How To Choose The Right Motocross Goggles
Most people who ride motorcycles love the lifestyle and the feeling of adventure they get from straddling the engine, but motocross riders are a different breed. For them, the experience is not only riding the bike; it's pushing the machine to its limits, using every ounce of skill and energy they have to demonstrate their control and dominance over tough terrain, banked or off camber turns, jumps, and other tricky obstacles—often at high speeds. Despite the sharp difference between a street motorcycle rider and a dirt bike rider, much of the equipment is relatively standard across disciplines, with motorcycle helmets being the primary means of safety.
However, whereas eye protection for street riders typically consists of sunglasses or the face shields found on full face helmets, dirt bike riders depend on motocross goggles to protect their eyes. In dirt bike racing or motocross, your eyes are vital to your success and safety. Unfortunately, the courses and trails are not too forgiving to the overly confident rider opting for cheap goggles or risking none at all. Between the dirt, tree branches, debris, and rocks, your eyes are in constant danger on the track or trail.
As critical as goggles are, it is necessary to find a pair that does not limit your ability, meaning you want to familiarize yourself with different goggles components to make selection easier.
Consider your Field of Vision
The primary concern for a racer or dirt bike rider is the field of vision. Making split-second decisions about maneuvers and corners requires being completely aware of your surroundings at all times. Your peripheral vision is essential to spatial awareness. Purchasing goggles that do not take the peripheries into account can be a significant disadvantage when on the track or trails.
Unfortunately, as most riders soon discover, gaining the extra field of view comes with a higher price tag with most goggles. For most riders, the extra-wide view is worth it, especially when racing through tight trails with multiple twists and turns. While a few extra millimeters might not seem like that big of a deal, it can drastically affect your line of sight and ability to make quick decisions, giving you an advantage during races.
Beyond looking for goggles with a broader field of view, you also want to be aware of any blind spots that occur because of poor design. For example, some goggles initially appear to have a significant peripheral benefit, but it is lost when considering the placement of tear-offs or roll offs. While a more expansive view is worth a slightly higher price tag, it is vital to avoid issues that render the expanded view worthless.
Prevent Google Fogging
One of the worst things for any rider is fogging goggles. Again, your sight is one of the most essential tools you have on the track and trails, and if anything compromises your vision, it can lead to dangerous consequences. Most motocross goggles have ventilation built into the design, but the pre-designed vents are not enough to prevent fogging for some riders.
The issue of fog can have a few causes: weather, perspiration, and design flaws. For many riders, the weather only plays a negligible role, especially during races or riding at any decent speed. However, some riders do sweat more than others, leading to lens fog, regardless of the ventilation.
Beyond weather and personal traits, a manufacturer may not have designed their dirt bike goggle with ventilation in mind, resulting in heavy fogging and poor performance.
Regardless of the causes for fogging, you have a couple of options to find relief. First, you can use an anti-fogging spray. These sprays can especially help those riders who tend to sweat a lot during a ride. Alternatively, there are no fog cloths which are easy to pack with you on your ride. We offer a selection of anti-fog accessories.
There are some goggle manufacturers that make double or dual lens systems which can replace the standard lens and can significantly reduce fogging.
Finally, you can opt for a different pair of goggles that provide better ventilation.
Choose Foam for Goggle Comfort
All dirt bike goggles feature at least one layer of foam that is glued to the inside of the goggle frame. The foam serves multiple purposes. First, it provides cushioning between the goggles and your face. The foam also acts as seal against your face to keep dirt and debris from getting in.
Another key aspect of the foam is to act as a filter, allowing air to circulate between your face and the inside of the goggles while minimizing dirt and dust particles from entering. You will discover that some of the more premium dirt bike goggles come with multi-layers of foam or even a flees layer that aid in moisture wicking and sweat absorption.
If you do a lot of desert riding in the sand then Sand Goggles would be a good choice as these goggles feature foam that is specifically designed to capture and keep the fine sand particles from your eyes.
Goggle Strap and Design
Besides the field of view, the goggle's strap is one of the most critical components of the frame. The strap ensures the lens and frame remain secure and tight to your face, protecting your eyes and allowing you to focus on the trail ahead.
For most riders, the wider the strap, the better. A wide strap provides ample space for the frames to wrap around the helmet and seat themselves securely with limited risk of slippage. However, when talking about the difference between a 45mm and 50mm strap, the slight increase in size likely won't make much of a difference.
