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The Goggle Buyer's Guide

>> Ashley Benson

Being able to see while riding on a motorcycle is pretty important. And while you always want to dress for the crash, having a good pair of goggles will help you avoid a crash due to lack of visibility. With any kind of riding, your eyes are going to have a lot of enemies. From wind to dirt to bugs, getting something in your eye mid-ride really isn't advantageous and trying to clean it out while still riding is only going to heighten your chances of meeting the ground in an all too painful way. Instead, invest in a good pair of goggles to keep your eyes open and free of debris.

Of course, with so many different types of riding, there are tons of different types of goggles. From street goggles to off-road goggles and tinted lenses to clear lenses, the choice can be a little difficult to make so let us help you out with this goggle guide.

Off-road Goggles

There are so many different styles of off-road riding and goggle manufacturers have pretty much thought of every aspect of every style in order to customize goggles to make them perfect no mater what kind of riding you are doing. This means that you'll need to know what kind of riding that you will be doing when you're goggle shopping and buy accordingly. You will always want to buy based on the riding conditions you'll be wearing them in and how much activity you will be doing while riding. These ProGrip 3458 Goggles with Roll-Off System have literally everything you would need for off-road goggles. But there are a few basic features that you'll want with every pair of goggles.

Any goggles that you buy should have a good range of vision. In any type of riding, you'll need to be able to see everything ahead of you as well as to the sides. When you try goggles on, be sure to try them on with your helmet and check to see if the edges of the goggles obstruct your vision in any way. You also need to make sure that the lens is not in any way distorted even where it curves to fit the frames.

The frames of a well fitted pair of goggles should recess into the eye opening of your helmet while still giving you a full view of your surroundings. Make sure that the foam padding on the goggles rests on your face around the whole goggle and that there aren't any openings.

A good set of frames should be flexible in order to allow the frames to fit your face and helmet. Frames should also come with a good venting system especially if you're going to be doing a lot of activity while riding. Your body will be throwing off heat and moisture and vents will allow your goggles to breathe and keep them from fogging up. You might also want to coat the inside of your goggles with an anti-fog chemical. These lenses for Scott goggles are great because they already have the anti-fog coating. Many goggles will also come with an extra layer of moisture wicking material in the foam for riders who tend to work up a sweat. This keeps the moisture out of the goggles to keep down fogging.

The straps on your goggles are also extremely important. Simply put, if your straps don't stay in place, neither will your goggles. And messing with your straps can get very annoying very quickly. Most straps are made from a heavy woven nylon that should be both elastic and adjustable. But cheap straps can tend to have a mind of their own and slip, slide and readjust themselves. In order to avoid strap mayhem, buy a pair of goggles that has silicone beading or patterning on the inside of the strap. This will allow the strap to grip to your helmet and stay right where you want it to be while you ride.

Unlike with street riding, off-road riders have a tendency to get dirty a whole lot faster and, especially with MX racers, they often don't have the time to just stop and clear the mud off in order to see again. This is where tear-offs are a great thing to have on a ride. If you know that you're going to be playing in some serious dirt and mud, slap some tear- offs onto your lenses before riding. These handy little items are just laminated sticker-like films that go over your lens and can be peeled off mid ride in order to clear away any of the mud and grime and allow you to see clearly again. However, we really love the Dragon MDX Rapid Roll Sysyem which can be attached to any Dragon goggles and have a roll-off system instead of a tear-off system. This method is essentially the same as tear-offs but allows you to have more film strips for each installment. Tear-offs often only fit up to ten tears while a roll can have twice as much. This kit also comes with a handy mud visor for extra protection from the elements. Many goggle manufacturers make both tear-offs and roll-offs for their goggles.

Depending on the conditions that you'll be riding in, you'll want to get the right tinted or shaded lenses. Check out the lens color explanations below for more help on choosing the right ones. Just as with many street-riding goggles, it's also better to spend the extra money on a pair of goggles off-road goggles that have UV protection as well.

Street Goggles

With street riding, many riders tend to get up to a pretty decent speed. Without a car windshield in front of you, the wind whipping past your face can get pretty intense. Many people try to eliminate this by either wearing a full-face street helmet or by installing a windshield on their bike. With a full-face helmet on, you might be able to avoid having to purchase any eyewear as long as you get the right shield to go with it. Otherwise, eye wear is a must have even with a windshield. Many people feel that sunglasses or motorcycle glasses give them enough coverage to keep their eyes comfortable. And while motorcycle glasses do indeed get the job done in some cases, goggles hold a few advantages over them. We really love these Eye Ride The Works Goggles.

