Oakley isn’t the only billion dollar business to start in a Californian garage, but they’re one of the best looking. When Jim Jannard started Oakley back in 1975 he couldn’t have imagined that the world’s best, and most infamous, cyclists would be wearing his performance optics. The RadarLock Path already made it into professional cycling last year, and I was given the opportunity to see how the pros are protecting their eyes.
I discovered the difference between good sunnies and cheap sunnies back in the 90’s when I was working hard as a slave to the fast food industry. I saved up a small fortune to buy a pair of quality sunnies, some Arnette’s. They not only made me feel and look good, they were also comfortable and lasted as good sunnies should. This doesn’t mean I have ignored budget sunglasses completely, though in my experience the difference in quality is like night and day. On the one hand, the cheap sunnies are more easily replaceable if you scratch or break them, but on the other, they usually aren’t as comfortable, they tend to fog up easily, and they may be more likely to let wind through.
The RadarLock Path are definitely a quality pair of sunnies. They are ‘wrap around’ blade style sports sunglasses which Oakley promote as ‘revolutionary’ due to their new mechanism for changing lenses: Switchock. Lets take a look at this technology first.
The Oakley SwitchLock System
If you are familiar with changing lenses on most sports sunglasses, you’ll be familiar with the bending and squeezing required to get the new lense into place. I have never broken a lense doing this and, while it’s a bother, it has never been a major turn-off. Oakley originally presented Switchlock in their Jawbones however in the Radar models this is a completely different system. The Oakley switchlock makes this process of changing lenses on the Radar a little less straight forward at first but thereafter much easier to regularly change lenses. As the major feature of this model, let’s go into detail and unveil the mystery.
1. As a right-hander, to change the lense I held the glass upside down and located the black button with my thumb. What looks like a button you press is in fact a slide button, so using your thumb you slide this back in the direction of the arm.
2. As you slide the button back, with your index finger on the outside you then pull twist the frame in. Obviously, the arms of the sunglasses fold in, but the pivot that will allow the lense to be released is a little further forward.
3. When the corner starts folding in you can release the little black button – the switchlock is now open and the lense can be removed. This is fairly straight forward, the nosepiece wraps onto the lense so you manouver the lense from the nose piece.
4. The lense has little hooks built into its shape and so pulling the lense up-and-out releases the lense from the frame.
Putting a new lense in becomes a little easier; hook the corner in, press the nose piece into the lense and now it sits in place so that you can simply open the sunglasses arm and it all clicks into place.
The switchlock system works well so there is a little less prodding and poking than with other systems. The real advantage is when you ride in different conditions and can decide just before going out which lense you want. After using these sunglasses for a while it took me less that ten seconds for a pitstop to swap the lenses. If you don’t need to change lenses, then the whole switchlock is unnecessary.
The criticism of this system is that you will still get the lense grubby and you’ll need a lense cloth, however there is no lense cloth included though it should be standard. Not a big deal, though for all of the detail Oakley have put into the RadarLock Path, why not go that extra step?
The Oakley RadarLock Paths come initially with two lenses, which sets you up to be able to benefit from their switchlock system, and the whole package comes in a robust case which nicely holds, pads, and protects the glasses and lenses in transport. You even get a second nose pad which is a little thicker so you can ‘micro-adjust’ and get a good fit.
To further assist in getting a good fit, these sunnies include “unobtanium”. This term is usually used to describe a material or substance that would perfectly resolve a problem in product design but is in itself impossible. After Jim Jannard founded Oakley, he developed a material called unobtainium for use in his eyewear, and in this case the ‘ear sock’ features this rubber type overlay. The point of the Oakley unobtainium is that when it gets wet, such as with sweat, it becomes tacky and thus has better grip. Under a tap I didn’t find that these ‘ear socks’ felt tackier, in fact the opposite, but as I will explain later the fit was that good that this wasn’t an issue.
