Sunglasses are an essential ingredient to your cycling kit. They serve the functional purpose of protecting your eyes in addition to adding some style and flare to your ensemble. Like every component, you can opt for a cheap set or splurge on the most flamboyant shades available. In this post we’ll evaluate three popular sunglass models to help you decide where to spend your money.
Our contenders are the Oakley Radarlock, Smith Pivlock V2 and the Tifosi Podium. All feature a single-lens design and come with at least one accessory lens for coverage in varying light conditions. The criteria we’ll use to evaluate the shades is optical acuity, ease of lens changing, style/color options and price.
Oakley Radarlock – 5 stars. The lens quality of Oakley sunglasses is truly what sets the brand apart as the leader of the performance eyewear market. Oakley’s High Definition Optics ensures optical clarity without any distortion. Check out this link to see Oakley’s laser test that proves the optical clarity. The impact protection meets or exceeds the American National Standards Institute for impact protection, meaning your lenses won’t shatter when a piece of gravel rockets toward your face at 100 mph. Watch the video below to see how Oakley lenses handle high velocity impacts.
Oakley lenses are hydrophobic to shed water and sweat. They also stop every wavelength of harmful UV radiation from the sun, including all UVA, UVB and UVC rays. The polarized lens options eliminate glare, which occurs when light bounces off a reflective surface, offering an even cleaner view of the world. The photochromic model lightens and darkens in response to changing light conditions. The lenses of the Oakley Radarlock are as impressive out on the road as they are on paper, which is why we give them our highest rating of five stars.
Smith Pivlock V2 – 4 Stars. Like Oakley lenses, Smith lenses also protect your eyes from harmful UV radiation, have a hydrophobic treatment and are shatterproof. Optical clarity is achieved through a process called Tapered Lens Technology (TLT), which means the lens is progressively tapered from the optical center toward the outer edges so light waves are delivered straight to your eye resulting in zero distortion. We love that every model of the Pivlock V2 comes with three lens options and were impressed to learn that even the clear lens blocks UV light. We are taking one star away because there are no polarized or photochromic lens options.
Tifosi Podium – 4 Stars. While Oakley lays out complicated guidelines and carefully designed tests to meet the ANSI criteria required of their lenses, Tifosi takes a more straightforward approach – watch this video of a Tifosi lens being bashed with a hammer. The Podium lens also blocks 100% of UVA and UVB radiation in addition to providing optical clarity thanks to a process called de-centering that eliminates distortion. We are subtracting one star because Tifosi lenses are missing a hydrophobic coating to prevent sweat from staining the lens, a feature present on the Pivlock V2 and Radarlock.
Oakley Radarlock – 4 stars. Swapping the lenses on the Radarlock is really easy, once you figure it out. It’s not immediately obvious, however. One of the frame arms has a small lever you slide to release the lens. Then you have to squeeze the nosepiece and jiggle the lens out of the other frame junction. Changing the lens isn’t as easy as the Jawbone, Racing Jacket, or Split Jacket, but is definitely easier than the old Radar.
Smith Pivlock V2 – 5 stars. We love the simplicity of the Pivlock V2. All you have to do is pivot the arms up and they pop out of the lens. It really doesn’t get much easier than that. You won’t get your finger smudges all over the lens and the nosepiece easily slides into place.
Tifosi Podium – 4 stars. The Podium is also impressive in its simplicity. The arms pivot the opposite way of the Pivlock V2, but changing the lenses is quite easy and can be done in less than 30 seconds.
Oakley Radarlock – 5 Stars. This is definitely a subjective category, but the unmistakable style of the iconic Oakley Radar earns huge cred with our crew of employees. The best way to look like a pro is to wear what they wear, and no other sunglass model is more prevalent in the peloton. That might be a negative in your book, but we love how recognizable Radars have become. With a bevy of bright colors, you’ll have no trouble finding a model that matches your kit.
Smith Pivlock V2 – 5 Stars. If Gucci made cycling sunglasses, we estimate they’d end up looking something like the V2. The Pivlock scores big for its uniqueness. Like the Radar, the Pivlock V2 is easy to pick out of a pack. You can get crazy with color and wear the neon frame or go stealth with the black frame.
Tifosi Podium – 3 Stars. The look of the Podium is more pedestrian than the Radarlock or Pivlock V2, but that may appeal to you. We were disappointed with the lack of color options available with the introduction of the Podium but anticipate more will be available in the future.
Oakley Radarlock: $220-$300 – 3 Stars. The Radarlock is $220 for the standard models and $300 for the polarized and photochromic models. If you’re on a tight budget, the Radarlock may not be for you.
Smith Pivlock V2: $160 – 4 Stars. That’s quite a value considering you get three lenses compared to two with the Radarlock.
Tifosi Podium: $70 – 5 Stars. A killer deal and by far the best value of the three.
And the winner is… the Smith Pivlock V2 with a score of 4.5 Stars. These sunglasses do everything well and really don’t have a downside as far as we’re concerned. High optical quality, easy lens changing, loads of style and a reasonable price make the Pivlock V2 our favorite all-around cycling glasses. Plus, you can get a free shirt with the purchase of any Smith sunglasses right now.
Oakley Radarlock: 4.25 Stars. The new standard by which we measure all other shades is the Radarlock. While not the best value, we love how the Radarlock looks, feels and performs. If it’s in your budget, you definitely won’t be disappointed with the Radarlock.
Tifosi Podium: 4 Stars. We can’t emphasize enough what an awesome deal the Podium is. It has most of the same technology found on more expensive glasses with easy lens changing and a sleek look. This is the best option for the price-sensitive cyclist.
It’s also worth noting that the Radarlock comes in a Pitch model that has more coverage. Likewise, the Pivlock V2 Max fits best on larger faces while the Tifosi Podium S has a smaller lens design. Like our other reviews, what we think is “the best” isn’t necessarily best for you. We don’t really claim to objective either, although we do try to be as objective as possible.