MTB sunglasses/lens question

This seems like an easy issue yet something I’ve struggled with for a while …

What are the best type of sunglasses or lens for mountain biking?

More specifically: I live in the Midwest U.S. and I don’t MTB as often as I want, but when I do it is of the XC-ish variety heavily wooded areas with a lot of variable light … I.e. in and out of dense shade to bright sunlight and back again that makes it difficult to pick up trail characteristics quickly. My road glasses are too dark, and I thought I found a perfect solution with a pair of Zeal optics that I love, but they aren’t made for riding and I recently found out that they don’t shed steam very well and on warms days when climbing, they will fog up.

Any thoughts or recs on what is the best lens to best see trail characteristics when going from shade to light often?

Photochromic lenses. They lighten / darken based on available light. The set I have starts almost clear, and will get reasonably dark when it’s bright.

I like the Smith Attack Mag MTB, have like 4 different lenses, pretty easy to swap based on the conditions. I use them for everything Road and MTB.



Second on the photo sensitive.

These are my goto


Third on the photochromic. I have a pair of Ryders that adjust based on the light. It’s phenomenal tech.

It’s completely changed my need for multiple pairs. I used to keep one yellow lens pair and one dark lens pair, but this covers both sides.

Only problem is they get a lot more sweat and overall use because I use them for road, commuting, MTB etc.

Maybe I need two pairs after all :slight_smile:

I should add that even the most expensive glasses I’ve tried will fog up on humid days in the forest when I’m not moving very quickly.


+1 for photochromic lenses. I just bought a pair of Kapvoe from Alibaba for MTB because I kept scratching my overpriced Oakleys. So far so good


Photochromic, game changer for mtb. I have Photochromic from Ekoi
and they’re fantastic, but other brands will do the same.

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Yup, another vote for photochromic lenses. I have been riding them in every condition from bright, bright summer daylight to complete darkness.

The only caveat is that if you e. g. ride from bright daylight into a tunnel (= complete darkness), it takes a while for the tint to change. But that has not been an issue in the forests I have been riding in.


IMO a better option is to get sunglasses/lenses made particularly for mtb/gravel/etc. use. Oakley has many models that have the Prizm Trail or Prizm Trail Torch lenses. The Prizm lens technology performs much better than the photocromic lenses.


I used photochromic lenses for a while and had horrible experiences with them. They just did not lighten up fast enough. I broke a collarbone because I could not see anything when I dropped into a dark wood section of xcm race a few years ago. Glasses were Oakleys.
Prizm Torch is a great choice as is the light pink colored lens from Oakley.


Yes, these are much better than photochromic lenses. On forest singletracks, where treetops shadows are mixed with sunny areas, photochromic lenses simply don’t react fast enough. And if they did, it would be just flicker :slight_smile:

Also, I like Prizm Trail lenses for overcast days, it brightens up everything.


Oakley Prizm trail is my recommendation as well.


I’m a big fan of the Prizm Low Light for riding in forested areas (actually, I use the Low Light in all situations except full sun and full dark).


My favorite MTB glasses by far are the Oakley Radar EV Advancer with Prizm trail lenses. They don’t make them anymore though you can still find them some places.

I like the Prizm trail lens for similar reasons as others, but the ‘Advancer’ were a model where you can flip a little lever on the bridge and it moves the glasses away from your face. I’m an heavy sweater and it keeps them from getting sweaty (or foggy in certain conditions) during hot climbs, then I flip them back in for descents. ymmv


My 100% S2 glasses never, ever fog up. And I’ve had that issue with several pairs of glasses in the past, they are the best for anti-fog I’ve ever seen.

I’m in the Midwest also and prism trail work great for me


@BCM & @webdev511 how fast do they change “lightness” level or whatever? Like it’s flash-flash, in seconds? Or takes a few mins?

OP did mention he’s often popping in and out of bright sun, to shade, back to sun.

Not at all throwing shade on you guys […see what I did there?! :wink: ] and / or this idea, I just can’t figure they change fast enough to keep up w the changes in light level.

And would be super interested to see them! :slight_smile:

Below is my jam for low light, dusk, etc. They are polarized, and while the polarization isn’t quite as good as the dual-plane polarization on my million dollar Oakley’s, they really are impressive and cut the glare quite noticeably.

They yellow lenses something-something science, light wavelengths - our retinas = helps you see details like cracks, small stones, etc, much sharper and easier. And damn do they work strongly for that. The effect is night-and-day. Always pack 'em if I’m going to be out near dusk, or even if it’s just overcast in the middle of the day, and you get that sort of “washed - out, glare-y grey lighting” everywhere.

Oh… and they’re $ 20 CAD… :wink:

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None of them are fast. They aren’t so dark under canopy that you’re blind, I could use them for overnight races, but I’d prefer a yellow lens

Long ago Oakley used to make a persimmon tinted lens which was perfect. Blocked enough light to work in sun kept enough contrast to work under the canopy.


It’s not flash switch, but it’s gradual, but to be honest I’ve never had an issue with them going from extreme light to dark. The specific ones I have don’t get as dark on the bright sunlight end which is probably why. I ride shaded canopy to bright sun back and forth most of my rides in the summer.

I do have a bunch of the Smith ChromaPop lenses, which are probably their version of Oakley Prism, and in fact have one of their ChromaPop pink which is a good all around lens unless it’s super bright. Pretty easy to pick up a set of glasses (Why I like the Attack Mag MTB) and just get multiple lenses for them.

I am a sunglass junky too. Plenty of Polarized lenses for when I’m on the water (fishing / boating) or on snow. I use a yellow for most of my night skiing and racing under the lights.


This is valuable feedback, I’d just add that it really depends on where you ride. If you frequently ride right around the tree line (with inconsistent lighting conditions), I see that this is a much bigger problem. But if you stay in the forest or ride in areas with little tree cover, in my experience it is not a problem — apart from tunnels.

The disadvantage of Prizm lenses is that they are specific and I wouldn’t want to ride them at night, for instance. If your cycling glasses allow you to easily change lenses, you can just get different lenses for different riding conditions. (I wear prescription lenses, and one set of lenses cost me $800. Having multiple lenses is not a viable option for me.)

It takes many seconds. I haven’t measured it and it depends on how big the difference is, but I’d say 15–20 seconds if I go from full brightness to relative dark (e. g. entering a tunnel).

Polarized lenses are problematic if you want to use anything with an LCD screen.


True, while they are brighten cloudy dark days nicely, at evening dim or night darkness color distortion is very disruptive, especially with oncoming car lights.

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