by AJ Barlas
A number of years ago a buddy of mine rolled up for a ride wearing a pair of glasses with yellow lenses, and as is common among our group he was lovingly mocked and given a new nickname: "Cross Country Steve." He doesn't ride cross-country, but I guess the yellow tint glasses made him look a little like an XC racer boy. The nickname didn't stick around for long and neither did the glasses (he claims to have lost them now…), but as I have gained more experience and grown wiser, I realize now that he may have been the only smart one in the group back then. He was looking after one of the vital organs that assist us day after day and are key when riding bikes, his eyes.
This winter a friend nearly lost his eye when a branch whacked him firm enough to cause damage to the muscles in his eye! Thankfully he is a strong fella, because had those muscles been weaker he would be in a much worse place. After this horrible incident and discussions among others who had similar experiences, I decided it was time to take eye protection for the trail rides more seriously. I began dragging goggles out and pulling them up onto my face whenever the trail headed down. The only problem, in addition to bugging me while around my neck, was that during extra sweaty rides they would often get foggy. And so, in search of a better solution, I became the new Cross Country Steve.
Smith has vast experience in the eyewear field. If you haven't heard of them it's possible that you may have just arrived from Mars. They're known for top quality optics and hard wearing materials, especially in their lenses. They have also been at the top in performance eyewear for some time, and the release of the PivLock V2 is their latest foray into this area. After a couple months of use in a range of conditions, it's time to report on how well the new glasses work.
PivLock V2 Highlights
- Upgraded Photochromic NXT Lenses Available
- Impact Resistant Carbonic Lens Material
- PivLock Interchangeable Lens System
- Three Position Adjustable Nose Pads
- Hydroleophobic Lens Coating
- Slide-On Temple Tips
- Hydrophilic Megol Nose and Temple Pads
- MSRP $239
- Also Available in a Larger V2 Max Size
The Smith PivLock V2 impressed me before I even took them out of the box. Yes, the packaging was cool (I'm a bit of a packaging nerd). They also come in a custom storage case that houses the glasses plus an additional three lenses. This hard case is a great little bonus and helps make it easy to take care of your investment. Lens options include the already installed clear lens, a dark 'blackout' lens, and a 'rose' photochromic lens. I also tested a second clear, photochromic lens. For those that aren't in the know, photochromic lenses get darker or lighter depending on the light conditions. The lenses are also anti-fog coated and protect from UVA/B/C rays. While the glasses themselves don't look like anything I would wear casually, they are anything but - these are a performance tool.
After scanning the directions on how the removable arms and nose piece work, I began taking them apart to see how simple it is. I was baffled. It's almost too easy. With this sort of simplicity I questioned how they would hold up and whether they would stay in place on the trail, then proceeded to swap out lenses and see how they fit with the helmet on. It's hard for me to find a pair of glasses that sit how I would like on my face (thanks to a few broken noses). The adjustable nose piece definitely helped here and is a super handy feature!
As with most Smith products, the workmanship and clarity through the 'Carbonic' impact resistant lenses was great. In fact, the clarity and lack of a frame put me off the first few rides, causing me to notice the black nose piece in my field of view. It didn't matter anyway - you forget it's there after a little while.
The clear lens has been my go-to lens, and I've used them in a range of conditions without being overly concerned for their longevity. The photochromic clear lens is a close second, often opting not to wear them when the conditions are less desirable (muddy, wet etc) in an effort to keep the lense in better condition. The rose is great too, though I prefer to keep any color adjustments out of the picture. I found the blackout lens too dark for mountain biking in the Pacific North West and Sea To Sky (where I commonly ride),thanks to the heavy tree coverage. They would work great in areas with little to no tree coverage or on a road bike.
On The Trail
It didn't take long to become accustomed to wearing the PivLock V2 glasses on the trail. Aside from the nose piece bugging me a little the first couple of rides, I often forgot they were on my face. Their minimalist design is light and offers a great, uninterrupted field of view, leaving you to get on with what you enjoy, riding your bike! The benefits are fairly obvious - you decrease your chances of damage to your eyes and no longer need to squint when flying down the trail.
In addition to protecting your eyes, the PivLock V2 glasses let you clearly see the trail coming, eliminating watery eyes on cool or dusty days and ridding almost any chance of getting dirt or mud slung up into your eye. I even had a bee bounce off the lenses one sunny afternoon! While wearing these glasses I have not had anything get in my eye, but without them I almost immediately have issues that make it difficult to see. I guess I've already become accustomed to not squinting.
Surely any glasses will protect you from most of these elements, right? Perhaps, however, the impact resistant lens of the PivLock V2 glasses create an extra comfort barrier. Knowing that the lens will not crack or shatter when a branch smacks you in the face at speed is reassuring. That, the clarity of the high end lenses, and the lack of a frame are elements that I'll admit I may not have been concerned with before, but don't think I can do without now.
The glasses have remained in place during all of my rides, even when trying to save myself during minor crashes. The adjustable nose piece helps establish a good fit, though is a set and forget element. The photochromic lens is an absolute treat, and can change from almost 100% clear to ~60% tint unbeknownst to the rider. Actually, that pretty well sums up the PivLock V2 glasses, they do their job so well you have no idea they're there!
Long Term Durability
They PivLock V2 glasses have seen action on daily trail rides, a few cross-country races, enduro stages, and even on a couple of downhill runs. During the two months I've had them I've only had one minor issue. The basic clear lens has begun to fog on hot and steamy rides, which is likely a result of cleaning the lens and gradually wiping away the anti-fog (hydroleophobic) coating. While this is unfortunate, it's somewhat expected with use, as no-one seems to have mastered this element and I'm not sure that they really can. It is a coating, after all.
The mounting hinges ('pivlock') for the arms haven't warn and seem tough enough to last the test of time. I've even dropped them multiple times and can't notice any scratches on the lens, a great attribute when you consider the number of branches and sticks you encounter as a mountain biker.
Did I mention they come with a lifetime warranty as well? Yep, lifetime warranty on defects to any part of the glasses. Pretty sound.
What's The Bottom Line?
They may not look the coolest, but as a tool the Smith PivLock V2 glasses outperform most other options out there. The ability to change lenses in seconds is makes them incredibly versatile and convenient for any ride, regardless of the conditions. Clear vision, adjustability, customization, protection, and quality materials make them hard to ignore if you're in the market for a pair of riding glasses.
For more on the Smith PivLock V2 glasses, visit www.smithoptics.com.
About The Reviewer
AJ Barlas started riding as most do, bashing about dirt mounds and popping off street curbs. Not much has changed, really. These days the dirt mounds have become mountains and the street curbs, while still getting sessioned, are more often features on the trail. He began as a shop monkey racing downhill since day zero, only to go 'backwards' and start riding and racing BMX later on. He then came full circle once moving to Whistler. AJ loves riding everything from 8 hour mountain pass epics (bonking) to lap after lap in the park and 20 minute pumptrack sessions at sunset. Driven by his passion for biking and exposing people to the great equipment we ride, AJ started and maintains the Straightshot MTB blog. So long as wheels are involved, and preferably dirt (the drier and dustier the better), life is good.