Your eyes are as im­por­tant to your rid­ing as your heart – and a lot more vul­ner­a­ble to the el­e­ments. Here’s how to treat them right.

Bicycling (South Africa) - - FRONT PAGE - BY EVELYN SPENCE

JEN­NIFER LYONS HAS BEEN com­mut­ing by bike to her job for four out of five days a week since 1999. She rides a few 100-plus kilo­me­tre races ev­ery sum­mer, and has done at least one multi-stage race a year for the past 10 years. She also works (with other eye spe­cial­ists) as an oph­thal­mol­o­gist – and knows first-hand that cy­clists’ eyes are as im­por­tant as their legs and lungs. “Vi­sion is so im­por­tant,” says Lyons. “You have to see clearly and be aware of your sur­round­ings.” Ev­ery­thing else goes out the win­dow if you can’t see well on your bike. Here’s how to out­smart the most com­mon eye ir­ri­tants, so you can stay fo­cused and safe when you ride.


Most of us have ex­pe­ri­enced it: that scratchy feel­ing of dry eyes. It’s caused by evap­o­ra­tion on the sur­face of the eye, and while it isn’t dam­ag­ing, it can be ir­ri­tat­ing and tem­po­rar­ily af­fect your vi­sion. fix it A snug pair of wrap­around sun­glasses will keep some wind away from your eyes, but not all of it. Even your own tears won’t help much in these sit­u­a­tions – they con­tain mostly wa­ter, and dry quickly. Try ap­ply­ing lu­bri­cat­ing eye­drops

be­fore you head out, and if the prob­lem per­sists, con­sider car­ry­ing a small bot­tle with you. “But don’t use the kind that claims to ‘get the red out’,” says Lyons. “It’ll con­strict the blood ves­sels, mak­ing your eyes drier.” Your eyes might go hay­wire for another rea­son: al­ler­gies. You may al­ready have a so­lu­tion to this prob­lem, but chang­ing your rid­ing habits can help, too. fix it Try rid­ing in the evening or in cooler, wet­ter weather when pollen lev­els are lower. Al­lergy pills can make dry­ness worse, Lyons says. In­stead, she rec­om­mends us­ing an over-the­counter an­ti­his­tamine eye drop. “They’re just as good as pre­scrip­tion drops – for a lot cheaper.” Pol­lu­tion is another ir­ri­tant. Ex­haust fumes aren’t nec­es­sar­ily al­ler­gens them­selves, but they can ag­gra­vate al­ler­gies, says Dr Leonard Bielory, an al­lergy, asthma and im­munol­ogy spe­cial­ist. Treat the same way you’d treat dry eyes – with drops and wrap­around sun­glasses – and spend less time on con­gested roads.


Even when wear­ing shades, you can still be hit by in­sects and grit. If the de­bris hurts enough, or if tears or blink­ing in­ter­fere with your vi­sion, stop. fix it “You should rinse any de­bris from your eyes with plenty of clean wa­ter,” says opthal­mol­o­gist Rachel Bishop. “Gen­tly empty a bit of fluid from your wa­ter bot­tle to clear it, then pour wa­ter lib­er­ally over your eye to rinse.” To dis­lodge stub­born specks from the in­side of your up­per lid, Lyons sug­gests pulling your up­per lid down over your lower one, then let­ting them rub to­gether as you open your eye. If you still feel some­thing for­eign in your eye 24 hours af­ter the ride, make an ap­point­ment with an opthal­mol­o­gist – you don’t want to scratch your cornea or get an in­fec­tion. It’s all about re­spect­ing your eyes as much as you would any other im­por­tant body part. “When your eye­sight is func­tion­ing at its best, you can just be present on the road,” says Lyons.

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