Product Tests: Eyewear Shootout

If you’ve ever decided to pop out for a pedal without proper eyewear, you realize what a big mistake it was. The wind bites and then dirt starts flying up off your fresh tires and going right into your eyes. You likely said a few choice words and then kicked yourself for not double-checking to make sure you had all your essentials.

Deciding on the perfect pair of eyewear for mountain biking is a lot like choosing a saddle or clothing. It is mainly about personal preference. For this shootout, we did crown a winner in each category, but we also highlighted the advantages and disadvantages of each option, so you can make an informed decision based on your priorities.

The plethora of brands creating cycling-specific sunglasses can make it tough to narrow down which is best. Here are the main factors we considered for each pair of sunglasses: price point, performance, quality of frame/lens, amount of protection and (the most subjective category) fit/comfort.

RUDY CUTLINE

Optimized for all types of riders, the Cutline from Rudy offers a wraparound, one-piece, photochromic lens. Rudy made swapping the lenses as easy as pushing a button and provides an adjustable nose pad and temple tips to ensure a great fit for all riders. The Cutline shades also offer an interchangeable bumper at the bottom of the lens for safety and style.

Contact: www.rudyprojectna.com

Price: $244.99

Frame colors: 11

Lens colors: 9

Tech: Interchangeable lenses; adjustable, anti-slip nose pads; fully adjustable, anti-slip temples; adaptive temple tips; interchangeable lens bumpers and Powerflow Extreme ventilation.

Weight: 34g

Pair shown: Cutline Carbonium frame with ImpactX-2 photochromic clear-to-red lenses and red bumpers

Editor’s note: These glasses arrived too late for long-term testing, so their relative performance ranking was hard to determine.

UPSIDE:

• Interchangeable bumpers on the bottom of the lenses

• Stylish design with carbon fiber appearance

DOWNSIDE:

• Highest price of all the glasses

 

TIFOSI SLEDGE

The Sledge glasses from Tifosi offer the best value of the bunch, having a price of just under $80. That said, these shades pack all the features a modern rider will want—from sturdy construction to optical clarity. These glasses are made to take a beating and keep performing, thanks to their polycarbonate lenses and durable nylon frames.

Contact: www.tifosioptics.com

Price: $79.95

Frame colors: 4

Lens colors: 5

Tech: Grilamid TR-90, adjustable ear pieces, adjustable nosepiece, glare guard, vented lenses, UV protection, hydrophilic rubber, polycarbonate lens.

Weight: 38g

Pair shown: Sledge Crystal Orange with Clarion Blue, AC red & clear lenses

Editor’s note: These glasses arrived too late for long-term testing, so their relative performance ranking was hard to determine.

UPSIDE:

• Best value

• Durable materials

DOWNSIDE:

• Bottom of the frame touched the face occasionally

 

ROKA CP-1X

Unique compared to the rest of the shootout lineup, Roka is a company that primarily focuses on eyewear. We got our hands on the CP-1X model, which has a larger viewing area than its sibling, the CP-1. For tech, Roka packed in features such as titanium wired temples to adjust the fit, sweat resistance, impact protection and ultra-grippy GEKO rubber at the nose and temples. Roka also designs a wide variety of lenses for conditions from full sun to variable lighting situations.

Our CP-1Xs were custom-made on Roka’s site with an HC Ion Mirror lens for medium/overcast sun conditions. The process was simple, and the glasses arrived amazingly quick, considering the level of customization. Out of all the other lenses in this shootout, this was our favorite for riding from dawn till dusk. These lenses offer great clarity and are very comfortable once adjusted to your face. These shades are the lightest option we tested with a single lens. They fit with every helmet we had and did not restrict airflow, so there was no fogging up.

As with other sunglasses we tested, it is virtually impossible to avoid leaving fingerprints when swapping lenses. While that is the only major downside, price is a factor. If you know the conditions you primarily ride in, then the custom build is a way to get the best value. On the other hand, if you ride in all types of conditions, we recommend getting an additional lens for those rides or looking into the company’s photochromic (transition lens) options. The CP-1Xes are easily our second favorite option after Oakleys. Both offer great lens quality.

Contact: www.roka.com

Price: $195–$220

Frame colors: Full-range fully customizable

Lens colors: 14

Tech: Titanium core wire to adjust fit, C3 Lens coatings, sweat-resistant, impact tested

Weight: 27g

Pair tested: Custom Color ROKA CP-1X w/ HC Ion Mirror lens

UPSIDE:

• Fully customizable with fast delivery

• Lightweight with full coverage

• Lens technology is top-notch

DOWNSIDE:

• Unavoidable fingerprints for lens swaps

 

SMITH WILDCAT

The Smith Wildcats feature a gray-based lens that utilizes ChromaPop color-enhancement technology. The lens was ideal in our SoCal conditions. We enjoyed the fact that the features are simplistic and not over the top. The lenses are great for use on medium to bright trails. The ChromaPop greatly enhances color and clarity. Included with each pair of Wildcats is also a clear lens that we enjoyed for night rides or rainy conditions.

