Words by Ryan Palmer
$260 + | SMITHOPTICS.COM
This review is for the roughly 30 percent of us who are nearsighted. Making sure the person we're checking out across the bar is the correct gender requires us to fumble around and take out our second set of eyes. I'm one of those people. When riding, I've always paired contact lenses with normal riding glasses, and over time I've adapted to the irritating discomforts and dry eyes that anyone who rides with contacts knows about. It became a normal part of preparing for a ride, but it's all kind of a pain in the ass. It's one of those small annoyances, like a squeaky ceiling fan, that gets ignored for years until finally you replace one simple O-ring and life suddenly gets noticeably more pleasant. These glasses are that O-ring.
After years of just dealing with it, I finally decided that it was time to get prescription riding glasses. My only mistake was waiting so long to do so. Gone are the days of irritated eyes and trailside contact swaps. No more emergency pullovers to blink away the dust or flush my eyes with solution. The most noticeable benefit is when conditions are dusty. My eyes stay protected and remain lubricated. Dusty group rides used to be my nightmare, but now I don't think twice.
I decided to go with the Smith PivLock Overdrive frames, which offer quick lens changing for different light conditions. Without a prescription, they are available for $200 in a selection of three lenses: dark, rose and clear. With prescription lenses, however, the frames must be bought separately for $160, and a basic prescription lens is an additional $100–which I think is a bit expensive for a sport that can be very tough on eyewear.
My biggest initial concern was scratch resistance. Smith uses high-quality lenses from Carl Zeiss–an optical leader for more than 150 years–and after a whole season of riding, they're holding up incredibly well. They've survived soggy trips to North Carolina, Oregon and British Columbia without a single significant scratch from the splatter or improper mid-ride mud cleaning. Optical quality with the basic Spazio lenses is quite good, but there is some noticeable distortion with the lens curvature, creating what some call a "fishbowl effect." My weak –.50 prescription has less distortion than a stronger prescription would, but it is noticeable when first putting the glasses on.
For $230, you can buy a distortion-free, digitally processed lens that uses a special machine to recalculate the prescription at every point on the lens. This could be the best option for those who are extremely nearsighted or have sensitive eyes. But even with the slight distortion of the Spazio lenses, I'm overwhelmingly satisfied with my decision to throw my contacts in the trash.