Providing the ultimate eye protection for trail, enduro, bike park and downhill riders, the best MTB goggles are lightweight, work with both trail and full face helmets and have amazing optical clarity.
Eye protection is essential for mountain biking; the best mountain bike goggles reduce the chances of injury from low hanging branches and flying debris, stops dust and mud getting in your eyes, stops harmful UV rays getting in and can help improve clarity and contrast in bright or low-light conditions so you can read the terrain better.
MTB goggles also offer more protection than glasses, sealing out debris, weather and pesky flying insects, and also help with helmet stability thanks to ever-improving design. They’re also often great value for money, so make financial sense too.
If you are looking for the best cycling sunglasses for trail riding, however, we’ve tried and tested a lot to recommend only the cream of the crop.
Best for contrast, clarity and comfort
Lens: Contrast Rose Flash, Clear lens and goggle bag included | Weight: 119g | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: Cinematic riding experience, great ventilation, comfortable fit
Reasons to avoid: Not cheap
The Smith Squad XL is the equivalent of a 70in 4K TV for your face. Boasting pin sharp optical clarity and unhindered panoramic vision, it actually enhances your view of the trail ahead as well as protecting your eyes from insects, flying debris and encroaching vegetation. There’s plenty of airflow to keep you from getting stuffy or misting up, and there’s none of the claustrophobic tunnel vision that comes with some goggles.
The shallow frame means the lens sits closer to your eyes, so no claustrophobic tunnel vision, and the design also doesn’t pinch your nose or restrict breathing.
And while they aren’t the cheapest priced goggles out there, for the quality, the clarity and the features, they’re actually pretty competitively priced.
Best for wide field of view and helmet compatability
Lens: Black/grey smoke, Kryptex/smoke, matt lime/grey green, matt vermillion/purple red | Weight: 116g | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Quality option from the helmet kings
Reasons to avoid: You can spend a lot less
One of the best sets of goggles out at the moment. The Giro Blok give the rider an almost uninterrupted field of view, which is pretty much everything you need from your eyewear. Lens clarity is particularly good with the blue tinted mirror lens.
In fact one of the most noticeable things about the Blok is just how little you actually notice them. The typical foam cushioning is covered in a super soft fleece-like material, leaving very few pressure points. I often get issues with other goggles slightly pinching my nose and causing a little restriction to breathing; no such issues here.
Ventilation is on a par with the best, any steam issues quickly clear with a bit of airflow. Overall an excellent goggle choice for all types of gravity based riding in terms of range of vision and comfort.
Best budget mountain bike goggle
Lens: Mirrored or clear | Weight: 117g | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Comfortable, light, flexible, decent lens
Reasons to avoid: Nothing
Bell’s Descender goggle is a relatively new product from the helmet behemoth, designed to complement its enduro and DH offerings. For a first attempt, Bell has done a great job with the Descender goggle. The fit excellent is excellent, and combined with the ultra stretchy strap, kept the Descender goggles tight and stable on rough ground. They are also so light means that we almost forgot we were wearing them.
The googles are nothing fancy and doesn’t boast any tricks or gimmicks, but they do a good job for a price that won’t make your eyes water.
Best for durability
Lens: Multiple mirrored, tinted and clear | Weight: 153g | Rating: 8/10
Reasons to buy: Heavy-duty build. Excellent lens clarity.
Reasons to avoid: Not the lightest. Some internal reflections depending on frame colour.
A well-vented frame uses a dual-layer foam with extra sweat-absorbing properties and a wide, 170° field of vision. The ‘80s Skull MTB’ colourway here uses a funky rose-pink lens that makes the world look weird at first, but, once adjusted, clarity, and especially contrast, is excellent. Out in the open or in trees on brighter days, the level of detail drawn from trail surfaces is on a par with Smith’s Squad ChromaPop lenses.
One negative is how the lower portion of the bright yellow frame reflects onto the inside of the lens which is distracting on brighter days. We’d suggest picking a darker frame colour to eke maximum advantage from these otherwise great goggles.
High-quality mountain bike goggles
Lens: Mirrored and clear | Weight: 190g | Rating: 8/10
Reasons to buy: Sharp and contrasty Zeiss lens. Lens changes are rapid
Reasons to avoid: Pricey compared to competitors. Face foam too soft and squishy
Koo’s lenses are installed or removed by a clip-in system where the whole lens and frame is glued and comes off quickly in one piece by pressing a plastic tab on the left side of the main goggle. There’s also a removable, clip-in, nose guard.
The Zeiss lens is really crisp and sharp, and being pre-curved means distortion is minimal and there are also no weird reflections or light halos when riding directly into a low winter sun. Koo’s DFog treatment is reasonably effective, but the lens occasionally gets misted up when the weather is foggy and damp.
The Edge is a decent google with good optics, a wide viewing window with no annoying tear-off pegs in your line of sight, but it’s expensive compared to rivals like the Smith Squad, particularly as it comes with two lenses – mirror and clear – for £90.
Best budget mountain bike goggles
Lens: Orange chrome and clear | Weight: 150g | Rating: 8/10
Reasons to buy: Good value and clarity.
Reasons to avoid: Can get a touch steamy.
