If you’re an optically-challenged cyclist like me, you may have considered getting some prescription specs designed especially for cycling. Riding in normal glasses is possible, of course, but they don’t perform too well in wet, misty or sweaty conditions. Having ridden with contact lenses plus fancy Oakley sunglasses quite a lot in the past, I was well aware of how much more comfortable proper sports glasses are when riding. They protect your eyes from the elements, allow a wider peripheral vision and don’t slip annoyingly down your nose when you’ve got better things to think about, like grinding up a 25% hill on a fully-loaded tourer.
But, my eyes had started to rebel against my wearing contact lenses – they got dry and tired too easily – plus, contact lenses and the related faffage are not great for cycle touring, so I started to look into prescription sunglasses. My usual opticians could provide me with some, but they had standard frames, and were not especially suited to sports. I then came across Optilabs, an opticians specialising in sports glasses based in Croydon, South London, and having read glowing reviews about their cycling specs, decided to cycle down to their shop to see what was what.
Their staff were very helpful and pointed me in the direction of the frames which were best suited to cycling. I tried on a few, and finally settled for a type suitable for smaller faces (and I always thought I had a big head??) called ‘Savanna’. When I told the member of staff that we were planning a cycle tour in Australia and New Zealand, she recommended a particular type of polarised lense in dark brown. The made-up frames were posted to me at home and since their very first outing I’ve been extremely pleased with them. They are very comfortable and not too tight, and stay put no matter what the weather throws at them. I have thick lenses (I’m very shortsighted) and the frame style nicely hides the thickness of the lenses. The complete frames and lenses cost me about £160, which, compared to what I have to pay for my everyday glasses, is very good value.
I even had occasion to test out Optilab’s after-sales service, when Woolly unfortunately stood on my glasses and broke an arm (of the glasses, not his own). He expertly bodged them together for a while with gaffer tape, zip ties and a nail (as the saying goes, if you can’t fix it, you’re not using enough gaffer tape) but I eventually decided to stop being stingy and get them properly fixed. I was astonished at the excellent service from Optilabs. The turnaround time to replace the arm was under a week and it cost £25 plus postage.
Their staff were even caught out by their own efficiency: when I rang up to pay for the repair by credit card I was told I’d receive the mended glasses in 3-4 days. “But… I’ve already received them!” was my delighted reply.
In fact, I liked my sunglasses so much that I’ve since bought a pair of the same Savanna frames with photochromatic lenses for darker days. Admittedly, these make me look rather like a mad professor without the dark lenses to hide behind, but they work well and are perfect for low light conditions. And I’m not the one who has to look at them!
Five oinks out of a maximum five. The specs themselves, and the service from Optilabs, are excellent.