One of the features that Oakley provide with many glasses is customisation of colours and lenses so that you can mix and match and create a pair of sunnies with the colours you want. The sunnies for review were a standard configuration and quite serious and tech looking with the ‘matt heather grey’ which included accents of black and gunmetal Oakley logos.
When it comes to sunnies, the most important details are the lenses. When you hold the lenses they don’t feel cheap, they had a had a good feel which would lead you to assume that they probably won’t scratch as easily as cheap ones. The lenses are appropriately thick and the edges at the bottom were nicely rounded. There were three things that I really liked about the lenses:
1. Air vents on the top left and right which help to stop them from fogging up;
2. No logos or etching at the bottom edge of the glasses. This is actually an option, but for me these would be in my peripheral vision and I think it is more important to look through the glasses rather than to be reminded of the brand name or some technical detail.
3. Non distorted vision. I tested this claim and, in fact, there was a slight magnification, however it was very minimal and the overall vision through the glasses was consistent without noticeable distortion through the curved lense. This means avoiding headaches caused after a few hours in the saddle when your eyes start complaining that they have to adjust.
The RadarLock Paths came with a grey lense and a G30 Iridium orange lense. Both of course have UV protection and I stuck to the grey lense for the bright sunny riding conditions. The G30 Iridium lense came out for overcast and darker riding conditions as I find they enhance the perception of depth that can otherwise get lost in low and bland light. These two lenses are a good set to have and I would probably only add a clear to the set for night riding.
The Look, the Fit and the Ride
The RadarLock Paths look very fine when you are in the saddle with a helmet on, they’re truly sports sunnies. They are not the type of sunnies that I would wear outside of sport, however. I have tried Oakley Jawbones (which are now the Oakley Jackets) and while they are still sports style glasses, I feel that they look better and I would be more comfortable wearing them out and about.
With functional eyewear the fit is more important that the look. These glasses were great at the front on my nose and had enough space at the top so that the frame didn’t touch my forehead, but on the sides I felt that they pressed in too much. While it meant there was no chance of them falling off, I feared that this would give me headaches, though for the time I had them on I didn’t experience any. These sunnies are a ‘regular fit’ and there is a ‘straight stem’ version for small faces.
The good news about these glasses is that they essentially turned into the type of gear that I like the best – invisible gear. This is the type of gear that you need, like a good pair of cycling knicks, a comfortable helmet or event a groupset, that works as it should and you don’t notice it. I took the RadarLock Paths both mountain biking and road cycling and loved the clarity of the vision, and that there was no wind irritation. Fogging occured only occassionally when stopping at traffic lights and was quite light, the air vents seem to help clear the condensation.
The only criticism I have of the glasses while riding is that, when riding road, compared with mountain biking, where my body is further forward and head down, the top of the frame is in my field of vision, particularly during descents. Oakley have actually recognised this and have an XL version of the RadarLock which increase the height of the sunnies and put the frame, I assume, outside of the field of vision – and you probably get the bonus big lense “Euro-cool” pro cycling effect as well. If you are looking at the Oakley Radar range for cycling it would be worth your while to compare these two and see if the standard size works well or the whether XL is better – simply tilt your head down and look forward, imagining you are descending, and see if the frame bothers you.
It’s a Wrap
It is a matter of preference if you like the wrap around blade style sunnies or prefer two lense type sunnies such as the Oakley Flak Jacket or the bolder Racing Jacket (ex Jawbone) style. The RadarLock Paths are well crafted and for $299.95 are pretty serious for those of us lucky to be without prescription glasses. You do get the performance and the quality, so even if you’re a weekend rider you will probably end up seeing these as a good investment – unless you are prone to sitting on, losing and scratching your glasses.
Other lenses are available (prices will vary) such as Photochromatic and Transitions. Checkout the Oakley Sports Sunglasses range online for specs and configurations. The specific configuration for the sunglasses on review (SKU# OO9181-04) can be seen here: Heather Matt Grey / G30 Iridium Vented and grey Vented.