Having cut its teeth manufacturing ski goggles, Oakley pioneered the cycling-specific sunglasses concept when Greg LeMond showcased the revolutionary Factory Pilot Eyeshades in 1985.
Oakley’s success and dominance brought about a war of radical new styles and colourways, brightening up the battlefields of Europe’s most famous Grand Tours and accelerating the technological advancement of the eye-protection concept in the process.
This saw frame designs and lenses gradually becoming smaller and more aerodynamic in application but the past few years have seen the concept come full circle and back to where it all started – large, goggle-style lenses are presently the order of the day.
Despite the influx of newer players to the fray such as 100%, Roka and POC, Oakley remains a major force in the industry as the eyewear war continues to blur the lines between style and function.
Oakley's latest offering, the Sutro, might just be the company's greatest product yet offering superb clarity and style kudos to match.
Design and aesthetics
The Oakley Sutro shares a lot of DNA with the 1984 Factory Pilot Eyeshade, and while the bolder and bigger design cues mat not be to everyone's liking, it's hard to deny its presence and visual allure. If you look close enough, you'll see a visual nod to the Eyeshade just above the nose piece - a very cool gesture indeed.
While the American company says its latest offering is aimed at the urban cyclist, more and more 'serious' riders are eschewing the competition-focused Flight Jackets and Jawbreakers in favour of the huge coverage and style points offered by the Sutro.
It really is a stunning-looking pair of sunglasses - classy and refined, the large cylindrical lens is complemented and held in place by a thin, black full frame. The Sutros can also be personalised using Oakley's Custom platform by changing the colour attributes of the frame, Prizm lens, temple arms, logo icon, wicket and carry bag.
The biggest talking point here is the lens. While there are seven other Prizm lenses available for the Sutro, our pair came tricked out in 'Prizm Road' technology. The Prizm Road lens differs from its stablemates by the manner in which it deals with variable light conditions.
Thanks to the 20 per cent VLT (Visible Light Transmission) properties of the lens - which boasts impressive contrast and clarity levels - it can adjust to all types light situations ranging from super bright and cloudy to overcast and foggy.
The first thing you'll notice when using the Sutros is the enhanced clarity and detail - attributes accentuated by the lens. The field of view is unprecedented, and the depth of field is sharp and detailed with little in the way of frame intrusion.
And what about the fit? Well, that's always going to be subjective argument isn't it but it's impressive, to say the least. No matter the type of riding - MTB action included - the Sutros remained securely fitted to my face. While this may be attributed to my particular bone structure, the retention around the nose-piece and well-sprung arms supply just the right amount of pressure to keep them secure without becoming uncomfortable or loose.
Out on the road (and trail), the Prizm Road lens cut a fine balance between differences in contrast, particularly when moving from bright sun to low-light areas such as shaded tree avenues.
The Oakley Sutro sunglasses are the company's best product to date, the benchmark for eye-care performance and protection. They offer unrivalled clarity, an unobstructed field of view and never fog up, no matter the conditions - an added bonus is the secure and stable fit. At £130, they're also significantly cheaper than rivals from POC and 100%.
However, what sets the retro-styled Sutros apart from the segment staples are not merely its performance credentials but rather its adaptability as a product - not only is it suited to the elite-level cyclist and recreational rider but it also doubles up a casual option, too.
The Sutro will ultimately go down as one of Oakley's greatest models yet and be held in the same regard as the model that started it all - the Factory Pilot Eyeshade. Wear them, enjoy them and race in them but also be aware they're likely to become a collector's item down the line.
- Price: £130
- Weight: 32g (actual)
- Lens technology: Prizm
- Frame type: Full frame
- Lens colours: 8
- Oakley customisable: Yes
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