Whether it's because of eye protection, marketing efforts or fashion, three companies have leaped to the front of the pack as the sunglasses of choice by the cycling peloton.
Viewing this year's Tour de France over 75 percent of the peloton wore glasses from the following three companies: Oakley, Rudy Project or Briko.
Recently, I had a chance to test some of the key models from these companies.
The choice of cyclists Lance Armstrong and Stuart O'Grady. The overwhelming favorite is the company's M Frames. The M Frames are available in eight lens colors and four lens shapes. The gray lens and "Sweep" shape worked best in the partly sunny weather I most often encountered. The gray lenses provided a distortion-free, natural optical landscape gray lets in 21 percent of the available light, enough to reduce glare but allow clear vision.
The Sweep shape retains Oakley's aerodynarnic look, wraps around the sides of the face and dips down under the eyes just enough to prevent any distracting unfiltered light from entering at the lens boundaries.
While the Sweep weighs a few grams more than some of the other glasses I tested, I felt that the extra protection was worth it. Oakley's even more substantial Heater lens also worked well.
The rubberized temples and nosepieces on the M Frames proved comfortable and stable on my face. Oakley also has a prescription plan available that allows you to purchase the glasses directly from Oakley with the prescription lenses inlayed into the lenses.
Looking at the faces of Jan Ullrick, Erick Zabel and many riders on the Mapei Team and you will see sunglasses of one of Italy's largest sunglass manufactures, Rudy Project.
No sunglass manufacturer offers more nice "extras" than Rudy Project. The biggest being a free hard carrying case with each pair purchased. Rudy Project also offers a free replacement program for scratched lenses.
Rudy Project's glasses offer some nice cycling features, too. I found that Tayo style (worn by Jan Ullrich) with white frames and the photochromatic lens worked best. The landscape was clear and the fit comfortable. Plus, its side extensions provided an even greater wind blocking features.
There are multiple color lens that can be used of various light conditions that are very easy to change out before the ride.
The Kerosene style frames (seen on Erik Zabel), offer a larger lens area than most traditional-shaped sunglasses and many lens options; but it does not provide as much wind protection as the Tayo.
The Kerosene offers a clip-in Rx adapter for prescription lenses. This feature is not available for the Tayo.
Such stars of the peloton as Sergei Ivanov and Wladimir Belli of Fassa Bortolo, and other professionals such as Mario Cipollini and Marco Pantani that are not participating in this year's tour wear Briko glasses.
Many wear their Lucifer model for its form-fitting style and ability to block wind and road dirt from one's eyes while riding. I found these glasses to be very wind protective and have great peripheral vision, the only drawback is that the lens is not interchangeable.
Briko Sprint series offers excellent eye protection and interchangeable lenses. I found these very comfortable and the excellent ventilation kept these glasses from fogging up during climbs. The Sprint series also offers a clip-in Rx adapter.
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