Your eyes are more important than your legs when riding a bike. You can freewheel but you can’t ride blind. As a beginner cyclist, it took me a while to realise this and my eyes suffered. Bug. Splat. Fly. Can’t see. Bumblebee. Ouch. In wind, my eyes housed leaves and plant debris. In winter, they cried tears of pain as cold air rushed against them.
So it was I invested in a pair of cheap cycling sunglasses with interchangeable lenses to protect me from the giant sun or the tiniest of flies beneath clouded skies. Sure, I still commute without riding goggles but rarely do I set off on a long ride without my eye shields.
Damn you interchangeable lenses
Of late I’ve been in the market for some new cycling sunglasses, or eyewear as some manufacturers prefer to call them, which doesn’t quite sit well with me despite the parlance of footwear, headwear and underwear.
I digress. Previously I’d spent small sums of money buying sunglasses with interchangeable lenses. In three years I’ve got through four pairs when inevitably the thin frames snap when attempting to change the lenses. Bah!
Such frustrations led me to riding around with a pair of super-glued sunglasses for the last god knows how many months. Even in the sunshine I was restricted to clear lenses. I should have been smarter when gluing the lenses in place (which held the frame together), perhaps opting for one dark lens and one clear lens, simply closing one eye depending on the cloud cover. Pirate style, arrrr.
So it’s safe to say I was in the market for a new pair of cycling sunglasses when my inbox chimed with the offer to review some new goggles.
I’ve been offered many a thing to review on this blog but have turned them all down because i) yes, I’m an artist and this is my canvas (obviously) and ii) I can only spend time writing about products of genuine interest to me.
Sunwise Hastings photochromic sunglasses
The Sunwise Hastings sunglasses come with many an ‘innovation’ that piqued my curiosity. Sure, nowadays everything is seemingly labeled innovative if only to create desire and loosen the money in our wallets.
In this instance, innovation is required to solve some genuine issues. One, cycling glasses that adjust to the light. No more changeable lenses if true. Bliss. And two, anti-fog lenses for those cold mornings.
Of course, sunglasses also have to look the piece too. We humans are a vain bunch, so let’s begin with first impressions before we get to the science bit.
Style and aesthetic appeal
The glasses are frame-less and look great. The single piece wraparound lens is a thing of beauty. Handcrafted apparently.
Style of course is personal. Much depends on if you like the current trend in cycling sunglasses for a rainbow mirrored finished, think petrol on a sunlit forecourt. There’s a choice of frames too, black, white and black/orange. Being a traditionalist, the black suited me fine.
Vanity aside, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Whether you like the style or not, the most important question is will these glasses perform on the road as well as in the mirror?
Photochromic light-adjusting lenses
Photochromic-what? The beauty of these glasses is that the lenses tint and darken when exposed to light. Finally, no more interchangeable lenses – hoorah! This was my primary interest in the Hastings sunglasses although you can find this feature in other cycling sunglasses.
I was genuinely excited to see how the lenses would perform in the cyclist’s worst case scenario – moving from bright sunlight into a pitch black tunnel. Not being based in the Alps, booking a flight to test this seemed a little extreme so I headed to the Chilterns to test what happens when you hit a road shrouded in shade beneath a canopy of trees, downhill at 50 mph.
Normally my eyes struggle to adjust to the changing light but the Sunwise light-reacting sunglasses worked brilliantly, so much so that I didn’t even notice the change in light. My test ride was the perfect day to test the Chromafusion lenses. Bright sunshine and cloud all day with lots of lost lanes covered in trees. The light remained constant throughout.
Even in very low light the glasses work well. There’s always a slight tint so you might want clear glasses for riding in dark country lanes but these glasses would be fine at dawn or dusk, or even well-lit city streets at night.
The science bit
How quickly do the glasses adjust? The manufacturer claims ‘seconds’ and it really is quick enough for you not to notice, so much so you wonder if anything is actually happening. This is a good thing. You don’t want the tint suddenly changing and jarring your vision.
Cycling sunglasses that don’t fog
That’s right. No more stopping at traffic lights in cold weather and your glasses misting up. Neither is there a need for your lenses to have little holes cut in them.
How did I test this in the balmy spring temperatures of May? That’s right, much to my girlfriend’s bemusement, I took a shower with the sunglasses on. Sorry for that image, but I’m a professional you know. I closed the bathroom door and let the room steam up to sauna proportions and even in this extreme test only the outer edge of the lens fogged up, keeping my vision crystal clear in the centre.
Whilst I was there I couldn’t resist testing how the glasses would perform in the rain, or shower water in this case! These glasses make no claims about how they perform in the wet, I was simply interested as cycling in the rain is probably the time when you need eye protection the most. My previous glasses have all been useless in the rain so much so that I can’t see a thing and have been forced to put them in my jersey pocket.
So what about these new glasses? Here there was no such miracle science – I was hoping the water would bounce right off but as with all sunglasses the lenses were blotchy with water. I guess science still has some way to go. Until then, it’s peaked caps in the rain to protect your eyes.
Weight and comfort
Perhaps the two most important attributes for any pair of sunglasses. Are they comfortable? Are they heavy? As with most sports sunglasses, the Hastings are so light you quickly forget they are on your face.
The arms of the glasses are some sort of soft composite, not quite as soft as rubber but not as hard as plastic, making them comfortable and strong whilst ensuring they have some grip to remain in place on bumpier terrain. That said, my one complaint of the glasses is they did slip forward a little when I was up and rocking out the saddle on hill climbs but it’s no deal breaker. My head shakes a lot when I’m on an eyeball bursting climb!
Fit, durability and sun protection
The Hastings single piece lens is a thing of beauty. It’s one piece design means the lens can flex to fit wider heads like mine! The glasses also feel sturdy (for sunglasses anyway) and come complete in a solid yet small carry case (previous sunglasses cases I’ve had have been huge).
The lens is also a fair size providing good coverage and protection from the sun. It goes without saying these sunglasses are polarized and provide full UVA and UVB protection. The glasses also have no glare, giving you crystal clear sight of upcoming potholes and road debris.
Cleaning the glasses with no frame is also easier as there’s no frame to clog with sweat and dust, so when cleaning the lenses you don’t continually smear the lens.
The glasses are mid-range, coming in at £94.99. That’s a third of the price of Mark Cavendish’s latest Oakleys but almost four times the price of my previous purchases. Are they worth it? Yes. Given I got through four pairs of sunglasses previously, assuming I don’t sit on these or leave them on the car roof and drive away, then such an investment will prove to be good value.
The final verdict
Stylish, light, and genuinely innovative, I recommend Sunwise Hastings glasses for anyone who wants a single pair of sunglasses for all road conditions. My minor niggle with the glasses slipping forward on fast and furious hill climbs aside, it’s hard to find fault with the glasses.
An impressive 9/10 overall.
Find out more about Sunwise Hastings Sunglasses