THE RIGHT WAY TO PROTECT YOUR EYES
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.
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.
WIND AND DRY AIR
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.