Mini-grouptest: Sunglasses

by Barney Marsh 0

Now that summer has poked its intermittent head up over the typically moist, mid-sodden parapet, it’s time to check out some sunnies!


For many people, biking sunnies are essentially disposable items – things you buy cheaply one year, use them, abuse them by chucking them in your helmet and forgetting about them, mud encrusted, until your next ride, and then, when they get so scratched and pitted it’s difficult to see out of them, you go and buy another pair. For others, they are sacred bike-only eyewear to be lovingly tended, preferably chosen to match your preferred riding kit – and for yet others, they are glasses you want to cover your face with as often as possible – if you can ride in them, well then! Bonus!
We’ve picked a selection of glasses from some of the very cheapest to some of the very priciest to help you choose which ones you fancy.

Jet Black Patrol 3 lens pack – £15.99

Jet Black Patrol
Jet Black Patrol

This is a budget pair of biking glasses, but you’d not really notice. There’s a good quality, stiff zippered fabric case, which upon opening yields a pair of specs with three pairs of lenses – smoke, clear and amber. The glasses we have on test are a subtle black colour, with gray tips and nose piece. There’s minimal adjustment available, but they grip the side of my head comfortably, with no hotspots. These are glasses I’d be happy wearing all day.
There’s a good amount of visibility – the lens quality, whilst not in the very top tier, is perfectly acceptable (and they’re all 100% UV protective), and the plastic the lenses is made from is impact resistant. They certainly seem fairly robust so far. The tints on the lenses do exactly what they say on the tin – the amber or persimmon lens is relatively dark, so charging from sunny areas to dark wooded shade was made slightly tricky until my eyes adjusted. Changing the lenses out is straightforward, and the unused ones slot into soft sleeves inside the case.
Looks-wise they’re pretty subtle. They’re not perhaps wear-off-the-bike glasses, but they’re inconspicuous enough that you probably could at a push – but they don’t have any of the pointy bits that immediately mark them out to the fashion astute.
If I’m being picky, the frame plastic seems a little – erm – cheap and plasticky, and there are no fancy coatings on the lenses, but (and here’s the kicker) these are just over £15 – what do you expect?
Details here.

Madison Recon 3 lens pack – £79.99

Madison Recon
Madison Recon

Now these bad boys look like they mean business. Open the substantial case, and witness the glasses nestled within, with their lenses arrayed next to them like double one-sided brackets. The lenses themselves are one-piece jobs – there are three of them in our test example – there’s a blue mirror one, an amber one and a clear one. All three of them are Carl Zeiss Vision lenses, so the optics are excellent – there is no detectable distortion at all. The amber and clear lenses also have an anti-fog coating, so they’re less likely to mist up when the weather is bad – and certainly I had few misting problems when the weather turned crappy.
Neither of the tinted lenses were particularly dark, even the mirrored ones held up OK to sudden shade plunges, although if you’re riding a lot in woodland I think I’d still prefer the amber ones – which are a very light tint. Even the clear ones have a very faint yellow tint, actually, but this is very swiftly forgotten about once you’ve been wearing them for ten minutes or so.
The frames aren’t the most inspiring of colours, but much brighter ones are available if you’re a bit more of a peacock. They very definitely look like cycling glasses, though.
Overall it’s hard to fault them – we like them a lot.
For more details, click here.

POC DO Blade – £199.99

POC DO Blade
POC DO Blade

POC is a Swedish company, who seem to have made it their mission to do things a little differently. Their MTB helmet design was greeted with raised eyebrows a scant few years ago, but has now been copied to a greater or lesser extent by a large number of manufacturers. They do have a singular way of doing things.

And so, too, with their glasses. These things are enormous, and frankly, donning them makes you feel like some sort of astronomically well-paid DJ. They only come with one lens, and (typically atypical) it’s violet. It lets in 28.4% of light, so it’s not the darkest, but it’s not really much good for woodland conditions. The tint is optimised for road cycling, apparently increasing contrasts, which it seems, in fact, to do. And to be fair it’s also pretty good on the trail, as long as you’re somewhere with not much tree cover. It’ll cope happily with a bit, but if you’re plunging from bright sunshine into a heavily wooded trail, you’ll be taking these things off faster than a plaster on a hairy thigh. Other lenses are available though, including clear and yellow.
Overall – very, very stylish looking, but there are better MTB glasses out there.

