Anatomy of a Photo: Cycling-Specific Eyewear

Don’t be distracted by the sweatband or the lame Bolle sunglasses; this man is a stud.  He came from a different time, a time when suffering was a more visceral experience than it is these days. It permeated everything a professional rider did.  The bike were heavier, the equipment less efficient, the travel to races more grueling, accommodations more humble, and paychecks were smaller.

But Davis Phinney was one of the foreign riders who took it all in stride, going to bed every night after taking a beating in the European pro ranks only to get up the next morning and say, “Thank you sir, may I have another?” Here was a man just as happy slogging it out on the front as a domestique as he was racing for the win, bumping shoulders with the likes of the Badger and Greg LeMan. Here was a man who, should the opportunity present itself, would punch his head through a car window just to add an extra dose of The V to the afternoon.  Even his son appears to be a budding young stud.

Indeed, we can say a lot about Davis Phinney and his entire generation of fellow Americans who ventured into territory unknown to race in Europe. One thing we can not say, however, is that they wore cool sunglasses.

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44 Replies to “Anatomy of a Photo: Cycling-Specific Eyewear”

  1. I remember getting my first pair of “cycling” sunglasses. It was 1989, I was in high school and had been racing the bike for about two years at that point and I bought a pair of Rudy Projects that came in a little yellow rubberized bag.

    Man, I thought I was ready to move to Europe when I first rode with those bad boys on.

    Looking back, man were they dorky, but I felt soooo Euro with them on back then!!!

  2. Are you kidding? Part of what makes him a stud is those badass glasses and the sweatband. He is exuding cool in a universal way that I will never attain. When I blast the short sleeves to show-off the Rule #7 adherence, I only get weird looks from the teeming masses. Whereas if anyone saw Mr. Phinney as pictured above walking down the street, the only adequate response would be: “Fuck, there’s a dude right there”

  3. I’ll echo that sentiment – there is a dude right there!

    On another note, I was walking my dog the other week and nearly stepped on a pair of Oakley Radars on the ground. They are enormous and take up most of my face, partly because they are big to begin with, but also because I have a small face. Anyway, I proudly wear them when riding and think to myself, “Fuck yeah, I’m a dude because I found these awesome & huge sunglasses and I don’t care if they are too big for me. They still look PRO.”

    I’m like Kool Moe Dee on a bicycle.

  4. Great photo Frank. Only the Italians would have a cheese van at the start of their national stage race. I bet Davis was holding his red “Huffy” cycle, which I think was made by Serotta.

    Phinney was a dude, to be sure. I’m with Collin, despite the sunglasses, with that head band, he had a look, the swagger and the ability to back it up. He certainly kicked everyone’s ass in the US so it was great to see him mixing it up with the pros in Europe. What a man.

  5. He sure had some meat on the uppers compared to todays peloton. However, the gent w/the cycling cap in the background does seem to have already gone down the path of RAS-MISSIN.

  6. I keep my Oakley Eyeshades with my Dremel tool. They protect my whole face from flying debris. When I wore them as a teen, I was the coolest.

  7. And you are how young? Forever the styles that protect and hide our eyes from glaring UV rays
    are changing. Remember if you will, I believe Davis lived in Boulder. those cool glasses from the 70’s and early 80’s are true high altitude ski shades. they were some of the in vougue shades of the day.
    But, the only other really cool glasses back then that I knew were glacier glasses from france.

  8. pakrat:
    He sure had some meat on the uppers compared to todays peloton. However, the gent w/the cycling cap in the background does seem to have already gone down the path of RAS-MISSIN.

    I do believe the gent in the Gewiss kit could be our friend Mr Ugrumov.

  9. Brett:

    He sure had some meat on the uppers compared to todays peloton. However, the gent w/the cycling cap in the background does seem to have already gone down the path of RAS-MISSIN.

    I do believe the gent in the Gewiss kit could be our friend Mr Ugrumov.

    No, it isn’t him. Not sure who it is, but that first incarnation of Gewiss kit existed only until 1988 – Ugrumov only turned pro for Alfa-Lum in ’89 and didn’t ride for the 90s Gewiss until after 1994.

  10. What’s the deal with the “Roller Rent” on the trailer in the article photo? Could you go in there and warm up before the race – for a small fee?

  11. If I could find a 7-11 bike still right today, in its downtube shifting form, I would ride that donned in the 7-Eleven kit, Oakleys and all, even if it violated the Rule. I love everything 7-Eleven gave to us as American cyclists. It was right then, and is right today, but you can’t half-ass it, its all or none.

