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For many, cycling in the rain with glasses on is both a real pain and a regular necessity.
I’ve cycled for many years with a range of different eyewear, and in this post, I’ll take a look at my favorite 15 tips for survival for cyclists with glasses braving the rain!
A few words of encouragement before we start – cycling with glasses in the rain is an advantage! Glasses act as a shield against rainwater and the spray of other vehicles.
It’s just how you manage the experience that helps you get the most out of it.
1. Hydrophobic Glasses
Yes, these really are a thing!
Hydrophobic means as you can probably guess – they are phobic of hydro, or scared of the water (to put it another way.)
This is one of those brilliant man-made inventions that has been inspired by nature. Have you ever seen the way water glides off many leaves leaving them pretty much completely dry? That’s because they have a hydrophobic coating. (Source)
And there are insects that have the same kind of hydrophobic coating on their wings. You’ve seen those insects that can land on water, or even get submerged in it, but then fly away a moment later. That’s hydrophobic coatings in action!
You can get many cycling glasses these days that are hydrophobic. Rainwater will stream off them, and cannot stick to their surface.
You can get hydrophobic cycling glasses that have both clear frames, and also prescription frames. A lot of cycling glasses will be hydrophobic, even if they are not stating this as one of their main selling points (I’m not saying all cycling glasses are, but certainly lots will be).
There are several different options for hydrophobic cycling glasses, including:
- Clear lenses
- Tinted lenses
- Lenses that clip onto your frames.
Most of the most established glasses manufacturers (such as Oakely’s) offer these different types.
Getting prescription cycling glasses is probably the priciest thing on this list, but they do work well.
2. Wear Wide Brimmed Hat
If fancy new-fangled riding gear isn’t really your thing, then why not go a bit old school? One of the most effective anti-rain devices ever invented is a hat, especially one with a wide brim!
There are a few advantages of a hat. It keeps your head warm if the rain is combined with cold weather!
It also stops those trickles and gushes of rain that cascade through your hair and over your forehead. These often completely bypass your glasses anyway. They just go straight under the rims and into your eyes, so any other glasses tricks are completely pointless!
A hat soaks up a large percentage of the water that lands on your head.
Also, by choosing a hat with a wide brim, a lot of the water will cascade off the edge of the brim onto the floor.
Top tip – try keeping the hat angled low, so that there is only a narrow gap between your glasses and the hat. This optimized its performance.
3. Avoid Large Pools Of Standing Water
Cycling techniques and a bit of common sense will also help with keeping your glasses reasonably usable during your ride.
If you’re aqua-planing through the biggest puddles you find on your route, then the huge amount of splash and spray that you encounter is going to make the glasses very difficult to see through.
Though it is not always possible, try your best to avoid large pools and puddles, and take the driest option! For this, you will need to consider:
- You might need to wait for traffic to pass before venturing out into different parts of the road
- Avoid potholes and other smallish holes
- You might need to go a different route to normal if you know there will be puddles and pools in the road. This will come down to experience, and knowing your terrain.
4. Use A Helmet With A Visor
These are much more popular in certain types of cycling, and can potentially be used by all cyclists.
Helmets with visors are most commonly seen in BMXing, and in mountain biking. Riding mountain bikes over muddy hills creates lots of sprays and muddy debris, and these visor helmets are really widespread in these communities.
Though seen much less often worn by road cyclists, is there any reason not to?
You can get prescription lenses in these visor-helmets now, so this is an excellent choice for vision and safety combined.
For a detailed list of pros and cons of using a helmet with a visor, check out this youtube video:
5. Don’t Cycle Directly Behind Trucks And Cars
Cycling in the rain is one of the times when slip-streaming becomes much less desirable.
What is slip-streaming?
Slip-streaming is when you cycle directly behind another moving vehicle of some sort. The vehicle in front will be getting hit with the full force of the wind and air friction, and there will be a narrow vacuum created in the air behind them.
The bigger the moving object at the front, the bigger the vacuum, or slipstream, behind them.
Here are the approximate slipstream distances of varying vehicles:
|Type of vehicle||Length of slipstream behind them (yards)|
You’ll see this in action in the Tour de France. A team takes it in turn to have one of their riders at the front of their pack. This is the hardest job because they get the full brunt of the air friction. The rest of the team rides directly behind them, each in the slipstream of the other.
Slipstreaming can be done when cycling behind trucks, cars, and any other moving vehicles. There are always safety issues, to be honest, because you don’t know what the vehicle in front will be doing, and you have to go pretty close to benefit from the slipstream.
But when it’s raining, slipstreaming is a definite no-no. The massive amount of spray and splash that you get from moving vehicles in front of you will make your vision pretty much zero in no time at all.
Stay well back!
6. Keep Your Head Down
Quite a simple idea, that probably comes under the heading of ‘good old-fashioned common sense.’
Keep your help tilted down when you are cycling in the rain, and less rain will fall directly onto your lenses. Also, less will fall onto your face and forehead, and so much less will be trickling into your eyes as well.
