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Roka CP-1x cycling sunglasses review: Unique, clear and comfortable, but with a few quirks to be aware of

High-quality cycling sunglasses with exceptional customisation options, but the lack of a second lens and the high price make the Roka CP-1x a difficult sell

Roka CP-1x
(Image: © Josh Ross)

Our Verdict

The Roka CP-1x is a high-quality, super comfortable pair of cycling sunglasses. Custom colours, limited edition drops, and prescription lenses are all options available to you, but the price is high and the lack of a second lens is a miss.

For

  • Excellent field of vision
  • Prescription lens availability with FSA/HSA eligibility
  • Included hard case is high quality
  • Nose pads hold stable even on the hottest days
  • Lightweight

Against

  • Expensive
  • Changing lenses isn’t the easiest
  • No cloudy day lens included

Roka is an American brand that started in a garage and today makes high-end sunglasses. The same is also true of Oakley but Roka does things a little differently. As the brand has grown, the vast majority of the design and manufacturing has remained in America right in the same town where it started. That fact alone doesn't make for a better product but when a company can keep their designers under the same roof as their manufacturing it breeds innovation. Roka can move fast and it has. 

The Roka CP-1x is one of the options it offers for full-frame and full-coverage cycling sunglasses. It also happens to be currently available as a lust-worthy special edition paying homage to the American crit team L39ION of Los Angeles. That particular version is a unique combination of frame and lens colour and it represents one of many options available to you. 

As summer heats up, you might be considering something from our list of the best cycling sunglasses. Everything there is a quality option but we are always evaluating new options as well. Roka isn't on that list yet but we spent time putting them through their paces and now we are ready to share our thoughts, so keep reading to see if the Roka CP-1x might make your short list of options for a new pair of cycling sunglasses.

Roka CP-1x overhead shot showing the curve

There's lots of curve but there's also plenty of stretch to keep you from getting a headache.  (Image credit: Josh Ross)

Design and aesthetics 

One thing that's important to understand when you think about the aesthetics of the Roka CP-1x is the breadth of what's available. To start with there's a regular size and a short version. The CP-1x represents the taller part of the CP series so we could start by limiting ourselves to that option. From there you could choose one of six colour combinations which Roka has selected as best sellers, but there's no need to stop there, that's only touching the surface. Instead, hit the custom button. If you need prescription lenses, that option is also available but it drops you into the same custom colour builder just with different lenses. 

Either way, the combinations are expansive, to say the least. There are 17 options for the top part of the frame, 14 lens options, 19 options for the lower frame, and 18 options for the rear grips. Combine everything in whatever way you want and at the end, you will have selected one of over 850,000 combinations. 

That doesn't cover the special editions either. The option I chose to take a look at is the Meteor x L39ION of L.A. Edition. The frame is an anodized blue metallic finish combined with dark blue gecko grips and fire mirror lenses. Whatever choice you make, including the special edition of the moment, they are all functionally the same. 

The lenses, of course, have specific properties depending on colour but also share a number of design features. In this case of the Fire Mirror lens, you get a 10-percent transmission and a colour that enhances blue and green while increasing contrast. Whatever lens you choose, they have coatings designed to repel water and oil, including from your fingers, as well as eliminate fogging and reflections. There are front and back anti-scratch coatings to help keep your lenses looking their best as well.  

For their part, the frames are all a simple nylon construction and this pair weighed 28 grams. The grip material at the rear goes by the name "GEKO" owing to the fact that it is "inspired by the soft but amazingly sticky feet of the Gecko." Catchy name aside, it's a proprietary elastomer that is "hydrophilic, chemical resistant and supports multi-directional traction with comfort."

When it's time to swap lenses, the system uses a design that starts with separating the frame into two pieces. The first step is to grab the centre of the top of the frame and pull it free, it will pivot off the lens with the arms attached. Next, pull the outer edge of the lower section free from each side of the lens, and the final step is to free the bridge of the nose. The end result will be three different pieces and you could swap in additional lenses but they are not included. 

If you'd prefer instead to swap the Geko nose pads. that's a much easier proposition. Grab each side and pull down until it slips off. There's no hook or any trick to getting them off, just pull, although the Geko design sticks to the frame as well as your face so expect to use a bit of force. There are four nose pads included to help you find the perfect fit for your face. 

Performance

This particular colour combination of the Roka CP-1x brings a lens that's meant for the brightest, hottest, days on the bike. When the sun is beating down this is your option and along with that heat, for me at least, comes long climbs and flowing sweat. When it's coming close to 40 degrees C / 100 degrees F and you are climbing for 30 minutes, or an hour, there's nothing that will save your lenses from becoming a salt-streaked mess. 

Part of the design of Roka lenses is the coatings, where there is a "front and back-side hydroleophobic [water and oil repellant] coating to keep moisture of any kind from sticking on the lens." It's a system that works in a lot of situations to keep the lenses clear but it's also not unique in the company of other high-end cycling glasses, as both 100% and Smith Optics glasses have similar coatings. However, when it's hot enough and you are sweating enough, they will all become overwhelmed. They may not remain wet but the salt and minerals in your sweat build up and leave your vision obscured. 

