Review: Oakley Radarlock Pitch Sunglasses

If there’s any one brand name that’s synonymous with “quality sunglasses,” it’s Oakley. Despite their top-tier prices, the number of people that you’ll see at the mountain bike trailhead–or simply walking around downtown–wearing Oakleys on their face is impressive. The Oakley brand has penetrated deep into the heart of not only the mountain bike subculture, but the daily consciousness of essentially every first world country the globe over.

While I’ve reviewed many a pair of sunglasses, I’ve never had the chance to try the paragon of light-reducing eyewear… until now.

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Radarlock Pitch Specs

Shade Station shipped over a pair of the Radarlock Pitch glasses for my review pleasure. The Radarlock Pitches feature a carbon fiber print frame (note: the frame isn’t actually made of carbon fiber), and High Definition Optics (HDO) lenses. The glasses come with two lenses and feature Switchlock Technology that, according to Oakley, “makes lens changing fast and hassle-free.” The lenses are a full wrap-around frame-free style, with an adjustable nose piece.

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According to Oakley, other features include:

The lightweight yet insanely durable frame is made of O Matter™ and shaped with surge ports to maintain a cooling flow of air. Interchangeable nose pads let you achieve a comfortable, customizable fit, and the earsocks are made of the same sport-optimized Unobtainium® to increase grip when you sweat. You won’t feel any uneven pressure points with this frame because its Three-Point Fit doesn’t hook your ears — it just holds the frame comfortably in place while keeping the lens in precise optical alignment.

Weight: 30g

Bling factor: carbon fiber print and prominent Oakley logo
Bling factor: carbon fiber print and prominent Oakley logo

Out on the Trail

Granted, I’ve never ridden with a pair of glasses that feature a full wrap around lens before, but so far I’m in love! The wraparound frame eliminates all unnecessary visual interruption and blind spots, which allows for a seamless, completely uninterrupted view. While the view out of a normal pair of shades is, of course, not bad at all, removing the frame from the periphery provides such a seamless reduction of harsh sunlight that it’s extremely easy to forget that you’re even wearing glasses!

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Part of this effect is due to the breathtaking crystal-clear quality of the HDO lenses. There’s absolutely no distortion, blurriness, or visual impairment from these lenses… just don’t smudge or scratch them!

The lenses are SO clear that my camera focused on the rock BEHIND the glasses!
The lenses are SO clear that my camera focused on the rock BEHIND the glasses!

Also contributing to this forget-they’re-on-your-face feel are the light weight and excellent design of what little frame there is. At 30 grams for the full package, these are feather-light shades. Add in the supremely comfortable nosepiece and the secure-but-not-uncomfortable grip on the side of the head, and these stay in place, don’t move, and again, feel like they’re not even there.

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Fit Issues

While these shades have performed superbly with my Giro Aeon helmet, they absolutely will not work with my Bell Super, or other similarly-shaped enduro or other mountain bike lids with extra side protection. The frames on these glasses don’t hug the side of your head; instead, they sweep far to the outside around the temples before returning to tuck behind the ear. While this is extremely comfortable, the design mandates that the glasses go on the outside of helmet straps. But for helmets that have a lot of side protection, these glasses simply won’t fit underneath.

Rounded frame design prohibits use with certain styles of mountain bike helmets.
Rounded frame design prohibits use with certain styles of mountain bike helmets.

Switchlock Technology

Oakley claims that the Switchlock Technology “makes lens changing fast and hassle-free.” However, the 10-step process for removing a lens and installing another makes me beg to differ. Early on in the review process, I tried to follow the instructions to try swapping the lenses. After staring at the directions, getting about 15 different fingers on those glasses, and still having no clue how to remove the lens, I decided that apparently I didn’t want to install a different lens anyway. It’s just not worth the effort.

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In the Oakley description on the ShadeStation website, they positively bash on other lens-swapping designs: “If you haven’t heard about Oakley Switchlock Technology, you’re wasting too much time fumbling with the outdated designs of ordinary interchangeable lens systems.” However, having reviewed three pairs of interchangeable lens glasses from three different companies in 2014 alone, I have to honestly say that the Oakley system is the most complicated, stressful, and hassle-inducing of the three.

Now, I do my best to review all products thoroughly, so I took a fourth (or fifth?) try at removing the lenses as I was re-editing this review. And despite staring at the directions, following them as best I could, and wrenching on the lens, I could not get it to come out. Granted, I wasn’t as forceful as I could have been… but with a pair of shades that costs as much as a season pass to my local ski resort, I’m extremely nervous to try violently removing the lens for fear of causing irreparable damage.

ShadeStation

ShadeStation, a UK-based sunglasses website, sent these shades over for review. However, clicking over to their listing of the Oakley Radarlock Pitch sunglasses reveals that ShadeStation can only ship Oakley glasses within the European union. So if you’re in Europe, no big deal, but if you’re outside of Europe, you’ll have to find a different place to purchase these glasses.

Bottom Line

The Oakley Radarlock Pitch glasses are a lightweight pair of shades that offer crystal-clear quality and maximum comfort. However, they aren’t without issues: the frame design will prevent you from wearing them with everything but the most low-profile of XC and road helmets, and the complicated lens lock system makes swapping lenses anything but easy and intuitive… in fact, I honestly couldn’t figure it out.

Now normally I wouldn’t be quite so hard on these glasses, but for £196 / $335 USD in the European Union, I expected these to be the most amazing pair of glasses that ever graced my face. While the Radarlocks were exceptional when I was actually able to wear them, sadly they fell way short of the “best I’ve ever used” mark.

MSRP: Via ShadeStation, £163.33 outside of the EU, or approximately $279 USD. However, they retail for £196 inside the EU, or approximately $335 USD.

Thanks to ShadeStation for providing the Oakley Radarlock Pitch glasses for review.

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