We called the original Sutro some of Oakley's best work, but the Sutro Lite are better
- Prism lens
- Grippers added to earstocks
- Long arms don't play nice with some retention systems
When Oakley launched the Sutro in 2019, they were pitched more towards urban cyclists, prioritising style ever so slightly above performance. Even still, they were no slouch in the performance department; with our reviewer noting the Sutro might just be the company's best cycling sunglasses to date.
No product is truly perfect, and this tilt towards the casual user also led to one of the main niggles many noted with the Sutro, and one which has been solved with the new half-shell, Oakley Sutro Lite.
Design and aesthetics
According to Oakley, the Sutro are based on the original Eyeshade from 1984, and a homage to these classic sunnies is paid on the nose bridge support.
With the big profile, the Sutro Lite most definitely offers a retro aesthetic, one which won't be to everyone's taste. Personally, I think they look great, and they have even received the tick of approval from my partner, who is not a bike rider.
The most notable feature with the Sutro Lite is, of course, the disappearance of the bottom half of the frame. The brand says this amounts to a larger field of vision and improved ventilation. What's left of the frame is still made from the brand's nylon reinforced O-Matter plastic, which is lightweight and surprisingly robust. The axing of the bottom of the frame has also brought about a slight change in the shape of the lens, with the edge a bit more rounded.
The half-frame design is three-quarters of the way to a pair of goggles in terms of coverage, and the Sutro Lite measure 50mm tall and 140mm across. The size of the lens keeps the top of the frame out of your vision, while also pushing the edge of the lens well beyond your peripheral vision, preventing light from leaking in around the side.
The most significant change, however, is less visually obvious but comes in the form of a bit of extra Unobtainium rubber applied to the inside of the ear stocks. The lack of grippers on the arms is one of the more common complaints levelled against the Sutro Lites predecessor. I would speculate it was left out as the original Sutro was launched as a part of the brand's 'Urban Performance' range consisting of hoodies, t-shirts, backpacks, i.e. causal gear more focused on style and less on performance.
The nose piece is also made from the Unobtainium. It's chunky and adjustable but sits comfortably on your nose.
Ultimately riding sunglasses need to disappear once you have them on. They shouldn't tap on your helmet at the front or bump up against the retention system at the back, nor should the frame block your vision and the edge of the lens should be well out of your periphery.
Just like their predecessor, the Sutro Lite ticks the vast majority of these boxes but they improve on the previous benchmark.
The reason that the Sutro Lite are better is that Oakley has applied its Unobtainium to the inside of the earstocks, which keeps them securely mounted to your face. With the original Sutro, our senior writer Josh had them literally blown from his face in a cross-headwind, and I personally found throughout a ride they would work their way down my nose. The latter was more-so an issue on gravel and mountain bike rides because you're being jostled around quite a lot more, but the little bit of extra grip provided by the small patch of rubber totally eliminates this problem.
It's pretty well established at this point that Oakey's Prizm lenses are more than just marketing fluff, and the colour filtering technology does enhance contrast in a given environment. The Sutro Lites that were sent out to me came with the Prizm Road and the Prizm Black lenses; both do well to bring out detail in the texture of the road surface and make the painted lines glow. To my eyes, the 11-percent visible light transmission of the Prizm Black is a little dark, even for midday summer sun in Australia, and I've gravitated more towards the pair with the 20% VLT Prism Road lens. Instead of a spherical lens like the Radar EV or Flight Jacket, the Sutro is based around a cylindrical lens, which offers distortion-free vision even towards the edges.
With such a large shield, they offer fantastic coverage both from wind and debris. In my experience, the latest Oakley lenses aren't quite as scratch resistant as some others, like Smith's Chromapop, but as long as you aren't cleaning mud off them with your sweaty jersey, you will more than likely be just fine.
For the time being, there are no replacement lenses available as they are for the original Sutro — depending on where you live.
With the size of the lens and the lack of venting, I am also impressed that they don't seem to fog. I can't speak to how they perform in the cold (it's summer here in the Southern Hemisphere), but they have remained mist-free on rides through hot weather with 90-per cent humidity here in Australia. For a few years, Oakley had stopped applying a hydrophobic coating to the inside of its lenses; however, based on the way the water and sweat beads and drips off the bottom of the lens, it seems the brand is treating both sides once again.
There is one area where the Sutro Lites don't seem to excel, and it's a complaint many have with the vast majority of Oakley's performance sunglasses due to the long straight arms — they don't play nice with every helmet.
Measured from the centre of the hinge, the arms are 133.2mm long, which is 8mm longer than those on the Radar EV Advancer. This added length may not seem like much, but it means they overlap the head cradle on some retention systems, like Lazer's Roll Sys on the new Genesis (G1) and a few MTB helmets with extended rear coverage. It's only minor but does lessen comfort when run under and impacts retention when placed over the top.
The Sutro Lite are only a wee bit different to original Sutro, but this small change the brand has made offers a marked improvement. Priced at $176 / £143 / AU$230 they are some of the cheaper performance sunglasses and are noticeable less expensive than something like the POC Aspire or Do Blade. That said, for this type of money, many other brands have swappable lenses and include a low light tint.
Oakley's Prizm lenses offer fantastic visual clarity and work as advertised when it comes to their claims about enhancing contrast. You can't change the lenses and the long arms cause trouble with some helmets, but the latter is a problem that is not unique to the Sutro. For me, they are great looking, offer plenty of coverage and performance.
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