I invited London Cyclist reader Spencer to share his experience finding a solution to riding with poor eyesight. Judging by previous posts on a similar topic, this is something a number of readers have experienced.
My eyesight is so poor not only would it be dangerous to ride without glasses, but it also causes headaches when I concentrate too hard on what is around me.
To solve this, I basically had three options:
- Contact lenses. Many people are perfectly happy with contact lenses, though in my case I cannot get a prescription close enough to my requirements.
- Corrective surgery. Again a valid option though doing this can have an adverse affect on your night vision (which can affect your driving license in some countries) plus some people can suffer side effects (dry eye, not 100% correction requiring a further prescription). I am very squeamish about anything like this, so it is not an option for me.
- Normal corrective glasses.
Normal corrective glasses present their own set of problems:
- When I get hot my normal glasses had a tendency to slide down my nose which was annoying.
- The way you ride your bicycle impacts your viewing angle and normal glasses may not always be suitable. I had to hold my head at an acute angle to compensate which resulted in a bit of neck and back pain.
- Impacts from road debris. So far I have not been hit by road debris but has seen a few horror stories of people who have. If it happened I doubt very much my normal glasses would survive which could result in a nasty injury or even blindness. Polycarbonate cycling glasses provide a much better level of protection against such threats.
Having dropped an email to Andreas for advise he pointed myself to a previous London Cyclist blog post where the followers had posted their experiences on eyesight correction whilst cycling. After reading this I decided to drop the mentioned Optilabs opticians a line.
A few observations around Optilabs:
- They are based in Croydon
- Entering their postcode into Google Maps pulled up a residential address, NOT their actual location! For reference their actual location is almost next door to the petrol station at the foot of their road.
- There did not appear to be anywhere you could safely secure a bicycle. There was a bit of off road parking outside the lab but the only options for securing a bicycle would have been the usual street signs and lights.
- On a Saturday they close at 13:00 so if you do go there then make sure you leave plenty of time to be dealt with. There were plenty of customers there so I wouldn’t exactly call them quiet.
- The receptionist showed me to their display shelves for cycling glasses and to be honest I seemed to be spoilt for choice! The sheer number of pairs on display initially daunted me (around 20 pairs) but there was no hard sell or pressure to hurry up so I took this at my own, slow pace. Eventually choosing three different pairs that felt reasonably comfortable, didn’t look too bad (to my eye) and seemed to have reasonable side vision.
It was at this point the receptionist pointed me towards Tony Kerr who came across as a very relaxed, honest and erudite man willing to help even if that resulted in your leaving the premises empty handed! Having worn glasses much of my life this was a pleasant change from the usual pressure to hurry up, make your choices then leave.
Tony discussed my requirements, examined my existing prescription then advised that none of my choices would be suitable (something to do with being unable to completely remap my prescription to the wider field of vision required for my chosen frames). Having severe astigmatism I could understand this difficulty.
He selected another pair he felt would be suitable, this pair being one I had earlier chosen but discarded due to having less peripheral vision than my final choices.
We then discussed the different lens finishes followed by Tony measuring my pupil distance.
At which point he then told me what the final cost would be and would I be happy with this? Have to say I was perfectly happy, agreeing to the price and handing over my card details. Tony advised no payment would be taken until the glasses were ready to be dispatched and sure enough the charge did not appear on my bill until the week they were actually dispatched through the post.
Have now been wearing these glasses whilst cycling for several months and have I had any problems with them? A few, mainly annoyances:
- The glasses arrived via the normal postal service. Not recorded or insured. Thankfully they arrived intact.
- I do find the side vision a bit restrictive. Having only recently come back to cycling I initially found having to move my head so far to the sides to see what was approaching distracting and a bit dangerous, inadvertently weaving to the side as I did so. This has now become less of an issue as I have slowly gained a sixth sense.
- My glasses are quite close fitting to my face. This means I have sometimes steamed up whilst sitting waiting for lights to change. Once I start moving again they demist but during the interim my vision isn’t all it could be.
- Never realised how distracting glasses can be in the wet! Lights star which obscures vision often requiring wiping clear though in heavy rain that barely lasts.
Would I go back to Optilabs again? Yes no doubts, the overall experience was superb, just a shame my prescription is so extreme otherwise I could have had a pair of glasses with a wider field of vision.
Other than being a satisfied customer I have no other affiliations with Optilabs.