I’ve always been happy with my vintage Oakley M Frames. These classic non-hinging sunglasses are bombproof and the lenses provide plenty of coverage against airborne bugs and gravel. They stay securely in place. Most important, the frames are compatible with various helmet styles, never bumping against the helmet annoyingly.
So why would I plunk down $130 for a new pair of shades? I was intrigued by the photochromatic lenses that Specialized is offering. I use similar “Transition” lenses in my regular glasses and they work very well indeed, allowing me to go from the house to the car to a store without fumbling for different eyewear. The lenses automatically become darker as light gets brighter.
I purchased the Specialized Helix with similar technology — they call it Adaptalite — for rides that start early in the morning in dim light and conclude in mid-afternoon under a blazing sun. They”d also be useful, I figured, in rain when standard dark glasses often restrict vision, and that proved to be true.
The Specialized Helix delivered on most counts but had a couple of annoying liabilities.
Time out for a disclaimer: Sunglasses are difficult to review because, like saddles, certain models work well for some riders; not well at all for others. Face shape, eyesight acuity and environmental conditions differ among riders and influence their opinions about eyewear. So my response to the Specialized Helix glasses might not match your reaction.
First, the Positives
The frame on my glasses has an attractive gloss carbon finish. It seems durable and has taken plenty of hard knocks in more than 200 hours of riding. The glasses come with a protective, padded case that makes transport easy.
The Helix temples are hinged so these glasses pack more easily than the Oakley M Frame that is best sequestered inside a helmet during travel. The hinges seem solid and so far have evidenced no sign of failure.
I like the “Megol” nosepiece and ear tabs too. (But who dreams up these marketing names?) They stick toyour skin when it’s moist so the glasses won’t slide down your nose even on the sweatiest climbs.
The lens is a “shield” shape with slightly more coverage than some recent styles. That’s fine with me. While not eager to return to the Darth Vader look of the original Oakley Factory Pilot, it’s important to keep flying objects out of the eyes so a bit larger lens is welcome.
Finally, the lens supposedly has a slight red tint due to what Specialized calls “unique filters??_[that] enhance reds for improved safety.” I didn’t notice any red shading, but improved ability to see objects in the road when going from sunlight to shadow was evident. And there was more brightness on cloudy days.
Now, the Quirks
So far so good. But the Helix has two annoying quirks, at least for me. Both may be due to my head shape, so you might not notice them.
First, the frame on these Specialized glasses is shaped so that the rear of the ear pieces bumps against my Specialized helmet, pushing the nosepiece slightly down. It’s as if the end of the earpieces can’t find a good place to rest against the helmet’s retention strap that goes around the back of the head. (Specialized calls this strap the “Pro Fit 360.”) This isn’t serious but it is irritating, especially on climbs.
Second, the ear pieces bend inward enough to push painfully against my head after several hours.
I’m still not sure what to make of the Adaptalite lenses. Unlike regular glasses with Transition lenses, these lenses are never without a tint. Viewed from the outside, they don’t change color appreciably no matter whether They’re in bright sunlight or in shadow. However, when wearing them they seem to darken in bright conditions and provide plenty of glare protection while still lightening when it gets overcast.
In other words, the amount of change in the photochromatic lenses appears different depending on whether you’re looking at them from the outside or the inside. Helix glasses can also be ordered with standard dark lenses.
All things considered, because of my fit issues with the Specialized Helix glasses, I haven’t retired my trusty Oakley’s quite yet.
Coach Fred Matheny is an RBR co-founder who has four decades of road cycling and coaching experience. He has written 14 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach Fred Matheny, including the classic Complete Book of Road Bike Training, which includes 4 eBooks comprising 250 pages of timeless, detailed advice and training plans. The Complete Book is one of the many perks of an RBR Premium Membership. Click to read Fred’s full bio.