Whether you’re looking for style or protection, there are a ton of choices these days when it comes to cycling glasses. Ideally the perfect cycling glasses should be comfortable on long rides, resist fogging and sweat, protect against various objects thrown towards your eyes, and of course shelter your eyes from the sun’s rays. At this point, protection from UV rays is pretty much a given so the question becomes how well does each pair react to the changing conditions found in cycling.
Our latest roundup focuses on two brands you’ve probably heard of, and one you probably haven’t. Read on to see the latest from Smith, Uvex, and Jet Black….
The latest crop of eyewear to come through our office includes the Jet Black Svelto, Smith PivLock Overdrive, and Uvex 202 Race Vario as well as the Sportstyle 100.
The Overdrives are the latest frames to take advantage of Smith’s PivLock system. As the most expensive pair of glasses in the test, they also include the roomiest case and three sets of lenses. The Matte Fatigue model above comes standard with the Red Sol-X Mirror lens with a hydroleophobic coating for repelling water, sweat, dirt, and grease. The glasses also include a rose and clear lens set that are stored inside of the case along with an additional soft bag.
To change the lenses on Smith PivLock glasses, you lift the temple and expose the hinge. From there the lens pops out the front of the frame. While fairly easy to change, the frames do have a bit of a learning curve to be able to pop out the lenses without scratching them. Once installed there is zero rattle or creaking from the frame – a nod to the top notch build construction. The Overdrives also feature a 2 position adjustable nose piece with the individual pads ratcheting left or right for a narrow/wide fit.
Sold as a “Medium fit with large coverage” the Overdives include hydrophilic Megol temple and nose pads to keep the TR90 frame in place.
The solid construction and PivLock hardware result in the heaviest pair on test at 31g. The entire Smith PivLock Overdrive package retails for $199.
Distributed in the US through Magura USA, Uvex is bringing their German helmet and optical engineering to the states. If you’re a fan of the “transition” style lenses, the Uvex Vario line is one to check out. Now with faster transformation from fully clear to dark in 25 seconds, the Variomatic technology is ideal for changing light conditions. The lenses themselves feature a Litemirror coating, and 100% fog free while still remaining easy to clean.
After covering the left lens for a few seconds on a cloudy day, there was already quite a difference between the two sides. The lenses are sensitive enough that placing an object over them in direct sunlight will leave a nearly perfect impression of the shadow. The Variomatic lenses have proven to be incredibly useful when riding in mixed lighting conditions, but work equally well in full sun. Certainly one of the best variable lenses we’ve used.
Thanks to the soft ear pieces and nose pads, fit can be tailored to your preference, while the open lens design doesn’t trap sweat. At 25g, the 202 Race Varios are fairly light as well. Offered in the standard 202 Race and the 202 Small Race Vario, the $170 shades include a hard case and soft bag.
If $170 for a pair of riding glasses is too much, Uvex also offers premium glasses with replaceable lenses instead of the Variomatic. The Sportstyle 100 glasses include three sets of decentered lenses in mirrored smoke, clear, and amber, as well as a hard case and soft bag. Uvex has glasses all the way down to the $30 price point, but the Sportstyle 100 retail for $100.
Featuring frames with direct venting over the lenses, the Sportstyle 100s also use adjustable ear pieces and nose pieces like the 202 Race Vario. Lens changes are completed simply by pushing the lens from the back. Simple, but effective.
At 28g, they are the second heaviest in the bunch.
Finally, a rather surprising entry from Jet Black. Called the Svelto, the glasses are not only the cheapest on test, but maybe most impressive considering the price. Regardless of how good some sunglasses are, some people just want cheap since they stand a good chance of being broken, lost, or stolen. If you’re in that camp, don’t overlook the Sveltos. Built with gunmetal aluminum temples and a sleek wrap around design, the glasses punch well above their weight in terms of price. Available in a number of options including single lens, multi-lens, and photochromic, Sveltos retail for $39.99 to $79.99.
Lens changes are extremely easy using a simple hook design in the open frame. As with many others, fit can be dialed in with adjustable ear and nose pieces.
In spite of the metal temples, the Sveltos were the lightest on test at 20g.
A Word About Fit:
Whether it is indicative of just how far cycling glasses have come, or this roundup was just a good selection of models, all of them fit very well. Tested with both road and mountain helmets, thanks to the adjustable temples on all except the Smiths, helmet fit was not an issue. Even though the Smiths are not adjustable, their shape and angle of the ear piece meant they fit without needing adjustment. The Jet Black Sveltos have the longest temple/ear piece by far, but it didn’t seem to be an issue thanks to their adjustability. While not the lightest of the group, the Uvex 202 Race Vario felt the lightest on the face. Any one of the sunglasses in this roundup would be a solid choice, but thanks to their impressive lens versatility, excellent optics, and comfortable fit, we’re left reaching for the 202 Race Varios most often.