Review: Oakley Mainlink With Prescription Lenses

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I have fairly rubbish eyes (-1.5/-2.5) – not so bad that I need fancy lightweight lenses, but bad enough that I have been known to ask my kids to find my glasses for me. Annoyingly, I also cannot get on with contact lenses – my optician tells me there is no reason why I shouldn’t be able to see properly out of them, but I can’t. Depth perception gets screwy and contour lines on maps wriggle. Which is a problem when it comes to riding. So I’ve just carried on wearing my standard day-to-day glasses – gradually scratching the special coating I paid extra for to improve their function when staring at a computer screen, squinting whenever the sun deigns to appear in the sky, and saying to myself that I really should get sorted with some proper riding glasses.


Hurrah then, when Shade Station got in touch to ask if I’d like to do some product testing of glasses from their range. Did they do prescription glasses, I asked? Yes, sure, no problem – just click the filter for the ‘Active’ range, and check the ‘Prescription’ box to see the frames available. If you’re going for non-prescription options, there are many frames to choose from, however for prescription lenses can’t be fitted into the really curved frames – which many cycling specific glasses are. It also makes a difference as to whether you want sunglasses or just prescription sports glasses. So many variables! The live chat facility on the website is handy for narrowing things down – the support staff can send you a link to the options which meet your needs.

So ensued much searching for a style which looked like it might suit. Here I think that the website doesn’t do itself any favours – not all glasses are pictured on models, and although there are 360 degree views of many frames, the thumbnail shots tend to be taken slightly from above, making it hard to tell just what size and shape the frames are as you search through.


This is going to be an issue for any online purchase of glasses – prescription or otherwise – and Shade Station advises that you can buy a selection of unglazed frames to try on, find one our like and then return their frames in as-new condition within 14 days for a refund. If you’re wanting to get a firm idea of what the frames are going to look like before you pay to get them glazed, then I’d advise doing this – yes there’s quite an outlay, but if you get frames that you don’t like glazed, only the frames are refundable, not the cost of the lenses. If you happen to live in Leeds, there is an actual real life shop there, so you could just pop in and try them on. They don’t have the full range in store, so it is worth ringing ahead if there are specific styles you want to try and they’ll get them in for you.

I however did not go for this option, and when the Oakley Mainlinks arrived they were rather bigger than I had anticipated from the pictures. More Brains from Thunderbirds than Maverick from Top Gun. That said, I’ve had loads of compliments about how they look, and the size of them does provide a good deal of protection to my eyes, despite them not being wraparound glasses.


As well as having a large choice of frames, Shade Station offers a range of lens options. One of the reasons I’ve never invested in prescription sunglasses is that this means I have to carry normal glasses around with me so that I can see when I need to take the sunglasses off – like when I go inside, or the sun stops shining. For this reason, I opted for some photochromic lenses – hopefully then I’d be able to see in the sun, and inside too.

As well as deciding whether you want clear glasses, sunglasses, or photochromic, you can also choose between the standard lenses provided by Shade Station, and other premium and branded versions.



I went for the standard option photochromic lenses, which put the price at £103.20 for the Oakley Mainlink Frames, plus £75.00 for the lenses. As an example of an upgrade, single vision Zeiss Reactions lenses with DuraVision platinum premium anti-glare coating are £180.00 for the lenses.

Out of the box, the glasses were not quite what I was expecting – the pictures had made me think they were smaller – but they were still comfortable to wear and ride in. Most importantly, I could see – I had worried that without a fitting service the vision could be compromised, but I had no such problems. I could even wear them to ride into work, use them to sit at my desk and use a computer, and ride home again. Getting your prescription to Shade Station is easy – you can just take a photo of it and send it to them – this saves worrying about whether you’re putting the right numbers in the right boxes when placing your order.


Riding in the sunshine of Sedona, Arizona, I was very relieved to be wearing sunglasses – the riding would have been awful without them, and I’m sure I’d have suffered from headaches with the glare. Back in the cold and wet of the UK, I’ve  had no real problems with fogging – only when I’ve stopped at the top of a climb have they steamed up, and they’ve soon cleared again once back on the move. When riding the glasses sit comfortably on my face with no pressure points, and they’ve fitted comfortably with the three different helmets I’ve worn while testing them.

