To See, or Not to See.

Story by Emily Roberts// Photos by Dean Foster
October 31 2023

Ahh, but what would I be doing if I didn’t spend as much time as possible trying to hurt myself? I, of course, would then have no words of wisdom to pass on to you fine readers. I wouldn’t be able to share my teachings in hope that you would not make the same idiotic mistakes I often find myself making.

“You should see the other guy:” Sadly, I can’t use this as an excuse for my blackened eye. I didn’t expect to end up riding my trials bike without glasses, but things changed while out with friends, when we found ourselves in a dark and wooded area. I took off my sunglasses so I could see the trail better, and before I knew it, I was fumbling on a steep hill and getting a closeup of the blunt end of my handlebar.

I had clocked myself in the face. First, I felt the blood dripping down my face, and then my vision narrowed as my cheek swelled up. I thought about the mistake I had made and of how much worse it could’ve been if the bar had hit a few millimetres higher. I got lucky: the bar hit directly on my cheekbone, narrowly missing my eye socket.

I’m happy I wasn’t wearing my glasses when this happened, as I had brought a cheap pair of sunglasses that surely would’ve shattered had the handlebar hit those first instead of my face. It likely would’ve caused more damage than experiencing the direct hit. Safety glasses or goggles should’ve been my choice. Goggles would have been the best option, offering rubber frames and squishy foam to help lessen the impact.

It begs the question: To see, or not to see? Costa Mouzouris often doesn’t wear glasses while riding and with good reason. A mutual friend of ours crashed while riding, and her glasses didn’t break, but her helmet shifted and caught the frames, bruising her face badly and giving her a deep gash on the bridge of her nose.

Mouzouris understands that there are exceptions, especially for riders with prescription glasses, but recommends that if you do wear glasses while riding to get plastic lenses so they won’t shatter. He also says that it’s fine to wear glasses in an open-faced helmet but doesn’t recommend wearing them in full-faced helmets.

I enjoy wearing glasses while street riding as I often have the visor open to feel the wind, but after hearing about the damage that can be caused by impact, I’ll be rethinking the use of my visor.

Looking for a pair of truly shatterproof glasses isn’t an easy thing — the lenses may be strong, but what about the frame? Some of the strongest materials used for frames are titanium and TR90. Titanium is incredibly strong and lightweight, and can also be flexible and corrosion-resistant. Also strong and lightweight is TR90, a thermoplastic resin that allows the frames to bend in half, and to be dropped without breaking.

Strong lens materials, meanwhile, are usually made of polycarbonate or TAC. Polycarbonate lenses are impact-resistant and shatterproof and block 100 per cent of UV rays, while TAC (Tri-acetate Cellulose) is more affordable but is not nearly as indestructible as the preferred polycarbonate lenses. Polycarbonate is said to be up to 10 times more impact-resistant than TAC lenses.

Another good indicator of impact-resistant and shatterproof glasses is the ANSI Z87.1 or Z87+ certification. This standardized certification means that the glasses have been tested and deemed safe to be used as safety eyewear in the workplace. This means that the glasses protect from direct impact, non-ionizing radiation, and small particles, and are safe for welding.

For impact testing, the frames and lenses must withstand the weight of a .5 kg pointed projectile dropped from a height of 127 cm; the lens must remain intact and completely attached to the frame. Furthermore, the frames and lenses must withstand an impact of a .6 cm diameter steel ball fired at a rate of 45.75 m/s (metres per second). With this test, no contact with the head form is allowed. This is repeated at least 20 times from different angles.

The Z87+ rating is considered a step above and deemed safe for high-velocity impacts. Another consideration is the fit on your face and head: if they’re squeezing or tight in areas, that can cause additional damage.

In the past, I hadn’t given much thought to the quality of eyewear for riding, but I’ll be checking my glasses for durability and considering the right type of eyewear for the type of riding I’m doing from now on. Eyewear ultimately comes down to the rider’s preference, comfort and style of riding, but consider what might work best if something were to go wrong. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, especially when you still have your vision after a crash.


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