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Through rose-colored glasses


Back in the late 1980s, the band Timbuk 3 released a hit tune entitled “The future’s so bright (I gotta wear shades).”

Now, if ever you’ve heard that insipid little tune, it’s probably rattling around in your head right now. I apologize. (I recall reading somewhere the best way to get a song out of your head is to listen to it consciously from start to finish. Might I suggest a quick trip to iTunes for a bit of self-treatment; the 99-cent cost is well worth it to rid your noggin of that awful, awful ditty).

I hold no such delusions about my future, but when it comes to riding my bike, I gotta wear shades.

Most of the time, at least.

Now that the daylight saving time is behind us, three-fourths of my regular commuting legs take place in the dark. I’ll wear shades to work in the afternoon, then stick ’em in my helmet for the ride home for dinner.

I’m sure I look even more odd than normal pedaling around with specs sticking out of my lid in the dark of night, but I’ve never been too concerned with my image.

About those shades …

I have to admit, I have lots of ’em.

I used to go in for the inexpensive convenience-store kind (cue the music: I suggest “Cheap Sunglasses,” by Z.Z. Top). But they always broke.

When I started cycling regularly, I splurged on a nice (read: semi-expensive) pair, and I was floored by the difference.

When I got my first pair of prescription glasses as a kid, I recall walking outside the eye doctor’s office and staring at trees. The former green blobs had magically transformed into gorgeous, swaying works of art.

My first decent shades were like that.

I marveled at the lack of distortion, the way the glare disappeared, how everything had a new-found depth. I felt I really could see again.

Before long, I realized those shields — they look a little like something U2’s Bono would wear; I don’t look anything like Bono — were great for bright, even lighting, but were a little too dark for overcast skies.

So I bought another “premium” pair, this time with interchangeable lenses. I actually rode with the replacement lenses tucked in my saddlebag, just in case I felt the urge to pull over and fine-tune my eyewear. I never did.

But occasionally pre-ride I’d swap out the bright-light lens for the rose-colored overcast lens, or vice versa.

Then I snapped a lens during the swap and figured I’d extend the life of all the eyewear with another sunglass. One would have the bright-light lens in permanently, the other the overcast.

Then I swallowed hard and bought a really pricey set of Oakleys — they’re really nice, and I think you almost get what you pay for, but, man, that’s a company that, I swear, makes a point of trying to create some of the most awful-looking products just to see what suckers actually will pay a premium for — to hold a set of prescription lenses, too.

A lot of bike-specific shades look odd out of context, so I had to get driving specs, too.

So now, after years of adding to the collection, I have a nice little pile of tinted eyewear, and I’m a believer that the right shades can make most daytime rides better. It’s easier to make out potholes and road debris, and glasses keep bugs and rocks off the peepers. And I know I ride faster at the end of long rides when I haven’t had to squint for 50 miles.

I know some people go through shades at an alarming clip, breaking or losing or simply losing appreciation for the style of several pair in the course of the year. Most of those folks load up on cheap shades so they can move on with minimal investment.

However, I can’t remember the last time I lost or broke a pair beyond repair.

Just the other day, I happened upon a pair I recall buying many years ago — maybe even when Timbuk 3 was all the rage.


Leslie Swearingen 8 years, 6 months ago

When I got my cataract surgery I was told by my opthamologist that UV rays are a leading cause of cataract formation. Those who always wear good sunglasses are much less likely to get them. I told this to my family and now they wear the good sunglasses. The cheap ones don't keep out the UV rays. They really are a health issue more than a looking good one. Your eyes will thank you.

Leslie Swearingen 8 years, 6 months ago

I like that song too, but I listen to it free on You Tube.

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