i've always been a great fan of modern cycling glasses or shades as they are often referred to. not, as you might think, because of their sporting pretensions, but mostly because the manufacturers go to great lengths to advise of the impact resistance offered by their particular lenses. there are more than just a few brands that declare their optics to have the same propensity to deflect a speeding bullet as do the visors used by american (or british) fighter pilots. the implication here is not lost on many of us; if it's good enough for the royal air force, it's quite obviously more than good enough for the average velocipedinist.
so far so mundane, you might think, but consider the further implications. military fighter jets are often capable of flying at well over the speed of sound; you can see why a speeding fragment in the opposite direction would be likely to cause them more than just minor discomfort. so if cycling glasses feature lenses with a strength similar to that required of the airforce, somebody obviously thinks we too could travel at such stratospheric speeds. otherwise, where would be the need for lenses that could stop a speeding bullet?
i'm suprised you hadn't cottoned on to that before now.
however, those allegedly stylish shades emulating the shape of oakley jackets, while not quite bringing ordinary civilians to mistake us for fighter pilots, are apt to think we look a tad silly when out of uniform so to speak, or worse still, looking like a triathlete experiencing downtime. in other words, cycling glasses are unlikely to have the wearer fit in with his or her surroundings. stand out and sore thumb are two phrases that immediately spring to mind.
the campionissimo, fausto coppi was a stickler for an exacting pre-race regimen. were any of his team to descednd for breakfast having neglected to shave, they would be immediately sent back to their room unitl they were less hirsute of a morning. whether this extended to having properly combed hair 'neath a bianchi casquette, i know not, but then italians in the fifties would probably do that sort of thing anyway without being asked. compare this with contemporary riders who look as if they've a had one too many the night before, or even those whose facial growth would match that of gandalf the grey, and its easy to see that standards have slipped just a smidgeon.
coppi also had a tendency to wear not only appropriately tinted eyewear, but sylish, tinted eyewear that bore no resemblance to the modern style worn by the bulk of today's peloton. while that sort of thing might be perfectly acceptable under competitive circumstances, and possibly even in the throes of a weekend sportive, you really have to agree, it can look particularly naff when sat in the cofffee shop. and even more so if, like me, you occasionally stop at the newsagents to collect today's guardian on the way home.
though i mean no disrespect, the fact that rapha currently offer the ideal alternatve came as something of a surprise. i have known for some time that imperial works were intending to release a pair of cycling glasses; a few features regarding historic moments in cycling eyewear on their website rather gave the game away. but i confess the eventual release took me completely by surprise. i had expected something stylish, but nothing like that which is currently sat in a black tin on my kitchen table.
manufactured by italy's mazzuchelli and featuring their trademark acetate frames (mine are a brown tortoiseshell) the standard offering encases a pair of carl zeiss vision lenses which can be acquired in dark brown, pink or dark grey. those who have been around these parts for a year or two will realise that this provided yours truly with a slight disconnect; i require prescription lenses. thus, a regular pair of rapha glasses would undoubtedly provide me with lashings of style, but in showing this off, i'd cycle into the back of parked cars.
however, read to the bottom of the appropriate page on rapha's website and you will learn, as did i, that the glasses are compatible with prescription lenses. on receipt of the review pair, i had a word with my friendly, local optician (we have nothing so overt as specsavers or vision express on the island) who very promptly had the carl zeiss lenses removed and replaced with a tinted pair that not only matched the originals, but allow me to see where i'm going.
i'm not going to beat about the bush with this review; i have likely digressed enough already (or at least, taken my time in getting to the serious bit). these are flipping brilliant. the optics are excellent, as is the size and the wrap round ensuring that foreign objects are kept at bay throughout a ride through the agricultural estates.
though the hebrides have not been overly favoured with sunshine this summer, the practicality of wearing cycling-specific glasses has not diminished in the gloom. aside from regular weekday and saturday rides, i wore these for the ride of the falling rain, only being totally cognisant of that fact on viewing the pre-ride photographs. to my mind they look a whole chunk better than my regular rudy projects, and they have the distinct advantage of having me resemble fausto coppi into the bargain (i will broker no argument on that one; i'm right, you're wrong).
at £195 per pair they're hardly an impulse purchase. add a pair of prescription lenses into the equation and it's enough to make your eyes water. however, these are so much better than the alternatives that i genuinely figure they're worth pretty much every penny.
disagree at your peril.
saturday 8 august 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................