What is your vision worth?
I’ve long argued that effective eye protection is one of the most important steps you can take to ensure your safety on a bike.
Not just sunglasses to cut the glare, but impact resistant lenses that cover the full eye socket to block flying objects.
Like the rocks, glass and yes, bees, I’ve watched bounce harmlessly off mine over the years that could have easily taken out an unprotected eye. Or caused a dangerous fall as a result of being startled by pain or unexpectedly blinded.
As well as the occasional face plant that could have resulted in serious injury if I hadn’t been wearing glasses to ward off the impact.
But there’s one factor I’ve ignored over the years, as Rob, the lead optician at San Diego’s SportRx, recently reminded me.
And that’s the ability to see clearly as you ride.
Despite the fact that I’ve worn prescription glasses for over three decades, I’ve never had prescription riding glasses.
Contacts don’t work for me. And my regular prescription glasses didn’t offer the eye protection I needed, or block the wind from blowing into my eyes. I’ve tried wearing goggles over glasses, but found the combination too awkward and uncomfortable.
Instead I just made due with regular lenses. And struggled to read road signs or spot potholes in time to avoid them.
So when the people at SportRx offered to send me a pair of prescription riding glasses to review, I jumped at the chance.
The process was surprisingly easy.
I could have gone to their website and picked out the glasses I wanted and placed my order online, possibly taking advantage of the live online chat they offer to assist customers. Or if I found myself in the San Diego area, I could have ridden directly to the bike-friendly store, which is located along a major bikeway.
When I say bike-friendly, I mean it.
SportRx puts out a sag stop for passing cyclists every day, and allows riders — customers or not — to use their restrooms. And judging by this report, they put out by far the best Bike to Work Day spread I’ve ever seen.
But I wanted some serious guidance in making the right choice for my needs. So I went through their 800 number, and let Rob guide me through the process.
A cyclist himself — in fact, we spent a large part of our conversation comparing our various riding wrecks and injuries — he took his time to understand how and where I ride, and under what circumstances.
Like the fact that I do a lot of fast riding along the coast, with conditions that can vary from bright sunshine to overcast and fog in a matter of minutes. And I commute to a lot of nighttime meetings, so I need lenses that work in afternoon sunshine, evening dusk and full night.
My solution in the past has been to buy glasses with exchangeable lenses, then stop and swap them out when conditions change.
And as noted before, a primary concern was the need to protect from flying debris.
Then there was one more factor. If these were going to be prescription lenses, I wanted to be able wear them anywhere to replace the outdated prescription on my sunglasses. Without feeling like I was wearing the eyewear equivalent of spandex in public.
Then I sat back and waited for Rob to tell me where I was going to have to compromise, since I knew I was expecting too much.
He didn’t. And I wasn’t.
Instead, he suggested the Oakley Half Jackets XLJ 2.0, replacing the stock lenses with their proprietary Sport Rx Day and Night lens.
It’s based on their Signature Series lenses made of Trivex, offering the impact resistance of polycarbonate, but with better optics and scratch resistance. Then they add an Ultra-Premium Anti Reflective coating to cut glare, repel dirt and oil, and improve resistance to scratching even more.
The result, he said, is a lens that transitions perfectly from brilliant light to full darkness, from dark lenses to nearly invisible.
It sounded like the perfect solution, so I placed my order.
And that’s when Rob casually mentioned that he’d have to ride over to his computer to take down my information. Because he’d spent our entire conversation riding a fixie around the office while we spoke.
Like I said, very bike friendly.
In less that two weeks, my new glasses were in my hands. Or rather, on my face.
Which is the last time I’ve even bothered to take my old prescription glasses — regular or sun — out of the case. Or my old riding glasses, for that matter.
As promised, while the black frames are clearly an athletic style, it’s subtle enough that I can wear them anywhere without embarrassment, and the lenses transition quickly enough that I no longer have to fumble with switching from sunglasses to regular lenses when I go inside or out. In fact, in over a month of testing, they always seem to offer the exact degree of tint I need, whether on my bike, walking or inside a building or car.
Rob promises I can even wear them to walk to the movie theater, then sit through a film without having to take them off.
I haven’t tried that one yet. But based on my experience so far, I have no doubt he’s right.
Of course, the real test came when I got back on my bike.
And on that count, I couldn’t be more pleased.
In fact, they arrived just in time for first day back on my bike as I rode to the Blessing of the Bicycles last month.
The frames were light and comfortable enough that I actually forgot I was wearing them, and more than once found myself reaching up to my nose to make sure they were still on.
The only minor downside was that the wide bows had to go inside my helmet straps; wearing them on the outside pushed the glasses up and off my nose every time I looked down. Which considering the condition of LA’s cracked and potholed streets, is pretty damned often.
Every other ride since has had the same results, with the lenses adjusting beautifully to any light conditions. Even riding back from a Downtown meeting in full darkness, the lenses were perfectly clear and offered a crisp view of the road, with no fogging or glare from passing headlights.
And my newly improved vision allowed me to dodge the broken pavement hidden in the semi-darkness of 4th Street that I’ve painfully plowed into in the past.
In short, they are – by far — the best riding glasses I’ve had in over 30 years of road cycling. Including several previous pairs of Oakleys.
Then again, you can find that brand, and other high quality riding glasses, just about anywhere. And any good optician should be able to order prescription lenses to fit them.
But what you won’t find elsewhere is Sport Rx’s proprietary techniques and materials. Or their intimate knowledge of bicycling and the unique needs of cyclists, however you happen to ride.
Let alone their commitment to providing highly personal service to ensure the best possible vision for every customer. Whether you deal directly with Rob, or any of the other experienced opticians you’ll find on the other end of the line.
I couldn’t be happier with my new glasses.
Or with the entire experience, from start to finish.
Correction: I originally wrote that Sport Rx’s sag stop is available on weekends only; actually, it’s open every day of the week. Nice.