Review: Smith Optics Approach Riding Glasses

With their extensive experience creating ski goggles, Smith is no stranger to quality eyewear. The Approach sunglasses, one of the latest offerings in their cycling line, aim to be your go-to riding glasses, while being comfortable and stylish enough for use off the bike.

Photo Credit: Smith Optics
Photo Credit: Smith Optics

Since I have been wearing prescription glasses for over 30 years, I am pretty fussy about my eyewear. Glasses need to fit correctly, be durable, and most of all: be optically correct. Incidentally, for outdoor activities I wear contact lenses and off-the-shelf sunglasses, NOT prescription sunglasses.


The Approach shades offer the fairly-common interchangeable lens system with three color choices: clear, “Ignitor” (rose colored), and red mirrored. The clear lenses are, of course, for night riding, while the rose ones are intended for cloudy days or twilight conditions. The red mirrored are similar to ski goggles that I have used, and provide excellent contrast in bright conditions.

Out of the box, the side bows open and closed crisply, and a click or two of the adjustable nose pads has them ready to put on and use. The plastic frame is stiff and straight, and my test pair fits perfectly. The glasses come in a formed foam zipper case with a soft pouch that doubles as a lens cleaner. Spare lenses are stored in a pocketed pouch that is secured to the case lid with velcro. The pouch can be detached and stowed for mid-ride lens swaps.

Changing the lenses is extremely easy, and with a little practice can even be done without getting fingerprints on the lenses. Simply grasp them at the bridge and pull the lens toward the outside of the frame and down, and it pops right out. Reverse it to insert the new lens. Done.

Stow ‘n’ Go

The Approach glasses interface well with all mountain bike helmets, sweat bands, and my ears, and once on, they stay on with no annoyance. Similarly, they also stay put when shoving them into helmet vents for storage. On that note, watch for the upcoming Smith bike helmet with dedicated sunglass storage. I got to try out a pre-production model at Outerbike, and this feature is awesome!

Out on the Trail

Out on the trail, the rubber nose and temple pads do their thing: the glasses stay put regardless of how much sweat leaks out of your face on a hot day of desert riding. Optically, they are as clear and distortion-free as any prescription spectacles I have ever worn. I have also dropped them a few times, and they have come away with no damage to frame or lens.

One issue I have with most glasses is having them fog up on me. The Smith website doesn’t indicate if these are treated with anything, but they are amazing in the anti-fog department. I have had them fog up on me exactly twice: on a long, slow climb at over 10k feet elevation on an uncharacteristically humid Colorado day, and on a ride at 20°, but only when I stopped. In both cases, once moving they cleared right off. Similarly, any sweat that manages to get to the lenses beads up and runs off, similar to Rain-X on a car windshield.

Again, likely drawing on their ski optics experience, the Approach glasses also do a decent job of keeping wind out of your eyes at higher speeds.

In addition to their versatility and performance out on the trail, the Approach glasses are just plain comfortable to wear around. I normally wear “regular” sunglasses before and after the ride, but since getting the Approaches, I just throw them on and go. They work equally well for driving, riding, and post-ride activities.

My only gripe, and I am really nitpicking here, is the mid-tinted rose lenses. They work extremely well on overcast days, but tend to be a little dark heading into twilight. I have had other glasses with a greyish lens that handled the transition of fading daylight a lot better. With the Approaches, I end up switching to the clear lens sooner than I’d like.

Having said that, the fit and function far outweigh this one minor issue, and these have become my go-to glasses for all my riding.

If you’re in the market for some solid, trouble-free riding glasses, these are definitely worth checking out. $179 MSRP gets you a choice of five different colors, a lifetime warranty, and the ability to purchase replacement/extra lenses as needed.

Thanks to the folks at Smith Optics for sending over the Approach sunglasses for review!