Eyewear is important in cycling, regardless of the quality of your vision. You may have 20/20 sight, but when it is raining and spray stings your eyes, or worse a fly or wasp flies right into your face you’ll be far better off if you have something protecting your eyes.
Then there is the question of sunlight and shade. When cycling on a bright day you want sunglasses which will stop intense sunshine and glare from distracting you. However on a dull overcast day you don’t want to be wearing sunglasses which made everything too dark. Finally on some days you find both types of condition, so what do you do then?
I’ve worn glasses for most of my adult life to combat my astigmatism. I’m not long or short sighted at all, but due to the shape of my eyes vertically aligned objects are somewhat blurred. Since starting cycling I simply wore my regular glasses for this reason. However on sunny days I found it annoying not to be able to wear sunglasses, and additionally my regular glasses didn’t do a good job of protecting the whole of my eyes.
I’ve been a user of Oakley sunglasses for years and years but never justified to myself the expense of getting a prescription pair, until recently that is. Since really taking up cycling I could finally make the justification to myself and now I wonder why I took so long!
When researching I focussed on:
- Frame type – with the decisions being around size, shape, protection and comfort more than style.
- Lens type – as these would be primarily used for cycling I wanted versatility in a multitude of light conditions
There are two main types of Oakley frame that suit cycling.
The traditional wrap-around frame provides a lot of protection with minimal frame interference with your peripheral vision and good ventilation meaning they don’t fog up. The main frame in Oakleys wrap-around range is the Radar, which comes in various formats. However, I’ve never really liked this style.
The more traditional full-frame type is represented by the Jawbone and Split Jacket styles. There’s little difference between them, the Split Jacket is simply a smaller version of the Jawbone to suit a different type of face. The key features of both are their flexibility. Unlike most full-frame glasses they have interchangeable lenses thanks to the hinged “jaws”. You simply unclip the jaws at the nose piece and they hinge away from the lens, allowing it to slide out. Thus, a single set of frames can be used with multiple lenses for various conditions. Finally, the Jawbone and Split Jacket come in a wide variety of colours, and you can even create your own custom versions.
After a few visits to stores, including the Oakley Store in Covent Garden I settled on Jawbones. The bigger size fitted me more snugly and meant that there was less frame in my peripheral vision. As for colour, I opted simple Matt White to match my helmet.
The final decision was on which lenses to go for. There are at least 24 different options in the Oakley prescription range. One decision I had made was to go for Transistions adaptive lenses. These photo chromatic lenses adjust their tint according to light conditions. From a cycling point of view this means they are useful for more days of the year. This is important given that I really didn’t want to have to purchase more than one set of prescription lenses if I could avoid it.
As an aside, anybody who watched the 2010 Tour De France on Eurosport in the UK will likely remember the Tyler Farrar Transitions ad which seemed to be played during every single ad break during the coverage. Rumor has it that this was part of the deal that took Bradley Wiggins from Garmin to Team Sky.
There are a number of Transistions lenses in the Oakley range. The main consideration is the level of light transmission that each one gives which for Transistions lenses is of course measured as a range. In the end I opted for the Grey option which go from pretty much clear at 93% light transmission to a dark grey at 16% light transmission. I opted for vented lenses, which basically means they have holes at the top and bottom to allow some air to circulate behind the lenses to aid in the prevention of fogging.
With my decision made, ordering was done via rxsport.co.uk and involved entering my prescription details as well as measuring my pupil distance using the method described on their site. The service was excellent with the glasses arriving within about ten days from ordering (bearing in mind they are made to order of course.)
The glasses arrived in a sturdy Jawbone specific hard case along with a usual Oakley soft cloth and a spare pair of nose pieces of a different size to the ones fitted in case you need to swap.
Here they are just out of the packaging, inside the house:
You can see that the lenses are basically clear. In low light conditions on the bike, even at night, this allows them to be used and still to provide the protection they give.
When taking them outside, on a fairly sunny day, but with the sun behind cloud, they looked like this after about a minute:
That’s not as dark as they go, but is still a pretty dramatic change from before. It is worth noting that they tend to go darker quicker then they go lighter. In practice this means that on the bike they do not suddenly lighten if you go from bright light into a tree covered section for instance. However I’ve not found any problem here and I cycle through a lot of tree covered lanes! It is also worth noting that the transition happens in response to UV light. This means that they do not change indoors (or at least not much) and also means in some cars with special windscreens they may not change at all. However as I bought them as cycling glasses this is irrelevant to me.
So, how have I found them for cycling? In a word: awesome. They really are the best cycling equipment purchase I’ve made, bar bikes themselves. They are so much better than wearing my regular glasses and the optical quality is as good if not better. The quality of the lenses is excellent and after over 400 miles wearing them in conditions ranging from bright sunny days to driving rain I have no complaints. The only minor issue is that they do tend to fog up a bit when you’ve stopped after a hard effort, but on the move they stay clear thanks to the vented lenses. The protection is excellent and I have had flies hit them as a test! At first I did find that the frames were visible in my peripheral vision, but I soon got used to that.
Perhaps the only other negative is that they truly are cycling only sunglasses. Worn on their own they look just a little weird. This is a combination of the Jawbone design which let’s face it is rather “bug eyed” and my own choice of Matt White colour. When combined with a helmet this looks cool, but on their own is a little too much in contrast to my own colour! Since buying them however I’ve noticed both Brad Wiggins and Geraint Thomas regularly rocking white Oakleys so I’m in good company! Spot the difference (although I think G is wearing Split Jackets)…
In summary, if like me you cycle and you’ve never been able to fully justify the purchase of prescription glasses then my message is simply, stop lusting over a new set of wheels or more weight saving equipment and invest in your eyes. After all, you only have one pair of them!