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How photochromic lenses can help you as a cyclist

cyclists holding photochromic sunglasses

Whether you’re racing your bicycle down the hill in a park or pedaling your way downtown to the office, you should be sporting the best in protective eyewear.

Eyeglasses with photochromic lenses can help you adapt to light changes through the day. 

Prescription photochromic lenses prevent you from having to pack an extra pair of sunglasses on your ride. They’ll allow you to see more clearly and shield your eyes from insects, dust, debris and he sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays that could otherwise impair your vision.

What are photochromic lenses?

Photochromic lenses, also known as transition lenses, are clear (or nearly clear) when indoors, and automatically darken when exposed to sunlight. The advantage: Photochromic lenses are two glasses in one — everyday glasses and sunglasses. No need to switch to shades before you ride your bike in the sun.

How do photochromic lenses transition from clear to dark? The transition is the result of a chemical response of millions of molecules (usually silver chloride or silver halide) reacting to sunlight. What you see: The lenses darken in the sunlight and then become clear again upon returning indoors. 

RELATED READING: What are the best sunglasses for cycling?

Why photochromic lenses are great for cycling

Avid cyclists tend to look for eyewear that covers more of their face and offers better protection, and tougher lenses. Glasses with photochromic lenses can easily check all three requirements.

Photochromic lenses come in all shapes and sizes to provide the coverage you need, as well as keep your eyes protected, whether the day is overcast or bathed in bright sunlight. Photochromic lenses offer 100% protection from both UVA and UVB rays

Still, photochromic lenses aren’t for everyone. The transition time between clear to tinted can take anywhere from 35 seconds to a couple of minutes, which might be too long if you are riding between long stretches of shadow and intense sunshine.

For example, you don’t want your glasses clearing up as you ride through a tunnel only to emerge into a blast of brilliant sunlight. 

Do I need polarized sunglasses for cycling?

It’s common to confuse photochromic technology with polarized lens coatings. But they actually each achieve very different goals.

If you bike on light-colored pavement or near water, then you are familiar with the glare and how it can make it harder for you to see lane changes, curves, or other dangers in your path. 

Polarized lenses in sunglasses have a chemical filter to help reduce that sometimes dangerous glare. 

So, can you have the best of both worlds — photochromic lenses that also are polarized? In a word, yes. Photochromic lenses can be treated with a polarized coating to reduce glare and transition from light to dark and back again as you ride your bike.  

LEARN MORE ABOUT PHOTOCHROMIC LENSES: Talk to an eye doctor near you or shop for transition lenses online.

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