I hadn’t paid a whole lot of attention to the Rudy Project Defenders when I first received them in the mail. Don’t get me wrong, I dig the fighter pilot look of the eye protection, and they appear to be a quality pair of sunglasses, but other than that, I didn’t expect much from them.
Then, one afternoon when they were sitting inside my helmet on the counter in front of a window as I was getting ready for a a ride, I put them on and noticed something. Parts of the lens were tinted and other parts weren’t. It looked like the pattern of sun rays coming through window blinds cast onto the glasses.
“Well, that’s new,” I thought.
I threw them on my face and pedaled out from my house and the entire lens quickly adjusted to a full tint in the afternoon light.
- Interchangeable bumper
- Adjustable nose piece
- Adjustable temple
- Vented lens
- Prescription compatible
- Available in two different lens colors or photochromic lens
- Available in 11 different colors
- Weight: 100g
- MSRP: $185 – $235
- Available from Rudy Project and Amazon
These large-lensed and aggressively styled glasses have gained a lot of popularity over the past few years. The looks can be divisive, but as far as functionality, I’m a fan.
Bigger lenses share some qualities with goggles, but you don’t have to go 100% enduro to wear them. First, they do a better job than smaller, individual lenses at protecting your eyeballs from rocks or dust. They are also less obtrusive to your field of vision in most cases than a pair of glasses with individual lenses. I find this to be an important quality when descending a trail that is about to merge with another. Scanning the other trail is a task that needs to be done quickly so your eyes can return to the trail ahead, and a larger lens with the frame out of vision makes this easier. The Defenders aren’t the best glasses that I have worn when it comes to this, but they are still pretty good.
The slots in the brow section of the frame do a great job at venting. The Defenders don’t cling to my face, so I still get decent wind on my eyes, which helps dry sweat, but the vents are an added bonus and they can also be found along the temple.
The nose piece is easily adjustable, conforming to a variety of faces. Or, if you simply want the glasses to sit higher or lower, they can be adjusted to sit wherever the rider likes. The temples are soft and easy to bend to where they are preferred and the frame is flexy for added durability.
The magic with the Defenders lies in its ImpactX photochromic lens, which adjusts from low light to bright sunlight in a matter of seconds. Photochromic lenses are activated by the sun’s ultraviolet radiation rather than by any sort of bright light. So, in the picture above on the right, when I wore them in a snowstorm they only tinted a little, even though it was very bright, because the clouds had reduced the UV rays coming from the sun.
Now the technology isn’t perfect. These don’t adjust back to a transparent tint quickly at all. They take some time, so if you’re looking for a lens that can adjust to trails that dart in and out of the shade on the fly, these aren’t them. But I’m not sure that technology even exists yet. The Defenders are better described as an all-day pair of glasses that will adjust to the amount of daylight as the sun goes in and out of clouds or over the mountain. They’ll also work as protection if you get caught in the dark on a ride, although there is a little bit of tint at their clearest.
The ImpactX lenses are also guaranteed unbreakable for life and are bendable like a yogi, while maintaining impact protection.
The caveat with these glasses is of course the price. With the range of Defenders sitting around the $200 mark they are damn pricey, but obviously aren’t a pair of gas station sunglasses. Buyers can find countless options for less money, but the Defenders are some of the most well-performing bike sunglasses I have tried.
The Rudy Project Defenders are some of the best performing bike sunglasses I have worn yet. They provide a wide field of vision and great venting, while also ensuring riders that their eyes are safe from debris or sun rays.