Aside from a helmet and some air in the tires, there’s one thing I can never ride without: proper eyewear. The right glasses not only keep the sun from getting in your eyes, they can keep even more nasty things from snuggling up to your corneas, like low-hanging branches or pebbles tossed up from other riders. That’s why Ryders Eyewear builds its lenses from shatterproof polycarbonate, the same stuff they use to make astronaut helmets.
Now you can grab any old pair of shades if you’re chillin’ on the beach, but when you’re riding in and out tree canopies in all sorts of lighting conditions from bright daylight to overcast skies at dusk, those super dark specs aren’t going to help. That’s why I’m such a fan of photo-chromatic lenses like those found in the Ryders Eyewear Thorn. When you pop out of the trees into bright light they begin to darken instantly, dropping the amount of visible light transmitted from 76 percent to 27 percent. When you dive back in, they lighten up, albeit a little more slowly.
While the changes in light transmission are keeping your rods and cones comfy, the polarized, yellow-tinted lenses add definition to the trail. I will say you sacrifice some style points with the yellow lizard eyes, but if you can look past that (sorry, terrible pun) you’ll see it definetly works. Rocks and roots pop out on the trail, all while you’re safe from 100 percent of the UVA, UVB, UVC and any other nasty light that’s trying to ruin your ride.
The lenses in this model are also coated on the front with a hydrophobic coating that sheds water and prevents streaks so you can keep them on in the rain and still see when you inevitably get drops of sweat dripping down from your helmet. Meanwhile, the inside has an anti-fog coating that is permanent and washable so you don’t have to worry about it wearing off. I often have to remove my glasses because they fog up while I catch my breath at the top of a climb (pretty much every climb) but the Ryders lenses are set-and-forget. Check out this short video of the anti-fog treatment in action.
If you’re the kind of person who destroys your glasses, you can take comfort in the scratch-resistant coating on the lenses and the simple, sturdy plastic body. Plus they come with a soft lens-wipe pouch and a solid zippered case.
What I like best about Ryders Eyewear is that its products have all the technology of the fancy brands without requiring you skip a mortgage payment to get your hands on a pair. The Thorn lineup starts at $50 for the basic lenses and tops out at $140 for the top-level lenses. The black model we tested retails for $130.