This effect is amplified even more if you wear a hat!
One of the beauties of our brain is that it can learn to ‘see’ around minor obstacles with persistence and practice. Our eyes become attuned to what is happening on the other side of the barrier.
Not one hundred percent, of course. If your eyes and glasses are completely filled with water, then even the most practiced cyclist will be struggling to see.
But a strange scientific fact is that if you regularly cycle in the rain wearing glasses, then your eyes and brain just become better tuned into telling what the shapes that you can see actually are!
So, become a seasoned pro. It only gets easier, people!
8. Focus on Mid to Long Distance
Another specifically vision-related issue, which is also a kind of geeky science thing, is to look into the distance as you cycle. Your eyes are able to distinguish shapes in the mid to long distance more clearly through a rain-spotted lens than objects up close.
Of course, you have to balance a few things with looking into the distance, such as watching out for puddles and potholes, etc.
But the more you can be trained on looking further ahead, the more your eyes can ‘see’.
9. Glasses Can Be An Advantage
It’s time to turn the whole thing on its head, and just state for the record that actually wearing glasses while cycling in the rain can actually be a massive advantage!
If you don’t have glasses on, then the rain is basically just going to be hitting your eyeballs and eyelashes instead, and you’ll still be getting the same volume of water trickling down from your hair and forehead.
I know several people that don’t need to wear glasses, that actually wear glasses with clear frames just for cycling on wet days. They’re great for dealing with spray and rain.
To be honest, I’m personally fortunate in that I don’t need to wear glasses. But I always personally wear some form of eyewear when cycling. I wear sunglasses if there’s even the merest hint of sun, and I also usually wear them in the rain.
They just add a level of protection, as well as being a barrier to water.
If you’re looking to get a pair of all-purpose cycling glasses, then check this video out:
10. Coat With Hood And Baseball Cap
Here’s another cool old-school tactic.
This is particularly for the days when the rain is completely torrential. On these days the wide-brimmed hat alone may get a bit water-logged, and start oozing water from all parts.
On such days, a great combo is the hooded coat and baseball cap.
It’s a simple idea – the hooded coat absorbs the bulk of the water and keeps the hat underneath relatively dry. This allows the baseball cap to provide the peak to keep your face and eyes dry.
If you can fit a wide-brimmed hat under your coat hood, then so much the better. Go for that!
But if not, then this cap and hood trick is the go-to backup plan.
11. Switch To Daily Disposable Contact Lenses
Of course, it is a personal thing, but some cyclists choose to wear contact lenses on days when the weather is completely horrific!
This really is for those days when it is like Armageddon. But I’ve heard some glasses wearers say on these days it is wise to try disposable contact lenses. It probably makes sense to use them in alignment with some of the other strategies in this post – big hats etc.
12. Ride With An Umbrella Attached To Bike
Although it could never be recommended to cycle while holding an umbrella, there are now umbrellas that can be attached directly to your bike, leaving both of your hands free to steer.
These attachments work brilliantly to keep water off your head and forehead, as well as directly blocking it from landing on your glasses.
Some of the few drawbacks include:
- This is not recommended if there is any kind of wind, as the umbrella could upset your balance, or even get blown inside out
- You can’t really use one if you are going to be cycling at any kind of speed (because of the same reasons as the previous point)
13. Use The Environment of Your Route To Your Advantage
Here’s a nifty hack. The amount of rain that actually falls on you is related to the environment you are riding in.
If you are cycling a route that is not surrounded or covered by anything and is completely open to the sky, then you will receive the maximum amount of rainfall on your head! Seems pretty obvious.
However, if you can go from the same place to the same destination, but use a route that is covered in some way, then you get a lot less water to the head. Sounds great.
Some simple ways that your environment can mean less water lands on you include:
- Tree branches above your route
- Cycling near tall buildings
- Buildings with canapes or covers
- Cycling to the side of walls or fences
Of course, it depends on where you live and where you are cycling!
But if there’s any way of utilizing some of these natural and man-made creations on your route, then they can keep you a whole lot drier.
14. Moving Your Head Around
Another good old-fashioned common sense tip here. If you are struggling to see straight ahead while cycling, as rain is obscuring your vision through your lenses, then try moving your head around.
Little rapid movements can flick some of the water off.
Potentially looking through different parts of the lenses may enhance your vision.
In general, a bit of movement helps your brain make sense of the stimuli it is receiving through the obscured lens.
15. Wipe Some Detergent On Your Glasses Before You Ride
OK, so I’ve never done this one! But this is something I’ve heard repeated a few times.
It may be an urban myth of some sort – but I’ve heard that if you wipe just a bit of detergent on your glasses before you ride, then this can act as a barrier to the water, and make them hydrophobic (remember that concept from earlier).
It’s important to keep in mind the following things:
- Put the detergent on the outside of the lenses
- Use only a small amount
- Use something like washing up liquid
This provides a DIY hydrophobic shield that is super cost-effective, and allegedly (and most importantly), it works!