Swapping lenses was not as easy as with other glasses we tested, but these lenses met most of our demands on the trails. Above all others, the Wildcats ventilated exceptionally well, especially considering the amount of protection is similar to that of goggles. The fit was comfortable for all test riders; no one reported any slipping at the nose or temples. Smith hit the mark with a great price point for what is included. The Wildcats are high performance, have solid optics with full-coverage protection and, for us, offered a great fit.

Contact: www.smithoptics.com

Price: $209

Frame colors: 5

Lens colors: 3

Tech: Smith ChromaPop lens, two-position nose pads, Hybrid TR90 and TPU frame, AutoLock hinges

Weight: 32g

Pair tested: Smith Wildcat, Get Wild w/ ChromaPop black lens + clear lens 

UPSIDE:

• Clear lens included for darker conditions

• High ventilation with maximum protection

• Unmatched value for the performance

DOWNSIDE:

• Trickier lens swap than most

 

POC AIM

One option in the POC line that we tested was the large-and-in-charge AIM model. This has all the same features that we loved on the Define model, such as the Carl Zeiss Clarity lens, snap hinges and use of Grilamid for the frame construction. While still lightweight, these are the heaviest shades we tested in our shootout, coming in at 37 grams.

We tested the AIMs with the same rose-colored tint as the Defines, which we thought performed great in bright, sunny conditions. The oversized lens used on the AIM also allows for a seamless view and great coverage. While there is lots of coverage, some mountain bike helmets hit the top of the frame, causing the glasses to slide down on our test riders’ noses when hitting rougher terrain. Some of our test riders had to push their helmets up a bit to prevent them from pushing the AIMs down. Overall, the glasses are high quality and ventilate well. Despite this, the price is steep for a pair of shades that you’ll likely want other lenses for that you will have to buy separately.

Contact: www.pocsports.com

Price: $220

Frame colors: 6

Lens colors: 8

Tech: Carl Zeiss/POC Clarity lenses, snap hinges, oversized lens, UV400

Weight: 37g

Pair tested: POC AIM Hydrogen White-Violet/Silver Mirror lens

UPSIDE:

• Great coverage and ventilates well

• Large protection coverage with a seamless view

DOWNSIDE:

• So big that some helmets hit the frames

• A big price for one lens and frame

 

OAKLEY JAWBREAKER

We’ve always been fans of the big “O,” and this Oakley model has a significant presence in the cycling world. The Jawbreaker has some great functionality for quickly swapping lenses with Oakley’s Switchlock system. To avoid pinching, this system also allows you to extend or retract the temples for the best fit. It’s also noteworthy that Jawbreakers can be equipped with prescription lenses.

Our main test rider has spent over four years using these frames with various lenses that Oakley offers for any given condition. They fit well under every helmet that we’ve used. Sometimes we even forget that we are wearing them. If you have never seen Oakley’s impact protection test videos, they are worth taking a look at. With a lens and frame that have full coverage, we have always been impressed with how well it prevents unwanted debris from reaching our eyes.

While our main test rider utilized a Black Iridium prescription lens for our sunny SoCal trails, it’s worth looking into the Low Light Prizm options when conditions become darker. Overall, the Jawbreakers should be on your list to try for their top performance, looks, and protection. Be ready to spend some extra cash for higher quality options than the standard lenses.

Contact: www.oakley.com

Price: Starting at $216

Frame colors: 11 standard colors, customizable

Lens colors: 10 Prizm, 8 polarized, 7 Prizm polarized

Weight: 38g

Tech: Switchlock lens tech, O-Matter frame material, prescription available, Unobtainium ear socks and nose pads

Pair tested: Oakley Jawbreaker with Prescription Black Iridium lens

UPSIDE:

• Great fit, fast lens changes, great protection

• A large line of lenses

• Prescription available

DOWNSIDE:

• High-end tech comes at a steep price for lenses

 

100% S3

We’ve seen this brand take a step up in popularity in every category of the cycling world. With 100% products designed in California and made in Italy, there is little not to love at an exceptional value. The S3s borrow design tech from the S2 and Speedcraft models. We mainly tested the S3s that come priced at $155 with both a Smoke lens and a clear lens. We also spent some time in the Blue Topaz lens seen on our test rider. Although you will get your fingerprints all over the lenses, swapping them is very simple.

The S3s fall within the same weight range as our other competitors; they feel very balanced and never feel like there is any pressure pulling on them. While the main lens is made for very bright situations, we found ourselves carrying the clear lenses on rides when we expected to encounter low-light conditions. Our main test rider had the misfortune of going over the bars, which put the rider’s face right into the dirt. Luckily the sunglasses minimized the debris that got in the eyes. While the nose piece did fall off, it was reattached, and the lens remained unscathed. This is a great option given its value.

