I've always wondered why road cyclists always look like they've just popped by on a detour from the Tour de France. Slick lycra (always colour co-ordinated) and obnoxiously cool sunglasses. This doesn't happen in most other sports I've taken part in. I don't pass runners on a Tuesday evening and think, 'Woah, look at them crushing that marathon'. I don't pass a horse rider out on a hack through my village and think, 'Look at them ready to take on an Olympic dressage test'. You just don't wheel out your fancy show kit for a Saturday morning amble.
But on my most recent bamboo bike ride, I discovered something – every day is a school day! It's not about the look of the kit (or how much it emphasises your body shape). Turns out this stuff is practical and the fact its made to look like you've stepped out a cycling ad is actually just coincidental. I apologise for all the times I've thought otherwise... well for most of those times anyway.
Learnings from a bug fight
Within about five minutes of heading out for an evening ride into the countryside, I was suffering from an unexpected problem. I had bugs bouncing off my face. And they weren't just bouncing off my face, they were fairly regularly bouncing off my eye balls. I'd like you to take a second to imagine that, because it is pretty much as unpleasant as it sounds. I wasn't travelling very quickly but I'm sure there is some sort of science thing about me travelling at X speed and them travelling in the opposite direction at Y speed, ending in an impact of Z. The only slight blessing is that they didn't seem to splat, they just sort of trampolined off my doughy, sweaty face.
Now you may or may not have had this experience, so let me emphasise that it's fairly distracting. Especially for someone who a) isn't expecting it and b) isn't that comfortable on their bike yet. My gravel bike has a far narrower wheel than all the mountain bikes I've owned before and it's lighter. Although I can obviously stay upright, I'm still getting used to how even the smallest movement sends me careering into the hedge. Swiping at flies is not a small movement. Neither is aggressively blinking to remove the eye ball intruders.
As I was having this educational (and arguably emotional) experience, several more knowledgable bike riders passed me wearing fancy cycling sunglasses. They nodded at me sympathetically (turns out cyclists are a very friendly bunch) and then serenely breezed through this bug-fest, leaving me in their jealous wake. 'Uh huh', I thought, 'they don't just wear those because they want to look cool and aloof'. Lesson well and truly learnt.
More to cycling sunglasses than meets the eye
I did some research on the interwebs. Actually cycling sunglasses are more than just bug barriers. Depending on the amount in your budget, you can also get a range of different lenses that make the road easier to see in all weathers – from blazing sunshine to fog to just changing the way your eyes process the whole world (thank you Oakley). So you can repel bugs, look like a super hero and also not accidentally ride into a ditch, which are a set of specific benefits I didn't think would be coming at the same time.
UPDATE: I have also discovered on another bike ride since that glasses would also be useful to avoid streaming eyes in windy weather. Who knew?
Now I've looked into it, obviously I want the most ridiculous pair with the largest number of benefits you can squeeze into a product. I did actually google 'bamboo cycling sunglasses' – such a thing does not exist, so if someone could get on that for me at a reasonable price point I would appreciate it.
A purchase on pause
The thing is sunglasses are the sort of thing you really need to try on before investing £200 and discovering they make you look like someone pretending to be a serious cyclist. It's also very useful to take a friend who will mock you just the right amount to get a second opinion. I can do neither of those things right now (oh hey, are we in a lockdown?). This means this purchase is on pause and I'll probably dig out a pair of my wooden sunglasses for temporary use. They'll go very well with my 'not cycling shorts', 'not cycling waterproof jacket' and 'absolutely not cycling shoes'.
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