Prior to this spring, I classified high-performance sunglasses in the category of “this is why I can’t have nice stuff”.
Although I’ve worn sunglasses on virtually every ultra, long training run, or bike ride I’ve ever done, I’ve never been willing to shell out top dollar for anything from Oakley, Bolle, Rudy Project, or any of the other high-priced shades that market specifically to endurance athletes.
Me, with discount glasses. And ladybugs.
The reason, as you can perhaps guess, is that I’m an idiot. A clumsy idiot, to be more precise. I can’t go more than a few months without scraping my glasses through overgrown bushes on the trail, dropping them onto the ground while trying to adjust my visor, accidentally sitting on them once I get to the car, or causing a dozen other calamities to needlessly shorten their lifespan. And whenever such damage occurs, it’s much nicer knowing that you’ve only wrecked a $20 pair of shades instead of a $200 pair.
The problem, of course, is that most $20 shades don’t offer the same overall quality that’s present in higher-priced models. So wouldn’t it be awesome if there was some sort of middle ground: glasses that provide the most important performance features of high-end brands, with a price tag that’s closer to the bargain bins I usually shop in?
Truthfully, I had never even heard of this British Columbia-based company until recently, even though they’ve been around for more than 25 years. Part of my ignorance may be attributed to the fact that Ryders specializes in motorsport and winter sports eyewear as well as cycling and running … but part of it might be that idiot thing again.
The current catalog is divided into a performance collection for athletics, and a chill collection for, well ... chilling. The performance sunglass category is further broken down into essentials , polarized, interchangeable , photochromic , and photo-polar , which at $90 are the highest priced items in the entire performance collection. The other categories step down in price to $70 (the polarized and photochromic groups) and $60 (the interchangeables), with the essential category the most affordably priced of all.
Ryders Vigor, with orange lenses
I tested the Vigor , which is part of the essential collection and retails for a very wallet-friendly $45. While the price tag is refreshingly low, there are several high-tech features built into these shades that make them a tremendous value.
Like all of Ryder’s glasses in the essential collection, the Vigor features low-profile, high-strength Duraflex frames, in this case available in black or white. It has an anti-slip coating on the temple and nose tips, which become slightly sticky as you sweat, helping the glasses stay in place. Both the nose and temple tips are adjustable with embedded memory wires, giving you some fit customization not typically seen on glasses in this price range.
The lenses are shatterproof, optically correct, scratch-resistant (Hooray!) and provide 100% UV protection. Tint styles for the vigor include orange (on black frames only) or gray. The gray tint allows 15% visible light transmission (VLT), while the orange tint allows 47%. On this particular style, there are small, narrow cutouts on the top and bottom of the lenses, which allow air to pass through and prevent fogging.
I received a pair with orange lenses, which were pretty much perfect for mountain biking, especially when skies are overcast but you still want some eye protection from bugs or dirt. The tint of the lenses actually enhances visual contrast, so I can see every detail in the trail while having the confidence of being protected from anything accidentally lodging in my eyes. On bright sunny days, the VLT is somewhat high for my liking, but if you’re concerned that traditional shades limit your overall visibility, these would be an ideal choice. The air channels in the frames are very effective at limiting fog buildup, which is a super nice feature when you’re biking down a bumpy single track at 20mph.
I’ve found this particular style a little bit bulky for running, but that might be a personal preference issue for me, as I’m accustomed to running in sunglasses with no lower frame. Ryders has other models in their collections – the Stealth and Treviso in particular – that appear ideal for running, and I’ll most likely be reviewing one of those in the near future. If you happen to like full-framed running glasses, the Vigors are a comfortable option, although I'd recommend the darker gray lenses for bright conditions typically found on open trails.
Vigor with black lenses
Whichever style, frame color, and lens color you choose, you'll be impressed by the quality and overall value of Ryders eyewear. The Vigors are available for (gray lenses linked) in addition to the company website (link above) and other online vendors. Amazon also carries most other styles in the Ryders performance collection, in some cases at discounted prices.
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