My wife wears contact lenses with quite a high diopter measure and was concerned about riding her motorcycle through Africa for 3 months. The plan was to get laser correction surgery before the bike trip, but time ran out and so she rode her motorcycle more than 9 600 miles with contact lenses. Here’s what we’ve learned about riding a motorcycle while wearing contact lenses:
You can ride a motorcycle while wearing contact lenses if you wear a full face helmet. If you wear an open-faced helmet you may need to wear glasses or goggles to prevent the wind from drying out your eyes or displacing your contact lenses. When riding behind another motorcycle on dusty gravel roads, contact lenses can be uncomfortable.
I’ve heard many motorcycle riders complain about wearing glasses under their helmet. It is either uncomfortable or they fog up. These riders are often apprehensive to switch over to contact lenses as they worry that it might irritate their eyes or get dislodged by the wind.
Contact lenses are generally no problem on a motorcycle and have many benefits over glasses, but there are a few things to take into consideration before you leave your glasses at home.
Yes, You Can Wear Contact Lenses on Your Motorcycle
I’ve spoken to a few people and I have read many forum post replies from bike riders who’ve worn contact lenses for most of their lives. The overwhelming majority of these riders report that it is totally fine to wear contact lenses when riding their motorcycles, even at highway speeds. Some said the improvement in comfort is so great that they’ll never wear their glasses on the bike again.
There were a few riders who reported that their eyes become dry if they don’t wear sunglasses or goggles over their contact lenses, while others claim that a full face helmet with a closed face shield offers enough wind protection to prevent dry contacts. I could only find one account of a contact lens folding over and one other where it completely dislodged, but this seemed to be the exception.
My wife and I rode 9 600 miles on two Chinese delivery bikes from Cape Town (South Africa) to Cario (Egypt) over three months. My wife has very poor eye-sight and can hardly see anything without her contact lenses. She said it was not a problem at all and that she didn’t experience any discomfort or moving of the contact lenses. We spent around 6 hours in the saddle each and every day, but we did stopped regularly to stretch our legs.
Of the different types of contact lenses you can get, it seems like motorcycle riders have had more success with the soft lenses than the RGP hard lenses. Because the hard lenses are smaller and only cover the center of the eye, there is an increased risk of them moving around. Some riders were unhappy with the disposable daily lenses, but keep a spare in case their lenses get dirty or fall out.
One experienced rider who has been wearing contact lenses for 41 years absolutely swears by the daily disposable contact lenses. He’s been riding his motorcycle with it for the last 6 years and claims that “it’s like I’m not wearing contacts at all“. My wife uses the monthly lenses and has never tried the daily lenses before. Even on our long trip, she didn’t change lenses more often that usual.
After reading all the comments and from the personal accounts I’ve heard, it seems like contacts are the way to go for most motorcycle riders, but that there are a few exceptions. This is further supported by Dr Cyrus Shroff who replied as follows, after being asked whether lenses can be worn on a bike:
“Contact lenses can be worn safely for 6 hours or longer. There are individual variations to how long each person can tolerate them. However contact lens hygiene is more important for a safety of the eyes. A reliable brand of a contact lenses from a qualified contact lens practitioner along with a regular routine of lens care hygiene would be a good idea.”Doctor NDTV – doctor.ndtv.com
The only real concern that kept popping up was preventing your eyes from drying out.
How to Keep Your Eyes From Drying Out
Wearing contact lenses on a motorcycle may cause some riders’ eyes to dry out from the wind. This is more of a concern if you ride at high speeds or wear an open-faced helmet. Wearing a full face helmet will be enough to keep the wind out of your eyes and prevent them from drying out. This is my wife’s experience too. She almost never wears sunglasses under her dual sport helmet and never had her eyes dry out.
It may be different for riders who are prone to eyes that get dry. They may have to wear sunglasses in addition to a closed face shield, or goggles that seal tightly around the eyes.
Carrying spare contact lenses is a good idea, especially on longer multi-day trips. It is also not a bad idea to carry contact lens solution or lubricating eye drops in case a dry eye develops. Keeping your eyes from drying out will prevent itchiness and irritation.
Some people are just unlucky and generally struggle with contact lenses. For these riders, I suggest seeing an optometrist or consider LASIK eye surgery.
Pro’s and Con’s
While contact lenses are totally fine for most riders and many claim it is far more comfortable than wearing glasses, there are some who disagree. I’ve summarized the comments I’ve seen in the following lists of pro’s and con’s:
Pro’s of wearing contact lenses on a motorcycle:
- No fogging up of lenses
- More comfortable than glasses in a tight fitting helmet
- No risk of damaging glasses
- No need to remove glasses before removing the helmet
- Better peripheral vision than glasses
Con’s of wearing contact lenses on a motorcycle:
- Dry eyes due to wind
- Contacts can get dirt under them on dusty roads
- Contacts can get dislodged
What About Dusty Roads?
One area where my wife has complained about wearing her contact lenses while riding her motorcycle is on very dusty roads. Even a closed full face helmet does not keep all the dust out and can cause your eyes to become irritated and itchy. This was echoed by a number of riders on the forums.
One solution is to ride in the front of the group in order to avoid being blasted with the dust from the other motorcycles. If you do not feel comfortable setting the pace or are worried you will slow the group down, it is best to fall back and keep your distance to avoid the worst of the dust cloud.
Another option is to regularly stop and wash your eyes out with lubricating eye drops. Good quality motocross goggles that seal tightly around your eyes will also help keep the dust out, like these available on Amazon.
Long Distance Motorcycle Touring with Contact Lenses
If you plan to go on an extended adventure bike trip where you intend to ride a lot of dirt roads, make sure to carry spare lenses and solution. Depending on where in the world you are touring, you may not always be able to find replacement lenses.
If you are riding a dual sport or adventure bike (what’s the difference? Find out HERE) and plan to go off the beaten track, take enough water so that you can wash your hands each time you insert your contact lenses.
I clearly remember one morning after camping in the desert in Sudan, my wife was irritated as she could not get her lenses in without it scratching her eyes. Everything was full of dust after the night’s wind storm and she didn’t wash her hands before trying to fit them.
Under normal riding conditions, with a full face helmet, it is unlikely that you will experience problems wearing contact lenses. You might experience dry eyes if the wind gets in, but lubricating eye drops at every stop will help. In very dusty conditions, like riding in a group on a gravel road, you might want to be more careful.
Or just do what Ewan McGregor did just before the Long Way Round. Get your eyes laser corrected. Either way, happy riding.
Which helmet is best for dual sport or adventure riding?
After your adventure bike, the second most expensive purchase will probably be a good helmet. Between a full face helmet, dual sport helmet or motocross helmet, how do you choose the one that is best for you? Check out this post to find out more.