Let’s get right down to business here. You have only one pair of eyes and the threat of high-velocity projectiles taking aim on your face during a ride is a virtual guarantee. Even the most casual motorcycle rider has taken a bug, rock or some other object to the face, so it’s not a question of “if” you get hit, it’s only a matter of how many times will you get hit during a single ride and whether those hits go to the eye. The plain truth is; riding a motorcycle without proper eye protection will at a minimum; get you a 100% probability of catastrophic eye loss and perhaps even death through loss of control. Considering the probabilities against you and the repercussions of failing to protect the eyes, this subject of protective eyewear could arguably be considered of even higher importance than even the highly touted helmet, and most definitely places it on the list of critical essentials. Given the importance of the issue, let’s take a moment and examine protective eyewear.
In the Beginning
Eye protection is not a new concept. In the old days before glass or plastics, eye protection was accomplished with bronze or iron face shields that contained either fine slits or tiny holes to view through. Remember the gladiators? Eventually with the advent of glass, eye protection was marginally improved through ground and polished lenses, however, it wasn’t until impact resistant safety glass came into being that such lenses could be considered truly protective. Nowadays, with high-tech plastics, protective eyewear has evolved once again. Pure glass lenses no longer exist and the shatter-proof plastic lenses are king.
Overall Design, Style and Function
One of the first things a rider will want to consider is what form of protection they seek, and once again, what level of risk they are willing to accept. There are many options available here ranging from face shields, goggles and glasses, with each providing differing levels of protection. Many motorcycle helmets take on a dual role by providing not only head protection, but also employ partial visors or full-face shields for eye and face protection. These options provide the greatest level of safety and protection because they cover more of the face and eyes than do the other options. Goggles are another alternative that many riders use, and though goggles are predominantly worn by off-road riders, many street riders prefer them as well. The primary difference between off-road and street goggles is that street goggles generally possess somewhat smaller lenses than their off-road cousins. The appeal in the use of goggles vs. visor or shield is that many goggles possess quick-change lenses enabling the user to adjust to a variety of lighting conditions. Another benefit to goggles is for riders wearing prescription eyeglasses that don’t want to wear a helmet-based shield or visor, whereby many goggles are specifically designed to accommodate prescription eyeglasses. The final form of eye protection is safety riding glasses. Riding glasses are typically differentiated form other forms of safety glasses by the use of foam surrounding the eyepieces to reduce wind. Of the available choices, the riding glasses possess the least level of overall protection since the eyes, though the most critical, are the only thing being protected.
Another factor to consider is lens or shield tint in any of the various forms of eye protection discussed. Lighting conditions change regularly and it’s often a good idea to have options available to get the most your gear. Though full-face shields offer the greatest overall level of protection to the eyes and face, this option is also the least flexible in terms of quickly and easily adjusting to variable lighting conditions. One of the most common ways to combat this issue is by using a clear all-purpose shield and wear tinted glasses. This allows the rider to change the eyeglasses without the hassle of trying to change out a shield. Goggles and riding glasses tend to be far more flexible in terms of adjusting to changing conditions quickly and easily. Many goggle manufacturers make their products with quick-change lenses that snap in and out in seconds. This is an excellent way to adapt your protective eyewear to changing light conditions. Lens colors will vary, but generally speaking you will primarily utilize clear for night riding, smoke or dark tint for bright sun conditions and some riders prefer yellow lenses for flat light, or foggy conditions.
Additional factors to consider are whether your choice of eye protection is made with UV ray protection, scratch-resistant lenses and fog-resistant coatings. Many of the lower end products, particularly in glasses and goggles will tend to not provide these extra benefits.
Of course when you use a full-face shield, wind is not a factor since your face is completely covered. However, if you should choose one of the other options, you will need to make certain that sufficient foam surrounds the eyepieces to reduce the effects of wind blowing into your eyes. When riding at 70 MPH, wind has a funny way of getting into the smallest of cracks surrounding your eyewear. For durability, you will want to make certain you are using neoprene foam as opposed the garden variety lightweight foam. This type of foam will tend to breakdown quickly and you’ll be out purchasing another pair.
The Right Stuff
So which type of eye protection is the right stuff? The absolute best answer here is that which type or style of eye protection you choose is of far less importance than making the simple choice of committing to safe riding and protecting your eyes before firing up the beast in your garage. Given the availability of quality protective options here, there is absolutely no reason not to. You have only one pair of eyes; protecting them is truly the right stuff.