In these situations, I also tend to have my head facing down and I can drop my glasses to the end of my nose. I spend my time staring at the road over the top of the glasses while sweat is pouring off. It's here that I get the opportunity to see how the weight, the balance, and the ability to stay put really come together. The Roka Geko nose pads and temple grip do the job as well as the best options out there. 

The arms of the CP-1x are on the long side for sunglasses. It means there's enough length that as you bring them forward they've still got grip material in contact with your temples. It also helps keep the weight better balanced. The CP-1x is a very light pair of glasses but the length still helps here and the brand has done a good job making sure they don't interfere with helmets. By keeping the arms narrow and flexible there's space for them to sit on top of a rear helmet cradle without being noticeable. 

Roka CP-1x detail of arm and gripper

The arms are thin, springy, and exceptionally grippy. (Image credit: Josh Ross)

As good as the Roka CP-1x glasses are when I have them dangling at the end of my face, I can't spend the whole review covering sunglasses when I'm not looking through them. The rest of the time, when they are actually up on my face, the coverage is a joy. I don't have a huge face and often big glasses will touch my cheekbones. Roka has chosen just the right angle and curve at the bottom so that there's only the slightest contact when I've got a big smile. If I look for the frame edges, I can't see the upper frame and the other sides are well off into my peripheral vision. There's no venting but the anti-fog coating in combination with the intended hot weather use means I've never noticed an issue with fogging. 

The style of the Roka CP-1x glasses also can't go without mention. Take a look at their list of sponsored athletes and it's a who's who of exceptional athletes who are doing things a little differently. People like Ted King who's got a successful YouTube channel, a maple syrup nutrition company, and was one of the first to leave the WorldTour to light up the imaginations of gravel cyclists. Or Sarah Sturm who's got the tagline "Be Kind. Do good. Have as much fun as possible." The list is long and each athlete has an amazing story.

Of course, there's also Justin Williams and L39ION of Los Angeles. Williams is the founder of L39ION and warrants his own separate mention outside of the team sponsorship. Both the man and the team are currently a force in the American crit race scene and they are also remaking the face of modern cycling. There's a lot of crossover with Rapha in the list of athletes but Roka has its own style, and with the custom builder, you can too. 

Verdict

If you are considering a pair of Roka CP-1x cycling sunglasses, there's no denying the price. It's large and looming and few brands, even the most premium out there, come close to the standard price. If you make it a special edition model then the price is even higher and, special edition or not, you don't get a companion lens for low light situations. 

For the money asked, you do get a high-performance product. The frames are light, well balanced, and they stay put wherever you need them to. The lenses have the expected coatings to help them stay fog-, water-, and oil-free and in my time with them, they haven't picked up a single scratch. The fire lenses I had a chance to test provide a clear and crisp view of the world and the field of vision is expansive. The high-quality case and hand-signed card bearing the name of the technician in Austin who built my pair is a nice touch also. 

Aside from price, the downsides also centre around the lenses. Not because the fire lens isn't fantastic but because it almost feels like these aren't meant for swapping lenses. You don't get an included option for cloudy days and if you purchase it on your own the process isn't fantastic. As a comparison, the POC Elicit glasses carry a similar price but come with an extra lens and are incredibly easy to swap. The Roka system doesn't match that. 

That leaves style on the table. Fashion is what it is and sometimes it comes with a price. The CP-1x Meteor x L39ION of LA Edition sits in the company of the Oakley Kato special edition. In each case, you are taking a pair of high-performance glasses and adding a layer of scarcity. If you like the idea of having something very few others will then these are options on the table. It's worth mentioning that Roka does also offer the option to build a unique pair of the CP series glasses without the markup by taking advantage of the custom builder. 

Testing scorecard and notes
AttributesNotesRating
Optical claritySome of the best. Definitely on par with Oakley Prizm tech.10/10
ComfortThey stay put and are exceedingly comfortable.10/10
Lens OptionsThere are plenty of options but only one is included.5/10
Lens changing procedureNo small fiddly pieces but the process could be easier.6/10
Overall rating78%

Tech Specs: Roka CP-1x Sunglasses

  • Price: $365 as tested. Available starting at $230 / £210 depending on the colour combination
  • Weight: 28g as tested
  • Colour options: Custom figuration available for no extra charge. Over 850,000 combinations are available.

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Josh Ross
Josh Ross

Josh hails from the Pacific Northwest of the United States but would prefer riding through the desert than the rain. He will happily talk for hours about the minutia of cycling tech but also has an understanding that most people just want things to work. He is a road cyclist at heart and doesn't care much if those roads are paved, dirt, or digital. Although he rarely races, if you ask him to ride from sunrise to sunset the answer will be yes.
Height: 5'9"
Weight: 137 lb.
Rides: Orbea Orca Aero, Cannondale Topstone Lefty, Cannondale CAAD9, Trek Checkpoint, Priority Continuum Onyx