Optical Cycling Mathematics: (wind + cooler weather + road grit) x slipping glasses = stoner eyes

Recently, I’ve been experiencing extremely red, itchy, irritated eyes flaring up a few hours post ride lasting pretty much the rest of the day. A good nights sleep, plus some generous use of Visine clears them up by next morning, but it is become rather bothersome as it interfere with daily tasks, not to mention that my eyes make me look like I’m stoned out of my mind.

Actual riding conditions haven’t changed all that much since before the onset of this issue. Sure there’s the obligatory road funk and grit that’s part of cycling, plus the cooler/cold weather and wind, which can easily dry your eyes out, especially since we are in a self induced near constant wind storm while cycling at speed, but otherwise I’m still riding the same roads at the same frequency. I’m not particularly sensitive to the allergens in the area, which are not currently peaking, leaving me scratching my head…and eyes, trying to figure out the cause behind it.

Today’s ride actually clued me into the apparent cause. We had a stiff North wind today making the return ride a struggle. When riding against a strong wind you want to reduce your surface area as much as possible by assuming a lower, more aerodynamic position. In my case that means tucking into my aero bars. While tucked in my bars it dawned on me that my eyewear persistently slid down my nose leaving my eyes fully exposed to the elements. And with our windy winter weather patterns keeping me in my aero bars for much longer durations, if not all of the ride, you have the perfect recipe for red, dry, irritated eyes. So it looks like it’s time to look into getting some real dedicated cycling eye ware…that or purchase bulk quantities of Visine and Blink eye drops.

My current glasses, Oakley Square Wires, aren’t technically cycling glasses per say, but they do provide full coverage with a close wrap around design as well as all the obligatory features like dark tint, UV protection, polarization, impact resistance, etc…normally found in cycling glasses. Their shortcoming is that they are heaver due to their metal frames and glass lenses (yes they are prescription) and they do not hug/grip my face as dedicated cycling glasses do. I’m a big fan of Oakley’s as they are rugged, purpose built and pretty much indestructible (my current pair is going on six years old and are like new), so I hit the web for a peek at the new models and tried some on at the local Sunglass Hut.

There are several key points to consider when selecting a pair of cycling glasses.

Lens Color: For the best protection, you’ll want to block out 75-90% percent of visible light in bright sun, 35-50% percent on dull days. The best color to choose for all-around use is neutral gray because it doesn’t distort color, though brown is OK, too. Several brands of glasses allow of changing out of lenses to allow for environmental conditions or go with photochromic lenses, which cover the broadest range of conditions and are available in several density ranges.

Ultraviolet Radiation (UV): Almost all quality sunglasses produced today offer essential protection against ultraviolet (UVA and UVB) radiation. Some lens materials have a built-in ability to absorb U/V light, but most protection is added in the form of lens coatings.

Shields or Wraparound Frames: Wraparound-type frames and lenses offer several advantages for cyclists. Wraparounds allow the best peripheral (side) vision, thanks to the lack of obstruction by the frame and temple. Peripheral vision is especially important for maneuvering safety in a group of riders and in traffic. Wraparounds also help keep drying wind off the eyes, while allowing enough air circulation to prevent fogging of the lenses. Wraparound lenses that extend higher above the eyebrow allow unobstructed vision when riding low on the drops.

Lens Type: Ploycarbonate lenses are virtually unbreakable. They’re also lighter and will not fog up as easily as glass.

Frames: Among frames, nylon or plastic is lighter, safer, and more durable than metal, but either can become brittle in cold weather. With any frame, look for hinges that are simple and tough.

Oakley Half Jacket XLJ w/ black iridium lenses
Oakley offers many great models compatible for cycling as well as some purpose built models like the Jawbone series. I found the Half Jacket XLJ to be the perfect fit for me…and quite stylish too. The price of the glasses isn’t that bad (for Oakley’s that is) at a little over $100, but once I get some lenses cut for them, the price shoots up well north of $400 bucks. That’s a chunk of change! Sure they are protecting my baby browns, and should alleviate this not so lovely red eyed stoner look, but I’m just a little taken aback at the cost of cutting the lenses, after all, it’s just a piece of plastic.

I’m almost tempted to give daily disposable contacts like Acuvue’s a try. If I used them under a pair of non prescription Half Jacket’s, it would take nearly two years of riding everyday to equal the cost of the prescription glasses. Sure in the long run the glasses are cheaper, but who’s to say I’ll have the same script then. I’m hesitant to attempt this for two reasons. One, I’ve never worn contacts and I’m a huge baby when it comes to putting anything in my eyes and two, the use of contacts while cycling may compound the dry/irritated eye issue as some air will still get past the cycling glasses.

So, do I bite the bullet and make the glasses with my prescription, or should I give the contacts a try. If the contacts don’t work out, I could always get the custom lenses cut at a later date. Another option is just forgo the script and contacts and stick with the stock glasses, after all my prescription is very weak as I only have a touch of nearsightedness and some astigmatism. Either way, new glasses are in order. Now, black or white frames…black iridium  lenses or the oh so cool blue colored ice iridium lenses. Hmmmm decisions, decisions.

Route: Coconut-40
Ride Time: 2:11:01
Stopped Time: 1:24:41
Distance: 38.08 miles
Average: 17.44 mph
Fastest Speed: 26.02 mph
Ascent: 155 feet
Descent: 224 feet
Calories: 2064


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