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The Shimano S-Phyre R glasses might look slightly retro compared with some, but the photochromic optics and protection rival others that I've tested recently. Their large lens also wins when it comes to protection from dust and other airborne pollutants.
The glasses were developed in conjunction with the riders of Team LottoNL, and their bike-specific design might be a deal-breaker if you're in the market for a set of technical sunnies that cross over to street wear. However, their larger-than-average lens promises optimal protection to the eyes, and we only get one pair...
The photochromic lens reacts very quickly to subtle as well as more extreme light changes. There's a momentary pause when entering extremely harsh sunlight, but emphasis is on the momentary. By my reckoning it turns light to dark in about 15 seconds, dark to light in a more pedestrian 35, though the incremental nature means it isn't a hindrance.
The polycarbonate lens also promises high impact resistance, with UV400 protection and an anti-scratch coating, and its hydrophobic (water-repelling) treatment encourages rain to bead up and simply roll away. I had no problems riding in heavy rain at speeds between 35 and 42mph on a 1-in-7 descent.
The lens is also resistant to dust and oils, though mud and similar spatter occasionally needed some extra persuasion.
It's worth noting that while these coatings do an excellent job, it's still advisable to wipe the lens with a cloth afterwards. I've also found periodic helpings of Salclear TT-X or similar helps, especially tackling water staining and muddy spatter.
The large lens's additional coverage makes a small but significant difference, most notably keeping pollen, dust, 'thunder bugs' and similarly invasive critters out.
Misting in cooler weathers can present, even with more expensive/sophisticated glasses. I wore a Respro type pollution mask on a couple of very early outings and, as I expected, there was some fleeting condensation, but this vanished and didn't return for the remainder of the 25-mile ride, even when I stopped to tighten a slackening seatpost cradle.
The frame has a tactile, almost rubbery silicone texture. It's made from Grilamid TR-90 with supple, rubberised, non-slip TPE (thermoplastic elastomer) tips. The glasses sat securely at the key points, confirmed by several hours of mixed terrain riding, remaining perfectly aligned.
Adjustability, should you need it, comes in the shape of a reversible nosepiece (it has different front and back thicknesses), though the springy frame can accommodate different head shapes comfortably. The silicone gripper on the arms also enables the glasses to be positioned closer or further away, to prevent eyelashes brushing the lens, for example.
I'm lucky in that most glasses tend to fit me very well, and straight from the case there was no need for any tweaking/adjustment for these to sit comfortably on me. The precision fit also seals out eye-watering breezes.
Although £129.99 is hardly small change, it's not outlandish for this kind of specification or performance. The Julbo Aerospeeds, for example, are £135, while Oakley's Sutros are £130, and arguably hold the crown if bigger is better.
That said, it's possible to get some very good glasses for around £40. If you don't mind swapping lenses, BBB's Avengers are decent, wallet-friendly, non-photochromic alternatives.
Frankly, I'd expect something super-competent from Shimano, with team development, especially at this price point. These deliver in every respect and genuinely offer great protection. The only thing that might limit their appeal is their bike-specific design, if you want something that won't look out of place off the bike. You even get a spare lens and nosepiece in the deal, which is a definite plus.
High quality glasses that work really well on the bike
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Shimano S-Phyre R Glasses
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?
Shimano says, "ENGINEERED WITHOUT COMPROMISE
"S-PHYRE R eyewear was co-developed with the riders of Team LottoNL-Jumbo to deliver optimal coverage, enhanced impact and UV protection, superior optical clarity, and an ideal cycling-specific fit for the most exacting training and racing conditions".
A very competent set of glasses with a price to match.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
FULL COVERAGE - Super large lenses for increased protection
MAXIMUM COVERAGE - Super large lenses for increased coverage protection
FULL VISIBILITY - Full-coverage with distortion-free view
FULL FUNCTION - Lightweight and secure fit to keep large lens in the correct position
MAXIMUM CONFIDENCE - Lightweight and secure fit to keep large lens in right position
FULL PROJECTION - Dark tint photochromic lens adjusts from 13% - 62% transmission for changes in light conditions
REVERSIBLE NOSE PAD - Reversible nose pad features different front and back thicknesses for fit adjustment
GRIPPER TEMPLES - Radiused temples with non-slip pattern for secure fit and comfort
Comes with Protective carry case, cloth bag and spare Cloud Mirror lens
Well designed and solidly built.
Great all-rounders that deliver on their design brief.
No blemishes or deterioration despite daily use and being struck at force by stones/similar.
Only noticed them in the most positive sense.
£129.99 is hardly small change but competitive alongside similarly technical eyewear. Oakley's Sutros are £130, while the Julbo Aerospeeds are £135. That said, it's possible to get some very good glasses for around £40.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Large lens offers optimal protection from UV light, insects, dust and other flying projectiles. Optics adjust consistently to subtle changes in light, which helps with perception. Rain and other water beads up and rolls away. Soft silicone grippers hold everything securely in situ but otherwise go unnoticed.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Extremely competent all round.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Nothing, given the design brief.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
Not quite exceptional, but excellent eyewear, with the performance I'd expect from this end of the market and from something developed with a professional team.
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, mountain biking
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)