We can’t overstate how important vision is in motorsports!
We’ve been told countless times through riding classes, from books, in articles and instructional videos to keep our eyes and heads up, to look down the road or trail, to scan for hazards and look for reference points. This keeps us tuned in, alert, and safe. We know that having good vision and using good techniques with our eyes can dramatically improve our situational awareness and sense of calm and control on a motorcycle. Great motorcycle eyewear is key to safe and fun riding.
Good vision can give us the perception that everything is slowed down. This reduces our sense of speed and increases our ability to react in time. Our eyes are the only source for this steady flow of essential visual information. The quality of this information is critical for optimal performance and safety.
So, it makes perfect sense that we want to protect our eyes in the best possible way.
As motorcycle riders, we protect our eyes with three types of wearable optical devices: visors, goggles, and sunglasses.
All three types have their advantages and drawbacks. No single design will completely cover a rider’s needs for all situations.
This is especially evident when the vast variety of riding environments and weather conditions are taken into account.
However, all eyewear and visors should protect us to some degree from the primary threats to our eyes when riding: Sun, Wind, Dust, Weather, and Projectiles.
Moto eyewear should also accomplish this while giving us the best vision possible. Optical clarity, tints, filters, and functional specialized coatings are all important to optimizing visual performance.
The right lens for the right situations
Choosing the right optics for a given situation seems pretty straight forward, and in many cases it is.
Enduro riding in dusty or muddy environments is a clear case for goggles. When riding in the rain, hail, bugs or extreme cold, visors cannot be beaten! On hot days, anything but protective sunglasses will have you suffering, unless you’re really moving fast on a consistent basis.
So, what are the advantages and tradeoffs of the different types of eye and face protection for moto riders? And what are the not so obvious factors that have a meaningful impact on our safety, performance, and endurance on a motorcycle?
Let’s dive into some of these considerations such as lens capabilities, protection, and optical considerations.
Having a variety of lens options, with different functionalities, is an advantage that we can all appreciate. We would like to have one lens that does the trick for all our light, weather and terrain situations, but the reality is that we often compromise and must carry multiple products.
This is why products with lens interchangeability are great for moto use, and many products, including visors, goggle, and sunglasses, have this capability.
It’s the ease of interchange, the practicality of carrying multiple lenses, and the cost of additional lenses that really comes into play when putting together a sensible optical kit.
Visors are expensive, large and do not have the same variety of features that goggles and sunglasses have.
Goggles generally have more features than visors but less than interchangeable sunglasses. Also, goggles tend to require more time to change lenses.
These are aspects where sunglasses have a clear advantage. Sunglasses with features such as anti-reflective, hydrophobic, oleophobic, anti-fog, photochromic, mirror coatings, polarization, and specialized tints are attainable in today’s product offerings. Also, interchangeable sunglasses are more compact, lighter, and can have a lower overall cost for multiple lens kits.
When it comes to protection, the choices we make tend to be highly dependent on the type of riding we’re doing and in many cases the solutions are obvious.
Visors provide the ultimate protection, for both your eyes and face, from rain, cold and bugs. Many of us have been on rides when a visor is a must have a piece of gear and there is something very comforting about the protective haven a visor can provide when it gets particularly nasty!
However, visors provide marginal protection from dust that comes up underneath and some visors let a lot of light in under the lower edge, depending on the configuration.
Goggles are indispensable in some situations as well, with the most obvious being off-road in severe dust and mud. Goggles also provide great wind resistance since they have a continuous seal around the eyes and can really prevent your eyes from getting dry an irritated.
The level of protection sunglasses provide is often dependent on the shape and design of the frames and lenses. A well-designed pair of protective sunglasses, with ample lateral and vertical coverage, can be an excellent solution in a variety of circumstances.
Sunglasses can provide better protection from dust and light underneath the lens than visors, but obviously not as well as goggles.
Most motorcycle eyewear and visors are molded from polycarbonate. Some types of motorcycle eyewear provides higher levels of impact protection than others.
For more information on impact resistance please read our blog post on impact protection.
For moto use, look for something that is at least Z87.1+ rated and ideally mil-spec rated. Avoid glass and acrylic lens materials at all costs, due to the brittle nature of those materials.
Optical quality and performance are perhaps the most overlooked attributes for motorsports eyewear and visors. The clarity of your lenses has a profound impact on safety, stamina and riding performance.
The human eyes and brain do a remarkable job of compensating for optical aberrations in lenses, but it comes at the high cost of eye strain and fatigue.
Lenses with great optics not only give you better visual information, but they also reduce eye strain and fatigue, keeping you fresh for longer periods of time.
This may not be so noticeable after only a short period of time, but as you spend more and more time focusing on riding, you’ll start to feel the depletion from battling poor optical quality.
Sunglasses and goggles generally have better optical quality than visors. This is due to the size, thickness and complex geometry of most visors.
Visors have complex curved surfaces so that they can integrate well with helmets. Whereas goggles and sunglasses are generally true spherical and cylindrical surfaces.
Visors are more difficult to design and manufacture because they have complex geometries. This is especially true for the optical performance of peripheral vision.
This is why we put extensive time, development, and research into making the optics on our eyewear that are superior to the vast majority of products in the moto market.
Also, we should take into account the problem of stacking lenses, one in front of the other. No lens is 100% perfect and any aberrations can be compounded when we put them together.
Light transmission is also reduced by about 4% at every surface interface we introduce so double lenses means about a 12% loss in visible light transmission, just from reflection alone.
So, making sure we have good quality optics is increasingly important the more devices we wear at a time.
Field of View
Another important optical consideration is the field of view, both in the peripheral and in the vertical directions.
The importance of a good field of view can’t be overstated when riding. We need to be able to see far down the road or trail and observe objects in front of us and to our sides.
This is all fundamental to good vision when trying to ride safely and with a high level of performance. Visors reign supreme in this category!
The field of view for goggles and sunglasses depends greatly on design. Some sunglasses particularly design with one-piece lens shields, provide a far better field of view than goggles.
However, some sunglasses offer a very limited field of view due to their design.
When it comes down to deciding on what wearable optics to include in a motorsports kit, we should keep in mind the type of riding and environments we expect to encounter.
We accept that personal preference is a huge factor. This leads us in a direction that we’re comfortable with. That is why we create a variety of tasteful motorcycle eyewear that you can rely on.
There is no one solution that takes care of all our needs while riding. A combination of multiple products will likely fit the bill for.
We urge riders to keep in mind the importance of good vision and protecting your eyes with quality products. Research products and find solutions with the appropriate features, great optics, and high quality.
Motorsports eyewear is not a piece of protective gear that we should skimp on!