Riding Glasses 101

By Miller Langhorne

Cheap Sunglasses Are Not The Answer

You can legally ride without a helmet in Florida under certain conditions, but there are no exceptions when it comes to eye protection. Florida State Statute 316.211 states “A person may not operate a motorcycle unless the person is wearing an eye-protective device over his or her eyes of a type approved by the department”. What types are “approved by the department”?

In the Florida Administrative Code, which is the official compilation of the administrative rules and regulations for state agencies, you’ll find Rule: 15B-1.007 Motorcycle Eye Protective Device which says “The Department adopts and approves the following eye-protective devices for use by motorcycle operators. Each device must be in good repair, free of sharp edges or projections and made of a material suitable for ophthalmic use. It shall be free from cracks, waves, bubbles or any other defect which may impair its normal visibility. Any tinted device should not impair the wearer’s ability to see color and shall not be used at night.

1.    Goggles.
2.    Face shields designed for use with and as part of an approved helmet.
3.    Eyeglasses, including sunglasses. Contact lenses are not acceptable.

The rule basically says you ought to be able to see where you’re going when you’re wearing them. Fair enough, and even though a pair of cheap sunglasses might qualify as legal, there are four features that make some glasses better suited than others for riding.

1.    The lenses should be shatterproof and able to resist impact and scratches.
2.    The lenses should be optically clear and not impede your vision.
3.    The frame should fit securely and comfortably.
4.    The frame should not block your peripheral vision.

Lenses

Riding down the highway at 70mph and having a flying bug or road stone hit you upside the head can be annoying. Having that same object penetrate your eye can be disastrous. Riding glasses should have shatterproof polycarbonate lenses. They may crack but they won’t splinter. They should also provide 100% UV protection to shield your eyes from the sun. Polarized lenses have filters built in that will help reduce glare and eye strain though they can make some of the older LED instrumentation difficult to read. And, on less sunny days, glasses with yellow or orange-colored lenses will brighten things up.  Some eyeglass styles even have interchangeable lenses to match your riding conditions.  

Photochromic lenses, sometimes called transition, darken and lighten automatically according to the amount of light. Riders with sensitive eyesight may find these types of lenses don’t darken enough for them on bright sunny days but for many, these are the perfect glasses for day and night riding.

Frames

Eyeglass frames are made from plastic, nylon, metal, and a host of other materials. Buy whatever suits your style and budget but make sure they fit comfortably on your head, and under your helmet, and that they don’t impede your vision. Along with holding the lens securely, frames should also act as a wind and dust screen. This needs to be balanced with proper ventilation to keep the lenses from fogging. Fogging occurs when the temperature inside your glasses or helmet is higher than the outside temperature. The airflow keeps fog at bay so it’s usually not a problem when you’re rolling. During stops, it can become an issue. There are several anti-fog sprays and cleaning cloths available. Homemade remedies include liquid dish soap, toothpaste (make sure it doesn’t contain abrasives or bleaching agents), shaving cream, baby shampoo, potatoes, and even, spit. Before applying any of these techniques, the lens surface should be completely clean to avoid scratching.

Wrap-around styles are very popular for riding and offer the best protection but also have the most potential to fog up and can impact your peripheral vision if not properly designed for riding.

Many frames come with foam padding around the inside to help protect your eyes in windy or dusty environments. The padding comes in two forms, closed-cell and open-cell foam. The closed-cell is usually more expensive but it is stronger, will resist moisture, and gives a tighter fit. The open cell is softer but may allow water inside if you’re riding under wet conditions. On some eyeglass styles, the foam padding is removable.

Goggles

You’ll get your best eye protection from wind and road debris with a good pair of goggles. By completely enclosing the eye, they keep out wind, dirt, and dust. Just like eyeglasses, you can get a variety of lenses to fit your style. Goggles usually fasten to your head with an adjustable strap and there are some that will fit over prescription glasses.  

Helmets and Glasses


If you’re wearing a full-face helmet and riding with the face shield down, you don’t need additional eye protection. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea. Many shields are clear and sunglasses will protect your eyes and help you see better on bright days. Glasses should fit comfortably under the helmet and they shouldn’t distort color or clarity when you’re looking through the visor. Fogging can also be a problem under certain weather conditions or if the helmet isn’t properly ventilated.

Prescription Glasses

If you wear glasses all the time, your prescription glasses will meet the legal requirements and you’re good to go. However, unless the lenses are shatterproof you should wear a helmet with a shield, or riding glasses designed to fit over prescription glasses. Make sure the helmet fits comfortably and doesn’t put pressure on your eyeglass frames.

Care and Cleaning

If you want the best performance from your eyeglasses, avoid the temptation to casually toss them in the saddlebags between rides. A hard case or microfiber pouch should be used to keep them from being scratched. If you use the pouch to clean your glasses, use the inside of the pouch to avoid any dirt that may have attached to the exterior. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and only use their recommended cleaning solutions.

Emergency Eye Treatment


If you suffer an eye injury do not rub your eye. If it’s a small speck of dust or dirt try to wash it out with your own tears or eyewash. If you suffer a blow to the eye, apply a cold compress but don’t exert pressure on the eye. If pain, swelling, discoloration, or vision problems occur or if your eye is cut or punctured, seek medical treatment immediately.

Seeing Is Believing

Your eyesight is one of your most important senses, and without it your riding days are over. We’ll never know for sure how many motorcycle fatalities were caused because the rider was wearing riding glasses that weren’t doing their job. Don’t let it be the reason you crash.


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