The Rudy Project Firebolt PhotoClear sunglasses have become our testers' new photochromic favorite, and is the do-it-all sunglass for any weather, any time of day.
Typical cyclocrossers, with pit bikes, spare wheels, and tires and garments for every condition, have plenty of equipment choices to deal with come race day or even before a training ride. One equipment decision we like to eliminate is sunglasses. Will it be sunny? Raining? Will I finish in the dark? The ideal is to have a pair of glasses that can handle it all.
Because of all the variables during our training, photochromic lenses (also called photochromatic) have become our favorite—one lens that’s suitable for all conditions, including night riding. Although plenty of glasses, like the Smith Pivlock V2 glasses, come with three lenses, we’re not often bringing extra lenses despite the fading light in the fall or winter.
Until now, our favorite photochromic glasses were the Uvex Sportstyle 202 Vario glasses, reviewed in our print mag. The lenses offer 17-77% light transmission, and at 77%, they were barely noticeable even when riding home in the dark by bike light, which doesn’t apply to all photochromic lenses. For example, the value-oriented Serfas photochromic glasses are much darker, and perhaps more suitable to sunny and cloudy days with a few ventures in the woods.
The new $174.99 Rudy Project Firebolt PhotoClear glasses might have supplanted the Uvex shades as our new go-to choice, and one could argue, it’s partially by the numbers. The PhotoClear lenses are just a shade, pun intended, lighter, letting in 18-78% of light. We’ve used them for night riding, and didn’t notice the light loss, and appreciated the protection from flying objects and the setting sun while heading to the trail.
The full frame can masquerade a tad better than half frame shades as casual glasses when you’re off the bike, a nice bonus, but don’t opt for the Fluo Gloss yellow frame we tested if you’re looking for a subtle look.
Cyclocross Magazine’s philosophy is the best glasses are the ones you don’t notice much. The Firebolt, besides the bright neon frame on our test pair, seems to follow this philosophy well.
You don’t notice the photochromic PhotoClear lenses changing from light to dark, or vice versa, as it’s certainly not instant, but they’re still better than dark glasses should you dive into a tunnel of trees after being in bright sun.
You also won’t notice the weight. At 28 grams on our scale (27 grams list), they’re light on the temples and nose. Those few grams will also stay in place, as the Rudy Project Firebolt features adjustable anti-slip nosepads. No annoying readjustments after a big bump or running the barriers.
The glasses also do their job of staying out of your sight, with subtle vents at the corners that do a relatively good job of eliminating foggy lenses while moving. That doesn’t mean they won’t fog up when you walk into the lodge to get hot coffee after cross country skiing (or shoveling your driveway for the 15th straight day), but on the bike, it’s effective.
Rudy Project lists the Firebolt as ideal for small to medium width faces, which surprised us, as the glasses fit our medium and wide faces fine. If you’re not sure of fit, Rudy Project lists DBL (bridge, distance between lenses), eye size, and temple sizing for those who’ve had fittings that go beyond saddle and handlebar positions. See this image to understand these measurements.
You can also buy replacement parts and spare lenses, should you change your mind, change your nose, or scratch a lens badly. The frame also comes with smoke and orange mirror lens options.
Complaints? Maybe for some, the lack of adjustable temples could be an issue, but that didn’t bother us. The temples do touch the adjustable head basket on a Lazer Helium helmet, but didn’t interfere in a way that prevented a good fit of either the helmet or glasses. We noticed a bit of the edges of the frames in our field of vision, but that didn’t bother testers.
If you’re not sure on fit and want to try them on, Rudy Project glasses may not be as prevalent in local bike shops as Oakley or Smith, but much to our surprise, many local optometry shops carry them. Of course, they’re sold direct by Rudy Project on their own site and through Amazon.
Perhaps the only criticism is on price. It’s on par with retail prices of high-end brands like Uvex and a tad more than Oakley, but $174.99 is a lot for a pair of glasses that will likely see some harsh conditions and abuse, especially when some competitors offer more than one lens for a similar price. However, the whole point here is enjoying the convenience of one lens that does the job of three, and doesn’t force you to fling them to the pits.
For cyclists and cyclocrossers looking for one do-it-all pair of sunglasses for riding and racing, the Rudy Project Firebolt PhotoClear glasses might be the winning choice.
Specs below the photo gallery.
Rudy Project Firebolt PhotoClear Sunglass Photo Gallery:
Rudy Project Firebolt PhotoClear Sunglass Specs:
Lens: PhotoClear photochromic, 18-78% light transmission
Fit: Most (listed: Small/Medium Width)
Eye Size: 68mm
Weight: 28 grams
Country of Origin: Italy
More info: e-rudy.com
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