Apparel & Accessories

Technical FAQ: Seeing better in 2013

Lennard Zinn offers up a number of reader letters offering suggestions for cyclists in need of corrective lenses

Editor’s Note: Lennard Zinn’s regular column is devoted to addressing readers’ technical questions about bikes, their care and how we as riders can use them as comfortably and efficiently as possible. Readers can send brief technical questions directly to Zinn.

I got a lot of mail regarding my posting about Dual Eyewear for riders who need reading glasses. It’s obviously an issue for many riders, so here’s to seeing better in the new year. Here’s a small sampling.

Corrective lenses for cycling

Dear Lennard,
I am in my mid-50s and at the start of the season my eye doctor suggested a bi-focal contact lens in one eye with a single correction lens in the other eye. While skeptical about this it has worked out great — I have not picked up my reading glasses since and have had no issues while out on the trail. Sounds like your head should be confused with this setup but not the case at all.

Dear Lennard,
Rudy Project makes bifocals in about two-to-three weeks if you get them through an authorized dealer. They are not cheap (as normal bifocals are not cheap) and insurance tends not to cover. I tend to upgrade the prescription in mine every other year, where I am more apt to upgrade my normal glasses every year, if needed. But, using them has made my cycling, particularly while using a Garmin, an entirely clear experience.

Dear Lennard,
I need corrective lenses for distance vision, but when my vision is corrected I can’t read. My optometrist suggested trying two different powered contact lenses — one for distance vision (dominant eye) and a reading lens for the other eye. I wasn’t sure, but figured it was better than wearing glasses and fogging up every time I was riding or walking in and out of a building in the wintertime. It works slick for me. I’ve been doing this now for probably 10 years.

Dear Lennard,
At age 48, I just recently started wearing glasses myself — going right to progressive lenses due to ever-increasing minimum focus distance

Not to pick a favorite, but I’m wearing cycling sunglasses from a major manufacturer whose name begins with “O.” They are pretty spendy, but “O” makes prescription lenses, including progressives.

My local optician sent “O” the prescription, including his suggestion to raise the location of the near focus area. He got them spot on: these progressive sunglasses are perfect for the bicycle as well as driving the car. They’re better for those activities than my regular glasses. caters to cyclists who need prescription glasses.

Dear Lennard,
I am a 60-year-old cyclist who is nearsighted, and now with the natural far-sightedness that occurs with age. To see my bike computer, I need farsighted correction, and to see at all I need nearsighted correction. I don’t want to advertise a particular brand, but many manufacturers of bike sunglasses/goggles (Oakley, etc.) make prescription inserts. I have ridden with a pair of Smith glasses with a graded Rx insert for about 12 years.

Dear Lennard,
I read your recent reply to the question regarding prescription bifocals and sunglasses for riding. I am severely myopic (near-sighted) myself and have never been able to wear contacts. I absolutely cannot ride without glasses. About two or three years ago, I discovered several online sources of prescription eyewear, specifically for cycling. These are eyeglass shops that have the expertise and equipment to produce highly curved lenses with custom prescriptions and most advertise that they can do bifocals as well. I have several pairs of prescription sunglasses I obtained from these shops and have been extremely satisfied with all of them. They typically feature a variety of well-known frame brands and you can get any color of tint, tint density, mirror coating, anti-scratch, and/or photochromic lenses you can think of! I have purchased sunglasses from, and They have frames, lenses and tints not easily available from most manufacturers or from mainstream eyeglass shops. They can make specific frame/tint recommendations based on riding conditions and your prescription.

Dear Lennard,
I’m writing on behalf of my company, Sports Optical. We are an independent lenscrafter specializing in prescription cycling glasses. Our company was founded in 1993 and we’re approaching 20 years of experience as an industry innovator and leader in prescription sports optics. Our lenses are unique firstly for the strength of prescriptions we are able to work with and fit into high-performance sport frames, and also for the custom nature of our work. We hand-cut our lenses in our lab to each client’s specifications and do custom tints in-house as well.

