One aspect of Winter Riding that deserves a quick look are the peculiar challenges of maintaining clear vision during the cold winter rides. Although a recent article in The Star had suggested wearing ski goggles to avoid blowing snow, this advise was not only short-sighted, but possibly even misguided if you consider the significant differences between skiing and cycling. Let’s start by assuring prospective new Winter Cyclists that although ski-goggles would be great during the occasional snowstorm (when you’re most likely to park your bike anyhow) you really don’t need to go out and invest money in a pair of expensive goggles for cycling if you don’t intend to ever go to schussing down ski slopes as well. Instead, if you consider some basic rationale, you’ll see that there are much more practical and clear-sighted alternatives available…
The reason you’re going to want to always shield your eyes during cold rides is not only to protect them from any occasional spray or crud from the road, but more consistently from the nasty effects of cold wind…Not just blowing snow as The Toronto Star suggested. Carrying a bulky set of ski goggles in your bag just in case of a snow flurry, isn’t going to do you any good when your eyes start streaming tears, and you can’t see clearly enough to even come to a safe stop.
Another couple of reason why ski goggles aren’t ideal is that:
- Downhill ski goggles need to be properly coated to prevent fogging, and when they coating starts to wear off, they need the much higher wind-speeds of downhill skiing to clear themselves through the foam-covered vents. The slower starts & stops and lower speeds of cycling encourages more fogging, and less efficient air flow for clearing.
- Downhill ski-goggles aren’t designed for optimal peripheral vision since it’s not the scenery that’s disappearing to the sides and behind you that you need to keep a sharp eye on, but rather the fast moving slope ahead.
So what’s the ideal alternative? Most good sporting supply stores, and outdoor outfitters like Mountain Equipment Coop (MEC) will carry ‘shields’ which are like form fitting sunglasses (think: ‘Oakley’ styles) that can be worn for a very wide variety of other sporting purposes as well. Most offer interchangable lenses, where yellow and amber tints are ideal for cleaning up murky lighting conditions, or showing details in bright snow and slush.
You might in fact want to consider getting two pairs, or an extra set of inter-changable lenses so that you have the option of a clear lens for riding at night as well.
Even if you don’t want to spring the cash on a nice pair of shields, you can get alot of the same effect from the kind of protective eyewear that you might find in the hardware store, which will also be assured to be shatterproof for your added protection. Even sport rifle, or racketsports shields will do the trick.
The important thing is to cut down on most of the cold wind (and any airbornes particles) that will be hitting your eye, by covering them with a large enough surface that comes down to nearly contact your cheekbones, so that you wont get drafts (or dirt) coming up underneath the lenses. So even a really large pair of aviator style sunglasses could do the trick as well if you wanted to sport that look instead!
So in the end, not only will a proper set of eye shields be more adaptable and usable, as well as being more safe and comfortable to wear under more different conditions…They also won’t make you look like an overzealous or hyper-competitive dork by wearing downhill ski goggles in the city on brutally cold, yet clear sunny days when there isn’t a falling snowflake in sight. Because it’s on those clear cold bright days that you’ll find your eyes tearing up to the point that your eyelashes will want to freeze together, even though there isn’t a snowcloud in the sky…and you don’t want to be wishing you’d packed a pair of bulky goggles in your bag when a sleek set of shields will do just as well…if not even better.