Can nature be improved? That's what we found ourselves asking when we first dressed our eyes in the new Oakley Radar shades and went for a spin on a sunny day. The contrast was much better, even though it felt like the lens itself wasn't as dark as our normal bright-conditions lens. Oakley says that the Blue Iridium lens we were using allows in 15% of the exterior light. However, with the increased contrast, the world seemed brighter. It feels like looking through rose-colored lenses.
We like how the world looks from behind this lens. Even on days where we spent several hours riding under cloudless skies, we still enjoyed the view. One of the places where the glasses excelled was when riding fast through changing light conditions on small, winding roads. We never felt the eye strain we sometimes encounter on some long rides. Shade then sunlight then shade again -- our eyes adjusted with ease and we worried less than usual about the potholes & sticks that can gobble a front wheel up when you go through sharp transitions of bright to dim. As a lens that can handle a variety of light conditions, the Blue Iridium excels. It also worked great on overcast days. And can see the tint working well on many rainy days as well. However, for those who want replacement lenses that can allow in more or less light, they are available, too.
Lens removal is pretty easy. Squeeze the nosepiece in front of the lens until it pops free of the lens. Then push the nosepiece towards the top until the lens comes free of the frame in the middle, then remove the lens from the notches behind the "O" on either side of the frame. Installation is the reverse. Insert the notches behind the "O"s, push the frame down on top of the lens in the middle, then push the nose bridge forward and down.
In terms of fit, once we had the glasses on, they stayed put. Never did we reach a finger to the frame to slide it back up the nose. In fact, during our first few rides, we found the nosepiece oddly sticky. After going over bumps while looking down, the glasses migrated up the nose, so the bridge of the nosepiece was attached more to the face than the nose. Since the Radars come with two Unobtanium rubber nosepieces, we found it best to start with the one on the frame, and then switch. We couldn't determine which one goes with which kind of nose, but since swapping is easy, not knowing isn't important. We swapped, found the second one fit better, and are sticking with it.
The idea that the lenses can only withstand this one material is at odds with our habits. The glasses are going to get dirty and salty and smudged and chances are we're not going to be carrying that little case with us on our rides. And Iridium, when we last played with it, was very sensitive to rough treatment.
It seems like Oakley addressed our concerns with these Radar lenses. They have a hydrophobic and oleophobic coating that makes splashed water or sweat roll right off. Usually long rides mean that our glasses finish with either salt stains on the inside or water droplets on the outside that necessitate cleaning when we finish. So far, we have had neither issue come up. Our wet-weather rides during this test period have been brief, so we haven't had much experience with water beading and rolling off as we ride. We also didn't have an opportunity to wipe dirt off the lens while riding, which is supposed to be easy and unlikely to scratch.
The aesthetics of the sunglass are something we're still debating. Seeing a clear-lens version worn by Dave Zabriskie in the Tour of Romandie Time Trial, they look a bit like the Smith glasses the CSC team used last year. But with a darker lens, they are distinctively their own design, a look that seems entirely appropriate off the bike. The boxy wraparound shape makes them look taller than they feel, and give us a Euro' model vibe. Seen from above, they have traditional Oakley sport sunglass curves, albeit a bit more restrained than we've seen in the past. On the face, the Path lens shape we tried heightens the narrow, athletic look whereas the M-frames made the face seem wide. The White Chrome frame color is a pearly metallic that seems to be pearl, metal, and plastic at the same time; the result is striking. The surge ports in the arms seem practical yet mechanical, like intake vents on an automobile quarter-panel.
The Path is Oakley's smallest-sized lens, and they kept our face from feeling overly shielded -- something we don't like in the heat of the summer. While Oakley offers larger lenses for bigger faces (or for different applications than summertime cycling), the Path makes the most sense for us.
We were among those who breathed a sigh of relief when Oakley debuted the Radar. "'Bout time," we said. An updated look is nice, but improved technology employed in sunglasses is even better. They worked both the former and the latter to great effect. Keep your eyes peeled at the '07 Tour: It's been a decade since Oakley has unveiled a cycling-specific model. Half the peloton, we're sure, will be sporting their Radars.