One cold winter’s day I set off to Gisburn Forest with fellow Singletrack contributor Barney to shoot some bikes and ride some trails. The clear, crisp skies rapidly clouded over as we neared the trail centre, and promptly emptied their contents while we readied to ride. Given the prevailing conditions, I left my trusty Oakleys in his car, and we hit the trails. Several months later, they remain in his possession. Hmm…
After one too many mud-meet-eye incidents since then, I jumped at the chance to review a couple of pairs of glasses from the Rad8 range while negotiating the return of my old faithfuls.
Given the changeable spring, I was thankful to be offered two pairs from the wide Rad8 range. Both use the 502 MTB shape, but one pair came with photochromic lenses, the other with a red polarised mirror lens. Seeing as the frame and shape are identical on both pairs, I’ll group up my thoughts on them before I move on to the lenses.
Frame and style
To my eye the 502s look a little 90s style wise, but more importantly, the plastic arms looked and felt a bit plasticy for a pair of riding glasses that are towards the premium end of the price range. The navy blue shiny plastic arms felt slippery to touch, though rubber grips at the end of each arm are designed to keep them from sliding around in use.
Popping the glasses on, the lenses nicely covered my face, with few gaps between lens and cheek/eyebrows. Those small rubber grips appeared to be in the right place for my head. The (bendy, adjustable) nosepiece rested well and the glasses felt comfortable on my face. It’s also worth noting they are light – just 25g and that contributes to a sense of comfort when wearing them. I did find the arms a little on the long side for my (admittedly small) head, which meant that they interfere with the fit of a couple of my helmets, particularly enduro style ones which tend to wrap around the back of the head a little more.
While riding, the glasses have remained stable on my face and generally done what you’d expect glasses to do. They have suffered from steaming up a little more than some better vented glasses that I’ve used, but were far from poor performing. It was generally only at very slow speeds on sweaty climbs that I noticed an issue.
Photo-what-now? I think I got my first pair of photochromic riding glasses over a decade ago now. The clever lens technology automatically adjusts to light conditions, darkening in bright sunlight and lightening in the shade. It’s a great concept for mountain biking, where more often than not a ride will go from hillside to woods and back out into the open multiple times during its length. Let’s also face it, it’s a pretty good concept for the UK as well, where it is as likely for clouds to roll in as quickly as they then pass again.
The Rad8s have lenses that goes from very nearly clear, transitioning to a dark smoky colour. They claim that when clear, the lens is even suitable for night riding. I’ve got particularly poor night vision and wouldn’t want to use them at night, but during normal riding conditions, including some pretty dingy days, they felt about right. If I were to be hyper critical, I would have preferred the lenses to be slightly lighter in any given condition. It often felt like the glasses overcompensated for the conditions. I think this is a largely personal issue though, as I often don’t wear sunglasses at all, thanks to being a glasses wearer when not shredding* trails.
*gently pottering down
The transition between dark and clear was never noticeable unless going from very bright to very dark instantaneously – think open ground into shady forests. It only took a few seconds for things to adjust though, and this was a significantly smaller compromise than having to stop and remove sunglasses. Performance was inline with what I’ve experienced with other photochromic lenses from Endura, Specialized and Oakley.
I’ll be honest and admit that I rarely find much use for darkly-tinted sunglasses on the mountain bike, largely for the reasons that photochromic lenses exist. More often than not, I’ll set off with them on, and end up with them stuck into helmet vents or tucked on the back of my head.
For road riding however, and occasionally when out all day in the mountains, it’s really useful to have a good set of glasses with darker lenses. The red mirror polarised versions filter out a lot of glare and bright light, and for those who are heading alpine, this type of lens is a must. Apparently the red helps pick out shades of brown better to enable easier identification of trail contours. I’d be lying if I said I noticed that particular benefit, but I didn’t feel the need to pull them off my face the second the sun drifted behind a cloud.
Optics and other stuff
The optics for both sets of glasses were genuinely impressive, as they should be at this price. There was no discernable distortion, at least not in the usual range of vision. If you like the sound of both lenses, you don’t need to buy two pairs of glasses. It’s possible to swap them, and Rad8 sell replacement lenses on their website for £38 (mirrored) and £45 (photochromic)
I’ve been mulling over whether I would buy the Rad8s the whole time I’ve been writing up this review, and I’m not sure I’ve come to a conclusion. While I think I’ll always have a pair of photochromic riding glasses and don’t mind paying a premium for them, there are cheaper models available that function just as well.
As for style, well that’s entirely subjective. If you’d prefer a more casual style, then have a gander at Rad8’s 504 MTB glasses, which use a fully closed lens and a slightly flatter profile.
The Rad8s are good riding glasses. They perform well and are more than just fit for purpose. Should you buy them? If you like the styling and are happy with the price, the performance is likely to match your expectations.
|Product:||502 MTB Glasses|
|Price:||Price: £98 (Photochromic), £78 (Red Mirror Polarised)|
|Tested:||by Tom Hill for|