Instead, focus on the specific features of the strap. For example, straps that include a silicone bead along the portion of material the faces the helmet help provide grip against the helmet surface and will keep the back of the strap from sliding up.
You may also want to consider how the strap attaches to the goggle frame. Most entry level goggles will have a slot at the end of the frame where the strap attaches.
Other goggles have external mounts called outriggers. Outriggers sit out off the side of the frame. With the strapped attached to the outriggers it helps the goggles to sit deeper into the dirt bike helmet for a more comfortable and secure fit.
While not all riders will prefer the close fit that outriggers provide, most adventure and endurance riders appreciate the benefits of a more reliable and protective fit.
Goggle Lens Color and Tint
When it comes to the lens color, there are quite of few options to choose from each better suited for specific conditions or with their own benefits.
A yellow or amber tinted lens is better for dreary, overcast days because they can provide brightness and contrast. You shouldn't use a yellow lens on bright, sunny days because it can be too bright and affect your ability to properly see the terrain or obstacles.
The majority of time and especially of bright sunny days, most riders benefit from tinted lenses. Tinted lenses make it easier to differentiate shadows and changes in terrain, especially when the sun seems to be glaring directly into your eyes.
You'll find that many dirt bike goggles come with clear lenses. Clear lenses can be pretty versatile as they can be used on clear days when the sun isn't too bright. They are also great for low light conditions or night time riding. Some rider might not be too sensitive to different lighting conditions and therefore prefer to clear lenses the majority of time they ride.
You can find specialty lenses such as Oakley's Prizm line of lenses that are intended to create more contrast and better visibility by separating different shades in the terrain and enhancing detail.
Even if you do opt for special lenses, it is likely a good idea to have several potential lenses for a pair of goggles, such as clear, yellow, and tinted; that way, you're always prepared.
Aside from colored or tinted lenses, another thing to consider is that the lens is there to protect your eyes from flying debris or things that could potentially poke or injure your eyes. While most lenses are capable defending your eyes from high velocity debris, not all lenses are create equal. Less expensive goggles may utilize lenses that may not be able to withstand hard impacts. So it's important to carefully read over the packaging and make sure the lenses will stand up to your type of riding or the terrain.
You will also want to make sure the lenses will shield your eyes from harmful rays and lighting by providing adequate UV protection.
Tear-Offs and Roll-Offs
Tear-offs or roll-offs are essential for motocross and trail riders. These are two different styles of over-the-lens, thin clear shields that can be easily removed while riding when caked over with mud, dirt, or debris.
Tear-offs are designed to be stacked one on top of the other via the posts on the outside of the dirt bike goggle lens. The tear offs have a tail end on the left side that allow the rider to grab and remove each tear off as its gets dirty. The tear off is then discarded onto the track or trail.
When using tear offs it's important not to stack too many over the lens before riding as it could distort your view. One issue with tear offs is that in the heat of an intense race or riding session, the rider can accidentally grab too many tear-offs. Another thing to be wary of, is that since you are disposing of the tear off while riding, you are basically littering the track or trail. Some tracks or riding areas may not allow tear offs due to this fact.
Roll-offs are sort of like the film for an old camera. Basically, there are two canisters that sit on the outer edges of the goggles. One canister contains the rolled up film, (thin clear shield), and the other canister is empty.
The end of the film is attached to the empty canister and then the film is spread across the lens to the opposite side.
When the clear film/shield gets muddy or covered in debris, the rider pulls on a string attached to the empty canister and it draws the dirty film across into the once empty canister and leaves a fresh clean film over the lens.
Some riders don't like roll-offs because the placement of canisters can obstruct the rider's peripheral vision, which is why you need to pay attention to the placement before buying the goggles. Another issue with the roll-offs is that the pull string mechanism, or even the canisters themselves, can get jammed with debris and not work properly.
When you choose a pair of goggles, make sure to pay attention to how tear-offs or roll-offs attach to the goggles. Sometimes the manufacturer considers these items as an afterthought, so they may not attach very well or might cause blind spots for the rider when they are connected.
Ultimately, selecting the right pair of goggles comes down to personal preference. By assessing the considerations listed above, you'll find a comfortable pair of motocross goggles that work best for you and the type of riding you do. A word of advice though: don't just buy the cheapest pair of eye protection, especially if you get out on the trail a lot. While you can find goggles in nearly every price point, when it comes to motorcycle gear, typically, the more you spend, the more benefits you get.
Once you've purchased dirt bike goggles, be sure to keep them in top condition by reading our article on How to Clean Dirt Bike Goggles.