When it comes to custom eye wear for cycling or outdoor sports, the selection in your average optometrists office is often lacking. So if you don’t wear contacts, you’re often out of luck when shopping for sunglasses. For those four eyed freaks who share the same predicament, SportRx can bring an end to years of ridicule and discomfort. The online company based out of Southern California offers prescription sunglasses designed specifically for active wear.
To get the lowdown on the service, I worked with one of the several on staff optometrists to help build the perfect pair of sunglasses for my needs. While I am always down to try and ride just about anything with pedals (or a motor), my true passion is for mountain biking. Most of my riding takes place in the redwood forests that surround the neighboring mountains, so it’s imperative that my sunglasses aren’t to dark, yet still provide some measure of protection from the sun when pedaling up long stretches of exposed fire roads, etc…
In order to communicate those needs, I chose to call SportRx which specializes in prescription sports sunglasses, and speak with a real human being. The company has opticians available to speak with via telephone or live chat online M-F between 7am-7pm and 8am-4pm on weekends PST. There is information on all the specific options online, but speaking with someone really helped me better understand all the options.
The first step was choosing a material. Since these glasses would see some serious abuse, it was important to select something that was more shatter resistant than your average plastic or glass lenses. A popular material for this application is polycarbonate, but SportRx suggested Trivex lenses.
This less well known material is slightly thicker than your typical polycarbonate lenses, but offers several advantages. Glasses made from Trivex are harder to scratch, provide better visual acuity (particularly for those with stronger prescriptions like myself), and offer the same level of impact resistance. Like polycarbonate, the lenses also block UV rays without the need for a special coating.
The company also offers additional options such as holiophobic and hydrophobic coatings to help repel dust and fog.
The next step was selecting the lens features. Polarized lenses are fairly popular for applications where there is a lot of glare e.g. smooth water or a flat road, but there also downsides. The technology works because when light is reflected from a flat surface it’s horizontally polarized. To negate this, polarized lenses are vertically polarized. So when light bounces at a more than horizontal angle, such as in downhill skiing, the lenses can alter depth perception. This is one of the main reasons it is sometimes suggested that skiers avoid these lenses.
Another disadvantage is that the polarized sunglasses can make LCD displays and cycling computers nearly impossible to read. Based on this information, I choose to skip over the polarized treatment and opted for a photocromatic lens that would seamlessly go between light to dark based on the intensity of UV light.
Depending on the materials and coatings picked, SportRx also offers a 1-2 year warranty on all their products.
Browsing the website you’ll notice some sunglasses offer more customization than others, for the pair that SportRx custom built me, I was also able to choose the tint. Each color offers it’s own unique set of advantages and disadvantages, but the brown tint that my optician Rob suggested supposedly offers improved contrast and depth perception over typical lenses. Once we finished walking through the all the different options, my order was submitted and the wait began. It usually takes between 2-3 weeks for your custom pairs of sunglasses.
Both the SportRx offices and labs are located in Southern California and the offices are known for their relaxed environment and lunch rides. The company grew from a small mom and pop run shop into a popular online destination and their lab is capable of doing it all – CAD drawings, 3D machines, complex coatings, etc… As a result, the company pushes the limits in a way that most local optometrists can’t. For example, my prescription is fairly high and most cycling specific sunglasses have a decided wrap to offer maximum coverage, so lenses get thicker on the edges that can sometimes cause a sensation of vertigo. As a result, most optometrist don’t offer high performance sunglasses for those with high prescription numbers such as myself, but SportRx will not only make a custom pair – they back them with a no questions asked 30 day warranty.
To showcase all of the neat features that SportRx offers, my friendly optometrist Rob suggested a few different pairs before we settled on a new Nike model dubbed the Siren. He then patiently discussed my needs and walked me through all the different options available. Having worn glasses for fifteen years now, this was the first time I’ve ever had someone explain all the different advantages and disadvantages to the current technology.
Over the past few months I’ve had the opportunity to wear these sunglasses behind the wheel, while riding bicycles, and just about everywhere else life takes me. While I take precautions to avoid scratching my lenses, sometimes sh* happens. Yet despite hitting the occasional low hanging branch to the face while riding, several “graceful” dismounts, and my general clumsiness, the lenses have survived scratch free.
The brown tint and photochromatic features also offer huge performance benefits. Not only is the transition from light to dark seamless, but the brown color offered a nice comfortable contrast compared to some of the lenses I’ve favored in the past. The one caveat is that after a few hours, the wrap of the lenses did cause me to start feeling uncomfortable. It was something the optometrist warned me sometimes affects patients with high prescriptions like mine, but I took that gamble. That said, the lenses offer incredibly crisp optics and excellent clarity and I would not hesitate to purchase a pair of sunglasses from SportRx.com in the future.