I’ve worn them in all manner of light conditions – including in the dark – and have had excellent vision regardless. The only thing I have noticed is that the lenses are quite slow to return to clear when going from sunlit outdoors to indoors – not so much that you can’t see (like with true sunglasses), but there is a slight feeling of peering through gloom until the lenses adjust. I only noticed this when heading indoors, and it wasn’t a problem out on the trail.


After a few days of use, and presumably stretching a little, I found that the glasses tended to come off if I bent to tie a shoelace, or fiddle with my chain. Upright and on the bike – even on rough ground – this wasn’t an issue, but it was an annoyance when getting things in and out of my pack trailside, or getting ready for a ride. I took them into my local optician for adjustment, however these particular glasses have Oakley’s patented Unobtanium material that becomes tacky with perspiration to offer a no slip grip along the legs. This means the legs can’t be heated as per many frames, restricting the amount of adjustment available. Shade Station offered to take a look at them in the lab, but since I was passing the Leeds store while doing my Christmas shopping, I dropped in there. The adjustments they could make were again limited by the ‘Unobtanium’, so I think the lesson here is again to try before you buy. I’m still wearing the glasses, and they’ve never fallen off while riding, it’s just when bending that the problem occurs. While it limits possible adjustments, the Unobtanium does seem to work to provide grip, as even when sweaty the glasses do stay on my face – providing I’m upright.

Overall: I’m totally sold on the photochromatic lenses – for me it solves the problem of needing different glasses for different conditions, and in bright conditions I’ve really noticed the reduction in eye fatigue. The Mainlinks are probably better suited to a wider head than my own, but the experience has allayed my fears about being able to get the vision right over the internet. With such a huge range available from Shade Station, I suspect I will be doing a bit of a try before I buy with frames from across their range. Who knew that n+1 applied to glasses too?

Review Info

Brand: Oakley
Product: Mainlink (with Prescription Lenses)
Price: £178.20
Tested: by Hannah for 1 month
Author Profile Picture
Hannah Dobson

Managing Editor

I came to Singletrack having decided there must be more to life than meetings. I like all bikes, but especially unusual ones. More than bikes, I like what bikes do. I think that they link people and places; that cycling creates a connection between us and our environment; bikes create communities; deliver freedom; bring joy; and improve fitness. They're environmentally friendly and create friendly environments. I try to write about all these things in the hope that others might discover the joy of bikes too.

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Comments (0)

    I had some Oakley Chainlinks glazed by a company called Cilary Blue. vary-focal photochromatic lenses. Photochromatic lenses are a brilliant option.

    I too had Oakley prescription glasses a few years ago. Ace. But then I got laser eye surgery after umming about it for a couple of years. Should have done it years ago. I was -7 so a lot worse than Hannah. Also never got on with lenses whilst riding as felt they moved on my eyes with the bumps and was constantly blinking to resettle them. And I wore them for over 20 years. Glasses are relatively cheap. Surgery isn’t but not wearing glasses when you wake up, swim, play with kids etc made it something I’m very happy with. Plus now when grit and mud goes in my eye I can still see. With lenses I’d have to stop.
    I haven’t found anyone since who’d not recommend it.

    A 2nd Vote for Cilary Blue, They just did my Ski Goggle inserts. Fast, friendly, cheep and efficient..

    For riding, I’ve always used Rudy Projects Rydon’s with the optical insert. That way you can easily keep the prescription up to date, and select the outer lens for the weather.

    My Oakley sunglasses are done by Oakley, why would you want somebodies generic lenses in an Oakley Frame? The Lens is the most crucial bit, and Oakley RX is brilliant!

    “why would you want somebodies generic lenses in an Oakley Frame”

    Oakley lenses do appear excellent, but are more than double the price of those from Cilary Blue – which optically are as good as any branded prescription lenses I have ever had.

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