9

enter image description here

I've been using three-part cycling glasses for a couple of years.

That's a frame, separate plastic insert in front for colour, and a small inset frame in behind for prescription lenses.

What's the best way to care for them and maintain them, both while riding and after the ride ?


The three parts unclip from each other easily enough. I've never broken the front part, though the lens-holding frame only lasts 6-12 months before cracking and splitting.

5
  • 1
    Do the prescription lenses pop out easily for cleaning, or is it enough of a pain you don't want to?
    – DavidW
    Dec 20, 2022 at 22:23
  • 1
    If nothing else you want to wipe the bottom part of the visor with a damp cloth to clear off any sweat and/or sunscreen. Every pair of cycling glasses I've ever owned has had the coating start to delaminate at the bottom; it's just a matter of how long you can keep it from starting.
    – DavidW
    Dec 20, 2022 at 22:25
  • 1
    If the frames last only a year, then they’re poorly made, or you’re somehow being rough on them. If not swapping lenses frequently, it’s hard to imagine how you are being rough on them, however.
    – Weiwen Ng
    Dec 20, 2022 at 23:20
  • @WeiwenNg The part that fails is the clearish figure-8 that holds the lenses. My lenses are thick, and the whole thing is only supported in the middle so there's likely a lot of vibration/flexing. The rest of the set is about 33 months old. I have bought spares of the inner frame for the inevitable failure.
    – Criggie
    Dec 21, 2022 at 1:22
  • Full disclosure - my eyesight is so bad I absolutely require lenses while riding.
    – Criggie
    Dec 21, 2022 at 1:24

4 Answers 4

9

Oakley has always supplied microfiber bags with its glasses, and it recommends wiping them using only those bags. Their care instructions are linked here. I believe that many other premium glasses manufacturers also supply microfiber bags. Rougher cloth will scratch the lenses. Many premium sunglasses have relatively delicate coatings that are best handled with microfiber cloth. The bags should be washed by hand or on the delicate cycle - and because they are picking up dirt and oils, they do need this occasionally. In addition, I would recommend storing the glasses in the bag, since even incidental bumps may scratch the lenses - these won't be safety critical, but many of us prefer not to have our fancy lenses scratched where possible. A hard case may be useful, but probably not necessary.

For a more thorough cleaning, I believe washing with dish or hand soap is sufficient and accepted by the manufacturers. This applies to both the lenses and the rubber ear stems and nose pieces. I've seen cleaning sprays offered by the sunglasses manufacturers, but I don't currently believe they're worth the premium over just soap and water. One thing to note is that if you can remove the ear stems and nose pieces, you should occasionally do so to wash underneath (e.g. yearly). Over time, build up from dirt and sunscreen accumulates under the ear pieces.

It can be tricky to get the ear stems off and back on. For Oakley glasses, SportRx (an online sunglasses store) has a YouTube video showing general principles. Other manufacturers are likely to follow similar principles.

I'm not certain what recommendations to make for care during the ride. If possible, I'd avoid wiping the lenses on my clothes if the lenses get soiled for reasons stated in the first paragraph. Naturally, if it becomes safety critical, disregard this. I'm aware that some manufacturers have oleophobic (i.e. repels oils) and/or hydrophobic coatings (repels water), but not all do, and I don't know how well they work. Oakley, despite their premium price, doesn't offer these, so it's possible there's some sort of trade off with performance. You may be able to buy coatings to apply to your lenses. This might be worth considering if you frequently ride in precipitation. However, I've never used them and can't offer any first hand experience.


Depending on your manufacturer, it may be possible to replace a damaged lens, or to get a third-party replacement lens (e.g. from a place like SportRx). The third-party lenses may not fit exactly due to manufacturing tolerances; I had this issue once, but the fit was acceptable. If you had a premium lens (e.g. Oakley's Prizm lenses), the third-party ones may not quite offer the same benefits (e.g. they may skip high end coatings). This may not be possible for all glasses. Removal of the old lenses or insertion of new ones often requires what seems like a lot of force. There are probably YouTube videos for your model of sunglasses if you are unsure.

It is often possible to get replacement ear stems and nose pieces as well. Rubber does lose its elasticity over time, so long-term users (e.g. over 3-4 years) may need to do this at some point. I'm not sure if all manufacturers stock these spares. To my knowledge, Oakley makes the parts available for most or all its models (although they may discontinue models). Tifosi, a mid-range cycling sunglasses brand, also lists spares on its site. For budget brands, it may vary, so check with your manufacturer.

4
  • Excellent points all. These are not a premium brand, the prescription lenses I had made locally cost 20x what the frames did.
    – Criggie
    Dec 20, 2022 at 22:43
  • 2
    Good points all. I've had a couple of pairs of Oakleys and the microfibre bags are very handy. (They even gave me an extra bag for buying a second lens.) I'd favour dish soap over hand soap because dish soap is always intended to wash off completely as compared to hand soap which may have moisturizers and such. My current Oakleys came with a spare nose piece, but I'm not sure if the ear pieces are actually removable.
    – DavidW
    Dec 20, 2022 at 23:03
  • 1
    Even for a non-premium brand, I’d assert that the principles apply. That said, I don’t know about spare parts availability for non-premium frames. I may expand the answer.
    – Weiwen Ng
    Dec 20, 2022 at 23:18
  • Dish soap may be too aggresive for the coating. Zeiss make lens wipes which are advertised as being safe for both glass and plastic lenses - I've had no problems with them, and they come in convenient small sachets that'll easily fit in any pocket or container. Dec 22, 2022 at 15:56
5

Eclectic advice:

  • Never rub and rub, over and over, the lenses to clean them with a fabric, of any kind. There is a thin coating, or multiple coatings. You'll wear out the coating(s) much faster.
  • Never use kleenex, or any product ultimately made from paper. Paper is harsh at the microscopic level and will introduce infinitely many scratches.
  • Never rinse with hot water (just as you should never take your swimming goggles inside a sauna). The coatings will crack into thousands of fragments after a single such rinsing—though they'll remain attached like a jigsaw puzzle.
  • There is nothing particularly magical about the microfiber cloth that's sometimes provided. It's just a "we are fancy" lure. The softest old cotton shirt you have is likely just as good, if not better: what matters is for the cloth to be perfectly free of dust/sand. When in doubt, wash the cloth with laundry as usual.
  • You'll inevitably end up with oils. Once you spot oil, using some kind of soap is necessary. Hand soap is more than enough. What matters, again, is to not rub and rub. You want minimal contact with the coated surfaces, other than with water.

