I visited my optician last week and the time has finally come for me to start wearing glasses for driving. As a result of this I figure it is probably a good idea to start thinking about prescription lenses for my cycling glasses too.

Looking on the web, the prescription glasses that I'm seeing are basically "regular" cycling glasses (including regular lenses which may or may not be tinted), plus some kind of insert (clear prescription lenses) which seems to clip to the frame and sit between eye and frame.

The "insert" appears to be shaped to the frame, so it looks like I'd need to buy both glasses and insert, and possibly throw my current glasses away. (I'd rather not do this, but if I have to, I have to.)

I guess my first question, for anyone who already wears prescription glasses, is whether my description above is accurate or not? Second, does having this insert actually "work"? By "work", I mean being able to ride a bike at decent speed, for several hours, up hills, down dales etc. For example, do people experience fogging problems (moreso than you might with non-prescription glasses)?

My next question is more general, a kind of a technology rec. Are there other viable approaches to prescription cycling glasses, that I should consider? For example is it possible to get prescription tinted plastic lenses that will just snap into a frame? (my gut feel is that I would prefer this approach if possible.) [Edit - I've now seen that this approach seems to be available, albeit at a premium (especially as I'd want lenses in at least two colours).]

For the purposes of this question, it's fine to treat money as irrelevant, I can worry about this later.

Please note lastly that I'm not looking for any advice in the general area of cycling glasses here, I've been using them for years and think I already understand the pros and cons pretty well. It is purely the prescription aspect of things, I'd like to know more about.

  • Thinking out loud, I suppose my current cycling glasses, plus contact lenses, might be an option. But as someone who's never even worn corrective glasses before, the prospect of something sitting on my eye seems kinda creepy. I did not discuss contacts with the optician so have no idea whether they would even be appropriate for me
    – PeteH
    Jun 28, 2014 at 23:05
  • I use prescription cycling glasses with replaceable outer lenses. I find them to good for cycling and day time driving. I'm away from home at present - I'll post an answer with pics in the next 24hrs or so.
    – andy256
    Jun 28, 2014 at 23:52
  • What is wrong with using 'regular' glasses and 'regular' prescription sunglasses? Jul 11, 2014 at 19:08
  • @whatsisname nothing wrong with that, except I specifically wanted to explore options with cycling glasses
    – PeteH
    Jul 12, 2014 at 16:10
  • Never did get to posting that answer.
    – andy256
    Jul 14, 2014 at 23:42

8 Answers 8


I'll answer you comment on contacts, as I think you should investigate it.

I had the same dilemma a year ago. After wearing glasses for a couple of years for close up stuff, I was getting to the point I needed glasses while out on the trail. I looked around at options and decided to go down the contacts path. I now wear contacts in weekends and while riding, and have progressive lens glasses for work (computer based) that are suitable (although not ideal) for driving and distance. The glasses offer much better performance when its not raining, muddy etc, but when outdoors (biking, fishing, skiing etc) in all weather, contacts win hands down.

I suggest you discuss contacts this with your optician. There are a vast range out there, from one time use that you take out an throw away to monthly lens than can be left in for a week. Your optician will discuss the in and outs of different types and what suits you, and try various combinations till you get one that works. He will teach you to put them in and take them out - all the stuff that is "creepy" is dealt with - You get shown how to do it properly (and safely), and will be taught how to do it. Although not for everyone, I found it easy to learn to do.

I know you said cost is not an issue - that is good. Contacts are not cheap - initial fitting costs (where they also teach you how to look after your eyes and the lenses) - and cost of the contacts and cleaners mean glasses work out much cheaper.

You may also want to discuss lazer surgery with your optician.