Goggles are great because, if they fit properly, there's no way unnecessary or excess air is getting around the rims and into your eyes whether you have a windshield or not. If you ride without a windshield on your bike, your face will be what cuts through the wind so motorcycle glasses may not give you enough coverage. Instead, goggles will help you slice through the air without eye problems.

The second common eye irritant that you will have to deal with while riding your bike during the day is the blaring sun (especially if you live in Alaska during the summer where the sun is up for almost 21 hours a day). On sunny days, the weather might be perfect for riding but trying to ride with the sun in your eyes can ruin it all. So, just like motorcycle glasses, motorcycle goggles have a variety of tinted lenses to make sure that whatever lighting you're riding in doesn't affect your vision. For information on all of the various lens colors, check out the explanations of them all below.

The best goggles for daytime riding will be treated for ultraviolet rays. Since over exposure to UV rays can cause serious eye damage, be sure to get goggles that shield and protect your eyes from them. Another great feature that you'll want your motorcycle goggles to have is polarized lenses. These types of lenses have a series of crystals between the layers of the lens that blocks scattered light from reaching your eye that would cause glare. Glare is the worst in direct sunlight but can also be caused by wet roads, buildings and windshields and can cause a rider to be unable to see. These lenses are, however, more expensive but well worth the crisp view you'll have even in the harshest light.

Goggles are typically made with a strong plastic and we highly recommend getting a pair of goggles like these Pacific Coast Airfoil 7610 Series Goggle that have polycarbonate plastic lenses. This type of plastic is virtually indestructible yet extremely light weight. Plus it's thinner, stronger and lighter than glass lenses and automatically comes with UV protection. Lenses made out of this material are great at absorbing high-energy impacts from flying objects that you may encounter while riding. Unfortunately, this material does have a tendency to scratch easily if they do come into contact with a fast moving flying object. If you're really worried about your lenses getting scratched, buy a pair of goggles that have a clear scratch resistant coating.

The Fit

With any goggles, you'll want to make sure that they fit well. Because goggles come with adjustable straps that allow you to make them bigger or smaller depending on the size of your cranium, this shouldn't be too difficult of a task. Still, you'll want to make sure that the goggles have straps that can go as big or as small as you need. If you can't get your goggles to be small enough, you'll find that loose goggles can be very annoying and will have a tendency to do whatever they want and distract you while you ride.

On the other hand, goggles that can't adjust to be big enough will be very uncomfortable. You want your goggles to be snug without making it impossible for blood to flow to your cranium. If it sucks so much when you leg falls asleep, just imagine what it must feel like if your head falls asleep. If you get a pair of goggles that are too tight, you'll also notice that the frames will be too close to your eyes and end up obstructing your view. Buy a pair of goggles that have straps that are not only adjustable, but are adjustable to the extent that you will need.

Because face structures vary, different goggles will fit differently on different people. Even if your goggles fit perfectly, keep an eye out for any pressure points where your goggles could irritate your face while riding. If it seems like you just have one of those faces that can't agree with goggles and continuously comes across painful pressure points, get a pair of goggles with outrigger straps instead. Many top of the line goggles come with this system to allow for the best fit possible. You always want to try your goggles on with your helmet to make sure that your helmet and goggles can live happily together while you ride. A pair of goggles can agree with you but disagree with your helmet and cause odd lifting in areas or pressure points in others.

Goggle Foam

Foam is the main reason that riders need to buy a new set of goggles. Cheap foam will not only be less comfortable but will deteriorate a whole lot faster as well. When shopping for goggles, keep in mind that a high end pair might cost a few extra bucks but the foam will be a higher quality and will last longer, which will save you from having to replace them more often. A good foam construction should be anchored well to and slightly denser toward the frames. The softer the foam is where it will be resting on your face, the more comfortable the goggles will be. If you plan on riding in sandy terrains, check out special desert goggles such as these Scott Recoil Sand/Dust Goggles that have specialized foam. The foam in these goggles has smaller pores in order to still allow for air to flow without letting sand in.

Lens Color and Tint

Goggle manufacturers have made tons of different lens colors and tints in order to give you the best visibility in all conditions. This means that there is an overwhelming amount of options for the type of lenses you should buy depending on when and where you will be riding.

