Bigger & Better
Oakley Sutro Review
For riders who have been looking for riding glasses that resemble a goggle lens with arms, the time has finally arrived with several strong options to choose from. The first decently sized pair of riding glasses I tried was the 100% Speedcraft, released around 2014/15. Despite their claimed dimensions, I haven't found them to offer the coverage of some recent models, like the Oakley Sutro.
If you ride with bare eyeballs, you may wonder what all the fuss is about. When your eyes are covered, stray branches, rocks, dust, and most other foreign objects are kept at bay. Until the Sutro, I had always found my vision obscured by the frame, and objects were somehow still able to get to my eyes. I often chose to ride with frameless glasses like the Oakley EVZero but the coverage was still less than ideal. Some of these problems stem from the shape of my face and nose, but it's tough to argue that increased coverage doesn’t offer more protection.
- Available with Oakley’s Prizm Lens technology
- Large lens improves peripheral vision
- Oakley’s tough O-Matter™ frame material
- No-slip nosepads
- Thin temple of arm improves clearance with helmet
- Not available for prescription lenses
- "Asian fit" available
- Optimal precision and impact resistance that meets or exceed ANSI Z80.3 optical and impact standards
- MSRP: 173 USD / 208 CAD
- Clear lens/White frame option available for 143 USD / 168 CAD
I was surprised to discover the Sutro's measurements more closely matched others I’ve been using. They’re actually 1 mm shorter than the Oakley Flight Jacket I reviewed in 2019 and according to the numbers, offer less coverage. But similar to flat pedals, I’m learning the shape has at least as much impact on coverage as the measurements themselves.
Aside from glasses like the Speedcraft, Smith Wildcat or newer models like the Shift MAG or Poc Devour – which both look like excellent large coverage options – the lens height often drops quickly as it moves away from the centre. This cuts down on coverage at the outer edges, which gives foreign matter an opportunity to exploit.
Taller lenses result in better coverage and I'm finding the taller and more square they are, the better. After spending heaps of time peering down the trail through the Oakley Flight Jacket, Jaw Breaker, and EVZeros, I can confidently say the Sutro is the best pair of Oakley glasses I’ve used. And aside from the others mentioned above, there aren’t many that provide a nice big, square lens to protect the eyes.
Slipping the Sutro on for my first descent with the clear lens, I was surprised by how unobtrusive they were and caught myself trying to find the frame for reference. This continued for a few rides until wearing the Sutro became less interesting. Finding the frame was a conscious decision and other than the lower portion, it was an exercise that stretched the muscles at the back of my eyes. When riding, I didn't notice the lower frame unless something about my front tire drew my eyes down.
I rarely climb for extended periods wearing glasses, but there were no issues with fog when I did. If I left the Sutros on after a moderate effort, a slight fog would build above the nose piece between the eyes, but it was quick to clear once they were removed or shortly after I began rolling again.
Lenses: Prizm vs Clear
As with other Oakley lenses, clarity is excellent regardless of tint. I. had a poor experience with an aftermarket lens for another pair of Oakleys, and I realized all optics are most certainly not created equal. I don’t understand the science, but wearing a pair of cheap glasses, (or knockoff lenses) doesn’t offer the same, clear vision provided by the Oakley. I've also had similar, less than optimal experiences with name-brand lenses of other similarly priced glasses in the past.
When the Sutros arrived, they had a pair of Prizm Jade lenses fitted. They looked flashy and I enjoyed the vision they provided when worn casually but they were too dark on the trail. Under the canopy, the clear lenses provide the best vision but I've enjoyed the Prizm low-light lenses from Oakley as well.
Supply chain issues have impacted the availability of some lenses, including those for the Sutro, and sourcing a Prizm low-light wasn't possible. I was able to find a clear lens and purchased that for the review. I’ve not worn another clear lens with as much clarity and combined with the large size, I’m occasionally left wondering if I forgot to slide them on before dropping. Some glasses I’ve used still need to be removed even with a clear lens in super dank lighting. The Sutro is the first pair of glasses where I haven’t needed to do that. And despite using clear lenses from many other brands, these are my first Oakleys.
The Prizm low-light lenses I've used with other frames have been fantastic and I enjoy the subtle contrast added by the technology. But there’s something to be said for the unaltered view of a good clear lens. Everything looks as it does to the naked eye but with the added protection from low-hanging branches and other trail hazards. And when it’s dark in the forest, the shift from the low-light Prizm lens cuts more light than the clear.
While large coverage eyewear choices are improving, some helmets have failed to evolve and could interfere with the top of the frame when the trail gets rough. I’m not sure if my head isn’t as stable, if helmet fitment has changed, the MIPs tech is now moving more freely, or if my longer, often cleaner hair is to blame, but the Jaw Breaker glasses and DRT5 helmet had begun arguing on the trail occasionally, leaving me to mediate the conflict. No amount of helmet or eyewear adjusting could remedy the issue without separating the two in these situations.
Moving to the Sutro stopped the occasional chatter above my brow while providing a larger lens to hide behind. The arms are longer and slimmer, which has improved stability on my head, despite there being no rubber texture across the temple. They’re also thinner and interfere less with various helmets around the ear. An example is the TLD A1, which contacts the arm of many glasses I’ve tried just behind the ear. The Giro Tyrant also fails to play well with some but fits the Sutro very well.
Despite their larger presence, the Sutro frame is more slender than other Oakleys with similarly-sized lenses. It fits better with more helmets and I’ve found them more stable when the bronco starts to buck. Best of all, the frame does a better job of hiding from view. A black frame helps, its dark colour blending with much of the riding environment.
I take the protection of glasses as seriously as a helmet when riding. Oakley’s Sutro lens is the closest I’ve come to eye protection that goes unnoticed. They’re comfortable to wear and provide plenty of protection with little flash, with a clear lens at least.
My better half also says these are the least ridiculous-looking riding glasses I have, and if the wife says, it must be. That's a bonus because for what seems like an eternity, riding glasses have been the dorkiest of dorky. Looks are subjective, but I find the crop of squarer, large coverage choices look far less silly and in my experience, they're more functional too.
More on the Oakley Sutro.