By Will Barrett
For mountain bikers, apparel and accessories can sometimes be overlooked in favour of spending money on far more exciting things like dropper posts, tyres, and beer. In my experience however, it really does pay to have a look at the gear you’re in to see whether there’s any room for improvement.
Just as with a helmet, shoes or padded riding shorts, it is 100% worth taking the time to get the right pair of glasses. Having a pair of glasses that fit well, provide smooth uninterrupted vision, and offer the right tint for your riding conditions means you’ll have fewer distractions on the trail. And with so many options available to us mountain bikers these days, why should you have to put up with poor vision or a nosepiece that pinches on your shnoz?
Over the past couple of seasons, I’ve been using a wide variety of different riding glasses for both mountain biking and road riding. I recently realised that there were two favourite pairs that I’m typically reaching for 99% of the time: the Smith Pivlock Arena Max, and the Adidas Evil Eye Halfrim Pro.
Both of these glasses are designed to be versatile enough for riding on road and off of it, and both feature high-tech lenses and an adjustable fit. They’re also both quite expensive.
With that in mind, I decided to pitch the two against each other in a glasses shootout to see which I’d recommend, and whether these two options are worth the dough.
In terms of adjustability, the Adidas glasses win out for sure. The Evil Eye Halfrim offers a dual position nosepiece, which alters how close the lens sits to your face. Further adjustability comes from the Tri-Fit arms. These are mounted to the frame via a three-position hinge, which allows you to adjust the angle of each arm. The effect of this is two-fold. Firstly, it changes how high the arms sit up around the back of your head, which is ideal for minimising interference with helmet harnesses. It also changes the angle of the lens relative to your face, so you can tilt the lower portion of the lens to sit closer or further away.
In comparison, the Smith Pivlock Arena Max is only adjustable in its nosepiece. However, it does have a four-position adjustment. You can change the angle of each nosepiece, and you can also slide each pad up and down. I found this was a useful adjustment for changing between road and mountain biking, given the different head positions between the two riding styles.
Despite the non-adjustable arms, one feature I really like about the Smith glasses is that the arms are very short. We’re only talking 10-20mm shorter, but it does mean that they never got caught up on the straps of any helmets I rode with – a pet peeve of mine.
In terms of construction, both glasses use rubber tips for the arms and the nosepiece, which remains sticky even as you sweat. They’re both made from fancy-sounding plastic, and they’re also both very lightweight. The Smith’s come in at 26gm and the Adidas weigh 29gm.
One unique feature for the Evil Eye Halfrim Pro glasses is the integrated sweat bar on the top of the frame. The sweat bar does exactly what it says on the tin, and helps to minimise any droplets making their way south onto the lenses. It does create a more snug fit with your eyebrows, but it’s well worth it. That said, if you don’t dig the sweatbar it is removable. Or you could save a few bones by electing for he standard Evil Eye Halfrim glasses, which come without it.
Adidas and Smith offer their sports glasses plethora of different frame colours and lens options. So what you see here isn’t necessarily the be-all and end-all.
The Pivlock Arena Max glasses I received for testing come standard with three sets of lenses. There’s the Green Sol-X Mirror lens, a Brown lens, and a Clear lens included in the carry case, which makes them great value. I reckon the green looks badass, but it’s actually a polarized brown lens with a green mirror coating, so you get excellent glare reduction in bright conditions. According to Smith, the green lens offers just 12% light transmission, so it’s ideal for bright summer days. I found the brown lens to be better suited to riding through wooded trails, where the 18% light transmission offers a little more depth perception. For night riding and early morning jaunts, the clear lens is the way to go. Despite having a 98% light transmission, amazingly the clear lens still offers 100% protection from UVA, UVB and UVC rays.
The lens themselves are high tech and designed specifically for outdoors activities. Externally you’ll find several mirror coatings and anti-scratch protection, while the inside of the lens receives a multi-layer anti-reflective coating. Sandwiched in the middle is a Carbonic layer for impact protection, and a Techlite Glass layer to provide optical precision. That last detail is worth pointing out, as the Arena Max glasses have provided me with crystal-clear vision and next to no optical distortion. That quality is pretty subtle, but it’s the sort of thing that makes itself apparent when you switch to a cheap pair of glasses.
Swapping lenses is a quick and painless affair, as the lens is one-piece, and all you need to do is remove each arm and the nosepiece, before swapping them to an alternate lens.
The Arena Max has a broad field of vision thanks to its one-piece open lens design and large wrap-around profile. It sees the glasses sitting close to your face, with plenty of peripheral vision. This is also made possible by the 130x48mm lens size. The standard Smith Pivlock Arena uses a slimmer 124x45mm lens, but for mountain bikers I’d definitely recommend the Arena Max for its better on-trail coverage.
Like the Smith glasses, the Adidas Evil Eye Halfrim Pro’s can be had in a myriad of different lens options. The model I’ve been testing is equipped with Adidas’ new Vario Lens. This is the German brands first photochromic lens, which means it automatically adjusts to different light conditions. When the lens is clear, it takes less than a second to go dark when faced with direct sunlight. The transition is slower the other way, with the darkened lens taking about 4-5 seconds to go clear.
I’m a big fan of photochromic lenses, mostly because you don’t have to worry about swapping out lenses before a ride. And I’m lazy. That said, they can sometimes cause issues for mountain bikers. Ducking and weaving through dappled light can confuse the lens, and it can also cause more strain on your eyes too. Your eyes are quite adept at adjusting light transmission on their own, but throw in a self-adjusting filter in front of them, and it makes it trickier.
That said, the Vario lens on the Evil Eye Halfrim glasses are some of the fastest adjusting lenses I’ve come across. They also have an enormous range of light transmission, ranging from 14% at their darkest, to 89% at their lightest. Aside from the absolute brightest of conditions, the Vario lens will handle it all.
In practice, I’ve been able to use the Vario lenses for everything from early morning road rides, mountain bike racing during the peak of the day, through to night riding.
Like other Adidas sports glasses, the Evil Eye Halfrim features a 10-base extreme lens curve that wraps around your face further than anything I’ve ever used before. Despite the heavy curvature, Adidas have worked hard to keep the lens free of distortion, and they’re crystal clear in use. In terms of aesthetics, the lenses do bulge out quite a bit due to that 10-base curve, but it gives excellent wrap around your eyes for additional protection that gives a pseudo-goggle feel.
Overall: After comparing the performance of the Smith and Adidas glasses, the final and most important question remains: which pair would I recommend?
Between these two, my vote goes to the Adidas Evil Eye Halfrim Pro. The new Vario lenses offer an incredible amount of flexibility that reduces the need for additional lenses, and their in-built adjustability means they provide a comfortable and customised fit. I also dig the integrated sweatbar, and the curvy lens gives them a great wrap-around profile.
The Smith Pivlock Arena Max is still a great pair of glasses though, and with the two additional lenses, they’re certainly the better value option here. They’re superlight and they also have a very light and unobtrusive fit on your face. The open lens delivers a great field of vision, and their construction is top-notch. Aesthetically, I think they’re the sharper of the two, though that’s ultimately up to your personal preferences.
I did admit earlier on that I am a fan of photochromic lenses for all forms of cycling, so the Adidas glasses were always going to be at an advantage there. If Smith offered the Pivlock Arena Max with a light-adjusting lens, we’d likely have a tie.
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Best Deals On Evil Eye Halfrim Pro & Pivlock Arena Max
|Product:||Evil Eye Halfrim Pro & Pivlock Arena Max|
|Price:||£105 & £139|
|Tested:||by Wil Barrett for Two months & six months|