Riders often spend hours researching and months saving for components they think will give them a competitive edge. Many believe that new wheels will make them faster. Or that colorful handlebars will give them more style on the trail. Similarly, they’ll spend money on pieces of kit that look good, or match their vibe. Often times riders overlook a critically important piece of performance gear, a product that is directly related to one of the most important senses a mountain biker has on the trail – sight!
We’re guilty of this too. We’ve dismissed “overpriced” eyewear and opted for $5 gas station glasses, or ridden in Harbor Freight safety glasses before. For some reason we accept that our riding isn’t the same on a set of crappy $30 tires because rubber compounds and sidewall technology truly enhance the ride. Yet, we haven’t bought into the fact that optically correct lenses and heightened vision will keep us safer and riding better on the trail.
During this goggle roundup we tested a variety of goggles at different price points and learned a lot about how important quality lenses are. The faster you ride, the more you rely on correct and highly defined vision, making line choices, braking points and avoiding obstacles as calmly and smoothly as possible. Being able to spend less time straining your eyes to make out the difference between a shadow or a rock could mean the difference between a checkered flag or a face-full of dirt.
Below is the group of goggles we tested with several riders over the last six months.
OUR VALUE SELECTION
LEATT VELOCITY 5.5
Starting at $59.99
Without a doubt we’ve spent the most combined time in the Leatt Velocity goggles. Leatt sponsored our Bike Park Review Tour so we had a crew of six guys riding them all over the US and Cananda. One of our other favorites of the roundup, Leatt’e Velocity 5.5 goggles are stout, perform and are a really solid value. Designed to pass the Military Ballistic Impact Standard, these bulletproof goggles offer a competitive field of view, 45mm anti-slip coated straps, anti-fog lenses and a really cool self-draining lens and frame design.
Leatt has an incredible number of colors available for frames, straps and lenses, so you’ll have no problem finding a goggle to match your kit or bike. The goggles have a removable nose guard, are roll-off ready and have a triple-layer dual-density foam with an anti-sweat fleece backing.
We had a couple fitment issues with the goggles getting in some helmets, but overall the Velocity goggles fit our riders’ faces comfortably. Although some riders said that nose-breathing was slightly impeded compared to the Scott and Oakley goggles. Similarly, the field of view specifically at the top and bottom of the lenses is not as good as Oakley’s or Scott’s. Then again they’re quite a bit more affordable too.
One of the coolest features on the Leatt goggles is the self-draining lens and frame design. Unlike fully-framed goggles, the Leatt’s have an opening at the bottom so mud and water can flow down and off the lens instead of build up at the bottom of your frame. Kudos to Leatt for that awesome design. If you like that then you’ll also like Leatt’s permanent anti-fog treatment that’s built into the inner lens polymer. We rode in snow, hail storms rain and sun without much issue of fogging. Yes, it will still happen, but it’s definitely better than most.
Leatt has done a very good job creating a competitive and stylish goggle at several awesome price points. The definition and clarity of the lenses are only surpassed by Oakley, but the field of view issue puts it just behind Scott’s Prospect, making the Leatt a strong all around contender and a goggle we find ourselves riding in more-often than not. If you don’t ride in super steep terrain where you need every bit of lens you can get, or want something a bit cooler looking than the Scott’s without having to drop Oakley-coin, the Leatt Velocity gets our seal of approval.
KING OF CUSTOM
Who doesn’t love custom!? Melon Optics have made a name for themselves in the UK and their following is spreading around the globe as they are the kings of custom. Melon Optics offer an incredibly robust goggle building system on their website and it makes goggle shopping even more fun than it already is. Riders can choose to customize their goggles by not only picking different color options but can also choose from a variety of patterns to make a goggle as unique as its owner.
We built several pairs of Melon goggles and tested both their Parker and Diablo models. When the goggles arrived we were very pleased with the colors and how accurate they looked compared to the online builder. It was awesome to see our dream in-hand. The next thing we noticed was the flimsy nature of the frames. Compared to goggles like the Oakley Airbrake and Leatt Velocity, they feel very thin and as if they’d lack the protection afforded by a more durable goggle. The benefit of the flimsy frame is a comfortable fit that molds around your face.
Melon claims to have the widest field of view of any mountain bike goggle, at 17.5cm. While it is nice to have great peripheral vision, we’ve found that vertical field of view numbers are also very important as downhill riders spend a lot of time on steep terrain looking out the top portion of their goggles.
Other features on the Melon Diablo goggles include their SwitchFast Strap system, which allows for quick and easy strap changes and their 360 venting system. We found the goggles to be a bit warm and didn’t breath well on climbs, or slow moving trails but would clear out once at speed.
Our biggest critique about the Melon goggles comes from their Chrome lenses. Our testers noticed a big difference in the optics of the Chrome lenses at they moved their eyes up and down throughout the lens. The chromatic aberration is most noticed on brighter days and on terrain where soil, rocks and shrubbery are all of similar shades. We had a very hard time differentiating tall grass, rocks and braking bumps in the high deserts of Bend, which is not ideal when you’re on a ten-inch wide bit of singletrack at 35 miles per hour. The smoke and clear lenses did not suffer from the same issue, so if you do get a pair of Melons, we’d suggest avoiding their Chrome lenses.