The most basic type of lens is clear. These lenses are just your straightforward plastic lenses that are great for low-light conditions such as if you'll be driving at night or on a gloomy day. Because these lenses have no color to them, they let through the most amount of light without filtering anything out. Most of these lenses do not come with any UV protection because they are not meant to be worn in intense sunlight.

On the opposite side of the spectrum are gray lenses. Gray is a perfect color for minimizing light while still maintaining colors to their true hues. These lenses also help reduce glare from direct sunlight. Many goggles can have a varying darkness of hue and the darker the gray, the more light the lens will absorb and the less light will hit your eye. Get a darker lens for high light conditions and a lighter lens for more low-lighting situations.

If you don't want to have to buy different lenses or goggles for different light conditions, some goggle have lenses that are transitional. These lenses adjust their level of darkness depending on the amount of sunlight so they can be worn at any time.

In between clear and gray goggle lenses are many varying colors that will give you differing advantages in different conditions. Amber and Orange tinted lenses reduce the amount of blue light, which is what causes glare, that will hit your eye. These lens colors also help to pump up the contrast, brighten in lower lit conditions and enhance details. Yellow lenses are also great for days with minimal light. These allow you to see without needing a lot of light while cutting down on glare and improving depth perception. Rose tinted lenses also help to give better contrast, cut down on glare and reduce eyestrain in well lit conditions. A green lens will work really well in the most general conditions. This color will enhance contrast in low light conditions but reduce eyestrain in well lit situations. These are just a few of the hues that lenses come in. Other colors include brown and copper. The general rule is that the darker it is, the better it will be on a sunny day while the lighter lenses are better for gloomy days or night time.

Lenses can also be mirrored. Almost any color lens including clear and yellow can be flashed with a mirror coating that will allow you to see out while keeping others from seeing in. This will give you a more "private" feel and will also look pretty cool. A mirror coating can also help to cut down glare. This is great on clear lenses that don't have any glare protection which can be annoying when facing oncoming headlights at night.

Having a lens for every type of light situation that you might encounter is always a good way to be prepared. There are two easy ways to do so: either buy a pair of goggles for each lens color or buy a pair of goggles that has interchangeable lenses. We love having interchangeable lenses but this is totally based off of preference.

Don't have perfect eyesight?

If you don't happen to have 20/20 vision, there are a few different options for buying a pair of goggles that will still allow you to see clearly. If you wear glasses, many goggles, such as these Bobster Phoenix OTB Goggles, are shaped to allow you to wear your glasses under the goggles. Be sure to check to see if your glasses fit comfortably under the goggles before riding. You'll want to get a pair of goggles that won't lose their comfort and seal with spectacles on as well. These goggles are a bit more round and convex so many people might think that they look goofy. If that's the case, you'll need to invest in some pretty expensive prescription lenses, start wearing contacts or just get Lasik.

Maintenance and storage for all goggles

Keeping your goggles properly maintained is paramount when it comes to keeping them in top condition and keeping you from having to replace them more often than you need to. Be sure to always wash your goggles daily or after each use. The best way to wash your goggles is with warm water and a mild soap. Never use harsh cleaners on your goggles as they will break down any coating on your lenses as well as corrode any foam. When drying off your goggles, use a microfiber cloth to avoid scratching them and then let the foam and strap air dry thoroughly before storing them.

Do not store your goggles in direct sunlight or in places that can get extremely hot. Sound familiar? Hanging your goggles from your rear view mirror or setting them on your dashboard may make you look cool or be convenient, but it will break down the integrity of your goggles a whole lot faster. When you're not using your goggles, be sure to store them in a goggle case like this Fox Goggle Case so that they don't get damaged of scratched.

In order to get rid of finger prints, bug guts or dirt during a ride, use a goggle lens cleaning cloth or microfiber cloth to wipe them off. Avoid the urge to just use your shirt or jersey to wipe them down as these fabrics can cause scratching as well as can many other forms of cloth.

Once you've figured out the characteristics that your street or off-road goggles will need to have to allow you to see clearly while you ride, feel free to get creative. As with all of the rest of your motorcycle gear, motorcycle manufacturers make tons of different styles, looks and colors to allow you to express yourself from head to toe. Whether you're a chopper riding cruiser and want to be decked out in chrome from head to toe or an off- road rider obsessed with bright neon colors, buy your goggles to fit your look.

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