Review: Ryders VTX, HEX, and Defcon Sunglasses

Yes, that's mud on the lens. Wanted to show how they looked after a season.

The sunglasses shown here represent a little bit of everything that is offered these days for cycling specific eyewear. Lenses that are polarized, change from light to dark tint in varying light conditions, interchangeable lenses, and even just plain old fixed lenses, they’re all here but how do they perform and which one is for you?

As more and more options have flooded the market, cyclists are able to find a pair of shades that offers exactly what they want and won’t break the bank. When it comes to budget performance cycling glasses, Ryders is up there with the best of them, and clearly has a lot to offer. After getting my hands on the photocromic Hex, the interchangeable VTX, and the static Defcons I set off to torture test each pair of glasses to find out how they perform in the real world. Rest assured, that these shades didn’t lead a privileged life, as they all were subjected to some hard riding and weren’t always wiped clean and put back in the case. We’ve all had a pair of sunglasses fall off our helmet after we forgot they were there, left them on top of the car, thrown them mercilessly in a bag, so I wanted to be sure this review reflected real world conditions.

Each pair of Ryders has their own pros and cons, but which is my favorite, and more importantly which should you buy?

Find out after the break!

Due to the sheer amount of different sun glasses on the market today, picking out your next pair of cycling shades can be a daunting task. Obviously, as cycling specific eyewear,  you want glasses that will protect your eyes from the sun, provide impact resistance, won’t fog, and are comfortable under a helmet for long periods of time. Of course, they have to make you look good at the same time.

Perhaps the most confusing aspect of buying a new pair of shades, is what features should you look for? Interchangeable lenses, fixed lenses, open frame, closed frame, polarized, transitions, lens shade, etc. Like most quality cycling eyewear companies, Ryders offers a model to cover nearly any option you could think of, which makes for a lot of possibilities, but also a lot of choices.

HEX:

Easily the most surprising model of the bunch, the photochromic polarized HEX is also the most expensive. As you can imagine, due to the fact that polarized or photochromic alone means a more expensive pair of sunglasses from any manufacturer, it’s easy to see why having both in one pair of glasses can bump up the price. Yet, at only $89.99, the top of the line HEX is still less than a lot of companies simply polarized glasses, so it’s still a bargain.

Going into this test, this was probably the model I was most excited to try. I had always thought about a pair of photochromic sunglasses, but as primarily a mountain biker, I wasn’t sure that the feature would even be noticeable in the woods. Worse than not being noticeable, I was even more concerned that the lenses wouldn’t change quickly enough during the transition from an extremely bright section of trail, to an extremely dark section, which would leave me desperately straining my eyes to follow the trail through lenses far too dark.

Eventually I found myself in the perfect situation to test out the HEX: it was to be at least a 3 hour ride in early fall, on an extremely sunny day. Only about half of the leaves had fallen meaning there were many spots with extreme contrast as stands of certain trees kept their leaves longer than others. In addition to the continuously varying light conditions due to the gaps in the leaves, the ride also started mid afternoon meaning near the end of the ride we were battling the waning sun.

The photographer says this picture is blurry because I am too fast. I highly doubt that.

Once into the forest, my skepticism quickly turned to delight as the thoughts of the glasses on my face quickly turned to thoughts of threading the needle over sweet single track. Generally, if a product makes itself invisible while I’m riding, it usually means that it works and I am not fussing with it for the duration of the ride. The HEXs were no different.

Not only did the lenses quickly transition as if they were always one step ahead of my eyes, the polarized lenses seemingly made the trail pop, helping me to quickly differentiate between rocks and leaves. I was able to ride with the HEXs almost the entire day, only having to remove them for the last 30 minutes, as the sun was setting and they were simply too dark.

That in and of itself is saying something though, as I typically ride without eye protection far too often while mountain biking. Usually I never seem to have the right tint of lenses, or the glasses don’t offer enough airflow for my liking, causing my face to become uncomfortably hot. The entire time I had the HEXs on I hardly noticed them, and only had to wipe the sweat from the lenses once.

While the performance was great, they aren’t perfect. My only real complaints come down to the quality of the lenses and durability. While I wasn’t exactly kind to these glasses, there are quite a few scratches on the lenses, and at the bottom of one of the lenses, it looks like the lens is either dented, or the coating is starting to come off. I should make it clear that while I didn’t baby these glasses, I didn’t treat them any differently from some more expensive sunglasses I’ve used which definitely seem to have more durable coatings on the lenses. However, like we’ve already mentioned, for $89.99, these are way less than the competition and offer performance to match.

The HEX easily deserves a 4.5 out of 5. With more durable coatings to the lenses, these would surely warrant a 5, as they were undoubtedly my favorite out of the bunch.

