Nothing encapsulates your multisport taste more than triathlon glasses, but there’s much more than meets the eye. First up is protection. This comes in two forms with the lens deflecting debris flicked up from the road and blocking dust whipped up from hot summer days. They also protect you from the sun’s rays, which is even more important at a race like Alpe d’Huez as UV radiation increases by 5-7% for every 1,000ft rise in altitude.
This protection shouldn’t come at the expense of visual clarity, which is why lens choice is key. There are many lens types on the market for various light conditions, designed to brighten overcast mornings and dampen down sunny afternoons. To that end, many brands offer glasses with interchangeable lenses. It’s a logical idea but just make sure the mechanism to swap lenses is simple and, more importantly, durable.
Then there are arguably the most practical lenses – photochromatic. These change to suit the light, darkening when exposed to high UV and lightening when cloudy. On paper they’re the perfect one-lens-fits-all, but quality differences manifest themselves in speed of light change. As for lens shape, performance glasses tend to be wraparound. This maximises protection as well as widening the field of vision, making them useful in the busy racing amphitheatre.
Comfort goes without saying, as does security. This is particularly important on the run where the jolty, oscillating motion tests their stability more than the bike. The run is also the place where the glasses’ anti-fog properties are tested as you don’t enjoy the same demisting windchill as the bike. Manufacturers cater for this with a chemical coating in an attempt to prevent anti-fogging plus venting. But it’s almost impossible for a pair to be 100% fog-free. Finally, be honest. If you’re a touch forgetful and are constantly losing your keys, a more affordable option might be preferable over a flash £200 pair. Time for the test…
Roka have successfully expanded from tri into cycling thanks to models like the SL-1. We’ll start with what’s not there and that’s weight. At just 22g, they’re barely noticeable on both the bike and run. The rimless design offers impressive field of vision, while the interchangeable lenses cover every light condition. Ours came with HC Fusion Mirror, designed for a partly cloudy to bright environment. Roka’s GEKO tech helps you to adjust the temple pieces for a bespoke fit, which works as they don’t move during the bike or run. Roka also offer the taller SL-1x, which work even better on the aerobars. uk.roka.com
Verdict: brilliant glasses that’ll brighten every race, 90%
Buy from uk.roka.com
The cheapest pair here punch above their fiscal weight and wrap comfortably around the face. They come with two lenses for lighter and darker conditions that, while not providing the definition and clarity of its higher-end competition, is pretty good. Vents at the top and bottom increase airflow to prevent fogging, yet the slightly narrow lens means the base vents are too noticeable. The nose bridge is also too big and adds interference. Yet construction is solid and the rubber ear pieces provide stability. From experience, the Grilamid
TR-90 frame material will last a few seasons.
Verdict: a strong pair of eyewear for the price 80%
Buy from www.wiggle.co.uk
In our eyes, the coolest-looking glasses on test and the simplest. They’re fully framed but the depth of the lens means vision is uninhibited. The lens delivers a crisp definition. On test are Bolle’s Phantom Vermillon, an orange hue that works wonders on all but the brightest of days. Like most on test, the lens features an anti-fog treatment, which is backed up by subtle but useful vents at the top and below each eye. The ski-goggle design arcs around your temple, and clamps in place thanks to rubber grips on the nose and arms. Seven frames are available with different lens options. bolle.com
Verdict: A relatively simple but effective pair of glasses 86%
Buy from www.otticanet.com
The USP here is Smith’s Mag interchangeable tech, where the hinge at the end of the arms cleverly clicks open for ease of lens swap. The Max come with two lenses, one of them being Smith’s ChromaPop Rose Flash for low light conditions. You can choose from three other lenses including for the full spectrum. The Rose Flash is impressive, improving contrast during a miserable June. The wide, minimalist lens provides a great field of vision both on the bike and run. They’re secure and comfy in both disciplines, heightened by the choice of two nosepieces, which clamp in as easily as the lenses.
Verdict: Very impressive but pricey eyewear 88%
Buy from www.chainreactioncycles.com
Scicon is best known for making bike bags so the Aerotechs are a departure, but things start well with the photochromatic lenses. The simplicity of photochromatics appeals to our practical side. Scicon’s lenses are from Essilor Sun Solutions, whose heritage stretches over 40 years. They’re rated from category 1 (80% visible light transmission or VLT) to category 3 (18% VLT), which means very light to very dark. They’re rather good. Sadly the chunky base is too noticeable. You can remove it but it cheapens the product. Still, they should last as the frame material is bulletproof. m
Verdict: Not a bad stab but we demand more for the price 74%
Buy from www.probikekit.co.uk
The Oakley Flights follow a similar design to their Jawbreaker model, though they lose the top part of the frame and feature a chunkier finish. They also provide Oakley’s ever-impressive Prizm lenses, offered in Prizm Road, Prizm Low Light or Prizm Trail. Prizm Road works wonders at increasing the contrast of vision and making colours sing while riding or running. But what muffles those bright notes is the unique nose vent that, when flipped, lifts the glasses slightly away from the face to improve venting. Sadly the execution is poor as the bridge becomes uncomfy, especially when on the run.
Verdict: a pricey let-down from the optic legends, 72%
Buy from www.oakley.com
The overall verdict
Give it a few years and we predict half these models will measure body temperature, glycogen levels and GPS data, all packaged up in units the size of the Roka here. We’re currently ambivalent about heads-up displays as they’re too bulky and inaccurate, but tech evolution will inevitably solve these problems.
That’s not to say innovation doesn’t permeate 2019’s offerings. Smith’s Attack Max look and feel advanced with the outfit’s Mag interchangeable technology a real strong sell. Too many glasses that feature lens-swapping capabilities are let down by fragile mechanisms. Not here. The R&D team at Smith had clearly done their homework and provided an excellent solution. It’s a shame that their contemporaries at Oakley didn’t achieve the desired results with their venting ‘advancement’. It all feels a little Heath Robinson but, more importantly, just isn’t comfortable.
The same can’t be said for the Bolle, which cradle your temple beautifully, as well as looking cool. But it’s Roka that take the victory due to combining comfort and clarity without falling into the over-engineering trap. These’ll elevate your performance across both bike and run, whatever your ability