New shades enhance visibility in a variety of conditions
The Lowdown: Ryders Thorn antiFOG sunglasses
The perfect pair of cycling sunglasses provide clear optics, auto-lens tint adjustment, a wide field of vision, good looks on and off the bike — and they don’t fog up every time perspiration ramps up. Alas, the perfect pair of cycling sunglasses does not exist. You simply can’t have it all. Physics and nature get in the way.
But North Vancouver-based Ryders Eyewear has done a solid job of ticking most of the right boxes most of the time with its new $140 photochromic Thorn antiFOG shades. During two months of testing in a variety of conditions on the road and the trail, the Thorns rarely fogged up, remained relatively scratch free, and did not exude the fighter-jet-pilot look at mid-ride coffee stops or during post ride beer sessions. For that we give them a well-earned 4-out-of-5 star rating. For more details, check out our full review below.
If you’ve ever ridden the trails around Ryders Eyewear HQ in North Vancouver, you know the value of photochromic sunglasses. Either you had a pair, thus benefiting from the auto-tint change that allowed you to see the trail ahead whether illuminated by sunlight or shrouded in shade. Or you opted for clear or yellow lenses, and could see well in the shade, but were blinded anytime the sun shined down. Or you had regular dark lenses, and at some point were forced to perch your shades somewhere besides you face, lest you not be able to see oncoming obstacles.
This ability to adapt to changing light conditions is one of the reasons why the Thorn shades fared well in our test. Our lone complaint is that the “dark” tint isn’t as dark as we’d like, which led us to choose a different pair of sunglasses on days when we knew we’d spend most of our ride in the sun.
But, as the name indicates, it’s the anti-fog treatment that is the Thorn’s primary feature. The inside of the lenses are treated with a special coating that’s intended to combat the ill effects of heat and moisture. And while I did manage to partially fog up these shades in extreme conditions (once during a sub-freezing ride, another time right after a rainstorm in a very humid climate), 95 percent of the time they did a commendable job of staying clear — and on my face. That was not the case for some of my riding pals, who inevitably had to stow their glasses in helmet vents or the back of their neck during climbs if they actually wanted to see the road ahead.
The anti-fog treatment is designed to absorb moisture, then disperse it into the lens so fog doesn’t form. Ryders admits that the lens will eventually become saturated after extended use (like on my cold weather ride). But simply wiping or rinsing the inside of the lens resets the antiFOG treatment. That’s all well and good, but it still means you have to take them off and wipe them down. Like we said, there’s no such thing as perfect.
Full Review Continued: Ryders Thorn antiFOG sunglasses
Up front, the lenses utilize a hydrophobic coating that’s widely used for sports oriented sunglasses. It’s designed to repel water, dirt and grime and does a reasonable job, though again sometimes there’s no combating Ma Nature. Mud splatter is mud splatter. Dripping sweat is dripping sweat.
Both coatings are permanent and designed to not wash off. Again, so far so good. We’ve wiped our test pair with jerseys and T-shirts, and run them under water, and they’re still functioning as they did when first pulled out of the box. Yes there’s a few scratches here and there, but that’s partly attributable to being dropped and/or jangling around the inside of a backpack.
The lenses themselves are made from a shatterproof polycarbonate; the frames are TR90, a flexible thermoplastic. The nose piece has built in anti-slip material. Add it up and you get a pair of durable shades that wont fall off your face even if you fall off your bike. (I tried this once during a MTB ride.)
In terms of peripheral vision, the Thorns are good but not great. The frames definitely impede your view sometimes. But unless you’re ready to make the leap to a face-shield or go with the frameless look, these sunglasses are a solid choice that bridge the gap between on- and off-bike wear. And once you’re used to the frame being there, it’s not a huge deal.
Total weight is a middle-of-the pack 28 grams, which is about 4 grams heavier than our go-to pair of frameless Smith Piv-Lock Arena shades we reviewed last year. But while those need to come off as soon as we get off the bike, the Ryders Thorns could actually be worn as causal shades in a pinch.
The Thorns also get high marks for price. The $140 price tag isn’t chump change. But a pair of Smith Piv-Locks are around $160, while you’ll likely be dropping at least $190 for a pair of Oakley Radars.
The yellow tint is designed to enhance contrast for improved definition, especially in low light situations. But in bright sunlight we wished it would get a little darker. The glasses also occasionally gave us that eyes-bugging-out sensation that comes with wearing a bright lens in bright conditions. But once the transition happened, things were fine. It’s also worth noting that antiFOG photochromic technology is not currently available as an Rx lens, but that your lens provider can put Rx lenses into the Thorn frame.
Bottom line, whether you’re a road rider or singletrack slayer, this is a solid pair of cycling shades that can be worn on and off the bike. The anti-fog treatment works nearly all the time, and the photochromic lenses are great for mixed light conditions, especially when riding in and out of forest cover on your mountain bike.