by Giles Perkins
February 9, 2017
Can Giles see the benefit of these bi-focal riding glasses?
There are a good number of things that really suck about getting old. Getting dropped going uphill, getting dropped going downhill. Body parts aching when they didn’t used to, other body parts making noises that they definitely didn’t used to. And, not being able to see certain things, especially on the bike, ‘cos that’s just not good.
When I was young and handsome I had 20:20 vision, it was great, but as the years advanced things deteriorated to such a point I started getting headaches, I caved in and went to the optician. Unsurprisingly I needed glasses, but bizarrely for both long distance and close up work. For those of a certain age, Frankenstein Mr Magoo wants my glasses back!
When the BZ Optics photochromatic bi-focal glasses dropped I was seriously interested as I hadn’t yet sprung for prescription cycling glasses and their promises of a bi-focal solution might just help my ocular challenges.
The BZ Optics range was developed in Australia by Scott Birdsall an avid cyclist, canoeist, sailor and triathlete and Kevin Barr a surfer and sailor with 40 years experience in the action sport and sunglass business. Billed as the world’s first bi focal photochromic sunglasses they feature high impact UV activated photochromic lenses which transition from clear (Cat 0) in low or no light to dark (Cat 2) in full sun. The clever bit is the bi-focal magnification, moulded into the rear of the lens, available in +1.50, +2.00 and +2.50 powers.
But why might the bi-focal bit be any use? Well for those of us with less than perfect eyesight the Garmin (other on-the-bike navigation computing devices are available) is a both a blessing and curse. Tiny, non-back lit displays don’t make for the easiest read and in my case I’d got to the point where it was almost useless. In addition, not being able to focus clearly when looking down doesn’t make for the most secure of rides.
The BZ Optics Pho glasses come in their own zip-up, hard-shell carry case with a micro-fibre cleaning cloth. The glasses themselves comprise a lightweight, flexible frame into which the lenses clip in and out (allowing for replacement). The arms, which are quite flexible, feature moulded non-slip temples and the nose piece is made from the same soft, tactile material. I have a massive head (yes, so big it has it’s own solar system), and these are the first glasses that have not only reliably stayed in place, but haven’t resulted in pressure marks after use.
I’ve used these glasses in all conditions, from hot sunny days to the coldest of autumn mornings. They’re comfortable to wear with no movement and importantly don’t get in the way of helmet straps. The rubber nose-piece and covering on the arms is grippy without causing sweat and confidently keeps the glasses in place. Tipping my kitchen scales at a svelte 26 grams, they’re unobtrusive on the face. I’ve had a few issues with the lenses fogging on really hot days but nothing worse than any other cycling glasses I’ve ever used. The panchromatic nature of the lenses means that they’re continually adapting to the surroundings changing from clear on an early morning overcast ride to dark in full sun, extremely handy.
But it’s the bi-focal part of the lens that’s the most interesting bit. If you’ve not used bi-focal lenses they can be a bit strange at first. The bottom part of the lens, immediately to the left and right of the nose bridge, is effectively a prescription segment built into rear of the main lens. The BZ Optics range has a number of standard prescriptions available, similar to buying reading glasses from a high street supermarket. To use the bi-focal part you have to glance down, not (obviously) moving your head, this does take a bit of getting used to and there is a bit of a knack to it.
So what does this mean out on the bike? Panchromatic lenses are a real boon, no more having to swap lenses in and out depending upon the weather, meaning I’m wearing them more and more. The bi-focal part means I can see the whole handlebar area properly and when I glance down the Garmin is now in sharp focus, a view I’ve not had for years. The fact that they’re really well made, lightweight and look good are all added bonuses that mean that they’re now part of my regular go-to kit.
Overall: The BZ Optics Pho bi-focal glasses are obviously for a specific, niche market but they do make other lenses in HD, mirrored and prescription reading types. For me, these glasses have given me another little step forward in enjoying my bike more even though the rest of my body continues to rebel against me!