Goggles vs Glasses for Mountain Biking?

What are we best to wear to protect our eyes while mountain biking? Sunglasses or goggles?

Across my many many years of mountain biking since 2004 I’ve worn many different pairs of sunglasses (and clear lens glasses), and goggles, while mountain biking, so I thought it was time I weighed in on the topic.

I’ve also ridden without any protective eyewear a bunch, even while downhill mountain biking – though I don’t do this anymore, since I got hit in the eye by a hanging branch while speeding down the trail in low light.

For the most part these days I trail ride with sunglasses. When I ride bike park or downhill with my full face helmet, I use my 100% goggles, with clear lenses.

Very rarely do I ride anymore without either form of eye protection – aside from UV damage of the eyes (which I really don’t want), it’s just to easy to get hit in the eyes with branches, mud, gravel, dust and other debris kicked up on the trail – especially when riding in a group, or closely following another mountain biker down the trail.

I’d definitely recommend having both sunglasses and goggles for mountain biking if you ride a mix of chill trails and more gnarly high speed downhill trails. It’s really great to have the choice to pick and choose what suits each ride best!

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of mountain biking with each type of eyewear…

Mountain biking with Sunglasses

Sunglasses I wear while mountain biking, made by Goodr


  • Everyone has at least one pair of sunglasses.
  • Virtually all sunglasses are confirmed to block UV from your sensitive eyes.
  • Socially acceptable to wear in almost all situations on and off the bike 😀
  • Can get pairs that can swap out lenses from dark to clear etc, to suit lighting.
  • Decent eye protection, depending on sunglasses frame style, from UV, insects, branches etc.
  • Lightweight and comfortable.


  • Not much in the way of face protection when riding gnarly trails, or coming into contact with lots of low hanging branches.
  • May not fit well with a full face helmet.
  • Not socially acceptable amongst mountain bikers to wear sunglasses with a full face helmet 😀
  • May have issues with fogging due to lack of airflow on wraparound designs.
  • Not all sunglass designs fit comfortably with helmets.
  • Not ideal for wet conditions, when getting splashed with water and mud.

Some more notes on mountain biking sunglasses:

The pair of sunglasses I used for riding previously were these Smith ones with interchangeable lenses. As you can see they saw a LOT of use, and the mirrored/dark lenses got horribly scratched up in the end.

Mountain biking sunglasses with 3 sets of interchangeable lenses

But while I used them, they were great for many years. I could easily swap between dark/mirrored, rose tinted, or clear lenses – depending on the light level where I was riding. Very handy.

Mountain biking with Goggles

Mountain biking goggles with clear lenses, made by 100%


  • The best level of protection of your eyes due to being fixed in place secured with strap, and not having any gaps around the side of your eyes to allow sticks or other objects in.
  • Great additional coverage for a good amount of your face also, especially in combination with a full face helmet – but similarly with a half shell helmet.
  • Goggles are often designed to prevent fogging.
  • Better equipped for splashes of water or mud.
  • Some mountain biking goggles come with a variety of interchangeable lenses for riding in different light conditions.


  • Bulkier than sunglasses.
  • Not always something everyone would feel comfortable wearing in a variety of mountain biking situations – could make a rider feel self conscious, like they’re going “full-enduro” on a relatively chill trail ride for example.
  • As goggles are pressed against the face while riding, they can end up rubbing sweat and dirt into your face for hours at a time.
  • Can’t be used for much beside eye protection while mountain biking.

Some more notes on mountain biking goggles:

You can see here how my goggles have the support structure which gives your face a bit of protection, and also the mesh that keeps most dust and debris out of your eyes.

Mountain biking goggles top view showing the ventilation

The goggles fit on the face pretty comfortably, but obviously after hours of riding you’ll have a bunch of sweat and dirt being rubbed into your face a little – still, worth it in my opinion.

Mountain biking goggles showing the foam side that sits against your face