  • Thanks very much for this, you're raising things here I hadn't even thought of yet.I need to go back next week to pick up the regular glasses, so will have that conversation with them. It's unlikely that cost will come into it because I think the "glasses with lenses" route will also work out expensive, especially if transition lenses are involved
    – PeteH
    Jun 29, 2014 at 5:13
  • 1
    Contacts (which I'd recommend, I've used them for years) cost me about GBP 17/month - and I have some astigmatism, so can't get the cheapest. That's from Tesco, so there's some after care (15 GPB/year, I think) and possibly sight test costs to consider. These ones are great - monthly disposables, put them in, forget about them. I sleep in them, swim in them - not recommended though, and take them out less often than I should (it's recommended you take them out overnight every week or so). Jul 1, 2014 at 14:04
  • I've marked this as "accepted" simply because this answer enlightened me the most. As it happens I had the discussion with the optician and we agreed that while contacts would not be impossible, I'd end up just putting a lens in one of my eyes (for distance, my close up vision is still very good). He made it sound like something of a faff. Even the glasses I got, I have to take them off for close up stuff like computers. So, for now, I've gone down the glasses route. Prescription, transition Bolle Tempest cycling glasses cost GBP300 (USD400ish?)
    – PeteH
    Jul 11, 2014 at 16:10

I have a pair of Oakley Fives with prescription and transition lenses. They're ideal for cycling. I don't have to worry about changing lenses, as they are always the right shade.

I'm really happy with them and couldn't recommend them highly enough.

Also see this answer for a slightly different context.

  • Thanks for this. Can I ask about the range of transitions? I frequently ride with just clear lenses, sometimes dark-ish brown tint in the sunshine. I have a couple of "in between" lenses but tend not to use them. Do your lenses cover that kind of range? Also, do you know if the transition lenses are polarizing? If not, do you have any issues with glare? Thx.
    – PeteH
    Jun 29, 2014 at 7:45
  • My lenses are not polarised. I've ridden in all conditions from complete darkness to a bright sunny day and haven't had any problems.
    – Mac
    Jul 3, 2014 at 2:46
  • If the site allowed me to accept two answers, I would have accepted this as one of them. With some further research I found an optician only around 10 miles away who was able to help. Not with Oakleys but with Bollé Tempests - the same kind of transition glasses though. (I've been wearing non-prescription Bollé eyewear for cycling for many years, but had no idea of the prescription side of things until I started digging.) Thanks once again.
    – PeteH
    Jul 11, 2014 at 16:23

Just wanted to put something down about the path I eventually chose, in case it helps anyone in the future.

Having talked once again to my optician we agreed that contact lenses would probably not be best for me at the moment. My vision is fine close-up, it's really for distance that I need the glasses. The glasses I have, therefore, are great for driving, but I have to take them off completely when on the computer, say.

In the world of contact lenses, this would basically equate to putting a lens in one eye, and leaving the other eye clear. This in turn would stuff up my depth perception.

So, for the moment, I have gone down the prescription cycling glasses route. The brand I went for was Bollé, purely because I have been using that brand for years so I trust them. I invested in a set of transition lenses purely to try and get away with a single pair of glasses for all conditions - as it was they were horrendously expensive, 300GBP in total with the split being 60GBP for the frame, 240GBP for the lenses.

Added: transition lenses were too dark for winter days, had to buy clear lenses to go with them. More cost, but it was a good move to buy glasses which support interchangeable lenses.

  • Yep, that's expensive. From what you say they're standard glasses with transition lenses. Is that right?
    – andy256
    Jul 14, 2014 at 23:46
  • @andy256 they're a standard frame, but prescription, transition lenses. At the price, I am hoping that the transition aspect will save me money in the long run by allowing me to use the single lenses for all riding conditions. My "normal" (pre-prescription) cycling glasses, I have a few sets of non-transition lenses which I swap according to conditions - mainly I use either clear or brown shade. My hope is basically that the new glasses will go sufficiently clear to allow me to ride in winter.
    – PeteH
    Jul 15, 2014 at 6:12
  • Let us know how well they work after a while.
    – andy256
    Jul 15, 2014 at 6:37
  • @andy256 glasses are great - as you'd expect for the money. I particularly lke the wrap-around aspect which, to me, makes them the best glasses I have. For cycling, driving.....everything important. But I did need to get a second pair of lenses to cope for low-light conditions. I think the range of light in the UK is just too large for one set to satisfy.
    – PeteH
    Nov 14, 2014 at 10:26

I believe that you can get proper Oakleys with prescription lenses.


