One brand as good as invented the sports sunglasses market, the other has ushered in a new era for cycling. But when it comes to cutting edge performance shades, which crosses the line first?
Both Rapha’s flyweight glasses and Oakley’s EVZero Path have adopted a less-is-more approach to styling. Gone are frivolous details such as frames and in come reflective coatings. The retro nods are in abundance.
So how do the contenders compare in a head to head showdown?
Lens: Oakley Prizm road, mirrored, scratch and fog resistant. Dual iridium lens coating, combining two Prizm tints on a single toric shield. Designed for full sun.
Styling: Oakley have been producing sunglasses since 1975 and the common theme since day one has been space-cadet wacky with a heavy motocross influence. The EVzero, Oakley’s latest release, are no exception. A single lens upon which the arms and nose piece attach, they bear more of a relation to the Zero of 1993 in function and appearance and as the name suggests, look like an evolution of the style. While the lens is one piece, the illusion of a frame is given by metallic etching around the bridge and edges.
The new Green Fade Olympic edition presents the EVzero in a green and white fade-out, which when combined with the orange-pink tone of the lens mirroring gives you a pretty full-on colour combo. These are not glasses for the bashful, although other colourways are available.
There is also enough loft on the lens to allow for protected vision when head-down in a sprint - an essential element of road eyewear.
Comfort: Spot on. Seriously, you barely know they are there.
Lens: Carl Zeiss lens UV400-protective Neutral Grey / Bronze Mirror scratch resistant anti-fog
Styling: Rapha are particularly good at creating the illusion that they’ve been doing this for decades, rather than one decade, and the new Pro Team Flyweight Glasses are no exception. Quality of manufacture is second to none, even down to the packaging - they arrive enclosed in a strong metal tin along with softbag and lens wipe.
The supplied lens has a gold tint which looks stunning when reflected in sunlight. But these mirrored lenses which both the Rapha and Oakley glasses sport aren’t merely bling - the purpose is to deflect the glare of the sun, and they do this very well.
Again there is plenty of loft in the lens height to allow for decent eye coverage even when riding on the drops and styling might be considered even more space-age than the Oakleys. These are certainly not sunglasses to consider wearing off the bike and especially not to the pub, but then Rapha have the Classic glasses for that.
The lens might be bling coated but the arms are far more understated, available in black, white and Rapha pink colourways with a subtle logo to the left arm. There’s a little line of stripes above the nose which ties the glasses in with the Pro-Team collection.
Comfort: Three grams heavier than the Oakleys, which is as good as nothing and definitely not noticeable. The arms contain little rubber grippers to stop them slipping (as do the Oakleys) and there is plenty of flex in the lens to accommodate most head sizes. Two nose pieces are included and we had to change out to the smaller one. Overall incredibly comfortable due to the light weight.
Oakley beats Rapha on weight and price but you’re talking three grams and a tenner. In terms of styling, the Rapha glasses could potentially go with more outfits if that concerns you and are also suited to a wider range of face shapes.
Lens differences are minimal. The Oakley Prizm lens delivers a rose-tinted view of the world and gives everyone a tan even when they don’t have one. Clarity is superb and road hazards picked out clearly. Rapha lenses are not so warm in tone but equal Oakley in clarity and definition. Both offer high levels of scratch resistance.
If we had to choose on functionality alone it would be Oakley.
If styling were the deciding factor we’d go for Rapha.
So the winner is … Rapha. No, Oakley. No, Rapha. OK Oakley but only because you’ll have a tenner for the pub.