Specs:

  • FRAME: GLOSS BLACK, TR90
  • LENS: PHOTOCHROMIC-POLARIZED GREY, POLYCARBONATE, 100% UV PROTECTION
  • TINT: VARIABLE 32%–12% VLT
  • FIT: MEDIUM
  • FEATURES: ANTI-SLIP NOSE PADS, ANTI-SLIP TEMPLE TIPS
  • PRICE: $89.99

VTX:

While photochromic lenses apparently work great, some riders may not want to shell out the extra dough, or simply may spend most of their time on the road in unchanging light conditions. Interchangeable lenses have been popular for some time for this very reason, where you simply change out your lenses in favor of what the current riding conditions dictate. Not only are interchangeable lens models usually cheaper than their photochromic siblings, they also usually offer a greater range of lens tints. Most interchangeable sunglasses come with a clear or yellow lens for extremely low light conditions, an amber or persimmon lens for medium light conditions, and full smoke or mirrored lenses for the brightest light. As you can see, the VTX is no different with 3 sets of lenses from clear to dark.

I have to admit, when I first picked up the VTX I was instantly concerned: the lenses rattled in the frame. This wasn’t a slight unnoticeable rattle, it was so unsettling that I almost didn’t even put the sunglasses on.

Fortunately, I decided to try them on anyways, and to my amazement the rattling disappeared! Take them off and it was there again, only to be eliminated by putting them back on. That’s when it hit me. The frame acts like a spring, put them on your face and the spring is tensioned, holding the glasses to your head, and holding the lenses in place. Take them off, and the spring relaxes, allowing a hilariously easy lens change. Seriously, they’ll actually fall out if you twist the frame just right. While this was a bit unsettling while handling the glasses, the lenses never made themselves an issue while riding, staying silent and in place the whole time.

In addition to the clever method to improve lens changes, the VTX also offers flexible, positionable temples and nose pieces very similar to the Tifosi Logics I reviewed awhile back. The flexible pieces allow a true custom fit if needed, and due to their rubber coating they tend not to slip.

Due to their clear lenses, the VTX became my eyewear of choice for rainy or cloudy days, and when I was looking for protection from below freezing temperatures in the winter. The VTX only fogged up after long periods without moving, so while I had to take them off if I was stopped for awhile, they were never a problem while moving.

Ultimately, the lenses of the VTX had similar scratches as the HEX at the end of testing, although the clear lenses ended up the worst. Also, while I understand the purpose of the flexy frame and rattling lenses, but I can’t help but feel that it cheapens the overall feel of the sunglasses somewhat. The VTX works as advertised, and is a good pair of glasses if you like the lens shape, have trouble changing lenses, and need the adjustable fit.

Specs:

  • FRAME: METALLIC RED, TR90
  • LENS: BROWN FLASH + ORANGE + CLEAR, POLYCARBONATE, 100% UV PROTECTION
  • TINT: 15%, 47%, 99% VLT
  • FIT: MEDIUM
  • FEATURES: ADJUSTABLE ANTI-SLIP NOSE PADS, ADJUSTABLE ANTI-SLIP TEMPLE TIPS
  • PRICE: $59.99

Defcon:

After all of this, maybe none of the previous features are things you are really looking for. If you are looking for a simple, stylish pair of sunglasses that you just wear and forget, then the Defcon maybe for you. The simplest of all sunglasses, fixed lens models like the Defcon offer protection, good lines, and all at the lowest price possible.

Obviously, the lenses aren’t changeable, but the Defcon is offered in many different lens options, from clear, to dark, polarized, photochromic, and everything in between. When it comes to performance of the Defcon, it is clear that it is a no frills, no fuss pair of glasses that don’t fog up, and work well in most conditions.

The one issue I took with the Defcon, is the fact that the earpiece has a much more pronounced curve than the other models which made it sit funny on the bridge of my nose. Compared to the HEX temple above, you can see the extra hook to the Defcon temple, which is what was the issue for me. I had multiple people try on the Defcon, with many of the saying that the temples weren’t an issue, but this is definitely a model that you will want to try on first to be sure it fits you well.

Even though the Defcons didn’t fit me perfectly, I still like them for their style and simplicity. Many cycling specific sunglasses offer up style that you wouldn’t want to wear off the bike, so it’s nice to see models like the Defcon that cleverly disguise cycling performance with a little street cred. Mind you, you won’t be seeing many people walking the streets with yellow lenses, but the other lens shades will blend in quite well.

While my Defcons may have seen slightly more use than the other models in the test, the lenses actually fared the best for lack of scratches, which I assume may be due partly in fact to the closed frame design.

Although I wasn’t as blown away with the Defcon’s performance as I was the HEX, it still proved to be a quality pair of shades. Clearly not for the feature hungry, the cheapest model in this review easily held its own and is a solid choice for anyone on a budget – as long as the frame fits.

Specs:

  • FRAME: WHITE, TR90
  • LENS: YELLOW, POLYCARBONATE, 100% UV PROTECTION
  • TINT: 57% VLT
  • FIT: MEDIUM
  • FEATURES: ANTI-SLIP NOSE PADS AND TEMPLE TIPS
  • PRICE: $39.99

FRAME: GLOSS BLACK, TR90
LENS: PHOTOCHROMIC-POLARIZED GREY, POLYCARBONATE, 100% UV PROTECTION
TINT: VARIABLE 32%–12% VLT
FIT: MEDIUM
FEATURES: ANTI-SLIP NOSE PADS, ANTI-SLIP TEMPLE TIPS
PRICE: $89.99

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