3 great alternatives to Oakley’s for cycling
Oakley continue to dominate the cycling eyewear market. But does being the most popular necessarily make them the best?
Firstly, before I continue it needs to be said that there’s a lot of stuff on the Oakley website talking about technologies that are unique to them. I couldn’t find a single one that actually was unique, so don’t be fooled into thinking you can only get what you want from them.
But this blog isn’t about Oakley, rather the great cycling eyewear products that are also out there. I’m going to list what I believe are 3 of the best and analyse the pros and cons of each.
- Smith Optics Pivlock Arena Max
The Pivlock has regularly been the 2nd most used frame in the Tour de France over the last few years (Oakley being no1 of course). They say that it’s “the world’s lightest interchangeable lens system”, and I would agree. Somehow it manages to strike the perfect balance between lightness and grip, especially with the adjustable nose piece, which along with the end tips is coated with a hydrophilic rubber. They just don’t move once they’re on.
They come as a kit with 3 lenses; a full sunglass shade, a clear lens for night and a high contrast lens called the ‘rose ignitor’. Most of my clients with the Pivlock use the ignitor almost exclusively as it’s the most adaptable and really improves contrast. With a bit of practise under my belt, I’m able change the lenses over in about 30 seconds.
The huge advantage for glasses wearers is that the Pivlock can be made in almost any prescription, using an insert. Prescription inserts are usually… awful, but the one for the Pivlock pretty much covers the entirety of the front lens; it’s by far the best I’ve come across. Smith Optics did a really good job on that.
Here are a couple of photos of how the insert looks from the front and the back:
- Nike Show X-2 with Max Outdoor lens
The Show X-2 is a really versatile frame – I’ve had people order it with golf lenses, cycling lenses and general purpose sunglass lenses. Like the Smith Optics Pivlock above, the lenses can be changed depending on the activity. However they come as standard only with the one lens type, and for cycling I would recommend the Max Outdoor Photochromic technology.
The green colour is great for increasing contrast, and being photochromic means they always match the conditions you find yourself in, which in my experience is fantastic for cyclists, who might start their journey in rainy conditions and end it in bright sunshine (or vice-versa). The lens doesn’t go completely clear, as it’s designed for daylight or dusk conditions, so isn’t suitable for night time use.
The Show X-2 is great for glasses wearers, as they can be made fully in prescription without the need for an insert with a variety of lens technologies, including the Max Outdoor Photochromic.
- Maui Jim Banyans with Maui HT lenses
For my money Maui Jim make the best pure sunglasses in the world. But are they up to the rigours a cyclist puts their eyewear through? The Maui Jim Banyans certainly is. Made from Grilamid, which is an extremely strong, lightweight and flexible material, they are both comfortable and durable.
Although you can’t see from the picture, the brow bar is modified with air vents to prevent steaming up, which is very useful. The nose pads are fully adjustable, as are the end tips.
But by far the best feature of the Banyans are its lenses. Maui Jim have some of the best sunglass lenses in the industry, so where to begin? Firstly, they are polarised, meaning 99.9% of glare is eradicated. Second, the high contrast tint means the view is brighter and clearer when in low light situations. Next, they have colour enhancers that make colours visibly ‘pop’ out at you (if you’re the type of cyclists who likes to take in the scenery then you’ll love that, as you can see from the image below). Finally, they have a ‘bi-gradient mirror’ which blocks more light at the top and bottom of your vision, meaning the sunglasses ‘squint’ for you, which is handy when cycling towards the sun.
Maui Jim lens feature breakdown:
- High Transmission tint
- Colour Enhancers
- Anti-Squint Mirror
It’s also worth bearing in mind that Maui Jim offer some of the best customer service in the industry (which is why a few years ago we made the decision to stock them rather than Oakley), so you’re safe in your purchase, not that anything usually goes wrong. They are also available in full prescription if necessary using some the most advanced manufacturing processes in the industry.
During my research I came across an interesting discussion here:
It’s amazing to see how some people swear by polarised lenses whilst just as many swear against them. There doesn’t seem to be any consensus.
My instinct as an optician is always to recommend polarised lenses. It’s quite simple, they enhance contrast, control glare, and improve depth perception. Why wouldn’t you want those benefits?
But it’s interesting that many of the specific cycling frames out there don’t have polarised lenses. It probably comes down to potential interference with the LCD displays on cycling computers. In any case, we have the facilities in-store to show you a comparison of all the lens types available, so you can make the best decision.
So, there you are, three of the best cycling frames on the market. There are of course many more options out there, but those are the ones I tend to recommend to my clients.
Follow us on Twitter @specfactory