. You get the innovations without the branding markup.

Photochromic sunglasses are excellent because at night they become near clear. That lets you use a single pair like two different sets of glasses, a great way to save money. However, if you are cycling at night, you’ll want to get night-specific cycling glasses since photochromic never get quite clear (more like about 15% tint) at night.

Durability Matters More Than Brand Names

While famous brands boast better quality, cheaper sunglasses can last just as long if you get ones made for sport usage. Key areas to ensure durability are lens coating, frame flexibility and lens interchangeability. Good UV protective coatings protect eyes while helping the lenses endure years of sun exposure without degrading. Similarly, frames designed with Grilamid or flexible rubber can bend slightly on impact rather than snap. Plus models with exchangeable lens systems permit replacing only damaged parts rather than whole sunglasses. Prioritizing these durable design elements over designer names ensures affordable shades that provide many seasons of reliable eye protection.

Prescription Inserts for Cycling Glasses

For those requiring vision correction while riding, you can purchase prescription inserts to use with cycling glasses. Companies like Ware offer inserts made with polycarbonate lenses attached to a durable frame sized specifically to fit within standard sport sunglass frames. You simply pop out the stock lenses and insert the prescription ones. This allows getting shades with all the ideal sport traits like polarized or photochromic options at a reasonable price, then modifying to meet your vision needs. So do not feel you must get custom prescription shades only from expensive sport brands. Affordable sunglasses plus rx inserts provide high performance vision correction for much less.

Kids Need Good Cycling Glasses Too

Parents seeking protective shades for younger riders face the same eyewear cost concerns. But the good news is you can get all the must-have safety and performance features for kids at budget prices too. Brands like RIVBOS or CoolChange sell youth models meeting ANSI standards with impact resistance, 100% UV protection and even interchangeable lens options all for around $25 or less. Some also include adjustable straps so they grow with your child saving added future costs. Compared to designer kids models running $75 and up, you get everything necessary for safe family mountain biking without big spending.

Women-Specific Design Options

Female riders also get stuck overspending on sunglasses not designed for their needs. But many affordable sport brands now offer women-specific options tailored for narrower faces and temple profiles at reasonable prices. Brands like &glassy and SportsHD provide stylish performance shades with comfortable match and premium traits like polarized and photochromic choices for just $45-90. That beats the $200+ price tags of big names like Smith Chartreuse. Do not pay more assuming only high-end companies make cycling sunglasses to fit women. Budget brands deliver here too.

Interchangeable Lenses Aid Visibility

Having extra lenses to swap for varied light conditions really maximizes safety and visibility for mountain biking. But often accessory lenses get pricey equaling the cost of basic sunglasses themselves. To save here as well, look for affordable cycling glasses offering lens packs. Brands like egofit sell a standard UV protecting polarized lens model for around $38 then provide accessory bundles with 2 extra lens colors/types for only $22 more. Compared to premium sport models, you spend less money while getting helpful added lens choices. Do not miss out just because the accessories cost too much.

Clever Carrying Cases Protect Glasses

With all the mud, dirt and jostling of mountain biking, keeping sunglasses safe when not wearing requires a quality case. But these too usually run $20 or more for big brands. Well-made but budget-friendly cases exist however from companies like Habit premium protecting frames and lenses just as well for under $15. Some even have useful extras like attachments for securing glasses to a backpack strap or chest harness. A little shopping around saves money so you can protect what matters most – your sunglasses and eyesight.

Shopping at Discount Retailers

Finally, keep costs low by checking discount retailers like Sierra Trading Post where overstock outdoor gear gets offered for incredibly low prices. Sites like these let you score true premium performance sunglasses from top brands for cheap costs – sometimes 50% or more off! It just takes patience waiting for sales on the styles you like. Signing up for email newsletters alerts you to big cycling gear price drops. Then you grab those coveted shades that perfectly match your mountain biking needs without straining the budget.

So do not buy into the myth expensive sunglasses are required to meet your cycling eyewear needs. There are countless ways to get durable, high performing shades with all the same great traits – UV protection, swappable lenses, durable builds – all for affordable budget-friendly pricing. You really can have it all protecting your vision and bank account thanks to cheaper but equally capable sport sunglasses. Ditch the expensive designer names and just ride happy!

About the Author

Tony K

Senior Technical Writer,

Tony K is a technical editor at He has a focus on downhill bike riding but still loves xc bikes too.

With more than ten years of mountain biking experience and more than 5 years testing mountain bikes, Tony has ridden and tested hundreds of different bikes and products, everything from XC to enduro bikes. Tony regularly competes in mountain bike races while seeing how long those compontents can hold up which gives me a lot of insight.

When he isn't shredding down a mountain or camping out, he is writing reviews for Mountain Bike Experience.

Rides: Surly Lowside, Canyon Exceed