Stylish and comfortable sunnies that offer excellent clarity and enhanced vision in bright sunlight, but the lack of interchangeable lenses limits them to sunny rides only
- Chromapop lenses for enhanced vision
- Adjustable fit and comfortable to wear
- Huge field of view
- Crystal clear lens
- Lightweight and easy to forget
- Sprung hinges make them easy to fit and remove on the go
- Excellent grip even when wet
- 100% UV protection
- Lenses aren't interchangeable
- No ventilation means they fog up after a hard effort
- Vision marred by the occasional fingerprint
Smith Optics is known for its sports eyewear offerings, and its Flywheel sunglasses offer modern technology with a retro-inspired look. Designed with a variety of outdoor activities in mind, including cycling, we’ve been putting a pair to the test in varying light conditions and over some very hot and sweaty rides to see how well they perform.
Do they deserve a spot on our list of the best cycling sunglasses? Read on to find out.
Design and aesthetics
On first appearances it’s clear that Smith is going for a modern-meets-retro look, thanks to the semi-framed design. It holds on to the reasonably large lens with an overlapping lip that actually disguises them to look more like frameless sunnies, and delivers maximum coverage while riding under the beating sun.
The frame, constructed from lightweight TR90 thermoplastic, is lightweight and flexible, bends and springs back into shape, and feels extremely durable and hard-wearing. They come in a variety of colour options, with ours sporting the ‘Matte Mystic Green’ look, paired with a black ChromaPop lens.
ChromaPop lenses are proprietary to Smith Optics and are designed to filter the crossover between blue and green, and red and green light. According to Smith, the retina has difficulty separating these overlapping colour waves, which can lead to colour confusion and muddied vision when moving through ever-changing scenery. By filtering these intersections of light, ChromaPop lenses are meant to allow greater definition between natural colours and therefore enhance the clarity of our vision while in motion on the bike. To put it another way, they’re meant to make the details pop.
The design of the arms, with three indentations and a bulky front that leads to a narrow back end, had me believing at first that they were adjustable in length, but this isn’t actually the case. For me personally, it doesn’t matter because they fit me perfectly, however, I’m conscious that I have quite a small head so those with larger noggins might find these a bit snug. That said, the flexibility of the frame material should be able to accommodate in most cases.
The arms feature auto-lock hinges, meaning they’re easy to hold with one hand so you can easily put them on and take them off while on the move. There’s no awkward eye-poking due to swinging arms that won’t cooperate.
The rubber nose pad attaches onto an adjustable plastic panel that slides up and down, allowing you to choose between two positions to achieve the best fit. The pad itself is described by the brand as hydrophilic, meaning it retains its grip even when wet. Meanwhile the lens is treated with what Smith calls a ‘hydrolephobic’ coating — hydro-oleo-phobic, meaning water and oil resistant. All of these features, combined with the non-interchangeable dark lens, point to the Flywheel’s purpose as summer eyewear for the most part.
Despite having a small head and often struggling to find sunnies that fit well without sliding down my nose or rattling when I go off-road, the Smith Flywheels fit me like a glove and feel extremely comfortable. They feel pretty robust in the hand and really light, weighing just 33g, which puts them in line with contenders such as 100%’s Glendale, Oakley’s Sutro, and Koo’s Open Cube. This means they’re fairly easy to forget about once you’re wearing them, and over long distances, there’s no build-up of sore spots or aching around the top of the ears that I’ve personally experienced with heavier sunnies.
That large lens with a semi-frame design delivers a huge field of view as well. Whether I was riding in a relaxed, endurance-focused position for hours on end, or had my front end tucked out of a headwind, I was always able to see the road ahead of me perfectly. Despite being labelled as ‘medium coverage’, these sunglasses offer superb optics, including around the periphery and upper area. This also means they do an excellent job of wind protection, plus blocking out bright sunlight around the edges, enabling you to concentrate on what’s ahead without squinting.
Let’s talk about those ChromaPop lenses. As our test pair came with black lenses, these sunnies are predominantly designed for bright days on the bike and that’s exactly how we tested them. However, since I don’t live in the desert, most of my sunny rides will involve stints in the shade, beneath a canopy of trees or simply with periods of cloud blocking out the sun. I found that even in changing light conditions, the ChromaPop lenses deliver incredibly high clarity. The contrast between light and shade is enhanced enough to be able to better perceive depth between obstacles, and pick out uneven road surfaces even in dappled light.
Thanks to the sprung hinge of the arms, I found it incredibly simple to fit and remove the Flywheels while on the go, though in my experience I’ve found the water- and oil-resistant treatment of the lenses to be lacking somewhat, and after grappling with them in sweaty conditions, I found my vision was marred by the odd fingerprint that caused me to stop and clean them.
Speaking of sweaty conditions, however, I am pleased to report that even on some of my hottest rides — the kind that result in enough sweat to make you look like you’ve just emerged from a river — I didn’t experience any annoying slippage, and found the grip of the nose pad to be fantastic throughout.
Following a particularly difficult climb, and stopping momentarily for a snack, I did find they fogged up fairly quickly, however, this isn’t a surprise seeing as there aren’t any ventilation features built into them. This was very quickly cleared up once I got moving again, however.
Overall I found the Smith Flywheel sunglasses to be extremely comfortable to wear, easy to achieve a decent fit, and lightweight enough to forget about once moving. They offer excellent enhanced optics, thanks to the ChromaPop lens technology, while the large singular lens delivers a wide field of vision and protection from wind, debris and harmful UV rays. Their dark tint makes them excellent for when it’s bright and sunny, while they also perform well in changing light conditions. The adjustable nose pad with its hydrophilic material does a stand-up job of remaining grippy as you sweat, meaning that once they’re on, they’re staying put.
Tech Specs: Smith Flywheel sunglasses
- Price: £149 / $149
- Weight: 33g
- UV Protection: 100%
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