  • Thanks, I'm just looking at these glasses now. I think if nothing else, these glasses kick the "inserts" approach into touch, I had some reservations with that as regards airflow and fogging.
    – PeteH
    Jun 29, 2014 at 7:24

I used the Oakley prescription M-Frame for years, quite happily, but discovered a few details that may help you.

Initially, one of my lenses wasn't correct, and it took the eye shop a few minutes to figure it out because they couldn't measure the prescription off the lens like they normally do. The M-Frame (and probably other cycling glasses) curve so much that Oakley has to run the prescription through their own formula to define the grinding. It works great and gives you a beautifully wide field of clear vision, but somebody hand-transposed my astigmatism correction from 180 degrees to 108 degrees at Oakley. They fixed it without hassle.

Also, due to the curve of the M-Frame, the prescription lenses are an insert in a shield that has holes for them to pop into. Looks slightly funny, but not bad, and they look great from your view. The caveat is that the shield would always develop a small crack below the lens, likely due to different amounts of flex in the lens and shield. I dubbed them "Broke-leys", because I had to send them back in several times for repair, but they never argued with me and eventually I went the Lasik route and left the problem behind.

Here's what the M-Frame insert approach looks like: enter image description here

  • Thanks for this. It gives me food for thought especially in the quite basic question of dealing with a shop or buying online. I'm sure your issues would have been more difficult to resolve had a shop not been involved. It poses a bit of a problem for me because I'm not sure there are any nearby, but I think I'm going to have to be prepared to travel. Did you have transitions? If so, did you form an opinion on them? Thx
    – PeteH
    Jun 30, 2014 at 14:40

I found a sturdy frame with decently wide coverage at my local Costco and ordered them polarized grey lenses. They're relatively cheap and are "good enough". The lenses can be a little dark for evening rides. Were I to do it over, I'd probably get transition lenses.

The only draw back to not having bicycling lenses is I'm a tiny bit more likely to get dust in my eyes, but they certainly do a good enough job protecting my eyes from wind and bugs.

  • Thanks for this but I think I'd only really consider dedicated cycling glasses. If anything. I would maybe shell out for cycling glasses and use them for driving as well, rather than buying "general" glasses and use them for cycling.
    – PeteH
    Jun 30, 2014 at 14:44

I'm very short-sighted. I use glasses for every day activities, but contacts for riding: glasses are heavy and can fall while riding; don't protect you very well from dirt/mud. My worst nightmare: falling off the bike and losing/broken them (while riding alone in the woods).

  • Thanks, but I'm struggling to reconcile your description of glasses being heavy, prone to falling off, and allowing dirt in my eyes. My own experience of cycling glasses doesn't bear out any of these.
    – PeteH
    Nov 17, 2014 at 11:47
  • @Peteh: Maybe I was not precise enough. I ride with contacts + cycling glasses. My prescription glasses are clear (non tinted) polycarbonate and a little bit heavier. They slide down the nose in bad roads. The worst: being smaller than cycling glasses, they don't stop all the flying debris and my eyes suffers. This is me cycling: vimeo.com/80083435.
    – user5369
    Nov 17, 2014 at 19:25

Wiley X makes prescription glasses, both wraparound and insert style. They are much cheaper than the Oakley glasses. In general, the wraparound glasses have a slightly larger field of view compared to the inserts.

The big advantage of the Wiley glasses is that they are very sturdy. They are even certified as impact resistant safety glasses. Makes me feel safer when on the trail.


  • 1
    I didn't think your answer deserved a downvote, after all it is no worse that those answers that are pointing to Oakleys. So +1 to redress the balance. I have never heard of the make, perhaps they are more prevalent in north America than elsewhere. My own experience is that glasses sold as "safety" glasses tend to be a lot cheaper than glasses sold as "cycling" glasses. Indeed, before I needed a prescription, I would buy safety glasses and use them for cycling.
    – PeteH
    Nov 17, 2014 at 11:50

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