Do you need eyewear when you ride? Sure. Sunglasses help make your eyes more comfortable by reducting brightness and glare. But even when it's not bright daylight, you still want glasses to protect your eyes from junk flying up and to keep them from drying out. And good glasses will help you even in low-light conditions.
Can this be accomplished with $300 glasses? Certainly. Can a pair of $7 cheapies from the gas station do it too? Perhaps, but the answer is likely best found somewhere in the middle, and this is where eyewear maker Tifosi looks to find its market.
Tifosi looks to find its market
Tifosi Optics is a mid-range eyewear maker targeting the outdoor enthusiast, whether that is cycling, golf, tennis or some other sport where good vision is important. In these situations, there are three features that sunglasses need: quality of optics; fit/comfort; and durability. (I'd say fashion style and look may be a close cousin to that group, but given some of the ugly things that people put on their faces (see the Oakley Jawbone, for instance), for some cyclists, function and performance will surprisingly trump appearance. But I digress.)
With that in mind, Georgia-based Tifosi Optics was founded in 2003 to meet a need for a technologically advanced, value-oriented eyewear brand in the sport market. Their position is that sunglasses don't need to cost $300 to meet and exceed the expectations of the most demanding cyclists. We had the chance to try out some of Tifosi's cycling-styled eyewear to see if their aim to deliver quality, affordable eyewear for the active outdoor enthusiast carries out in real life. Here's what we found.
When you check out Tifosi's product line, you'll notice quickly that the frames are designed for active, aggressive use, not for sitting around the library. The metal frame glasses, for instance, feature a rugged nickel titanium construction. This alloy has a memory feature that allows the glasses to return to their original shape when strained.
Other Tifosi frames, including the Tyrant glasses pictured with this review, have a two-part frame design to maximize strength. The front of the frame is made of ultra-tough Grilamid TR-90, which is characterized by its high bending strength. The temples are lightweight but very strong injected aluminum. The majority of Tifosi frames are made of the Grilamid TR-90, which has proven itself tough enough in our wear through day-to-day testing to survive being dropped, sat on, stepped on, etc.
The glasses fit comfortably, with designs that wisely stick with the sleek and angled look, vs. the big and boxy or round designs that are coming into vogue. Adjustable temple and nose pieces plus the stay-fit ear pad allow you to create the perfect fit, and the hydrophilic construction helps hold tight even when you're sweating. They range toward the smaller side; you may want to check fit precisely if your face/head size runs to the larger end of the spectrum.
Good Optical Quality and Lens Coloration
Tifosi glasses, particularly in the style most likely to appeal to cyclists, come as packaged either in a single-lens or multi-lens set-up. The Tyrant multi-lens model -- "interchangeable" as Tifosi calls the category -- which we tested, comes with three lenses: clear, smoke (gray) and AC red. These are good choices, fitting most all riding conditions. (There's a golf option, too, featuring a slightly different color package, with a lens that enhances the look of the ball against the green turf and another lens for golfers like me to help spot all the balls that have flown into the water hazard.)
The lenses themselves are shatter-resistant polycarbonate, with glare reducer and 100% UVA & UVB protection. They consistently offered good optical clarity in all lens options we tried out with no curves or distortions, and demonstrated durable wear/scratch resistance over the life of our use.
Fototec Lens Options
Tifosi's "Fototec" glasses are sold with lenses that adjust automatically as light conditions change. You can either get these in a complete pair of sunglasses as a single-lens set-up, or order the Fototech lenses separately, and include them in the choices you have for your interchangeable set of glasses.
I particularly like the Fototec lenses for my commuting needs. The lenses make themselves very light in the morning to match low-light conditions or overcast skies, but then darken for the late afternoon trip home when the sun is shining fully. Called "light night", the lens darkening property goes from 27% to 85% coloration, from clear base to smoke tint -- as the brightness of the light increases. For a more specific idea, you can check out Tifosi's pretty neat tool that shows the lens action here and how they change with the brightness of the sun.
All in all, these Tifosi glasses are quality eyewear at a palatable price. High end optics and fit, with a ruggedness and durability that you'll be pleased with. Plus all Tifosi eyewear comes with a lifetime warranty and includes a hardshell storage case & microfiber cleaning bag.