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Quick Spins – March 5, 2008

Edited by James Huang

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Sports Optical prescription sunglasses

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor

Riders requiring prescription eyewear
Photo ©: Mark Zalewski
(Click for larger image)
Hunter has also developed his own lens shape
Photo ©: Mark Zalewski
(Click for larger image)
Sports Optical lenses integrate the user's prescription
Photo ©: Mark Zalewski
(Click for larger image)
The lenses are undoubtedly expensive
Photo ©: Mark Zalewski
(Click for larger image)

Riders requiring corrective lenses have typically had to resort to one of three options if they wanted to take advantage of some of the excellent eyewear offerings currently on the market: contact lenses, corrective surgery, or prescription sunglass inserts. Secondary clip-on frames are the norm for the latter although some newer variants integrate inserts that replace part of the lens itself. Neither is ideal, though, as secondary frames are often bulky and heavy and neither carry their corrective powers out to the edges of the lens.

Bret Hunter, owner of Sports Optical, believes he has the answer with his Direct Lens Technology which replaces the entire stock lens with a precision-fit Rx version. According to Hunter, the new lens retains all of the performance features of the original but with corrected vision from edge to edge and decreased weight as compared to conventional solutions. Hunter currently offers 21 lens colours in all including photochromics.

The best part is Hunter supposedly has the capability to replicate almost any lens shape from almost any manufacturer's interchangeable lens frame. "We can work with just about any frame - it depends on the prescription and the frame," said Hunter. "We are a dealer in Rudy Project, Smith and Adidas. Rudy Project is really good for the internet because they are so adjustable. But we do lenses for Oakley and other brands too."

I can see clearly now...

Our test set came with three sets of lenses to fit our tester's favorite old reliable Rudy Project Ekynox SX frame. The first was a gray polarizing lens with an added glare-reducing blue mirror finish rated at just 10% transmission for sunny days. The second bore a high-contrast red tint for low-light, overcast, or flat lighting conditions and the option number three was a requisite clear lens augmented with a light anti-reflective coating to reduce glare.

An added surprise was a new Rudy Project Rydon frame with an original custom lens shape that Hunter calls 'K'. These lenses were also photochromic, adjusting in darkness from a red tint to clear to suit a wider variety of conditions without having to swap optics.

Naturally, Hunter's lenses are thicker than stock to accommodate our mild -1.50/-1.75 diopter prescription but they still fit into the same slot in the frame. Swapping lenses was a bit more difficult than usual, although we were admittedly a bit more cautious than usual.

Hunter's formula is noticeable, but in a good way as being able to see out of the side of the glasses is a real treat and we can comfortably say that these glasses lived up to our lofty expectations.. Hunter's proprietary 'K' shape was quite unique and provided great coverage around our eyes. The photochromic quality of the lens is seemingly slight from an outsider's perspective, but quite noticeable and effective when looking through the lens in variable light conditions.

The only slight drawback we noticed came with the gray lens. There was something about the polarizing quality combined with the dark lens that created some issues with perception of the road surface. Dark colours that were close to other dark colours - such as two types of asphalt on the road - yielded a mirage quality that we didn't notice in any of the other lenses.

Unfortunately, this level of convenience and performance comes with a hefty premium. For example, the traditional gray polarizing lens will run you US$279, well above the cost of an entire non-Rx frame and lens combination. For those who have struggled with uncomfortable contact lenses or inadequate inserts, though, the cost may be well worth it as we found the change to be enlightening to say the least. In our opinion, it is difficult to put a price on quality vision and that is nothing to skimp on.

Price: US$359 ('K' photochromic); US$279 (gray polarized, blue mirror); US$159 (red); US$199 (clear), prices do not include frames
Pros: Unique product, versatile across multiple brands, quality craftsmanship
Cons: Only for prescription users, costly
Cyclingnews rating: Click for key to ratings
More info: www.sportsoptical.com


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Images by Mark Zalewski/Cyclingnews.com