The Merida Race sunglasses have a decidedly 80s feel with their large mirrored lens, but I've been pleasantly surprised by their clarity and performance in strong sunlight. I've also found them also extremely comfortable, and the generous coverage provides excellent defence against dirt, dust, stones and flying insects.
The mirror lens is made from polycarbonate and described as CAT3, designed to offer high protection from 'high solar energies' and reckoned to absorb 82-92% of UV rays. It also complies with CE 12312-1 and features ventilation cutouts, designed to prevent annoying misting. Though rugged, the lens doesn't feature any special hydrophobic or scratch-repelling coating but it is interchangeable, so replacements or substitutions (say for a clear, or yellow) are possible.
The frame is made from TR90, a tough, durable thermoplastic designed to flex, which is important for comfort and durability.
Both the frame and nosepiece are adjustable. The nosepiece is a soft, rubberised composite which can be moulded to suit, whereas the arms extend by a few milimetres each side. Gently pull the arms around the temples until they've extended to the desired length.
I don't have a particularly large head, or face for that matter, so find most technical eyewear fits well straight from the pouch, but the adjustable frame and nosepiece are nice touches, if minor tweaks are required.
To date, the glasses have done their thing reliably and unobtrusively, on and off the bike. Their generous surface area and wraparound design offer excellent protection from blustery winds and airborne particles, and I've been pleasantly surprised by the clarity offered in bright to very intense sunlight, though they're not photochromatic so won't adjust for lower light conditions.
In terms of fit, they've stayed precisely where I've put them when riding at 17-18mph along unmade roads, forest tracks and bridleways. Bigger bumps have required momentary repositioning, but a single-handed nudge of the frame realigned things without loss of progress.
They're comfortable too – day rides of 50 miles or so haven't revealed any pressure points around the temples or behind the ears.
The slotted top sections are more than cosmetic, eliminating fogging on some bright but cool and blustery dawn rides. The past couple of months have been decidedly dry, but the lens has coped surprisingly well with light, misty rain. There's no hydrophobic coating, and heavier showers have seen water droplets bead and linger, which demanded periodic wiping with a soft cloth.
Polycarbonate is the stuff of riot shields, so I'd expect these to take hits in their stride. Nonetheless it pays to keep them clean, using a gentle solution – optical cleansing solutions and a lens cloth, ideally, though soapy water, rinsed and then dried with a clean, soft cloth is an effective substitute; avoid harsh cleaning solutions which may leave swirls or scratches in the surface.
The specification, design and performance all match their design brief and marketing blurb, but while solid and dependable, the Race glasses are up against some very competent rivals.
For a fiver more, Shimano's Twinsparks are £34.99, also with a TR90 frame but a polycarbonate lens offering UV400 protection and with a scratch-resistant, hydrophobic coating.
If you have a bit more cash to spare, dhb's Photochromatic Half Frame Sunglasses are £40 and will automatically adjust to varying light, and if you didn't mind a distinctly mountain bike flavour, the Rockrider Photochromatic XC Race Glasses are £44.99 and come in some retro neon frame colours (when they're in stock).
The Merida Race sunglasses are competent and their slightly old school flavour will also win some hearts. The standard of specification, quality of materials and overall performance mean they are a solid choice for the money, though there are better options for just a little more cash if you were seeking a single pair of glasses for year-round, all-conditions use.
Solid budget glasses for bright conditions
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Merida Race 3 sunglasses
Size tested: One size
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Merida says: "The MERIDA SUNGLASSES RACE combine a high-performance lens with a lightweight, half-frame design. An adjustable nose pad and frame guarantee a perfect fit and rubberised arms keep them locked in place. The vented lens keeps air moving to guarantee zero fogging when you're working hard.
'A Cat 3 lens provides great protection against visible and UV light, allowing just 20% of light to penetrate. They are available in 3 colours."
They're competent, affordable glasses for bright to very bright conditions.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
From Merida's website:
4C 6C/PC toric lens/ interchangeable lens/ TR90 frame
Very solid feel. Lens has resisted direct hits from small stones and other projectiles.
Performance has been very good in bright conditions and the generous wraparound design offers excellent protection from wind and flying insects. The frames are similarly comfortable and unobtrusive.
Seem generally rugged and with basic care, should last.
Frame and nosepiece were surprisingly tactile. I've only noticed them in the most positive sense on long day rides.
Worth the money given the specification, comfort and performance. However, there are designs with more sophisticated lens technology for only a little more, which may prove better value if you're seeking a single pair for more changeable conditions.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Overall, I've been impressed by the Race's optical clarity and comfort, though the lack of specialist coatings mean rain and water tends to bead up but cling on. The absence of polarising technology means they aren't good when light fades, which can be something of a culture shock if coming from more sophisticated types.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Solidly made, very comfortable, and great in harsh light.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Nothing specific, given the price point and design brief.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
BBB's BSG-58s start at £27.95 and Tifosi's Intense sunnies come in at £29.99 with a single lens.
For a bit more cash, Shimano's Twinsparks are £34.99 with a TR90 frame and a polycarbonate lens offering UV400 protection and a scratch-resistant, hydrophobic coating, and dhb's Photochromatic Half Frame Sunglasses are £40 and will automatically adjust to varying light, as will the £44.99 Rockrider Photochromatic XC Race Glasses.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, if they wanted an affordable pair for bright conditions, but there are better options for more general riding.
Use this box to explain your overall score
Solid glasses with a retro flavour and some nice touches, though spending just a little more brings better lens technology.
About the tester
I usually ride: Rough Stuff Tourer Based around 4130 Univega mtb Frameset My best bike is: 1955 Holdsworth Road Path and several others including cross & traditional road
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,
Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)