By John Marsh, Editor & Publisher
Rudy Project Exception RX Sunglasses (top),and Rudy Project Rydon RX Sunglasses (bottom)
Exception RX Sunglasses
Rydon RX Sunglasses
Exception RX Sunglasses
Rydon RX Sunglasses
Price: Exception – from $305; Rydon – from $175 (total depends on lens choices, insert)
Colors: multiple choices for frames and lenses
Source: online, eyecare shops
Features: multiple advanced safety and technology features
How obtained: Exception – purchased; Rydon – sample from company
RBR advertiser: no
Tested: Exception – 3 years; Rydon – 2 months
I’ve worn eyeglasses since I was 11 or 12 years old and need them to function in my everyday life. I couldn’t dream of riding without them; I’d be a menace worse than Mr. Magoo to myself and anyone in the vicinity.
I’m not alone in my need for visual aid. According to the Vision Council of America, approximately 75% of adults use some sort of vision correction. About 64% of them wear eyeglasses, and about 11% wear contact lenses, either exclusively, or with glasses.
When I first started cycling, I had worn prescription sunglasses for decades, and simply used my regular sunspecs for riding. However, I quickly realized that protection against wind and obstacles, fit, adjustability and other factors were lined up in favor of prescription cycling sunglasses.
For folks like me, though, who through the years have worn the proverbial Coke-bottle lenses, our choices of RX sports shades are limited. My prescription requires far too much correction to be able to use direct in-frame lenses. Thankfully, innovation is a strong suit across the universe of cycling products, so I still had a couple of choices.
One version, which I’ve worn for the past three years, incorporates the corrective lenses into the frame of the glasses themselves, and attaches a flip-up sunglass unit to the nosepiece that wraps around the smaller prescription lenses. My long-time specs are Rudy Project Exception RX sunglasses, with Polar 3FX brown lenses.
The other version, which I’ve now been testing for two months, is a regular pair of cycling sunglasses, with a small prescription glasses insert that clips inside the sunglass lenses, using special grooves in the frame. (Clip not shown in photo above.) These new test specs are Rudy Project Rydon sunglasses, with ImpactX grey, polarized photochromic lenses.
Both have significant pros and minor cons, so we chose to review them in tandem to play off each other.
Seeing is Believing
Visual acuity is excellent with both. And if you’re wearing RX sunglasses, That’s really the most important thing, isn’t it? If warranted, Rudy Project opticians adjust your prescription to work best with the specific design of the sunglasses (and enclose a sheet with both the original and adjusted prescription along with your glasses).
Both the Exception and the Rydon models I’m using have polarized sunglass lenses, which eliminate glare and allow you to clearly see details of the road and your surroundings by enhancing contrast and depth perception. They even work pretty well in those difficult sun/shade transition spots nearing dusk. The Polar 3FX brown lenses in the Exception frames are rated at 15% light transmission, and the ImpactX grey, polarized photochromic lenses in the Rydon are rated at 12-30% light transmission.
The range of light transmission in the Rydon lenses is a result of their being “photochromic,” meaning they self-adjust to varying light conditions. They darken the brighter it gets, and lighten the darker it gets. While this is undoubtedly a neat feature that really works, it can still be a bit too dim for me behind those lenses when the sky darkens substantially during a rainstorm, or on a ride leaving just before sunrise, or lasting after sunset. (Fair disclosure, I read a review on the Rudy Project site by a guy who said he wears this model, with the same lenses I have, around the campfire after dark!)
Under extremely dim-light conditions, as a rider who simply can’t see without glasses, I’m envious of riders with good eyesight who can remove their shades and keep on spinning. Which is why the flip-up shades on the Exception model come in extremely handy. Not only can you flip up the shade in such conditions, you can snap off the entire clip-on portion, leaving just a regular pair of glasses. Just slip the clip in your jersey pocket.
I’ve discovered another benefit of the flip clip. In a downpour, the flipped-up shades serve as a sort of awning or rain shield that helps keep the rain off the RX lenses. it’s not perfect, of course, but it’s a definite advantage. Over time, though, the ratcheting flip-up mechanism has started to wear out, and the shades don’t stay up as well as they used to.
Adjustable to the Extreme
In addition to a nearly overwhelming range of sunglass lens choices, which are interchangeable in both models, both the Exception and Rydon have adjustable nose pieces and temples so you can tailor your fit to exactly match your nose and head shape.
While both frames are exactly the same size, the Exception fit slightly differently. The temples flare out a millimeter or so, and thus wrap more toward the back of the head. With the Rydon, the temples go straight back, and thus don’t need to wrap as much. Both are fine to wear either inside or outside helmet straps.
The stated weight of the Exception model is 1.26 ounces (35.7 grams), while the Rydon comes in at .88 ounces (25 grams). The difference comes in the added weight of the Exception clip-on shades, as well as larger RX lenses. However, both are extremely comfortable when the fit is dialed in. And when I wear the Exception, I don’t notice them feeling “heavier” than the Rydon; it’s more that the Rydon feel superlight instead.
Both have built-in safety features including “safety hinges that are hidden and provide more safety during a crash.” I don’t recall whether my Exception frames stayed on my head when I crashed a couple of years ago, but they certainly were not damaged in the least.
Moreover, the ImpactX lenses in the Rydon are made of the same high-tech, bulletproof material used in the windows of airplane cockpit doors and Apache helicopter windshields. They’re guaranteed unbreakable for life, and the packaging shows them withstanding a sledgehammer blow and being bent past 90 degrees. (I trust the good folks at Rudy Project, but I don’t have the guts to try either of those on my test lenses!) I can say that I have dropped them on the hardest of hardwood floors, with no damage at all.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
I sweat with the best of them. Despite being an inveterate face wiper, the salty stuff flows onto my sunglasses on every ride. I’ve noticed that drops of sweat start to pool at the bottom of the Rydon RX insert. It still bugs me a little bit, but I’ve learned to reach up with my thumb and simply swipe across the bottom of the insert to get rid of the pooled sweat.
Sweat does not, however, cause either of these frames to slide down my nose to any degree or otherwise lose their excellent fit.
The Rydon is a bit more difficult to clean because you have to remove the insert and clean it separately, where the flip-up shades can stay on the Exception while They’re being cleaned. After I’m done cleaning, I simply snap the Rydon RX clip back into the frame so it’s ready to go for my next ride.
All the Italian-made Rudy Project sunglasses come with a microfiber pouch that can be used in a pinch to clean the lenses, along with a hardside carrying case. The case is especially handy when you’re taking your shades to an event and you need to pack them without worry.
Both the Exception and the Rydon earn 4 stars. Each model has numerous technical advantages and few shortcomings. Both allow this Mr. Magoo to ride in style and comfort, while clearly seeing all the details nature, and the roads, have to offer.
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.
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