Now for the "method": rinse with cold running water, and follow with exactly one 1. firm, 2. from end-to-end, 3. with a perfectly clean cloth, swipe. That's all you need. Inspect against light. If you see streaks, repeat at most one more time, or else you really need to wash the lenses with soap first.

The regimen above is just for the lenses. The lenses themselves rarely need to be washed, but oil often accumulates on the temples from the sweat of the wearer. You can wash and dry temples as much and as often as you want, just so long as you isolate them during washing and that you apply a more gentle regimen for the lenses.

This is all for the before/after care. The best you can do during a ride is to wick sweat by touching the edges of the lenses with your jersey.

1
  • 1
    I’m not sure hot water is actually a problem. Most homes here are limited to ~55°C which glasses should be perfectly capable of surviving (and it’s not like you have to turn it to the hottest setting). Of course if you use the 95°C “hot water” outlet of your coffee machine it’s another thing. The important thing about rinsing is to get sand, dirt and salt off which would act as an abrasive.
    – Michael
    Dec 21, 2022 at 7:03
3

In addition to Weiwen Ng's answer, for quick washes when I don't need fully-clean lenses I'll just rinse my cycling glasses under a faucet and then dry them off carefully with a paper towel. Most times, that's good enough because it won't be long before they have sweat drops all over 'em anyway.

That admittedly might not work too well for the glasses pictured in the question, with the two layers of lenses.

I'll also specifically recommend not using cleaners like Windex - the chemicals in cleaners like that can and will eat away at any coating on the lenses.

4
  • 2
    Agree on no Windex. I have seen some assertions that rubbing alcohol is safe. I have no idea if that’s true.
    – Weiwen Ng
    Dec 20, 2022 at 23:19
  • 1
    @WeiwenNg I'd avoid alcohol entirely unless it's specifically listed as safe by the manufacturer of the glasses. Alcohol is a strong enough solvent that's it's actually really good at stripping some paints, and I'd bet it would attack more than a few plastics. Dec 20, 2022 at 23:28
  • 3
    Paper towel is risky. Some can damage plastic. I sometimes use toilet paper as a last resort (e.g. when I have to ride somewhere in the rain and arrive with dirty glasses and no other way to clean them).
    – Michael
    Dec 21, 2022 at 6:57
  • 3
    @WeiwenNg It depends on the material. Isopropyl alcohol is generally safe for polycarbonate lenses (like most prescription glasses have these days), but it will slowly degrade acrylic lenses, causing them to become cloudy (this is actually a major part of why some window cleaners specifically call out not having any isopropyl alcohol). And that’s just the lens itself, not any coating it may have (those tend to be way more sensitive to specific chemicals). Dec 21, 2022 at 12:35
0

I find there are four main sources of stuff on the lenses.

  • Rainwater
  • Sweat
  • Fog/condensation from temperature changes
  • Dust/dirt

While riding one can temporarily remove rainwater by wiping the front with an index finger, from nose to outside, one lens at a time. Rainwater is generally clean so low risk of scratching. Reduce incoming rain using a cycling cap/casket aka a visor/brim on your helmet.

For sweat, it is salty and will leave deposits behind if you wipe. A sharp "nod" motion helps sweat to drop off the bottom lip, and any sweat/salt is mostly out of the line of sight. You can also help divert sweat with a headband or similar.

Fog forms for me when riding hard in the cold and then stopping at lights. Wiping doesn't help here cos the fog is on the inside surface, and trying to wipe results in awkwardness and the risk of dropping them. Instead, pull the frames down the nose a bit to let the cold air in easier which helps equalise the temperatures. As soon as you start to move, the cold air clears the fog though this can be a bad time to have impaired vision.

Dirt risks being abrasive - while riding its best to stop and splash some drinking water on the lens. Don't wipe dirt/mud off with a glove.


After riding I've been told that any chemicals/cleaners are bad specifically for the frame that holds the lenses. As such, I wash them off under a tap or in the shower. The three pieces are separated for easier access.

Shower-temperature water has not caused me any problems in the past, but the inner frames are not very durable anyway and show cracks within 6 months. I have bought plenty of spares and figured out a safe way to insert the lenses (involves one's mouth, teeth and lips have a fine degree of sensitivity for the pressure one can exert !)

Dry with a clean cloth or paper towel in a patting motion, not a wiping action.


Edit - just after writing this, my inner frame let-go again.

enter image description here

This happens every 6-24 months depending on how much riding I do, but is unavoidable. A crack is visible through the clear plastic, and after some months it breaks completely.

I've managed to move the lenses to a replacement inner frame using a combination of firm-gentle pressure and luck, and I buy the inner frames from Aliexpress for a few dollars.

enter image description here
Rest of frame, for context.

The prescription lenses cost twenty-times what the frames did, so they're the part that needs protection.

1
  • 1
    Then there's the salty-dirty guck that cars throw up when you're cycling in traffic in the winter...
    – DavidW
    Dec 21, 2022 at 19:06

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.