Contact: www.100percent.com

Price: $155–$195

Frame colors: 9

Lens colors: 9

Tech: Scratch-resistant, HiPER lens, interchangeable

Weight: 32g

Pair tested: 100% S3 Matte Cool Grey w/ Smoke lens + Clear lens and Matte Metallic into the Fade Blue Topaz multi-layer Mirror lens

UPSIDE:

• The best two-lens value

• Easily change lenses

• Balanced fit

DOWNSIDE:

• Likely to leave fingerprints when swapping out the lens

 

LIMAR VEGA

The second most affordable sunglasses in our shootout are the Limar Vega models. Similar to other brands, Limar also designs helmets that harmonize with its collection of sunglasses. The Vega frames are made of Grilamid TR90 nylon. This material is a transparent polyamide with heat resistance and excellent fatigue behavior. Grilamid TR90 also exhibits low moisture absorption and dimensional stability. Ideal for sunglasses frames, it is used frequently.

Unlike other options in this shootout, the Limars feature adjustable nose pads and temples that can be aligned with just a push. Honestly, for the price, the lens quality is ideal for sunny conditions; however, the lenses are not easy to swap out on the fly. You would need to buy a separate pair if you wanted a different lens, as extras are not an option on their site. We had mixed feelings about the fit. While the adjustable arms were helpful, they still slightly pinched above our ears. Overall, these glasses offer satisfactory protection and decent airflow with a look similar to that of Oakley Jawbreakers at a fraction of the cost.

Price: $99.95

Frame colors: 4

Lens colors: 4

Weight: 33g

Tech: Anti-glare and scratch, 100-percent protection from UV rays, adjustable nose and temples

Pair tested: Limar Vega in red w/ Smoke Flash Mirror Lens/Revo coating

UPSIDE:

• Bang for the buck for riding conditions in full sun

DOWNSIDE:

• No quick interchangeable lens options

 

OAKLEY SUTRO LITE

This is a new frame Oakley created for riders who wanted more ventilation and airflow than the standard Sutros offered. Oakley designed the Sutro Lites without a bottom rim on the frame but the same amount of coverage. This model features much of the same tech that is packed in all of Oakley’s performance lines.

Oakley sent us the version with the Prizm Trail Torch lenses, and these lenses do not disappoint. We rate them a close second to our favorite lens option out of the bunch we tested for this gathering. These lenses make a noticeable difference when you are constantly going into mixed lighting situations.

The Prizm Torch lens increases contrast to help you pick out the best line in areas fully covered by trees and mixed lighting. Overall, these glasses ventilate well in misty settings and should be worn on overcast days and in light sun. We would recommend an additional lens for rides that will be out in the open and sunny.

Contact: www.oakley.com

Price: $176

Frame colors: 5

Lens colors: 5

Weight: 32g

Tech: Oakley’s Prizm lenses, O-Matter frame material, Unobtanium textured temples and nose pads

Pair tested: Sutro Lite Matte Carbon w/ Prizm Trail Torch lens

UPSIDE:

• Extra airflow and large protection coverage

• Great in low light

DOWNSIDE:

• Might be too large for some faces

• Investment in a second lens

 

POC DEFINE

Coming in as our lightest dual-lens option in this shootout are the POC Define shades. To keep weight down, the frame is made from Grilamid, and the left/right lenses are separate instead of being one solid piece, as with all other options in our shootout. The hinges use no screw and instead snap into the mainframe. These sunglasses have more of a lifestyle feel than their competitors in this shootout while offering precision lens quality from Carl Zeiss. While it is simple to pop out and change each lens, the Defines are also compatible with corrective prescriptions.

POC, just like Oakley, 100%, Limar and Smith, makes sunglasses designed to harmonize with its helmets. We spent lots of time in the Define with POC’s Axion helmet. Not only do the Defines match and fit well with this helmet design, they also paired up well with our other favorite helmets on the market. While the lenses appear silver, they have a rose tint. They make greens pop and noticeably increase contrast in bright situations. The Silver Mirrors were great in most conditions but performed best on bright days. In general, the glasses have great optics, fit well and look good, but, as with most POC products, the price is steep for what is included. ο

Contact: www.pocsports.com

Price: $180

Frame colors: 2

Lens colors: 2

Tech: Carl Zeiss/POC Clarity lenses, snap hinges, correction lens compatible

Weight: 27g

Pair tested: POC Define w/ brown/Silver Mirror lens

UPSIDE:

• Lifestyle feel for on and off the bike

• Super lightweight

• Prescription available

DOWNSIDE:

• Price is steep given the other models we’ve shown with more features/lenses for less

• Not as much coverage/protection


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