So you’ve gone all-in on your Ace Cafe and 70’s greaser Insta personas and bought a retro-styled open face helmet. Or, maybe the increasingly popular “Bullitt-style” full face helmet without a visor? Either way, you’re going to need eye protection and we don’t mean cool green aviators.
Finding eyewear that compliments your vintage style helmet while actually offering safety and functionality requires more consideration than just buying the first Downton Abbey knock-offs you find at the army surplus store. You’re riding a motorcycle, not playing Quidditch.
Optical quality, airflow, fit and safety are still important considerations that count more than style when you’re actually on the road, in weather. Ever wonder why all the riders in those vintage pictures rode with their goggles propped-up on their helmets and not on their faces? Because their goggles sucked so badly they couldn’t see for the fog, that’s why. Back in the day, materials and design were so poor that it was sometimes better to ride with nothing.
And 1970’s weren’t much better. This rider remembers wearing goggles so thin and flimsy they practically disintegrated on your face – a single crappy lens, barely wedged into plastic that was went limp in the heat and rigid in the cold. You might as well have taped a 3-holed binder pocket onto your face for the good those did…But, I digress and this is the roaring ’20’s when even the cheapest pass international safety standards for durability and UV protection.
If you really want to geek out, consider the “ballistic standards” of your goggle shortlist as one feature to look for in your search. What do ballistics have to do with motorcycle goggles? If you haven’t already learned the hard way, stones, glass, beer cans, buttons, bees, hornets, spiders, pine cones, and other assorted environmental fodder become bullets at even moseying riding speeds. Likewise, even a grain of sand in the eye can become a major malfunction pretty quickly.
This guide has been curated with “good, better, best” picks ranging from cheapskate to style hero, with all recommendations aimed of keeping your vintage dude Insta cred intact.
1. Fox Racing Main Stray $23.96 USD
This guide starts with the lowest point of entry for those riders who keep using budget as an excuse not to protect their eyes . If you’re currently just wearing sunglasses, or worse, nothing at all, these goggles from Fox Racing will provide basic eye protection for a measly 23 bucks. Sunglasses alone just don’t cut it as stones, sand, dust and other flying matter can enter from below and from temple area. The Main Stray provides a large viewport for a wide field of vision and cushy triple layer face foam with a fleece liner for all day comfort. The solid coloured non-slip silicone strap comes in solid colors and compliments the chunky, plain frame design. The Variable Lens System allows the frame to be compatible with both standard lenses (stock) and injection molded lenses (sold separately). Avoid cheap substitutes and bargain bin finds and get these instead. A just $23.96 USD, they’re a steal.
2. Pacific Coast Sunglasses Airfoil 9300 Series $39.95 USD
No list of cafe racer goggle choices would be complete without at least one aviator style recommendation, but if you absolutely must make such a tragic style mistake, then at least have the restraint to go with a vintage-inspired aviator google, rather than full-on Red Baron imitations. The Airfoil 9300 from River Road have just enough throwback style to look like you’ve been channelling your inner Quadrophenia without going full steampunk (never go full steampunk). Value-priced at $39.95, the Airfoil 9300 updates old-school fighter pilot eyewear in a modern ventilated black plastic frame with soft contoured foam padding that provides a tight seal to keep out the wind. Polycarbonate UV 400 lenses are super strong exceeding ANSI Z87.1 industrial standards for impact resistance and exceed ANSI Z80.3 standards for UV protection. The Airfoil’s are also one of very few OTG (over the glass) options available – not only at this price point, but also in the retro aviator style.
3. Scott Split OTG Sand and Dust Goggles $50.36 USD
As a geeky, 4-eyed Poindexters who’ve been riding motorcycles while wearing prescription eyeglasses since middle school, we can confidently say that eyeglasses alone don’t offer sufficient protection from flying projectiles and the elements. No matter how huge your chunky hipster eyeglass frames they won’t offer the coverage only a goggle can provide. Do the opportunity cost calculation in your head and you should come to the conclusion that your eyes are worth at least fifty bone.
SCOTT’s Split OTG Sand and Dust goggles not only offer the latest “over the glasses” design and materials, they’re also specifically made to manage sandy and dusty conditions. Regardless of whether you live in the desert or the city, in the dry, hot conditions of peak summer riding sand and dust are the eye-goblins you’ll face most often in day-to-day riding. Retro-influenced with modern design flare, the Split OTG offers cafe racer style cred with in an over-the-glasses optimized fit that is still low profile enough to be compatible with most retro full-face helmets. SCOTT’s RAM air technology helps reduce fogging which, as any glasses-wearing rider will tell you, can quickly turn into a terrifying situation. It also features an adjustable nose guard to ensure a close, comfortable, gap-free fit on your face. Further attention to detail includes a no slip silicone -lined strap, to keep your goggle strap securely in place as you ride.
4. Biltwell Overland 2.0 Goggles $79.95 USD
If you prefer the added eye and face protection provided by a traditional off-road goggle, but want something a little more on-point with your neo-vintage vibe, I recommend you look no further than the Overland 2.0 from Biltwell. Designed for all-weather and dual purpose use, the Overland 2.0 is premium motorcycle goggle for high-performance riding. It features a a low-profile molded polyurethane frame design and highly impact-resistant, laser CNCcut polycarbonate anti-fog lenses molded on a perfect arc to deliver distortion-free visual clarity.
The frame shape of the Overland 2.0 reminds of old school motocross – intentionally so – as Biltwell’s Overland delivers MX-level anti-fog optics without the visual clutter so common in the dirt bike scene. Biltwell’s attention to detail extends to the hand-sewn frame fasteners that complete the goggle’s low key aesthetic. Two lenses are included with every goggle: clear and tinted.
5. 100% Barstow $95 USD
The most expensive goggle in this catalogue is also the sexiest. Renowned for their high-quality motocross goggles, 100% has totally killed it with their vintage Barstow design. This goggle is everywhere and for good reason – people just can’t resist its singular design and on point colour combinations. Having worn them, I can say that comfort is really surprising for such a low profile goggle. Likewise, the optical quality of the lenses is exactly what you would expect at this price point. Attention to detail and construction has made the Barstow a gold standard in goggles – cafe racer styled or otherwise.
Design-wise, the Barstow re-captures the essence of what motorcycling was in its early years, with vintage style reminiscent of when hard riders raced the desert from Barstow to Las Vegas. It is entirely modern, however, with features and materials that ensure up-to-date comfort and safety. Triple layer face foam provides excellent moisture management and the Lexan lens are anti-fog and tear-off compatible. 100% has also included an extra clear lens for low visibility conditions and a microfiber carrying bag to protect against scratches off the bike.
Available in an assortment of colors and co-branded graphics, Motolicious loves their collab with See See on this one. While these goggles are priced precariously close to the three digit mark, they’ve got the goods and to back it up and are timeless enough to qualify as an “investment piece.” Use them now, young Jedi and then tuck them away for a few decades until everything retro loops back around again. Your grandkids will thank you.