When it comes to eyewear you have three options; glasses, goggles or YOLOing it and hoping you don’t take a lump of dirt to the eye!
Goggles offer the greatest level of protection and security, making them an invaluable piece of equipment if your riding is more gravity or race fed. When choosing goggles there are a few factors to weigh up:
There is a huge chasm between the cheapest and most expensive goggles available – even though optical clarity tends to improve the more you spend, goggles do get banged up so you have to ask yourself how much can you really afford to splash out?
This will affect the longevity of your goggles, how long will they last, are the lenses interchangeable, can the straps be replaced and the clarity of the lenses affect the sharpness of your vision.
Field of View
Goggles have two main functions, to keep debris out of your eyes and allow you an unrestricted view of trail features. Chunkier frames tend to impact on visibility and protrude into your eye line.
No one like being too hot or sweaty and when goggles start to fog up it defeats the whole reason for wearing them! This can be frustrating so a well ventilated goggle is massively important.
Not only consigned to how the goggle sits on your face, an important factor is how it interacts with your helmet.
The undisputed heavyweights with a lofty asking price setting them in a different class from the others. We wanted to hammer the Oakleys because of their stratospheric price tag, but in the end we couldn’t! From just picking the Airbrake up you can feel its superior build quality, it’s just solid in every department, especially the pop up latches at the side which make changing lenses a pleasure rather than a pain like 95% of other goggles we’ve come across. The fit and comfort is great, which for us is one of the most important factors as it actually lets you focus on riding, the ventilation mirrors this. Perhaps the Airbrake’s defining feature is just the sheer quality of the lenses, the clarity is in another league giving you great detail in every corner of the frame, which is also supermodel like in terms of structure giving it a field of vision right at the sharp end of our group test. The only catch with the Airbrake is the price, but we can’t argue with the clear performance difference and urge you if you have the money to splash out, then by all means go for it!
If bright and punchy colour schemes are your thing then 100%’s offering will be right up your street! It’s difficult to talk about fit as this is personal preference and dependant on the shape of the individual’s face but we found that the lower edge of the Racecraft tended to dig in a little on riders with slightly wider faces. The inside of the goggles felt a little cramped compared to the competition with the field of view reflecting this, whilst the clarity of the lens also let it down slightly against its competition. The build quality and feel is good with the longevity reflecting this, the ‘Outrigger’ strap design is a neat feature and certainly helps reduce pressure on the outer edge of the goggles. There is plenty of adjustments in the strap and the lenses can be swapped with ease. One of the lightest in test, a reasonable price point, and with a broad spectrum of designs to choose from, should you pluck for the 100% Racecraft you won’t be left scratching your head.
We liked the classic clean look of the Blok which was somewhat understated compared to some others in test. It did, however, feel a little cheaper in terms of build quality which was reflected in the stitching coming away on the strap logo. Despite the slightly cheaper feel, the Blok won points back in terms of comfort, sitting neutrally on the face without digging in or creating any annoying pressure points. The lens has good clarity and the field of view is impressive, especially on the peripheral, and ventilation also seems to be up to scratch. Swapping lenses was pretty simple but we found that it tended to get hung up on the bridge of the nose, but with a little more ‘persuasion’ soon popped into place, the strap was one of the narrowest but didn’t seem to hinder the security on the helmet. The Bloks were the lightest and most compact in test, which combined with their comfort makes them a solid package, gaining a fair amount of support from our testing team.
Fox Air Defence
Fox Head’s moto origins can clearly be seen in the Air Defence, they are pretty chunky when sat alongside their slimmer competition. Construction feels solid as a brick, the lens is thick and will take more abuse in terms of impacts and we foresee little issues in terms of longevity – we certainly didn’t experience any! They have a thick layer of foam which cushions the face, this is combined with an extra layer of wicking material which helps keep sweat and other moisture at bay. There is plenty of breathability with a big vent running along the top and runs right round to the nose section albeit, a little smaller. The lens is more curved and reaches far into the side of the frame giving the goggles great peripheral vision, although the top and bottom visibility is narrower than most of the others in test. Swapping lenses is hassle free providing you start at the nose first, somewhere the Air Defence moved away from all but one of its rivals. The Air Defence were solid in all aspects but at the second most expensive we’d have liked a little more.
Melon Optics Parker Custom
It’s fair to say the Melon Optics were the underdog in this test in terms of reputation and price point. Hovering around €35 for a pair of customized goggles, surely there’s got to be a catch? Surely they’ve got to be naff?! Well, they’re not, far from it actually! The feel of the goggles is solid, the construction is far from luxurious but there are some neat features like the slide in and out strap which means you can replace damaged straps, or should you simply decide to swap colours or design you can. Comfort and fit wise the Parker was solid, out performing a lot of its steeper priced competitors which tended to be a reoccurring theme. We didn’t have any problems with ventilation but they did seem a little more enclosed than others, which could cause issues on humid or wet days. The field of view is up there at the top, its loses a little to the widest more curved goggles on the sides, and a little to the likes of the Oakley at the top but we found it to have great visibility at the bottom. Let’s be clear, these were not the best performing goggles, but in terms of the price tag they blew everything else out the water and left us scratching our head as to why all its competitors have such gargantuan price tags… There is also the bonus of literally hundreds of custom colour and design combinations, have fun using the customiser and we hope you’re less indecisive than we were in choosing between leopard print or tropical!
Did you enjoy this article? If so, we would be stoked if you decide to support us with a monthly contribution. By becoming a supporter of ENDURO, you will help secure a sustainable future for high-quality mountain bike journalism. Click here to learn more.
Words & Photos: