Cycling sunglasses–why I like Oakley; Polarized vs non-polarized?
Any cyclist who spends even moderate amounts of time in the saddle will attest to the fact that sunglasses are a critical bit of kit. Sunglasses do much more than protect cyclists’ eyes from UV rays: they help us better discern road hazards and help protect our eyes from eye-drying wind, stinging rain, dust, bits of gravel and flying insects.
Because clear vision is one of the most important–if not the most important–safety considerations for cyclists, I do not skimp when it comes to eyewear.
Over the years I’ve tried many different brands and styles of cycling sunglasses: everything from low cost, off-brand products to top-of-line Oakleys. Yes, Oakley sunglasses are expensive, but in my opinion they are worth every cent. I’ve been using Oakley exclusively for more than two years now, and I have logged well in excess of 1,000 hours in the saddle with various Oakley models. They are well-made, the optics are a cut above anything else I’ve tried, they look fantastic and they hold up to a surprising amount of abuse.
There are a dizzying array of Oakley sunglasses from which to choose. In fact, the massive selection combined with all the available options and styles can be fairly overwhelming to the first time Oakley shopper. This isn’t helped by Oakley’s marketing terms, which include meaningless words like “O Matter”, “Polaric Ellipsoid”, “Unobtainium”, “Plutonite” and “Iridium”.
Personally I prefer Oakley’s Radar Path line for cycling:
Here’s a quick rundown of the Oakley marketing terms mentioned above:
O Matter: Oakley’s lightweight, but strong, frame material.
Polaric Ellipsoid: A fancy way of saying that the lenses don’t distort at the periphery.
Unobtainium: Oakley’s replaceable nose pads.
Plutonite: Oakley’s lens materal. Filters out 100% of UV rays, impact resistant to ANSI Z87.1 standards.
Iridium: Oakley’s optional lens coating. This coating reduces glare, and makes the outside of the lenses mirrored in appearance.
So, in addition to all the style choices and various options offered by Oakley, you can also select polarized lenses if you like.
I own a few pair of Oakley sunglasses, and included in my collection are a pair of Radar Path Iridium Polarized and I also have the non-polarized version of those exact same lenses (the lenses are interchangeable).
The upcharge for polarized over non-polarized is significant (about $100), so the question is, are polarized lenses worth it (or even desirable) for cyclists? You may be surprised that I actually prefer the non-polarized lenses for cycling!
Simply put, polarized lenses help reduce glare. It’s important to note that lens polarization has absolutely nothing to do with UV filtering (all of Oakley’s lenses filter 100% of UV rays). Lens polarization is a critical feature if, for example, you’re a lifeguard, or sitting on a boat all day long.
As a cyclist, I find that the polarized lenses make it a little tougher to discern standing water from dark stains on the roads. Also, lens polarization makes it much more difficult to view the screen on bike computers. When I wear polarized lenses I have to sort of look “under” the lenses to see my Garmin’s display clearly. With the non-polarized lenses, the display on my Garmin is much easier to read.
My suggestion for cyclists who spend a fair amount of time in the saddle is to spend the extra money on a high quality pair (or pairs) of sunglasses, but save some cash by skipping the lens polarization option.