Hailing from British Columbia in Canada, Ryders Eyewear has been around since the early days of mountain biking. The brand was established way back in 1986 by Canadian MTB Champ Brent Martin, and it went on to become one of the most successful sporting eyewear companies in North America.
Though the name is highly regarded within that core BC scene, on an international scale Ryders Eyewear is nowhere near as well known as huge brands like Oakley, Adidas Eyewear and Smith Optics. A couple of years ago, the team within Ryders decided it was time to change that, and went about a significant spending spree to boost R&D and revamp the product line with some fresh innovation.
Before going further, it’s worth pointing out that while Ryders is rider-operated and owned, it does come under a larger umbrella corporation that also owns the French lens manufacturer, Essilor. This presents some unique advantages to Ryders. Rather than being a customer of Essilor, it plays in the same pool as the lens giant, and that’s given Ryders the opportunity to build a unique lens design called FYRE – more on that later.
The Incline is a pair of semi-rimmed sunglasses designed for mountain biking. Using Ryder’s ‘Invert’ design, the Incline flips the traditional semi-rim frame construction by wrapping the solid portion of the frame around the lower lens, with the open section at the top. This is what gives the Incline its slightly unusual appearance. If looks are your main priority though, you can get a non-Invert version called the Seventh.
Aside from looking different, the Invert construction provides several benefits. The first advantage is well known to Chipps’ partner Beate, who has in the past cut her cheek during a crash off-road, where the exposed lower lens on the glasses she was wearing at the time actually sliced her skin. I’ve thankfully not had that experience myself, but I can see how it happens. With the Incline frame, that’s much less likely to happen in the event of a crash. Having the lower portion of the lens covered also helps to protect it when you stop mid-ride and rest the glasses on a rock for a moment.
The exposed upper section of the lens comes into its own while riding in a more aggressive climbing or descending position with your head tilted down. Without a frame to get in the way, there’s less obstruction to your vision. I also have quite bushy untamed eyebrows, but even with the glasses positioned close to my face, there is minimal contact with the low profile lens. Lastly, Ryders also claims that the lens is better at venting and maintaining its fog resistance because there is no physical barrier at the top of the lens.
One of my favourite features of this glasses is its adjustability. And I’m not just talking about a two-position nose pad like some other glasses – I mean a genuine, customisable fit.
This is achieved by the bendable arms – a simple feature that is rarely offered in cycling sports eyewear, if at all within mountain biking glasses. I know Rudy Project offers bendy arms with some of its models, but most of those are more aero-style glasses that aren’t really designed for mountain biking.
What I love about the bendable arms is that aside from widening or narrowing the fit for your head, you can also curve and shape the ends of the tips to fit around your helmet harness. In my case, I’ve looped the arms around the back of my ears, which means they avoid any interference with helmet fit – an issue that I regularly run into with most glasses and most helmets. That interference is really annoying too, as I find that the glasses end up being pushed around by the helmet, which can be both distracting and uncomfortable. I have neither of those issues with the Incline glasses, and with the curved tips, they also sit incredibly secure on my head. The only downside is they can fit a little too securely, making them a touch tricky to put on or take off while you’re still wearing a helmet. If that bothers you, you can simply tweak the position of the arms as you like.
Further adjustability comes from the bendable nose pads, which are suspended on a flexible steel wire. Like the arms, these are easy to dial in to get the glasses in the right position. However, I would like to see a little more resistance to the bendy bits – sometimes you can tweak the nose pads or arms accidentally if you catch them on something or they get squished in your gear bag.
The result of several years R&D with Essilor, the FYRE lens is Ryders’ self-proclaimed ‘super lens’, and it is one of the reasons the Incline glasses are so good (and very expensive). Made from an Essilor-exclusive material called Trivex, the FYRE lens is cast at a much lower temperature than a traditional polycarbonate lens, which apparently results in a smoother and clearer finish that is still just as tough as polycarbonate, but closer to glass in terms of optical clarity.
Along with the special material, there are three technologies that Ryders and Essilor has integrated into its FYRE lens. These include the Varia photochromatic finish that allows the lens to automatically lighten or darken its tint depending on the external conditions, and a feature called ‘Colour Boost’ that enhances primary colours as the lens darkens in bright conditions. The idea being that your eyes can pick up those colours faster and with better perception.
There are three tints available in the FYRE lens range. The Incline glasses I’ve been testing use the Light Grey/Grey With Blue lens, which provides an enormous light transmission range of 17-77%. That means at its clearest, it’ll let through 77% of available light, which has been useful for very dark and overcast winter days and early evenings. At its darkest, the transmission drops down to 17% and the lens changes to a blue mirror-finish, which I’ve found reflective enough for any sunny day in the UK. Aside from riding abroad in baking hot and uber-bright conditions, the wide tint range and unnoticeable transmission of this lens has meant the Inclines have become my favourite go-to eyewear option.
The third technology used on the FYRE lens is a permanently bonded anti-fog layer that Ryders is particularly proud of. Yes, every glasses brand says its lenses don’t fog up – that’s a given marketing strategy. But the FYRE lens is the first one I’ve used that seems to genuinely deliver on fog mitigation. How they do that is remarkably simple. Whereas most sports glasses will put a spray-on hydrophobic coating on both sides of the lenses to help water droplets run off, Ryders does that for the outward face of the lens, but has given the inside face a permanent, chemically-bonded hydrophilic coating. Aside from being a physical part of the lens (rather than a coating), this hydrophilic layer attracts and absorbs moisture, pulling it away from the centre and distributing it to the outer edges of the lens. The result is less fogging.
I wouldn’t say they don’t fog up at all – I can still get a little bit of condensation on the inside of the lens during steamy valley climbs. But compared to other glasses I’ve tested, these clear exceptionally quickly, and it takes a whole lot more to fog them up in the first place. Also worth noting is that they’ve remained impressively scratch free despite being deliberately treated like shit for the past 7 months. I regularly wipe the lenses when they’re sprayed with mud (a big no-no with any pair of glasses), and they’re often thrown into my backpack without the soft bag. I wouldn’t recommend you treat them like that, but it’s reassuring to know that your expensive new glasses won’t be ruined after being dropped for the first time.
Highly versatile and adaptable glasses that feature very high quality lenses too. The wide transmission range makes these an ideal option for the vast majority of riding conditions, and thanks to the quick transition and excellent optical clarity, these have rapidly evolved to become my favourite go-to option. At nearly 200 quid, they ain’t cheap, but they’ve proved to be highly durable, and the quality and versatility makes these well worth it in my opinion.
|Tested:||by Wil Barrett for 7 months|