Our cycling pedigree is second to none amongst independent optical shops. Our owner is an avid cyclist, our employees cycle to work and take off from work to do charity rides all over the country, and the front of our shop is often littered with bikes parked by riders stopping in to get a quick adjustment or to fix a broken temple piece. We sponsor local teams and pass out Sports Optical cowbells when the Pro Challenge race comes to town.

In the recent FAQ section, a reader named Jerry wrote in asking about prescription eyewear for mountain biking. He needs bifocals or progressives, as well as distance correction, all in sports eyewear that will provide the coverage and light blockage any mountain biker needs. This is precisely what we do.

Dear Lennard,
Saw your reader’s question on bifocals and it brought this to mind. A friend of mine rides with these glasses from Sports Optical.

They cost a mint, but they are pretty nice. Personally, I had laser eye surgery and I am thrilled I no longer need to wear contacts on the bike.

Dear Lennard,
Oakley and Rudy project make great frames that take bifocal lenses.
My favorites are progressive bifocal lenses that let you read the computer and see in the distance. I did all of Leadville without a problem. I also recommend getting transition lenses that get dark in bright light but are clear in dim light. They change really fast and work great. My Rudys are red tint progressive transitions and my Oakleys, with etched lenses, are clear bifocal transitions that get dark in a flash.

You can also get mirrored colored lenses as well.

Dear Lennard,
I am 60-plus and ride with corrective lenses for long distance, but also need reading glasses. My eyeglass guy just put a bifocal low down on the lens so I have it when I need it and while riding I mostly don’t see it. At first it was a little weird, but now works fine for me. Might be worth a try.

Dear Lennard,
I am nearsighted and presbyopic (can’t focus close) at age 53. I had a pair of sports glasses (Ray-Ban Daddy-Os) made with a bifocal lens, but I asked them to set the reading area a few mm lower than standard. This works very nicely and keeps the transition low enough to prevent it from interfering with my distance vision. Progressives are not ideal for riding (I tried them and returned them), as the image gets blurry if you look to the sides; you don’t need the progressive feature, the progression distorts distance perception, and they cost more. Plain bifocals are much better in terms of in-focus field of view laterally, and everything I care about (except a map and my speedometer, which I can see through the reading area) is far away, so mid-range focus is not needed. Just get the line at least 3mm lower than normal.

Dear Lennard,
I have been wearing bifocal sport glasses while cycling for the last seven or eight years, for all my riding and racing. My optometrist responded to my desire to see my cyclometer, power meter or Garmin clearly. This would be in addition to a slight distance correction. He recommended sport glasses (with photochromatic plastic lenses) that have a small magnifier lens in the lower portion of the lens. The lens location works great on road drop bars or MTB flat bars. I glance down and the “dashboard” is clear. Roadside/trailside repairs benefit from the added clarity the magnifiers provide, though there is a bit of neck craning at times to get the proper view through the magnifiers.

I suspect there are many manufacturers, but mine are Liberty Sport. They made a big difference for me.

Dear Lennard,
Regarding bifocals for mountain biking, your readers might find this helpful. There are a few progressive lens designs specifically made for sport use. A good design actually will progress from full distance vision (very important for all safe cycling, whether mountain, road, ’cross, commuting, etc.) to a near prescription in the mid/lower aspect of the lens, then progress back to mid-range or distance correction at the very bottom of the lens so you can see your feet, gears, trail, etc. New progressive designs continue to wow my active patients whether cycling, hiking, golfing, fly fishing, etc. Tell your readers to visit their local Optometrist.
—Dr. Matthew Skrdla

Dear Lennard,
If Jerry is already using progressive lenses on his everyday glasses he should simply add Transitions to the formula. My everyday glasses have a progressive correction along with Transitions. And I have a pair of Bolle sports glasses with the transition. Bolle makes a wide variety of frames that will accept correction lenses. Adding progressive correction and Transitions should be no problem. You might have to work with a higher-end optical lab rather than the inexpensive places to get it done. Bolle has its own Rx site. But the glasses are super expensive. Instead, click on the individual glasses and see if they are Rx compatible. In general you will need a frame that goes all around the lens rather than just on the top. Another upside for getting plastic-framed glasses for mountain biking is that a crash with metal frames can result in the bridge tearing into your nose if you crash.