As adrenaline-inducing as motorcycling can be, it’s inherently dangerous — and chances are, there are more consequences to inadequate preparation than you already know. Sure, a leather motorcycle jacket and a pair of reinforced jeans might feel like the perfect pairing for torso-to-toe coverage, but aside from steel-toe boots and a DOT-certified helmet, it might seem like there isn’t much room for additional protection. As one of the most undervalued protective accessories around, eyewear is often an afterthought. After all, most helmets that are worth their salt feature ballistic-imbued visors and protective elements that are tested, refined, and constituted to protect your peripheral-pointers — but what about those awesome, open-faced, cafe-style helmets that are all the rage? Aside from street-focused offerings that often relinquish their front-facing facades for the rush of the wind, modern MX-oriented and full-face peripherals often rely on goggles or glasses to keep your eyes protected.
As hard as it is to find a decent looking pair of goggles or glasses, you also have to factor in the types of materials used, durability and dependability for when things actually go south, and the types of environments that they thrive within. The truth is, street-oriented glasses and goggles might not transition well into the realm of motocross, and vice versa — some accessories are UV-protected, some feature ballistic qualities that are rated at certain levels, and others focus primarily on air and weather resistance. No matter what avenue you decide to pursue, there is a slew of companies that create the finest, custom-tailored eyewear for every different style, taste, and function — but the hard part is finding out which ones are actually worth the time. Below, we’ll outline some of the best eyewear the industry has to offer, but not before we break down the different aspects of the market’s leading protective distributors.
What To Look For
When it comes to protective eyewear, there are a number of different materials being used today, but as with anything, manufacturers will always prefer an affordable, tested, and easily reproducible type of construction over less-profitable avenues. While we’d like to believe that protective qualities take the top priority over shoddy builds, there are a variety of companies that look to appease the bare minimum when it comes to safety requirements, resulting in low-quality accessories. Depending on your state’s local safety guidelines, the minimum requisite qualities for a manufacturer could change, so it’s always best to do your research and ensure that the item you’re looking to pick up meets your local standards. This is a good first step to take when picking up any form of safety gear.
That being said, the vast majority of motorcycle gear brands that are manufacturing quality protective eyewear have opted to utilize polycarbonate lens constructions — in large part, due to the plastic’s durable traits. While it’s not scratch-proof, the thermoplastic polymer lends itself to a shatter-proof, impact-resistant construction that’s both reliable and inexpensive to produce. Because of this, polycarbonate is used in a variety of builds from low-quality peripherals all the way to the industry’s leading offerings — which means that, thanks to strict standardization of the plastic’s protective qualities — you never have to worry about “skimping” out on eye-protection because of your budget. While more expensive variants will feature more than a polycarbonate lens system (as in, additional foam reinforcement, higher UV protective qualities, venting dynamics, and significant strap architecture), it’s widely accepted that even the most rudimentary safety system is trustworthy, thanks to the standards set forth by the DOT.
While the majority of riders prefer a sunny, clear commute, it’s inevitable that they’ll be caught in one of the most difficult quandaries when it comes to motorcycling — as the early morning and late evening sun can often put a heavy damper on your relaxing ride. Nobody enjoys a face-full of vision-deterring sunlight, so individuals who are used to commuting during these problematic times of day often employ the help of specialized UV lenses to aid them during their journey.
When it comes to UV protection in motorcycle glasses and goggles, the technology behind the industry’s leading accessories doesn’t differ that much from normal eyewear. Polycarbonate lenses reflect much more light than a normal lens would, so an invisible dye treatment is often utilized in order to create a type of “sunscreen” for the lens. In the same way that sunscreen protects your skin from ultraviolet light, this treatment prevents the penetration of UV rays into the problematic areas of your eye, staving off cataracts and retinal damage. While most polycarbonate and high-index plastic lenses have this UV treatment built in as a standard offering, it’s always smart to double check the ratings and filter levels of the eyewear prior to purchase — that way, you can ensure you’re getting a set of prominent protectors that will be viable during the brightest legs of your commute.