We love the looks of our Melon Diablo goggles and applaud the brand for offering their consumers such a fun and engaging way to build and buy goggles. Sadly their Chrome lenses are very hard to ride in so we’d strongly suggest you stick to their clear or smoked lens options.
THE BEST OF THE BEST
OAKLEY AIRBRAKE MTB and MX
Starting at $180
What we consider to be the gold standard in goggles, the Oakley Airbrake, is the undisputed winner when it comes to performance. Oakley now offers the Airbrake in a MTB frame, meaning it has more ventilation to reduce the likelihood of fogging at slower speeds and climbs that mountain bikers encounter. A very real issue compared to their dirt bike counterparts.
Oakley’s optical superiority was apparent to all of our testers and is no doubt a result of their Plutonite lenses. Oakley lenses are “injection-molded under very high pressure with high impact Plutonite to create a precise contour of optically correct geometry and clarity.” It sounds like science fiction to us too, but the proof is in the pudding and the combination of lens shape and lens color treatments gave our riders the best vision on the trail, period.
While the performance certainly comes at a premium price, at least you get what you pay for. Oakley goggles fit well, work better and offer a very easy Switchlock lens design that our testers all enjoyed. If you’ve got the cash to spend and want the absolute best in optical performance, Oakley’s Airbrake can’t be beat.
BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK
If you’re not prepared to drop two bills on a pair of goggles, the Scott Prospect is probably one of our group’s favorite goggles when it comes to performance for the price. Battling neck and neck with the Leatt Velocity goggles, the Scott Prospects take a slight edge in a few key areas. The Scott’s have a slightly larger field of view, utilize an easy to use Lens Lock System, have articulating outriggers and a really awesome No Sweat three-layer face foam. The unique face foam has a micro-fiber layer that is highly absorbing and keeps your eyes free from sweat.
Like Oakley, Scott also has a dirt bike and MTB focused goggle, called the Enduro LS. We tested both goggles but do not like the limited vision offered by the more ventilated Enduro LS lens. The vents above the brow helped reduce fogging on slower trails and climbs, but really affected our vision on steep downhills when the rider’s head is tilted up and you’re looking through the upper part of the lens.
The Prospect goggles we tested impressed all of our riders, although the green chrome lens was not our favorite on bright days. Scott offers a wide range of lens tints so you can be sure to pick the right color for your local terrain and lighting. Scott also ships the goggles with a spare clear lens.
Overall the Scott Prospect goggles fit into a wide variety of helmets thanks to the articulating outriggers, fit close to the face thanks to the the low-profile design and offer great field of view. The nose area is comfortable and allowed most of our testers a very unrestricted airflow while breathing through the nose. Scott’s Prospect goggle is a great option for riders looking to get a performance piece of eyewear but aren’t quite ready to drop $200.
Starting at $65
Over the years we’ve had several pairs of 100% Racecraft goggles here at the Wolf Den. We always enjoy 100%’s color and stylistic appeal when it comes to their goggles. At $65-75 they are on the reasonable side of the pricing spectrum, which is great for riders on a budget. The downside is, they kind of feel like they’re at the lower end of the quality spectrum.
The Racecraft goggles look great, however the more we wore them the quicker they showed their value. We found the lenses scratch quite easily and the anti-fog treatment isn’t as good as others in the roundup. Moisture frequently built on the inside of the lenses at slower speeds and in foggy or damp conditions. We also wished for a more modern lens changing system. The nine-pin lens retention system works well, however it leaves your lenses with a whole lot of finger prints because you have to wrestle the lens into the channel and locate each of the nine pins.
We like that 100% ships the goggles with a stack of tear-offs and if you order the mirrored lens models, they ship with a clear lens as well. 100% also did a great job with fit as the goggles fit quite well and the triple-layer foam face pad helped keep sweat out of our eyes. Overall, the 100% Racecraft goggles are near the top the list for best looking but aren’t our favorite in terms of performance.
SHRED. AMAZIFY MTB GOGGLE
Shred’s Amazify goggles have a unique look that shouts, big window view! These sleek goggles fit nicely in all the helmets we tried and were quite comfortable on our rider’s faces, but Shred does suggest riders have at least a size medium helmet to fit the 100mm tall and 185mm wide frame. The Amazify goggles use a 40mm strap with double-silicone line backing. They’re the only goggles in the shootout that don’t use an outrigger system, so the straps insert directly the outer portion of the frame.
Shred uses ultra-high-optical-precision molded double lenses with tapered thicknesses to optimize vision at all angles while also enhancing impact protection. Clarity and quality of vision are important for Shred and they definitely offer higher quality vision than the 100% or Melon goggles thanks to their Contrast Boosting Lens tech. If you ride with prescription glasses, rejoice, as the Shred Amazify goggles are designed to fit over prescription glasses. Other technologies include Shred NoClog treatment, which is their hydrophobic treatment on the vents to reduce fogging.
Overall the Shred Amazify goggles are a solid option for those looking at a new pair of goggles and want something a bit different. They offer great optical quality and clarity while being comfortable. For being a smaller brand in the two-wheeled world, Shred have done a good job creating a goggle that competes with some heavy hitters. We really like these goggles and will continue to wear them.