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What to look for when you shop for the best motorcycle sunglasses

Best motorcycle sunglasses
Indian motorcycle
When you ride motorcycles, eye protection is a must. Sun, wind, rain, bugs, and gravel splashed up from other vehicles can ruin a good time fast. Whether or not you use a shield with your helmet, you still need protection for your eyes, so with that in mind, we present our guide to the best motorcycle sunglasses on the market.

The two main reasons to wear sunglasses are protection from impact and ultraviolet light. If you buy sunglasses with polycarbonate frames and lenses with ANSI Z87.1 and UV400 ratings, you’re covered on both fronts, in fact every pair we recommend satisfies these requirements. Everything else about choosing sunglasses is a convenience, comfort, or personal preference. What do these ratings mean? Polycarbonates are plastic polymer blends that are more impact, heat, and scratch resistant than regular plastic — they protect better, last longer, and are clear enough for optical use. The ANSI Z87.1 impact rating is the U.S. gold standard for safety glasses — Directive 89/686/EEC Category 3 is a similar European standard. UV400 rated lenses block both harmful UVA and UVB light.

Sunglass style is up to you, but your primary type of riding matters a great deal. A casual suburban street rider needs a different type of eye protection than a long-haul tourer who covers 800 miles a day, or an off-road mudder who seems to be happy with an inch-thick covering. That’s why we selected the best motorcycle sunglasses below based on riding style.

Should you buy manufacturer-branded sunglasses?

So why not just buy glasses sold by your brand of bike? That way you’ll show brand loyalty, and their sunglasses should be best for their bikes, right? Not really. First off, that concept doesn’t work because many companies don’t sell sunglasses — although their dealerships may. Second, wearing a brand’s label doesn’t mean sunglasses are necessarily good for any type of rider, let alone all of them. That being said, we’ve included some excellent sunglasses sold by bike makers in the sections below.

Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Triumph, and KTM do not sell sunglasses on their websites. BMW and Moto Guzzi each sell two styles of sunglasses, but only through dealers. Ducati, Yamaha, Indian, and Harley-Davidson all sell sunglasses on their websites and at dealerships.

Ducati sells one style online. The Merge Wrap-around sunglasses, $100, have arms and an interchangeable strap for wearing under a helmet. The Merge sunglasses have polycarbonate lenses and frames, but UV and impact resistance ratings are not listed.

Yamaha sells three styles of sunglasses priced from $5 to $80. One style of Yamaha sunglasses is listed as having polycarbonate frames and lenses, one pair is rated UV400, and the third pair has polarized lenses, which cut glare but can block some colors. None are listed as having all three characteristics.

Indian Motorcycle sells four styles of motorcycle sunglasses with prices that range from $30 to $100. All four styles of Indian-branded sunglasses, which are designed and manufactured to Indian’s specifications, have polycarbonate lenses and frames, have full UVA and UVB protection, and are Directive 89/686/EEC Category 3 certified for impact resistance.

Harley-Davidson‘s website displays a wide assortment of H-D-branded sunglasses ranging in price from $40 to $179. All H-D sunglasses are manufactured by Wiley X. There are 36 styles of Harley-Davidson sunglasses for men and 17 styles for women. Every style of Harley-Davidson sunglasses is ANSI Z87.1 impact resistance rated. While UV protection isn’t listed for their sunglasses on the Harley-Davidson website, according to a Wiley X FAQ, all of their lenses have 100% UVA and UVB protection.

In a nutshell, manufacturer-branded sunglasses are a mixed bag. Let’s run down the best options by category.

Best sunglasses for long trips and touring

If you spend long days (and nights) on the road, you need sunglasses with good wind protection. Odds are you’re already wearing a full-face helmet with a shield, but wind and dust can sneak in, so glasses with some form of foam eyecups will give you extra protection. Removable or replaceable foam inserts will save money in the long run.

Wiley X Boss Matte Black Frame with RX Rim and Gray Lens, $100

Best Motorcycle Sunglasses
Wiley X Boss Matte Black Frame with Rx Rim and Gray Lenses Wiley X

You can hit the long road with Wiley X’s Boss Frames, the right size for medium and large heads. The Boss line is available in various lens and frame colors, but we chose a matte black frame with a gray lens. We also selected the Rx Rim variant that supports a wider range of prescriptions than many lenses. The Boss frames have Wiley X’s removable Facial Cavity seal to keep out fine dust, pollen, irritants, and peripheral light. The Boss glasses come with a leash cord with rubber temple grips, a T-Peg elastic strap, and a black zippered case.

Best sunglasses for performance riders and cruising

Whether your concept of performance riding entails organized competitive racing or blasting from bar to bar, you want glasses that will stay on and stay straight so you’re not distracted by sliding. You also want unobstructed views, so don’t buy glasses with small lenses or heavy frames. Particularly if you do not wear a shield with your helmet, prioritize strength over everything else because hitting objects in the air at speed multiplies the impact. Birds overall are pretty smart, but they aren’t always good judges of motorcycle speeds — if you don’t wear a shield, pick extra strong glasses.

Here’s a fun fact from Motorbike Writer: Over a five-month period in Australia in 2016, there were 633 motorcycle accidents due to collisions with animals. Nearly 5 percent (28) were with various types of birds, from cockatoos to chickens. Also, because it’s Australia, 60 percent (380) involved kangaroos and almost 10 percent (60) were wallabies.

Performance Sunglasses by Indian Motorcycle: $100

Best Motorcycle Sunglasses
Performance Sunglasses by Indian Motorcycle Indian Motorcycle

Indian Motorcycle’s Performance Sunglasses have Photochromic Eclypse Polycarbonate lenses that change from clear to gray when hit by ultraviolet light in 50 seconds. Changing from gray to clear takes longer, according to Indian, from 60 to 90 seconds. The prescription-ready glasses have an anti-fog coating. A detachable, latex-free foam eyecup has a sweat resistant rubber seal over the foam. The eyecups keep wind and peripheral light from tiring and distracting you.

Best sunglasses for riding off-road

Mud, dirt, dust, plant life, and water are part of the fun and challenge. Off-road riding can be a blast and you might not mind getting splashed or splattered, but you don’t want gunk in your eyes. Depending on the weather, be on the lookout for sunglasses with antifog treatments and be mindful of heat buildup. Especially when you wear glasses (or goggles) that fully encapsulate your orbs, some form of effective ventilation is highly desirable. The last thing you want to do is to rip off and discard your sunglasses because of heat buildup — you just know that’s when a roadrunner or pheasant will suddenly do a face plant.

Harley-Davidson Echo Partial Polarized Silver Flash Performance Sunglasses: $149

Best Motorcycle Sunglasses
Harley-Davidson Echo Partial Polarized Performance Sunglasses Harley-Davidson

Like all Harley-Davidson sunglasses, the Echo Partial Polarized Performance Sunglasses are manufactured by Wiley X. The matte black frames with gray lenses are partially polarized to cut glare. The replaceable soft foam Facial Cavity seal blocks wind, dust, dirt, debris, and the cold, so you can keep riding. These lenses are prescription ready via a service offered through Harley dealerships.

Best sunglasses for casual riders

If you’re a new rider or you ride maybe once or twice a month, you can probably wear whatever sunglasses you want, as long as you stick with our basic recommendations of polycarbonate frames and lenses, impact resistance certification, and UV blocking. There’s no reason not to choose fully enclosed, replaceable EVA foam eyecups with extra ventilation, but maybe you don’t need to go quite that far.

Entry Sunglasses by Indian Motorcycle: $30

Best Motorcycle Sunglasses
Entry Sunglasses by Indian Motorcycle Indian Motorcycle

Even though Indian Motorcycle’s Entry Sunglasses cost much less than the other sunglasses we chose, they are definitely designed to protect motorcycle riders. The Entry glasses have a non-detachable foam eyecup to cut wind and peripheral light. Unlike the other pairs of glasses in this article, you cannot remove the eyecups for cleaning or replacing. Casual riders are less likely build up the heat, moisture, and dirt than riders who go farther, longer, and in adverse riding conditions. There’s nothing wrong with upgrading if you want to spend the extra money for higher performance sunglasses, but this pair should work very well for beginners at less than half the price.

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Bruce Brown
Digital Trends Contributing Editor Bruce Brown is a member of the Smart Homes and Commerce teams. Bruce uses smart devices…
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