And we’ve all tried various methods to protect our valuable eyes, but we should never let anything compromise safety and comfort on the road. Clear, sharp vision in all conditions can be the difference between life and well, … adverse outcomes.
My study and garage are strewn with countless $10 Reject Shop reading glasses. There has to be a better way.
Get your eyes tested
Obtain a current prescription from a qualified optometrist. It’s not expensive and you’ll likely get a rebate from either Medicare or your private health fund. Make sure you have measurements for PD (Pupillary distance) and if you’re getting multifocals, segment height.
Choosing the right frames
Whether you ride with an open face or full-face helmet, the considerations are the same. You need protection from wind, rain, dust, glare and bugs.
Full-face helmet riders will probably find the simplest way around this is to squeeze our prescription spectacles inside your full-face helmet, but therein lies several challenges.
A snug-fitting full-face helmet will make it difficult to get regular glasses on, so the trick is to get super-flexible arms on the frame or, better still, shortened or removable arms such as those in the Ugly Fish Riderz range. Styles ‘Warhead’ and ‘Cannon’ both accept prescription lenses directly into the frame and this must be done by an optometrist. Cannon’s removable arms can even be replaced with a strap for goggle-style fitment.
The alternative to ‘in-frame’ prescription glasses, is the RX gasket. This is a clip-in attachment to the inside of your frame that carries the scripted inserts. With the clip-in gasket, you are limited to single vision lenses, whereas with in-frame lenses you can get full multifocals (aka progressive) fitted by your optometrist.
Form or function?
“It’s important that when you go and try on any glasses, that you take your helmet,” says Faraz Darabi, CEO of Piranha Eyewear Pty Ltd, “there’s no point standing in front of the mirror saying ‘I look cool’ when what you need is function. It needs to work exactly how you intend to use it. Find the styles that fit before you decide which looks best.”
Makes sense, yeah? If you’re going to shell out hundreds for decent glasses and scripted lenses, the last thing you want is a frame that doesn’t fit properly on your face or in your helmet.
Keeping the bugs out.
Open face helmet users will know only too well that smack on the cheek when a fat fly or bee whacks you at 100kmh. Or that bit of grit that has found itself behind your lens when you’re stuck between two B-Doubles.
You can fairly easily fit a pair of ski goggles over most spectacles, but you may end up looking like a misplaced Austrian ski instructor. (vee do zer schee plow, ja!). Better still is a dust guard or eye shield fitted around the inner surface of the frame. We tested both Ugly Fish (Ultimate) and Wiley X (Gravity) and found both worked well at excluding dust-laden breeze from behind the lens. These rubberised shields can easily be removed and worn as regular glasses if you choose.
Up-speccing your lenses
When ordering prescription lenses, you have the choice of materials and function – and for this part of our exercise, we used the military-specification Wiley X Gravity frames. Wiley X is the brand you see in the movies as worn by Bradley Cooper in American Sniper, CIA man Jack Ryan, the Mayans MC and more.
We fitted the latest “Thin Tec” optical lenses, specifying both photochromatic (transitional) and multifocal (progressive) features directly from Wiley X Australia. These puppies are the bomb! Rugged, razor-sharp and mean, no one is going to argue with you if you push to the front of the coffee queue. We found these glasses excellent in all conditions: sun, haze, low light and even dark. The Gravity frame also has the optional goggle strap fitment for tricky helmets.
Crunching the numbers
Are you sitting down? Okay. This full-house kit will set you back a shade over $750, so don’t go leaving them at the pie shop!
Compare: our Ugly Fish glasses with prescription single vision RX inserts came in at just under $300. Bear in mind that you can also choose a similar specification ‘in-frame’ lens with selected Ugly Fish frames, although the final cost will be similar.
Should you wish to use the Wiley X Gravity frames for single vision (non-progressive) lenses or RX inserts, you can expect to pay around $435 and $395 respectively.
As a budget option, we also trialled a pair of $25 bifocal glasses (part #SM250P) from Rocky Creek Designs. While the glasses themselves were of surprisingly good quality and came with interchangeable lenses and dust guard, we found the bifocal feature limiting for those with long-distance vision issues. If you can get by with these old school reading-type glasses, you can potentially save a bundle. Just be aware of limitations.
NOTE: Harley-Davidson branded riding glasses are also made by Wiley X but sold through dealerships under an exclusive arrangement.