Alongside UV protection, scratch resistant coatings are often employed to ensure adequate protection against outside influencers, allowing you to keep your vision clear and unobscured. Just like the aforementioned UV coating, most of today’s modern polycarbonate, high-index plastic, and Trivex lenses are incorporated with built-in scratch resistant treatments, relinquishing the need for consumers to do any heavy lifting when it comes to durable lens components. However, just because your lenses boast a scratch-resistant treatment, it should come as no surprise that no lens is “truly” immune to heavy damage. Treat your scratch-resistant lenses just as you would your normal, everyday glasses, and you should be well on your way to a long lasting companionship that will keep your eyes shielded from unwanted debris.
While it might not present itself as an immediate issue while you’re perusing the market for adequate protective glasses and goggles, it’s worth noting that fog protection is another trait that you should keep in the back of your mind. This is especially true in climates where cold weather commutes are a necessity for riders, since a warm face temperature and moisture-imbued breath can fog up your eye protection about as fast as you can start up your cycle. Luckily, companies like Opticote have introduced fog-reduction compounds that are used in excess within today’s modern protective industry, eliminating condensation and moisture before they have a chance to obscure your vision.
While the majority of today’s anti-fog compounds are applied directly to plastic, polycarbonate, and high-index lenses, spend an extra couple of minutes looking for evidence of their inclusion. “Opticote” and “Fog Free” are two prevalent types of anti-fog treatment that have been popularized by the riding community and have also found adequate use within the eyeglass community. These treatments work in unison to spread condensation evenly across the surface of the lens, rendering it invisible to the naked eye and denying buildup that would otherwise disrupt your vision.
The Top Contenders
Bobster Renegade Photochromic
Bobster’s Renegade Photochromic glasses are the perfect example of minimalist safety gear, sporting a 100% UVA and UVB protection to keep the sun from obscuring your vision, a removable closed cell foam structure, and an adjustable goggle strap for the utmost comfort during long rides. They also utilize a V.L.T 88% tint that gradually darkens to a V.L.T. 45% smoke color depending on the amount of sunlight they’re exposed to, offering you an auto-dimming solution that’s adaptable, no matter the situation. As an added precaution, the Renegade’s closed cell foam offers wind and weather resistance, ensuring a tear-free ride every time you hop on the dirt or blacktop.
SPY is a well-known name within the motorcycle and traditional cycling world, and their Sprinter glasses tackle both genres of riding with ease. They utilize the brand’s proprietary Happy Lens, which enhances contrast and colors, improves clarity during your daily commute, and increases both mood and alertness. To deal with excessive UV rays, the Sprinters can be obtained with Trident polarization, effectively reducing reflective light and protecting your eyes in the process. A scoop ventilation system ensures high airflow, while an interesting Grilamid construction creates a virtually indestructible barrier between you and the elements. Should you run into trouble and damage your cognitive companions, SPY has integrated an interchangeable 8-base polycarbonate ARC lens system that allows you to obtain an entirely new pair with ease.
British Customs EQ Knox Maska
British Customs’ EQ Knox Maska is an odd cross between glasses and goggles, but that doesn’t stop them from earning their righteous spot on our list. These heritage-inspired protectors utilize a high-strength polycarbonate lens composition, an anti-fog treatment on the inner part of the lens, and a durable, anti-scratch coating on the exterior to protect riders from any and all disturbances. A high-grade synthetic leather lines the outer edge of the lenses, while stainless steel hardware, a synthetic leather strap system, and silicone-enhanced elastic webbing provide the perfect combination of hard-wearing components to keep your valuable vision protected during your daily commutes.
Wiley X Brick Sunglasses
Wiley X is a trusted brand, whether it’s in the realm of military eyewear, protective firearm glasses, or motorcycle-approved elements. Their Brick sunglasses protect the wearer from dust, debris, wind, and back-lighting, thanks to Wiley’s technical “climate control” characteristics, while a removable eye seal and facial cavity seal your eyes away from any outside interference. Their extended design offers better peripheral vision for the rider, while also negating wind and dust due to an aerodynamic build. To protect from dangerous UV rays and eye fatigue, the Brick’s feature self-adjusting smoke gray lenses that either darken or lighten depending on your environment, as well as a durable composition that meets or exceeds the standards set forth by ANSi Z87.1-2010 regarding high-velocity impact resistance.
