16 December 2007

bikefix Exclusive Review: Rudy Project Rydon sunglasses

Why wear glasses riding? They're generally somewhat fragile, can look pretty awful, and (traditionally) outrageously expensive. Well, primarily, most of us only have one set of eyes, and until they figure out how to grow new ones in a test tube, we should probably look after them.
Like all decent eyewear, Rudy Project's Rydons are a shatterproof and impact resistant material (in this case a polycarbonate) that blocks ultraviolet light. UV light is nasty stuff, really. Thanks to our dimishing ozone layer, there's more and more of it around, and it's been shown to cause (among other things) cataracts and macular degeneration. Part of what sets inexpensive sunglasses apart from better models is the amount of the UV spectrum. Rudy's are UV400 rated, which means that they block ultraviolet light up to 400nm wavelength (UV runs from 50-380nm, visible light from 381-770nm). This is pretty important to those of us who spend a great deal of time outside, particularly at higher altitudes.

So what sets these glasses apart? The Rydons have been around for ages and continue to sell well. This is due largely to their well thought-out design and versatility. The lenses are interchangeable (and a wide variety available), which is par for the course. The half-frame works well on or off road, allowing unrestricted peripheral and rearward vision from an aero tuck. What are really cool, though, are the metal arms and nosepiece holders. While many glasses have gone to plastic in these areas, Rudy have stuck with proprietary alloy that allows the wearer to tweak the arms and nosepiece to fit their melon. I found that a slight inward bend on the arms (around the head) worked well to keep the glasses in place, and was able to spread the nosepiece to accommodate my wide-ish nose bridge. They also seem more forgiving than some plastics, and have held up very well over the past three years. They're also hand-built in Italy, by actual Italians, which is nice.

From my experience, Rudy's optics are on par with Oakley's and a step above Smith or Spy. I won't spend too much time on the specific lenses (there are far too many) beyond this:
  • Racing Red: I really like this as an all-around lens. The red color provides some increased contrast over grey lenses. They're dark enough for summers in the desert, but don't leave the rider blind under shade. 28% light transmission. Charlie thinks these are a bit dark for the woods, though.
  • Orange: With 70% light transmission, far too bright for New Mexico. Live in Scotland? These are your lenses.
  • Clear Laser Deg: These are a great commuting lens. 40% transmission at the top to 90% (virtually clear) at the bottom. Enough to keep some morning or afternoon sun at bay, but clear enough to use at night (with lights).
  • ImpactX Photocromatic Red: These look like Racing Red, but never seemed to get below 40% transmission or so- just not dark enough for summer use. They also seemed a bit slow to react. They also seemed to work best when exposed to direct light (not shaded by a helmet or visor), which was almost never. They also wouldn't darken in the car, thanks to it's UV blocking windshield and/or the lack of direct light.
What also sets Rudy apart are their lens replacement program: if you scratch or crack your lenses, just send them in with a check for $20- they'll turn around a replacement set in a week or two. Mine took a few years to actually scratch, but once they did, the replacement program cost was far less than new lenses would have run.

Downsides? $160 or so (depending on lens) is a lot to spend if you're prone to losing things., but it seems like the more something costs, the better it's looked after. Unlike Smith, Rudy Project only come with one set of lenses- additional lenses are additional money. At least the quality is better, and you won't end up with one or two lenses that you'll never need. I've also lost the nose piece before, which is no fun. Happily, though, they're easily and inexpensively available from Rudy's US distributor. Finally, they look stupid out of context. Unless you're riding, XC skiing or running, you may want to wear something else. Prescription inserts are also available for those who need them, allowing you to use multiple lenses, or Rudy's newer RX-Direct lenses, which replace the interchangeable lenses [according to Craig at Rudy Project, they're turning these around in 10 days and they now account for 95% or prescription sales].

rudy project


Update, 12/17/07: Craig from Rudy Project

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