Sometimes it’s hard to accept that ailments of age are creeping up on you. After noticing that I was forced to squint my eyes six different ways to read the standard eyesight chart when I was renewing my driver’s license last year, I finally bit the bullet and went to see an optometrist to get my eyesight checked. And just as I expected, the optometrist said that I’ll need glasses to correct my distance vision, even though my eyesight with nearby objects is fine.
I used to wear glasses from age five, so I’m no stranger to them. But then soft contact lenses made their debut, and I marveled at how much better they worked overall than the comparatively heavy and cumbersome glasses. That is, until I tried to ride with contact lenses on the racetrack. There I was, barreling down the front straight at Willow Springs’ big track at 150 mph, when the lens in my right eye decided it wanted to hit the eject button—right when I was getting ready to hit the brakes for turn one.
Thankfully surviving that harrowing incident swiftly made me realize I’d need to wear glasses when racing. Wearing glasses inside a helmet turned out to not be as bad as I thought it would be, though it was somewhat disconcerting to deal with your whole world seemingly bouncing around along with your glasses as your helmet was getting knocked about by wind buffeting or harsh bumps. I got used to it though, and the ritual of switching between contact lenses and glasses became second nature.
Then my optometrist at the time told me about a then-new corrective eye procedure called LASIK surgery. He said I was a perfect candidate, and even though I would have to pay for the procedure out of my own pocket due to insurance not covering it, I went all in and had it done on both eyes. The procedure was surprisingly quick and painless, and my eyesight was nearly perfect afterward.
The freedom of not having to wear any corrective lenses when riding (not to mention waking up in the morning and not having to search for my glasses) was incredible, and I have to admit that nearly 20 years of that freedom made me take it for granted at times. But now that I’m returning to the world of four eyes, I’m finding that wearing glasses in a helmet isn’t as simple as it seemed to be back then.
Unlike my racing years when I only had to wear one helmet, now I’m switching between numerous helmet brands and models every year during the course of my motojournalism duties. So finding a frame that won’t get hung up or bind when wearing a number of different lids is requiring a lot of research on my part.
I asked my friend Don Canet at our sister publication Cycle World about his choice of glasses, since he’s worn them from day one of his racing career. It was funny to hear some of his complaints with wearing glasses while racing, as they brought back a lot of memories of the same issues I used to have all the time. Fogging, sweat running down a lens, bouncing vision… Misery loves company, I guess. But his advice of picking a frame that won’t obscure your vision while in a racing tuck was something that I had seriously considered, as it was something that forced me to look high and low back when the selection of frames wasn’t so bewilderingly vast. Walking into the local eyeglass store in my neighborhood recently was like wandering through a huge supermarket of frames, with many famous brand names that were more recognizable in fashion boutiques or sporting goods stores.
No drama, as I’m confident I’ll be able to find a pair that will work. Still, getting old sucks.