The high price and budget 'feel' offset what is otherwise a great pair of sunglasses that offers maximum comfort and a rugged, almost-indestructible construction
IRIS photochromic lens is class-leading
Price with added extras is really rather premium
Lack of adjustment in arms
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SunGod might be relatively new to the cycling market, but the brand which originated in crowdfunding is making waves with its almost-infinitely customisable range of modern eyewear. The latest additions of which include the Vulcans, which features a bang-on-trend oversized lens, and the slightly more refined Velans, which still offer plenty of coverage and protection from the elements.
It's the latter we have here, and as part of the customisation process, we opted for the IRIS photochromic lens, full-frame kit, and a navy/white theme. I've been riding them for a couple of months now, so let's see how they compare to the best cycling glasses from the likes of Oakley, 100% and co.
Design and aesthetics
The design process is a thoroughly enjoyable one, if a little bit of a time sink. There are so many colours to choose from and so many possibilities that it's difficult to decide which to commit to. There are a few preset ideas to give you a bit of guidance, but the option to 'make it yours' offers a wide range of options.
The price of the Velans is variable dependent on your customisation preferences. Starting at £115, the basic Velans half-frame with a traditional lens is a relatively competitively-priced pair of shades, but once you throw in the fancy features like the convertible half-frame to full-frame kit and the IRIS photochromic lens, the price rises to a particularly spendy £200.00.
The image that you are customising on the Sungod website is, of course, a 3D render, so there is a difference between that and what arrives in the box the next day. The real-life product matched the chosen design, but the colours did pop a little more in the on-screen version.
Unlike with a few of the competition, the Velans only come with a single lens, however, with the IRIS photochromic lens, this is effectively two-in-one. The lens is great for late-summer riding and even better for those low-light dusky days commonly found in British autumn. They're easily my favourite part of the glasses, so despite the additional cost, I would highly recommend adding them during your customisation process. They do leave a bit of a lens flare in approaching headlights during daylight rides, but far from enough to be offputting.
The arms of the sunglasses don't have any integrated fit customisation like many of the competitors. The hinges work in the standard way, however they are screwless in design, so the arms can pop right off and reattach without issue. The arms curve around the head, but are vertically straight.
The Velans have performed dutifully over the last few months of testing. This test period has spanned three seasons, from bright summer sunshine to early-winter dusk and visibility has remained clear throughout. Adjustment comes in the form of different-sized nose pieces, so the arms cannot extend like some of the competitors. Despite this, the arms have remained comfortable, the rubber ear grippers are ridged and hold securely without having to compress against the head, and they play nicely with every helmet I've tried them with.
There's a sense of ruggedness to the frame, with a good amount of flex and bend to the plastic frame. This does also carry - somewhat negatively - into the touch and feel of the materials used, but it's a nice feeling to know you needn't treat them like a glass sculpture every time your handle them. This is most apparent when converting from full- to half-frame and back again. It takes a little bit of heavy-handedness in order to get them to clip in and out again, and knowing that you can do this without permanently damaging them is particularly reassuring.
Upon arrival, the look and feel of the Velans was actually a little underwhelming. They have a particularly plasticky feel, and they don't feel like the premium product that the price point suggests. Sungod will have trouble converting Oakley die-hards with first impressions alone.
However that aside, the performance of the Velans has been faultless. The lens is great in multiple light situations and despite a lack of adjustment, they have been plenty comfortable on all types and all durations of ride. The option to design your own is the biggest USP here though, and knowing your sunglasses aren't just a copy-paste of everyone else on the local group ride will be comforting to many individualists.
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