Since Gino Bartali and Fausto Coppi started popping on their Persols before a race, sunglasses have come to be considered essential when cycling. Things exploded in the 80s, with riders like Greg LeMond looking just as resplendent in his far flashier plastic Oakleys.
Weirdly, even 90s style cycling designs are enjoying a fashion moment, having been adopted by everyone from the designers at Vetements, to princess Anne and Bella Hadid. Don’t believe us? Check out Rouleur Desire editor Stuart getting interviewed on just this subject for the style section of the Guardian newspaper.
Of course, while that sort of thing is all well and good for fashionistas, there are multiple reasons why cyclists might want to steer clear of revisiting that particular decade. Luckily, we’ve seven sets of cycling shades both modern and retro that are far more worth considering.
Scott Sport Shields
£90, Shop Scott
First released in 1989, Scott’s Sport Shields are both loud and large. Now associated with the Yates twins thanks to their successful stint at the eponymous team, they feature a retro semi-frameless design. How semi-frameless? Because although the arms extend someway round the edges of the lenses, yet don’t fully meet up either at the top or bottom. Aiming to impart a wide and unimpaired field of vision, they’re available in several versions, including with impenetrably iridescent lenses which are perfect should you wish to remain as inscrutable as possible. Costing £90, they’re also surprisingly affordable, a great feature in something that’s always at risk of going missing.
Rapha Pro Team Frameless
£110, Shop Rapha
Rapha makes a few nice retro options. Still, I can’t help but think you’d do better to head straight for a pair of Persols rather than opt for the kind of stylistic halfway house they represent. By comparison, these Pro Team models are instead aggressively modern, while also being very large and very shiny. At the same time, their minimalist frameless design leaves them both good looking and lightweight. With some kind of polarising present along with a hydrophobic coating, they do the things you want while not looking too high tech or try-hard.
Alba Optics Stratos
£170, Shop Alba
Sort of like a pair of aviators but with a broad plastic frame as opposed to a thin metal one, this striking design comes from cycling-specif maker Alba. With adjustable length arms and detachable side shields, they’re half utilitarian, half high-fashion. Handmade in Italy, this functionality is furthered by the ability to add in a separately glazed optical clip allowing for use by riders with complex prescriptions.
£169, Shop Koo
When it comes down to bold shapes and striking silhouettes, Koo comes top of the class. Italian brand Koo's latest frames - named Spectro - are angular and slightly reminiscent of 80's futurism. The Shark of Messina himself, Vincenzo Nibali, along with the entire male and female Trek Segafredo squad have taken to them with aplomb. The shape, beyond a style statement, creates a panoramic view due to the curved Zeiss lens and the shape helps with anti-fogging. Clever.
Rudy Project Defender
£170, Shop Rudy Project
With a look that’s unadulterated cycling, Rudy Project doesn’t get too mixed up in any post-modern fashion shenanigans. Arriving all the better for it, there’s more than enough tech to sell them on if that’s your bag, what with their multiple vents and photochromic lens options. Designed in the cycling heartland of Treviso in Italy, they’ve also spent plenty of time hanging off the front of the peloton courtesy of hitching a ride on visages of both Vincenzo Nibali and Thomas de Gendt. Plus you can get them from Browns Fashion so there's a bit of cachet there too.
£135, Shop Oakley
Given the stylistic crimes it committed during the 90s, Oakley is lucky to be getting a look in. However, with an extensive back catalogue of cool designs, if you dig far enough, it’s still capable of producing some attractive, if very aggressively proportioned sunglasses. This means that while we’re fans of the re-released Eyeshades, we’ll instead plump for the brand’s merely retro-inspired Sutros. Coming in an enormous range of colour combos, unlike most of Oakley’s models, they’re fairly simple and not too expensive, despite using the brand’s fancy Prism lenses. Also stylish enough looking to do for the beach, maybe someone could send Gerraint a pair?
£195, Shop Poc
From both a stylistic viewpoint and a viewpoint-viewpoint we’re very fond of the broad lenses on POC’s Aim sunglasses. Maximising your field of vision while riding, the mirrored versions are also particularly cool looking.
Seen clamped to the faces of the always well-turned-out EF Education team, it’s an association that probably doesn’t hurt our opinion of them either. Fitting in with the Swedish brand’s approach to both ergonomics and pricing, these are a supremely comfortable if expensive option. However, using Carl Zeiss lenses, there’s little indication of any corners having been cut.
100% X MAAP Glendale
£195, Shop 100% x MAAP
When two brands with fashion-icon status come together for a collaboration, the result is normally highly desirable. With that in mind, we can't help getting excited about the union of American motocross superbrand 100% and ultra-stylish Australian MAAP.
First came the highly lauded 100% x MAAP S3 sunglasses, releases last year, and here we have the Glendale. The glasses combine translucent frames with matching high-contrast lenses. The effect, especially on 100%'s windshield-grade Glendale frames, is a statement look with all the performance of the fan favourite HiPER lens. The Glendales are available in blue and coral colourways in extremely limited numbers. Hype through and through.
£164, Shop Persol
As close as you’re going to get to looking like Fausto Coppi is via buying a set of classic Italian sunglasses. Still made from cellulose acetate in Italy, despite their lack of unobtanium hinges or hypoallergenic rubber dongles, these models from Persol still work just fine on your bike. Originally designed to shade the eyes of Turin’s hard-working tram drivers, they’ll also manage just as well on the beach. Of course, the crystal lenses and increased weight might put some riders off. But then if you’re unhappy to carry a few grams of weight in exchange for a ton of style, that’s your business.