Needing corrective lenses while doing athletic endeavors poses all sorts of problems. If, like me, you’re squeamish about poking contact lenses directly onto your eyeball, you find yourself with fairly limited choices. When I started biking, I iterated through several different solutions:

  • Regular glasses (not enough coverage, not good in the sun)
  • Regular glasses with clip-on sunglasses (dorky, heavy, prone to falling off, still not enough coverage)
  • Regular glasses with transition lenses (too slow to respond to changing light conditions, not enough coverage)
  • Prescription sunglasses (too dark for wintertime riding and varied light conditions)

Finally I came to standard sunglasses with prescription inserts. Almost 10 years ago, I bought a pair of Smith Optics Pivloc sunglasses with Rx adaptors and had a local optometrist fill the lens prescription. That solution has served me steadily for nearly the last decade, despite its drawbacks (mostly miscellaneous items, including fog, condensation, water, bugs, sweat, and dirt getting between the prescription lenses and the sunglass lenses).

But 10 years is a long time for eyewear in continual use, particularly the heavy demands I put on my biking glasses. Besides the normal wear and tear on the glasses components, my prescription has changed fairly substantially in the last decade. A few years ago I noticed my biking glasses didn’t let me make out details of things in the distance as well anymore, and I made a mental note to get them updated.

I found myself in a catch-22, though, because I didn’t want to replace those old lenses but keep using the same falling-apart sunglasses. I didn’t want to replace the sunglasses because I hoped to get Lasik, a plan now off the table due to my prescription continuing to change, alas. I also hesitated to go with the same solution of prescription inserts behind sunglasses because of the condensation frustration, which is particularly acute in fog or damp conditions — ie, a lot of Seattle riding.

This is getting ridiculously long for a simple post about sunglasses, so let me sum up: I finally decided to buy the same style of Smith prescription insert sunglasses I had before. After an inordinate amount of research, calling Smith, multiple orders, etc., I found myself with sunglasses and blank prescription inserts. I called around and found a local optometrist who’s open and doing business — Woodlawn Optical in downtown Bothell; I highly recommend them. Ten days ago I gave them my inserts and prescription.

Yesterday the prescription inserts arrived and I tried them out on my regular Wednesday night ride.

You guys, I didn’t even realize how much detail I’d quit seeing while biking! I don’t need to see super clearly when riding; it sounds strange, but mostly I’m not reading road signs since I usually ride in the same area, or I follow a route on my computer. I can see well enough to avoid cars (usually). 

But when I rode with the new prescription, I saw sunlight glancing off of individual leaves on trees. I read the small text on signs. I looked across Lake Washington at the tips of individual evergreen trees across the bay. I saw details in clouds. Overall I kept getting distracted by all the detail in the world around me. It just totally blew my mind.

The strange thing is that I saw all these things with my regular glasses. My sunglasses prescription was nearly 10 years old, but I updated my everyday glasses just a couple years ago, and the prescription didn’t change that much. Maybe as my biking glasses prescription got more and more out of date, my brain began associating riding with blurry vision. I stopped expecting to see clearly while riding. I don’t know.

I do know that I’m pretty excited with these new sunglasses… and I’ll try not to let it go so long between biking glasses updates.

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