Joseph's Guide to All Things Sunglasses
Many people have their thing that they collect like stamps, trading cards or watches. Personally, I love to collect Sunglasses. I have been working on my collection since my first pair of Smith Pivlocks about seven or eight years ago. Since then, my collection has exploded, now having more than seven brands and about 20-25 pairs. I do not want you to think that I do not use them though, every pair in my collection gets regular use, even the ones I don’t love as much. Because of this, I know my stuff, so when people have questions on sunglasses I am happy to answer any based on my personal experience with them.
Here at Contender, we carry five different brands of sunglasses with Smith, Oakley, Scott, Koo and Tifosi. All five of these brands make great sunglasses, and I will tell you exactly what makes them great. I have had personal experience with all these brands and want to help guide you into your next pair of sunglasses.
Smith is well known for their high performance glasses and their customer service. Smith offers a lifetime warranty with all their glasses, and are punctual to respond to claims and to get new pairs in the mail. Most of Smith’s glasses come with a Smith Chromapop lens designed to up the contrast so you can see clearly, and an additional lens for low light conditions. The lens swapping process on all SMITHs is quick and easy, with a lot of the glasses holding the lenses in with a magnet. These glasses all have a high quality feel and frame to them, making them a great choice for your next pair of glasses.
There are a couple downsides to Smith Sunglasses, first is price. Smith’s have the highest price tag of the glasses that we carry, but make up for that by coming with a second set of lenses and a large travel case to store the glasses and lenses. The other downside is that the interchangeable lenses provided do not have the Chromapop lens, rather a slightly lower quality lens.
Smith has the widest range of styles, with glasses made for everything from lifestyle to exploring glaciers. The Smith line will have a pair for everyone. The glasses and lenses are designed to last, so you will not have to worry about needing another pair of glasses down the line. The versatility offered with the two lenses, and the Chromapop technology makes these glasses a great option for your next pair.
Oakleys are my personal favorite sunglass brand. I have always been a big fan of their design and fit, but most importantly their high-quality lenses. The Oakley Prizm technology works to increase the contrast of colors to make color and contrast standout more. My personal favorite lens is the Prizm Trail Torch lens, because it is not very dark but still provides enough protection for even the brightest days. Any of their Prizm lenses are good for flat-light conditions. The Oakleys are constructed with high attention to detail, which makes their slightly higher price tag worth it. Each pair I have feels like a high-end pair of sunglasses, and their durability backs that claim.
There are a few downsides to Oakley, the first being the lack of interchangeable lenses. Most of their glasses have replaceable lenses should they break, but they do not offer a convenient way to swap lenses. The next is the price tag. Most of their glasses are in the $160-$200 dollar range, which is steep for a brand not offering interchangeable lenses.
Oakley has multiple styles of sunglasses for all types of riding. My personal favorites for road riding are the futuristic Katos or the slightly bigger Encoders or Encoder Strikes or even the classic Jawbreakers. For mountain and gravel riding I prefer the Sutros and the Sutro Sweeps, along with the brand new BXTRs. Oakley has a long list of performance sunglasses and you cannot go wrong with them.
Koo is the latest sunglass brand that we have started to carry. You may be more familiar with their sister company Kask, who have been making top-tier helmets for years. Their sunglasses match their helmets in terms of the high-quality design and professional fit. The lenses work well to increase contrast to ensure performance in low-light conditions. Koo, at least in my experience, has the best fit as they sit snugly against my face and do not move no matter how hard I shake my head around.
Koo, like Oakley, does not offer an interchangeable lens system for their glasses, so the lens in the frame is what you are stuck with. The Koos are also on the pricier side of the spectrum with a pricing structure similar to Oakley. The Koos are ideal for people looking for a high-end pair of glasses that are not seen often on the roads.
The Koos are a great all-round sunglass alternative to some of the big brands out there. Their futuristic look and geometric lines provide a modern, clean look and fit to ensure you look good for the ride.
Scott has a smaller glasses catalog than some of the other brands, but make up for it by offering each of their models in a plethora of colors. The frames are all made from rubber, so they have a high durability and the frames will not be scratched. The glasses are available with many different lenses, including a photochromic option for those who want it. The Scotts are reasonably priced, with all but the photochromic options under $100. Scotts glasses have a larger lens, so they are good for keeping mud and dust completely out of your eyes as you ride.
The Scott glasses do not quite match the quality offered by Smith, Oakley and Koo, but make it up in price and durability. The Scott’s tend to fit big as well, so I would recommend trying them on before you buy them to make sure that they fit. The other downside is the lens. The lenses do not offer the high contrast of the Smith and Oakley lenses which work well in flat light, but they are still suited for most light conditions.
Scott has the perfect line of sunglasses for the everyday mountain biker. The large profile acts as a shield to keep your face from being splattered with mud and dust in your eyes. The durable rubber temples mean you don’t have to worry about tossing the sunglasses in a bag and risk them getting broken.
Tifosi offers the best value in the sunglass industry. They have many different styles available with three interchangeable lenses or photochromic lenses. The best part though, all of their styles are under $100. Tifosi makes the last pair of glasses you will ever buy, with their aim for you to have one pair of glasses for all occasions. The lenses are polarized, and remove glare from the sun to ensure clear visibility for whatever outdoor activity you may be doing. With their large selection of glasses and their affordability Tifosi makes a pair for everyone.
The downside of the Tifosis are the quality. Since the glasses are a bit cheaper, they cannot make them as high quality as the Smiths or the Oakleys. The interchangeable lenses are more difficult to replace then a pair of Smiths would be. Tifosi does have detailed instructions on how to swap lenses available on their website, which is necessary for the first time you do it.
The Tifosi are the perfect sunglasses for people who want one pair of glasses for every condition. With the versatility of the plethora of lenses, the Tifosi are suited for use in all weather or light conditions. With the price tag and the variety of styles available, they make a great gift to someone who needs glasses.
Whatever pair of sunglasses you end up with will be a high-quality and lasting pair. If you come down to try them on, I would recommend you bring your helmet to ensure the sunglasses you choose interface well with your helmet. We have a large selection of sunglasses and some new 2023 options, so come check them out in both Park City and Salt Lake City.