Solid eye protection is essential in any outdoor activity where you’re blasting downhill with varying degrees of control. So it’s no surprise that skiers and cyclists in particular have taken to the speed shade look. Athletes have been wearing wraparound shades for years, but it wasn’t until recently that this sleek, aerodynamic style has become the standard at trailheads.
At first glance, they all look a little ridiculous. (Pit Vipers are a statement, sure, but at least they carry the understanding of a good sense of humor.) Performance sunglasses make me feel like I take my recreational skiing and cycling a little too seriously, however the extra protection is a true game changer if you’re spending long periods of time in the snow or maching down a trail.
The jury’s out on whether or not fast shades actually make you go faster.
These shades have been a favorite of mine for a few months now, and on long days in the mountains, there’s really no reason to ever take them off. The Rush shades have eliminated the need for goggles on most ski days, with a photochromic REACTIV lens that seamlessly adapts to changing light.
With so many wide-framed sunglasses available right now, features like the bendable arms and extra venting make the Rush sunglasses stand out. These are definitely better for those with large faces (for a smaller face try the Julbo Fury), but by bending the arms they’ll stay securely on anyone’s face. While the side ventilation is amazing for ski touring, it turns out they’re a little too vented for mountain biking since dust can get into your eyes at high speeds.
The Rush shades are lightweight, but have proven to be incredibly durable. Some wraparound shades forgo a full frame, losing the rim below for more field of view, but the lens is wide enough that you don’t even notice it’s there and I think it ups the sturdiness of this design.
The Aim Sunglasses are some of the larger shield glasses available, which provides an amazing field of view and incredible protection, even if they look a bit overkill at first. The extra coverage effortlessly shields your eyes from wind, dust, rocks, and any other flying bits of terrain, while the grippy arms and temple pads hold the light grilamid frame securely on your face. You can also adjust the temple and nose pads for a better and more secure fit for your face.
Clarity technology was developed to increase color definition, and while every pair of shades or goggles these days seems to have a proprietary technology that delivers “unparalleled vision” the Aim sunglasses definitely lead the competition in terms of crisp and clear sight.
They’re also designed to work in conjunction with POC cycling helmets, although they slid cleanly into my non-POC helmet just fine. Of all the glasses I’ve looked at this year, I’d vote these massive shades the best fitting for space travel, however if you’ve got a larger noggin, they’re a solid choice.
Not quite as oversized as glasses like the Julbo Rush or POC Aim, the Attack MAG MTB is leaner than its counterparts, optimal for small and medium faces. I ride in a Smith helmet and love how well these integrate. All I have to do is slide my visor up and the arms slide right into place.
Each pair of the Attack MAG MTBs come with two lenses (one for sunny days and one for low-light days) all in a zippered compact case that lets you keep all the pieces together in one place. The MAG interchangeable lens design makes it easy to snap in a different lens. I love how easy it is to pop the lens cleanly out from each arm, instead of having to bend and yank at the frame until you feel like you’re about to break the whole thing. This lets you have a fully clear lens on hand for rainy days or full moon adventures.
The sleek look of the Ronins is my favorite in this bunch of shades, with a streamlined and simple design that doesn’t feel overdone. Super lightweight, the Ronin glasses seem to hover on your face and slide in seamlessly under a helmet without weird pressure points.
They also feature Sweet Protection’s RIG lens technology, used in many Sweet goggles, which enhances color contrast for a more realistic and undistorted view. I found I noticed the technology more on summer trails than in snow, likely because of how many different colors there are in front of me, but it really does make a big difference.
The frame itself is large and delivers more than enough coverage, but doesn’t feel quite as colossal as some of the other shades. I have a pretty small face and felt like I could still ride in these without looking like a robot. These are great year-round shades to add to the rotation for skiing, riding, and even running.
The Shield LS Sunglasses scored major points for comfort, with a plush and adjustable nose bridge and lightweight arms that feel weightless on your face. These glasses are super wide, with a frameless design that makes the large lens feel even larger.
The frameless design does make it hard to keep from smearing the lens with your fingers, which leads to a little extra wiping mid-ride, but is worth it for the clear field of view. The arms also don’t pinch under a helmet which I’ve found happened a bit more with other glasses I’ve tested.
For darker days and evening rides, the Shield LS is one of the best low-light options I tested, aside from a fully clear lens which isn’t quite as versatile. The photochromic lens adapts quickly when riding in and out of treed areas, which is especially important when you’re moving fast and don’t have a huge margin. The lens goes up to Cat 3, but I will say it seemed significantly less dark than others shades of this category. They’re great for summer use on the bike, but I might choose to leave these behind on a sunny ski day.