By Ed Pavelka
I’d never ridden in high-end sunglasses until I bought Smith’s Pivlock V90 Max. At $139 these shades are a major investment, although still priced less than other prestige models, such as the $200 Oakley Split Jacket and the $230 Rudy Project Genetyk.
I was attracted to the Pivlock V90 Max for 2 reasons: First, this model comes with 3 different tinted lenses that promise to be very easy to change; and second, its large, rimless, lightweight design.
Lens removal/replacement is indeed a snap. Just rotate the temples upward 45 degrees to disengage them, then do the opposite to put them into the tint you want. It couldn’t be easier or more secure. The temples aren’t adjustable in any way, but they fold behind the lens. Because of the large lens’s curvature the result isn’t very compact.
The V90 Max line includes 11 temple/nose piece colors and 9 lens tints. I chose the “Yellow Anodized” model shown above because I wanted a yellow lens to brighten gloomy or rainy weather. However, unlike in the photo, the lens that came is mirrorized (think Cool Hand Luke). It’s sort of gray, not yellow, when looked through. Also included was a clear lens (which will work fine on dank days or after sunset) and a rosy “Ignitor” lens that lets significantly more light through than the yellow mirror. The Ignitor has proven to be a good tint for a range of light conditions. It doesn’t make shadows too dark.
If you click to the Pivlock V90 Max page, you’ll see all the temple color choices and the lens tints provided. Lenses can be bought individually from Smith for $20 each.
The Pivlock V90 comes in 2 sizes. The Max version I ordered is for a “medium/large fit.” The other is for “small/medium.” Being an XL guy in just about everything, and wanting ample wind protection for my contact lenses, ordering the Max seemed like a no-brainer.
Its big lens does do a fine job of blocking the wind. It’s so big that the field of vision is totally covered, like when wearing goggles or a shield. There is a downside, however, at least for my face: The bottom edge of the lens touches my cheeks. It’s a small annoyance that keeps me aware that I’m wearing these sunglasses. Your face is different from mine (be thankful for that) so you may not have this problem.
I ordered a replacement lens made for the standard Pivlock V90 to see if it would clear my cheeks. It does — no touching even though its coverage is as full as the Max, for all practical purposes. If you order Pivlock sunglasses without being able to try them on first, I’m guessing you’ll do fine with the standard version. I now wish I’d chosen it instead of the Max.
The tinted lenses seem slightly darker at the top, lighter at the bottom. The gradation is gradual and so moderate that I didn’t notice it right away. At this writing, Smith’s new website does not mention ultraviolet light protection. I e-mailed customer service and was told that the Pivlock V90 lenses shield 100% against UV A/B/C rays. Smith’s Tapered Lens Technology is intended to correct distortion by progressively thinning the lens from the optical center towards the outer edges. This seems to work fine.
The lenses with a mirror coating are claimed to “absorb back light effects.” I think this means the coating won’t reflect light back into the eyes. Anyway, the reflective treatment is available on 6 tints and looks cool from the outside.
Sweat, Slipping & Scratches
Smith uses a coating intended to help the lens repel water, sweat and skin oil. I didn’t notice a benefit when riding in the rain. Water beaded on the lens like on any other glasses. Sweat dripping on the lens left a telltale trail like you’d expect. On the plus side, when sweat or rain dried, what remained on the lens was all but unnoticeable. I worried about having to peer through sweat streaks but they were nearly invisible.
Sweat did encourage these sunglasses to slide down my nose. That’s certainly not a problem unique to the Pivlock V90 Max. But like the lens touching my face, a few millimeters of slipping was a bother. I had to push the glasses back more frequently if I put the temples over my helmet straps, which I like to do to lessen wind roar. Slipping might be reduced if the straight-line temples could be adjusted to more snugly hug the head, but they can’t.
The grip is improved a bitby keeping the easily removable rubber nose piece clean of sweat and skin oil. That’s possible between rides but not during rides. The nose piece, by the way, is somewhat prominent. Again, not a big problem but noticeable when shifting vision left or right.
Although Smith claims its lenses have anti-scratch protection, mine have developed several mysterious small dings. They haven’t been dropped, set down on something rough or wiped with anything but a cloth made for cleaning glasses. These scratches don’t affect vision but they make me wonder about durability. Fortunately, at $20 each, replacement lenses won’t break the bank.
Despite the weight-saving frameless design, the Pivlock V90 Max tips my scale at 25 grams. That’s no lighter than either pair of considerably cheaper, conventionally designed cycling sunglasses I’ve had for several years.
Smith’s Pivlock V90 is a good choice if you like to change tints to deal with various light conditions. Lens swapping takes less than 30 seconds. Lenses are treated to reduce streaking and they are free of distortion, but they may scratch more easily than promised. The potential exists for the Max lens to touch the cheeks but this nuisance may not affect all faces. It can be avoided by purchasing the standard Pivlock V90 model rather than the oversize version.