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Shimano S-Phyre Glasses

Photos Deniz Merdano
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Testing glasses in the PNW in the winter is very different than during a sunny summer. One is mud, day-light that never seems to reach more than 40% and fog, while the other is dust, tan-lines and glare. I got to test the Shimano S-Phyre (CE-SPHR2-OR) glasses with the Ridescape CL (clear) and OR (rose) lenses this “spring.” Both lenses were versatile for our current climate, which seems hell bent on ignoring that it's now April.

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S-Phyre with the clear lens and a generous amount of coverage

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very little frame obstruction in your field of view

The S-Phyres come stock with two lenses, one frame, one nose piece and two rubber nose pads (one smaller, one larger) and retail at $220 Cdn. My pair came with Clear and off-road lenses and a bright metallic blue frame, but there are other frame colours available including a matte black or matte white if you prefer to keep it a bit more classic. Lenses are designated by use: off-road, gravel, pavement, and all come with a spare clear lens.

The glasses are quite light at 29 grams. Size-wise, I have a wide head and I like lots of eye coverage so I usually wear the Smith Wildcats. The S-Phyres offer slightly less coverage but they aren't far off. I liked the size and amount of coverage on my face; it shielded me from most trail splatter except the occasional piece which snuck under the lens from the bottom. I experience the same thing with my Wildcats and I don’t see much of a way around this unless the lens was much tighter to my face - but then there would likely be fogging issues.

The frame is a straight line with rubberized arms for grip and the lenses are fully magnetic. When the arms are open, the lens is secured by magnets in the top left and right corners of the frame, with a slight overlap of the arms onto the frame. With the arms closed, the frame is secured only by the magnetic connection. The concept with the magnets is that riders can switch lenses in changing light conditions quickly and easily. This is true, except that there is only one nose piece included which is not magnetic and so the nose piece must be manually switched from lens to lens. The nose piece is a bit stiff and delicate to change and I found I needed to grab the lens with my fingers while pinching the nose piece to get it off. Unfortunately the nose piece has small arms that hold the rubber pads in place which are easily bent, so when pinching the nose piece to remove it, its also possible to bend those tiny little arms quite easily. I’m concerned that with a few too many bends, they might break off. I like the concept of the magnetic lens, but I think to fully take advantage of this feature, a second nose piece should be included.

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The clear lens is great for winter PNW conditions and really helped me see that I didn't want to ride up this hill

The CL (clear) lens, which I wore the most, is “cloudy-tuned” to boost light transmittance for better performance in dark, cloudy, and wet riding situations. The CL lens has 82% light transmission and also has an anti-reflection coating if you use it in situations where you might have light glare such as night commuting or nightriding.

The OR (Rosy) Off-Road-tuned lens is designed to be used in mixed-light conditions when a rider may be riding in and out of the shade. The tint is said to reduce glare from the spots of sun and sharpen visual awareness of trail surfaces (rocks, soil, sand) and obstacles (roots, stumps, gaps). The OR lens has 35% light transmission.

Shimano has put quite a bit of effort into developing its own riding lenses and it shows. The Ridescape lenses are designed for different light conditions and are tuned to emphasize colors and highlight the objects and surfaces unique to the riding environments the lenses are intended for (i.e. offroad, gravel, pavement).

RIDESCAPE lenses are made from a lightweight polyamide (PA) substrate, said to offer excellent light transmittance (a “low refractive index”) for clear and sharp optics (also known as a “high Abbe value” if you’re a light transmission nerd). The lenses have anti-scratch and repellent coatings on each side. Repellent coatings on the lenses included with the S-Phyre are designed to repel oils and water and reduce fingerprint smudges and lens stains.

After riding through mud and grit for over two months, the lenses still look almost new. They are highly resistant to scratches and rarely got foggy or smudgy from fingerprints. The clear lens really did help “sharpen” my vision and I felt like it cut the light just enough so that on bright days it softened the UV exposure to my eyes without making the trails any darker. Even though we’ve had a pretty wet and cold spring, the OR lenses were excellent on the brighter days we’ve had. They gave me enough protection in the sunny spots and a bit of extra protection on road climbs but still performed beautifully in the trees or dipping in and out of shade. I found they were a bit dark for dusky rides or very overcast days, but the clear lenses were perfect in those situations.

The durability of the lens is also important because I accidentally dropped or knocked the lens off a few times due to the magnetic attachments. The convenience of the magnetic system is also its downfall. There were times I would pull the lens only off my glasses when I was trying to stash and remove the glasses from my helmet mid-ride. That's a frustrating feature of the glasses; when both arms are open, the arms help hold the lenses on, but if even one arm is bent, only the magnets are on patrol.

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The quality of these lenses gives lots to smile about!

In all, the lenses are the bomb, but to take advantage of the magnetic system properly, Shimano needs to stock the glasses with two nose pieces so each lens can be ready to go. Otherwise, you still have a frustrating manual change of the nosepiece that needs to happen to switch lenses. If each lens had its own nose piece, then the rider could experience a seamless transition with no touching of the lens – a dream! I didn’t see an option to purchase a second nose piece on a Shimano small parts website, but I also didn’t reach out to Shimano to ask for a second nose piece. That said, I loved the Ridescape lenses and I found them far superior to the lenses I currently use (Smith), both in terms of clarity and durability. Even though I find the magnetic system a bit frustrating, the quality of the Ridescape lenses will have me reaching for these glasses over and over.

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I love the caption on that 'climbing' photo! Do you know what it is about these that makes them retail at over twice as much as the Shimano Technium glasses? At first glance they seem a much better buy to me, assuming the lenses are made of the same stuff.



Mountain bike -specific apparel is all overpriced, but is there anything more overpriced than riding glasses? How are these in any way better than $20 generic safety glasses? You can even get those $20 glasses with cheater reading inserts for old eyes like mine


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