Cost: Handmade sport lenses begin at $195; performance sport frames begin at $109
How Obtained: Review sample from company
Lenses - Frames: Several tints, shapes, colors, Rx options available
Source: Order direct from company
RBR Sponsor: Yes
Tested: 35+ hours
Custom Rx Wraparound Sunglasses Open New Vistas
It's not often that a new product you try almost immediately shows itself to be superior to what it's replacing, and in such a way that it — literally — opens new vistas to the user.
Such was the case, though, with these sunglasses.
I've always been extremely near-sighted and have worn glasses since age 11 or 12. That meant I've always needed Rx sunglasses when cycling. It also meant, with my strong prescription, I've been captive to the various types of clip-on style Rx sunglasses available (like these I reviewed 1-1/2 years ago) — which feature small, clear Rx clips or lenses covered by the actual sunglass lens.
A Whole New World to See
Having a greatly expanded field of vision is something I didn't even realize I'd been missing. It was apparent on my first ride wearing the new specs. I was amazed that I could see things in the periphery of my vision.
The world outside the boundary of the relatively small Rx lenses in my other cycling glasses was no longer the blur it used to be. And the extra half inch (about 13mm) of Rx lens that extends downward beyond the old lenses adds even more to the "visible spectrum."
I quickly realized I no longer needed to turn my head left or right to, in effect, put the Rx lens between me and what I was trying to see. Now, I could simply move my eyes while keeping my head still. (That may not sound like much, but there are many instances when riding — in a paceline, when approaching an obstacle with other riders around you, etc. — when cranking your head to the side is not optimal. It can easily take you off your line enough to cause trouble.)
Moreover, with the lenses fitting close to your face and wrapping around to the edge of your eye sockets, the wind-blocking is superb.
Direct Consulting on Lens, Frame Choices
I was never a candidate for "one-piece" traditional Rx sunglasses — in which the sunglass lens also corrects your vision. That is, until I heard about Sports Optical, which promised they had the technology to put me in a pair or true wrap-around one-piece sunglasses.
I dutifully sent them my prescription, and as they do with all customers, they consulted directly with me on available lens and frame options.
I went with single-vision Transition Extra Active lenses — "photochromic" lenses that begin with a slight, nearly imperceptible base tint of gray and as you transition to brighter conditions, the lenses darken appropriately. The transition capability means I can now leave the house near dawn, or arrive home near dusk, with the same visual capability as a mid-day, bright sunshine ride — without ever having to flip up or remove a sunglass lens.
Because of the strong Rx and the required thickness of the lenses, my only choice for frames was Rudy Project's flagship Ketyum model, made from an innovative, lightweight metal alloy with built-in spring hinges and the ability to handle a super wide range of prescription lenses. This frame both looks and feels more robust than the other two pairs of Rudys I own, yet it maintains all the adjustability for a dialed-in fit.
The result is a pair of Rx wrap-around sunglasses that look and feel as good as they function.
High-Tech Saves Weight in Glasses, Too
Sports Optical uses impact-resistant high-index polycarbonate, which is both extremely lightweight and the safest lens material, according to Bret Hunter, company owner and lenscrafter. Hunter developed the proprietary formulas that adjust prescriptions according to the curvature of the lens -- specifically with the eyewear issues of cyclists in mind. "This is the core of what allows us to achieve optimal clarity in a curved-format lens," he says, "and our unique formulas are what separate our lenses from all the others."
Despite the size and thickness of my lenses (see photo), the glasses actually weigh less than my old Rudy Project Exception glasses. The Ketyum frame weighs 1.1 oz. (31g), and the lenses add just over 1/3 of an oz. (10g), for a total of 41g. The all-in weight of the Exceptions is more than 45g. (It seems important to note, too, that because of the extreme curvature of the lenses, the thickness in part "blends into" the overall look of the glasses. Only upon close inspection from just the right angle is the thickness readily apparent.)
The Bottom Line
The benefits of being able to wear a "one-piece" traditional Rx pair of sunglasses are myriad: greater field of vision (and related benefits, including improved safety and the overall added enjoyment of improved vision); better wind-blocking; no need to mess with Rx clips or attachments; and no need to carry extra glasses for store or other stops.
Whether you're a strong-Rx cyclist like me who never thought I'd be a candidate for traditional Rx cycling glasses — or whether your prescription has always allowed it — the custom lens crafting and wide selection of sport lenses and frames available from Sports Optical warrant a look when you're in the market for a new pair of Rx riding specs.
John Marsh is the editor and publisher of RBR Newsletter and RoadBikeRider.com. A rider of "less than podium" talent, he sees himself as RBR's Ringmaster, guiding the real talent (RBR's great coaches, contributors and authors) in bringing our readers consistently useful, informative, entertaining info that helps make them better road cyclists. That's what we're all about here—always have been, always will be. Click to read John's full bio.