For more details, click here.

Smith Overdrive – £150

Smith Overdrive
Smith Overdrive

Now these puppies cut a swathe through the more subtle opposition, and in contrast to many of the others on test, they have full frames. In grey, and ORANGE. And the dark lenses? They’re very, very red (Red Sol X-Mirror, fact fans). Not red to look through though – they’re a sort of smoke/blue when you do that. Optics seem excellent – there’s no detectable distortion, and the lenses are interchangeable via a cunning leverage system. All the lenses are hyroleophobic (grease, dirt and water runs off – up to a point) and they’re all U.V. protective.
You grip the frames at the top and bottom, and lever the arm upwards – a cunning system of levers keeps everything attached, but the lower (orange) part of the frames distorst sufficiently so the lenses fall out, and you can replace them. It’s a neat idea, and it keeps the glasses looking nice and inconspicuous when they’re worn (you can get non-orange ones too).
The other lenses which come with the glasses are ignitor (amber) and clear. The Ignitor ones let through a good amount of light, and seem fine in low-light conditions; the clears are.. um.. clear.
Overall – I like these – a great combination of performance and style (not-orange also available).
For more information, click here.

Tifosi Elder 3 lens pack – £59.99

Tifosi Elder
Tifosi Elder

Open up the compact fabric hard case: in the little sleeves in the lid are the different lens options,

snug in their little linings. There’s a wipe cloth that doubles as a storage bag, and there are the glasses themselves. The arms are pretty substantial, but they disappear once on your head;peripheral vision is excellent, as they have no lower frames, but the design is such that you could potentially get away with wearing them in civvies if you so wished.
The frames are made of Grilamid TR-90, apparently. This means they’re light, bendy and robust, apparently. They fit securely, but they’re not over tight; I didn’t have any trouble with them slipping down my nose, but neither did I have any headaches.
The (U.V. protective) polycarbonate lenses were distortion-free, and seemed pretty robust. The ‘smoke’ lenses are perhaps a little on the dark side however. They were fine on cloudy days in the open (they let in 15% of the light), but were an absolute no-no in wooded areas – I even struggled a little with the AC Red lenses (which are actually amber). These let in 41% of the light, and are also treated with a semi-mirrored finish: it took a while for my eyes to adjust when I ride from sunshine to undercover wearing them. The clear ones were absolutely great, though.

Moreover, there were no overt issues with fogging – the small holes in the top outside corners served to clear the glasses well.
Overall – good looking glasses, but the ambers struggled with transitions from light to dark.

For more details, click here.


At the budget end of the spectrum, it’s really hard to see why you’d bother with anything else but the Jet Black Patrols – they’re quite spectacular value for money. Perhaps a little pedestrian in looks, but hey, they’re fifteen quid.

At the other end, the Smiths are not remotely cheap, but they strike an excellent balance between great looks (there are loads of colourways available) and function – they just work really well.

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Review Info

Brand: Poc, Smith, Jet Black, Madison, Tifosi
Product: Various
From: Various
Price: From £15.99 to £199.99
Tested: by Barney for

Comments (0)

  1. What I’d *really* like to see is a group test of riding glasses that can take prescription lenses or inserts.

  2. +1 to the first comment.

    FWIW Specsavers now do Puma sunglasses that take prescription inserts. Wide lenses, vents at the top, three tints (mirror, amber, clear). Happy with mine so far.

  3. Nice roundup dude.

    I’m really keen on polarising lenses, they seem to reduce the glare from wet roads and trails significantly, and generally improve the quality of my vision.

    Are any of the lenses polarising, or available with that option?

    Also, small typo in the Tifosi section, need a space 🙂

  4. If your after prescription lens in your riding glasses then try Optilabs been using their frames etc for years. Helpful people and the ones I’ve tried fit well.

  5. I have a pair of Oakley jaw bones with various shades of lenses. I’m a contact lens wearer and during a bout of conjunctivitis had a pair of transitions photochromic prescription lenses made up. Brilliant! It’s great to have the option of great quality shades even when I’m not wearing my lenses, and when I’m doing daft long Audaxs I don’t end up with sore eyes from the contacts or non cycling specs.
    On the down side the lenses were about £120.