Liberty’s Pathfinder glasses are the perfect companions for safety and peace-of-mind, giving the rider a flexible, dynamic pair of eye protectors that will stand the test of time. A 6-base wrap-around design and strong injected nylon construction make up the primary composition of the glasses, while a comfortable TPR insert near the temple area is utilized for additional gripping capabilities that ensure a snug fit, regardless of whether or not you’re wearing a helmet. The Pathfinder’s Climate Guard technology features a flexible TPR rim that maximizes the rider’s protection against dust, water, wind, and debris, while a soft thermoplastic rubber lining offers the utmost satisfaction due to a hypoallergenic, air-flow focused design.
Ornamental Conifer Barstow
Ornamental might have broken the mold with their Conifer Barstow goggles, offering a handsomely defined silhouette that’s been inspired by the legendary desert races of the 1970s. As a commemorative piece of protective-wear that harkens back to the golden days of motorcycling, the Conifer utilize both vintage styling and modernized features to create the quintessential pair of eye protectors. A triple-layer moisture managing foam liner, flexible urethane frame, and anti-fog Lexan lens combine to promote a comfortable, durable build that’s full of defined character, while their form-fitting curvature and tailored lens shape cover all the bases when it comes to protective peripherals.
Deus 17 Barstow
Dues’ 17 Barstow goggles are a modern take on the classic silhouette, providing an experience that’s shocking similar to most other Barstow variants while emitting its own unique flavor. A well-designed premium strap and colorful blue and yellow adjusters give the Barstow a stylish presence when utilized with modern, open-faced helmets, alongside an open-ended design that offers riders the ultimate in peripheral acuity. A durable Lexan lens is integrated with an anti-fog compound to provide enhanced protection against moisture buildup, while a triple-layer face foam works to further dissuade nefarious elemental inhibitors.
100% Barstow Garage
100% is a trusted name when it comes to anything related to two wheels, and their Barstow Garage goggles are the perfect embodiment of one of the moto world’s classic, age-old styles. A minimal frame design and unique lens shape help riders to achieve maximum visibility and peripheral awareness, while a triple-layer foam construction and liner help to seal out and prevent moisture from penetrating the goggles during your commute. An anti-fog polycarbonate lens system and integrated pins allow for an adaptable silhouette, while enhanced upper vents promote the circulation of air to further prevent moisture from accumulating inside of the goggles. A detailed premium strap keeps the Barstow’s firmly adhered to your helmet of choice, providing a worry-free fit that can be adjusted to house a variety of today’s most popular styles.
Ariete’s Vintage goggles are the quintessential pair of heritage eye protectors, offering a handsome, stylish look, and high-tier safety qualities, to boot. The frames are made from durable chromium-plated steel and offer enhanced side vents for adequate airflow while riding. A natural leather interior and suede outer surface adorn the frame of the goggles, offering a weatherproof seal against the elements. To protect against harmful UV rays, the Vintage utilize a cylindrical lens that promises adequate visibility and clarity, alongside an anti-fog treatment that keeps your vision clear during the colder commutes. A durable double buckle system and non-slip silicone band ensure a safe, comfortable fit every time.
Union Garage Aviator T2/T3
Union Garage loves to focus on stylish vintage silhouettes that will catch as many eyes as possible while also protecting the ones that matter most — yours. Their classic Aviator T2/T3 goggles utilize a strong and dependable interchangeable polycarbonate lens system that will keep you focused on the roadway, while a comfortable molded plastic frame and built-in ventilation system offer an impeccable fit that’s bound to keep you cool and energized during lengthy rides. Leather padding and an airtight seal ensure adequate protection against the elements, while a durable silicone and elastic strap keep everything where it should be, regardless of speed.
15 Motorcycle Gear Brands You Should Know
While you may have copped some stylish goggles or glasses from a few of our favorite motorcycle gear brands, you’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg. Check out our guide to the best boutique motorcycle gear brands to explore a whole new world of innovative upstart workshops.