A Mini Buyer's Guide To Sunglasses

Stroll into a gas station, grab a pair of plastic shades near the register, and eight bucks later you've got all you need for a day's ride, right?

Maybe. But you should be putting a lot more thought into your sunglasses than just the price.

With all the buzz on screening your skin from the ravages of the sun, it's good to remember that your eyeballs need protection, too. Intense and short-term exposure to the sun's ultraviolet radiation (UVA or UVB light rays) can potentially cause a nasty burn to the surface of eyes. And long-term exposure can lead to more serious stuff like cataracts and macular degeneration. UV light is most intense from late morning to midafternoon (about 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and highest in the summer months. It can even damage your eyes on cloudy days.

Motorcycle glasses affect both comfort and safety, but many riders are guilty of choosing eyewear that matches their jackets better than their riding environment. We asked Dave DuMais, a licensed optician, long-time avid motorcyclist and the owner of ADS Sports Eyewear, for a few tips on scoring the right type of glasses for riding. Here's what he had to say:

Style it right:
Longer rides or higher speeds require glasses that'll prevent wind from swirling behind the lens and drying out your eyes. If you do most of your riding between stoplights, go for glasses that allow air circulation to minimize fogging and perspiration. Choose a frame that wraps around the side of your eye, too-smaller frames will deflect a stream of air from the lens right into your eye. The frame should also be built to withstand impact.

Material world: There's an endless array of lens choices available to motorcyclists, but many are duds. The right lenses should reduce eyestrain, improve contrast and quicken reaction time. You should limit your lens-material choices to polycarbonate or Trivex. These materials are naturally UV-resistant and are many times more impact-resistant than glass (though they can easily get scratched).

Polarized lenses are an excellent way to cut glare for a crisp view of the tarmac. There can be distortion when viewing LED instruments or with certain full-face helmets, but we still recommend polarized lenses for general motorcycling. Just realize that these lenses by themselves don't block UV rays, and it's crucial that your eyewear block at least 99 percent of both UVA and UVB rays (or state "provides 100 percent UV protection").

Photochromic lenses are becoming the hot ticket for people who want one pair of glasses to wear throughout the day and into the night. For riders more sensitive to bright light or those who prefer a dark lens, it's been our experience that the polycarbonate ones don't always get dark enough to do the job.

Color block: When pawing through the sunglasses rack, remember that lens color (dark or mirrored) doesn't necessarily mean better protection. In fact the darker the lenses, the greater the chance your pupils (dark part of the eye) will dilate and let in more damaging UV light.

Lens color is almost as important as polarization when trying to maximize clarity and contrast. Shades of copper usually provide the best contrast, and copper will also sharpen colors like reds and greens. Gray or brown lenses are best for maintaining true color but are really ill-suited for action sports. In low-light conditions (rain, dusk) a yellow or light-rust lens color can improve contrast. But at night you don't want any kind of color or tint-clear is the only way to go.

Wax off: Out in the field, using your bandana to wipe your shades is a no-no-even a slightly greasy rag can scratch. Go with that slinky microfiber cloth that came with your glasses. If you muck up the lenses with oil or dirt, rinse them with fresh water: Petroleum-based products can be corrosive to the frame and lenses. And leaving sunglasses on a hot saddle in intense sunlight, even if they're in a case, can make 'em warp.

Top Glass
Panoptx (which recently changed its name to 7Eye) and Wiley X each offer several models with a foam eyecup that protects your peepers from swirling winds. Both manufacturers also feature a venting system to manage airflow. While too much air will dry out your eyes, too little will suffocate them.

Wiley X offers the Motorcycle Climate Control series glasses, which sport removable, durable, symmetrically vented foam gaskets that lock securely into lightweight ANSI-certified frames. By creating a seal, the glasses are said to protect eyes from glare and irritation in challenging environments (like motorcycling).

Gatorz Eyewear and Harley-Davidson Eyewear also have styles that protect your eyes from wind and debris but offer a touch more circulation than the 7Eye or Wiley X models. These will keep you cooler and more comfortable at slower speeds or on shorter rides.

Harley has also just introduced a new line of Performance Eyewear featuring Carl Zeiss lenses, which are said to enhance your field of vision and clarity on the outer edges of the lenses, increasing your range of vision and reducing distortion. These Sola Sunlenses are also said to be more impact-resistant than standard polycarbonate.
-AC

Harley-Davidson Cylinder
7eye Diablo