Rapha’s Flyweight glasses equal heavyweight style

In the beginning, there were goggles. Military-style flying goggles made of glass and leather, designed to protect the riders’ eyes from dust … and judging from the photos of the era, the discarded cigarette butts of their rivals, too.

Then, came Fausto Coppi, when stylish offerings by Persol and Rayban gave the peloton some Hollywood sheen. This was surely cycling’s Peak Fashion: an age of slicked-back hair, slender steel bicycles and elegant wool jerseys in block colors.

The ’80s were still an innocent time, when Greg LeMond and his Oakley Eyeshades seemed modern and fun, before we knew what genuine sartorial sin really looked like. If only we could have stopped the clock then, before Mario Cipollini and Marco Pantani, with their garish Brikos. Before the dawn of Oakley’s “Over The Tops,” perhaps the most aptly named piece of kit in cycling history.

Alas, it was another disgraceful decade before the sport’s purveyors of ocular apparel got their collective shit together. Before a word like “cool” ever applied to your riding wardrobe.

Of course, fashion is transient, and we might well wretch when we look at all of our cycling selfies 10 years from now, but it’s hard not to look at a pair of POC DO Blades or Oakley Jawbreakers and think that they’ll still have a certain air of retro charm for the next generation.

They will be second place however, at least in this guy’s opinion, to Rapha’s Pro Team Flyweights, which manage to combine some retro charm with uber-modern styling and high-quality materials into one of the raciest, boldest eyewear options on the market.

The Carl Zeiss lens is made in Italy and coated with a protective treatment, making it scratch resistant and easy to clean. They usually look great, even after a long, grubby ride. And there’s a selection of five different styles, covering every conceivable weather condition.

For the racers, their svelte 25-gram weight will appeal. The way they sit, and their frameless lens design, makes it easy to forget you’re wearing them. They’re also super aero (if that’s your thing), and after a few months’ worth of testing in rain and shine, I can say they are excellent at staying clear, free of fog, and dispersing water. But all of that is secondary, because they look awesome, especially with the standard, bronze mirror lens. And isn’t that all we really care about anyway?

Not exactly cheap at $220, but that’s the ballpark cost of high-end shades these days. There is only one problem: The hard case comes with a space for two extra lenses. Damn the budget – those spots must be filled. And if you’ll excuse the pun, I already have my eyes on a couple.


Rapha Classic: Sunglasses That You Can Wear On and Off the Bike

Rapha Classic sunglasses. Photo: Colin O'Brien/Element.ly
Rapha Classic sunglasses. Photo: Colin O’Brien/Element.ly.

Let’s get one thing out of the way right now. These shades have handmade Italian frames and Carl Zeiss lenses, wrapped up in a sexy Rapha package. They were never going to be cheap.

But then, that’s ok, because if we’re honest, nothing is cheap these days. Especially not the pretty stuff. And if you go for the pink lens version–the only choice, if you ask this guy–you’ll have a nice rose-tinted outlook on the world that should distract you from your empty wallet.

Designed with a classic aesthetic and available in three colours–brown, black and the left-field grey/pink–the Rapha Classic range is inspired by sunglasses of old, but updated enough to function perfectly in today’s peloton.

Rapha Classic sunglasses. Photo: Colin O'Brien/Element.ly
Photo: Colin O’Brien/Element.ly.

The Carl Zeiss lenses are deep and curved, offering good coverage, and are coated with some things with complicated names that prevent fogging and smudges and offer 100% UV protection. The acetate/wire frame is made by Mazzucchelli, a firm outside of Milan with more than 160 years experience in the plastics industry. The design is robust and comes with well-placed, discrete rubber grips to stop slippage.

Rapha’s little foray into eyewear are a well-made, understated option for anyone looking for some premium shades. They won’t be to everyone’s taste because they’re not quite sporty enough for the try-hard weekend warrior, and unlike a lot of the competition, they don’t come with interchangeable lenses.

In the pro column, the build-quality is second-to-none and the understated design is stylish enough to wear off the bike without drawing any disapproving glances. And for those of us who’ve always thought we looked like tools wearing aggressively outdoorsy sunglasses, they’re a must have.


Hate Wearing Sunglasses? Spy Optic’s Daft Are For You

Spy Optic Daft sunglasses
Photo: Jim Merithew/Element.ly

For more than 30 years, technology has always sharpened my vision. Some kind of mechanical device has held a corrective lens in front of my eyes. I always know they are there. I can see the shadow of the rims in my periphery, or I can feel the contact lenses on my cornea. Rarely do I forget that something is resting on my face.

Riding bicycles now, even without prescription correction, I need to shield my contacts from the wind in my face, from gravel thrown by passing cars, and well, to look the part of a cyclist. Sometimes they pinch my ears or collect sweat droplets from my brow. They are always there. Ubiquitous. Glasses.

But every so often, a pair of glasses comes along that makes me forget all of that. Glasses so light that my nose is freed from the constant pressure on my bridge. Lenses so clear and sharp that I see the finer undulations in the trail, and better, stay away from the jagged granite teeth that can eat my tires. Ear pieces that grip without slip. Ventilation that keeps my brow dry but does not blow-dry my contact lenses.

Faces are like opinions. We all have them. Some ugly. Some fresh. Some weathered by years of experience, but rarely one-size-fits-all. Well, this slightly weathered face found a pair of riding glasses that made me forget that I was supposed to be writing a “review.”

How Daft. Perhaps that is why Spy Optic named them as such.