If you’re looking for a good pair of budget goggles that outperform their price, the Scott Factor goggle is a really good choice. In fact, Scott’s Factor goggle is by far the brand’s cheapest product in this category.
This is a decent goggle for this cash – the lens is clear and contrast-y, it doesn’t jiggle about thanks to a broad strap (with silicone gripper strips on the inside) and it sits nice and close to the face, so you don’t get that ‘viewing window’ effect that most expensive goggles serve up.
These do steam up a fraction more than my favourite Smith Squad goggles when it’s really chucking it down, but if you want to improve ventilation to those levels, you can always remove the thin layer of foam over the plastic frame (at the expense of potentially letting in dirt and loam). Overall though, this is as much goggle as you need for serious mountain biking at a realistic price.
How we tested
All the goggles included in this list have been thoroughly and comparatively tested in a range of conditions to suit the purpose of the goggles. So for example, goggles designed for bright light conditions were tested on sunny days, while low light level goggles on shady days. A variety of trails were ridden so the stability of the goggles and how the lens performed moving between open and shaded areas could be gauged, as well how effective ventilation and anti-fog measures were.
What to look out for with mountain bike goggles
Goggles offer much more comprehensive protection, allowing you to really open up your eyes for maximum vision without fear of getting hit by debris.
Some have an open frame top and bottom (no foam), which allows air to circulate to regulate your temperature and let the lens clear quickly if it fogs up. The downside of these is that debris, water and insects can get inside. The alternative is an enclosed frame, where foam layers top and bottom prevent dust entering the frame, but also restrict airflow.
Double or single lens
Some goggles use two polycarbonate lenses sealed together like double glazing. This is heavier, but it helps prevent fogging in cold/wet conditions. Most MTB goggles are single lens, which is cheaper and lighter but won’t stay as clear in cold weather.
Goggle straps should have a broad elasticated band with silicone strips to prevent it slipping, and be adjustable to different size helmets. Dual density foam gives a more comfortable fit against the face.
The lenses on mountain bike goggles are almost always replaceable, and many brands offer a range of tints that can be bought separately once you’ve worked out what you need. These range from completely clear which are ideal for dull conditions to amber tinted to improve contrast in poor flat light conditions, to more shaded and/or reflective lenses for bright and sunny conditions.
Why use goggles instead of glasses?
There are a number of advantages that goggles offer over glasses. Because they seal around the eyes, there’s less chance of debris getting into your eyes, plus you won’t get blasted by wind at high speeds or cold air on a winter’s day. The combination of a secure fit around the face that that strap around your helmet help stabilise it and stop it moving, which can be useful on rough descents. With your eyes completely enclosed you can open them wide and allow maximum light and information to penetrate.
On the other hand, they can get hot on a climb, so you’ll likely end up stashing them above or below your peak and allow maximum airflow to your face. When it rains, or there’s a lot of spray from the ground, they can become useless as the water droplets will coat the lens and obscure vision. The lens is also easy to scratch when wiping in wet weather, although replacement clear lenses are usually pretty cheap.
Finally, if the weather does turn on a ride, or you decide you don’t want to wear them, they’re not as easy to stash as a glasses as they are bulkier.
How much do goggles cost?
At full retail prices, expect to pay around £30 upwards. Some goggles are a lot more expensive, even approaching £100. But in terms of pure performance, you’re unlikely to find a great deal of benefit spending that kind of money and you’re often paying a premium for the brand name.
Dual or single lens?
Dual lens goggles are a bit like double glazing, in that they trap air between two sheets of polycarbonate which helps prevent fogging and keeps the lens clear in cold conditions. Mostly they’re found on ski goggles, and obviously the cost goes up owing to the additional materials and processes involved in the production.
For most mountain biking we would say that a double lens is not necessary. It can be a help on cold days, but usually single lens goggles will clear quickly once air is flowing over the lens, and it’s easy to take them off while climbing and only put them back on at the last second before dropping into a descent. By doing this, you’ll usually avoid them misting up.
What about mtb goggle tear-offs?
Tear-offs are a set of plastic covers that sit over your lens and are used in wet and muddy conditions. When one gets covered in mud to the extent that it impairs visibility, the top one can be torn off – hence the name – to reveal a clean one underneath, and so on.
They are, or have been, popular with downhillers but owing to concerns about single-use plastic and the fact that most tear-offs are simply chucked on the ground and left there, most racers now use a roll-off system where a thin strip of clear plastic gets pulled across the goggle every time the rider pulls on a cord attached to the frame.
They’re still single use, but at least they don’t end up littering the woods. Unless you’re a serious racer, however, you really don’t need a tear-off or roll-off system. Just stop and wipe your goggles with the bag they came in.
What type of lens is best for mountain biking?
The answer to this question depends entirely on where you are riding. If you live in a desert, then you’ll want a mirrored or tinted lens. If you ride in a more temperate climate (for example the UK) with trails that often go in and out of the trees (also the UK), a clear lens will probably be the best option, although some light mirrored lenses would also do the job.
Good news though, clear lenses are always the cheapest, and that also means you don’t need to be so precious with them (they will get scratched). Bear in mind that the peak on your helmet will do a good job of keeping sun out of your eyes in most situations, so even on bright summer days, tinted lenses probably won’t be necessary.