  12. Ron:

    I’m like Kool Moe Dee on a bicycle.

    you just don’t get enough Kool Moe Dee references these days, well played sir

  13. This whole stream is cracking me up.

    That reminds me of this 7-Eleven build.

    My favorite is the guy standing teapot with the camera slung over his shoulder. What could he possibly be studying that’s making him so angry at a bike race?

  14. @frank
    He’s trying to figure out how to sneak into that trailer… Never underestimate the gravitational force of formaggio… Seriously, if you’ve ever had a true, Italian pizza made with grana and bresaola, you’ll understand. Shit, now I’m REALLY hungry.

  15. @michael
    No idea, I plucked that pic from the inter webs… I’m starting to feel guilty about thread hijacking, tho… Back to eyewear, folks!

  16. @sgt

    Well now this really makes me curious as to why there might be a random national jersey behind that pizza.

  17. Now hold on a minute. Other than leg position, this is the same person. They even have the SAME curl of HAIR on the forehead!

  18. Back in the mid- late 1990’s I worked in a bike shop with a bakery behind it. Eddy was the owner of the bakery and was a former racer in the war years. He used to bring me eclaires filled with custered that he made for himself instead of the whip cream filled ones for the customers. Fuck they were good. He was born in Dieppe and raced the Tour of Mexico and that’s where he met his wife. He did say that he got altitude sickness and had to be taken down from elevation. His bike was beautiful. Name painted on the top tube. The big thing about this fitting in this posting was his riding glasses. The arms entered the frames at the bottom, so the glasses had the appearance of sitting slightly higher than his eyes. When bent over pedalling he could see up the road with his eyes protected. I tried to find pics in old photos on line, couldn’t. Anyway, really cool, never seen anything like it. Anyone else?

  19. This post brings me back to Rule #37, it’s probably been discussed at length, but I, for one, coming from an age where helmets weren’t required or in good style, ALWAYS remove my helmet before my glasses (actually the helmet comes off first of anything but the housekey). Call me silly, but I believe I’m just not likely to trip and smash my head in as soon as I dismount my bike. Helmet comes off first. Glasses have to go under the straps, It’s a single smooth clip and toss motion, otherwise it’s a stupid move of pull the glasses, pull the helmet, don the glasses again. I’ll always be in violation of this rule until someone pays me to display my glass brand over my helmet strap.

  20. A Friday beer, some google searching on the mystery Gewiss man and…

    Perhaps Ennio Salvador

    1989 Gewiss – Bianchi (Italy)
    1988 Gewiss – Bianchi (Italy)

    Lanterne Rouge Tour de France 1986 (Gis Gelati (Italy)

  21. @nvvelominati
    The glasses with the arms entering the frame towards the bottom may have been invented by Dennis Taylor (1985 World Snooker Champion)…

  22. @McTyke
    Except Eddie was cool. The glasses were more aviator style verses dork. In his 80’s his legs were still absolutely sculpted. His calves were calved from granite you could say. Anyway, the glasses were riding specific, but this is the right idea. I thought of this too, I just wanted to honour one of the sports early hardmen.

  23. @Markp
    Nicely done! That is also one of my favorite Bianchi’s, the one with the black chrome…what a sight! I guess that relates to the conversation on the In Memoriam on gleaming bits, but that was a very unique look at the time.

    Those Campy brakes were the most beautiful bike part ever built. So what if they didn’t stop your bike? That was just Campy’s way of saying, “Brakes are for sissies.”

  24. Greg LeMan inspired me to save up my meager allowance, beg, borrow, and steal to get my first pair of Oakleys. Blue. Conspicuous foam pad to keep the sweat from my eyes. I still have them in a drawer next to a bunch of remnants of past bikes, etc.

  25. The only thing I still respect about Floyd Landis was his penchant for non-cycling specific shades, and specifically his frequent rocking of a wide variety of full-on ladies’ sunglasses. Such a cool and confident kind of idiosyncrasy.

  26. Oakley blades were the Dogs bollox, I loved those to the point where having owned a pair for about 2 weeks I left them at a race. I was a student and skint but rather then cry into my kit bag and turn up to my next race with eyeballs on display I went out and bought another pair straight away (who needs food as a student anyway). The yellow were something else as they made the world look bright and jolly during winter……I miss my blades.

  27. @Markp thems some guns… Upper and lower, for a cyclist that is.  Not life much in real life but relativelspeaking they are.  can t imagine going through life like today’s grimpeurs with not enough meat to quaff a proper pint.  But such is the era of specialization.

  28. Considering that he’s wearing the same sunglasses as Bill Dance, I can only assume that this was taken moments before crushing a Budweiser can on his forehead and flipping over a bistro table for his pre-race gameface session.

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