Skip to main content

The Manual may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

Review: Why Smith’s Wildcat sunglasses are must-haves for mountain biking

Find out if you should buy these Smith sunglasses

Going around a corner on a mountain bike with the Smith Forefront 2 helmet and Smith Wildcat sunglasses
Travis Reill / The Manual

If you are new to mountain biking, you may not realize the importance of protecting your eyes while you ride. Smith Optics was kind enough to show me the way, sending a pair of Smith Wildcat sunglasses to The Manual for me to test. 

This wouldn’t be my first pair of Smith sunglasses, but it would be my first time trying mountain bike or cycling-specific sunglasses from Smith. Never having had a negative experience with Smith, I was eager to get on the trails.

All told, I mountain biked exclusively using the Smith Wildcats for about six weeks. Averaging the miles, that’s well over 200, knocking at the door of 300 miles for these sunglasses. 

The Smith Wildcat sunglasses

Coming in at a whopping 140mm wide, the Smith Wildcat sunglasses provide goggle-like coverage but in sunglasses form. The Wildcats we got from Smith are the white frames with the ChromaPop Red Mirror lens.

As mentioned, the Smith Wildcats feature a ChromaPop lens. Smith claims that “ChromaPop lens technology delivers enhanced color, clarity and definition….” And, does it? Yes, but we’ll get to that later.

Diving deeper into the ChromaPop lens details, the lens has a smudge and moisture-resistant coating that Smith claims makes cleaning the lens easier. The Red Mirror ChromaPop protects from all UVA, UVB, and UVC rays while maximizing clarity and making details more precise. Smith recommends Red Mirror for use in environments where sun exposure is high. The Wildcats also come with a clear, non-Chromapop,  low-light lens that could be switched out on overcast days.

While being a larger, maximum-coverage lens, the Smith Wildcat frames have a medium fit. The frames are made from a combination of TR90 and TPU thermoplastics, boasting flexibility, strength, and comfort. The Wildcats also have an adjustable nose pad, allowing a fit regardless of how narrow or wide the bridge of your nose is. 

The Smith Wildcat sunglasses are offered in a variety of frame colors as well as lens options. Different lens options perform better in low or high-light environments, with Smith providing the information should you click on a different lens. The Smith Wildcats arrived in a stout travel case, with an additional clear lens, and a microfiber storage sleeve. This is all included for $219 from Smith’s website.

Smith Wildcat sunglasses on a Smith Forefront 2 helmet
Travis Reill / The Manual

Smith Wildcat: What I liked

There was a lot to like about these Smith sunglasses. When testing something like the Smith Wildcats, I tend to have a series of checklists. First, do the sunglasses perform the way the manufacturer claimed they would? And, secondly, do they meet my personal, perhaps nitpicky requirements?

Not to spoil the ending, but the Smith Wildcats did.

First, the frames were incredibly comfortable. They did not squeeze my head, rub on the tops of my ears, or pinch my nose. I truly forgot I had sunglasses on at times. The flexibility and durability of the frame material was put to the test as stretched them to fit in place on my Smith helmet for some road climbs. Never did I think the Wildcats might break or did I feel that I was putting too much tension on them. 

I found the adjustable nose pad on the frames to be a feature I used more than I thought. Not only was I able to make the frames sit comfortably on the bridge of my nose, I actually used the adjustment to make the top of the frames sit a bit further from my forehead. I’m always looking for mountain biking sunglasses with frames that sit away from my forehead, so sweat has a tougher time dripping on the lens. The Smith Wildcat’s frame sat a good distance away, but I utilized the nose adjustment to give even a bit more room.

And, something to not be overlooked, the Smith Wildcats stayed in place. Even when I came up short on a jump, casing the landing hard, the sunglasses didn’t budge. Impressive when considering how comfortable they are. 

While I want to emphasize the comfort of the frames, what really shined was the Red Mirror ChromaPop lens of the Smith Wildcats. Clarity and definition are the name of the game. Riding trails up here in the Northwest, the Wildcat’s performance stood out to me going in and out of the trees, sun to shadows.

I was never uncomfortable in high-light situations in the Wildcats, which, honestly, I expected. What impressed me the most was the crispness of the fast-moving trail, regardless of sun or shadows. Only once, on an unusually overcast day, did I switch to the clear lenses.

My area consists of pine forests, with quite a bit of sunlight breaking through to the forest floor. Bike trails constantly move in and out of light, and the Smith Wildcats performed phenomenally. Never once was I surprised by a rock in the shadows, never once did I feel my eyes needing to adjust to a coming back into the sun.

The performance of the lens was what impressed me the most about these Smith sunglasses. But, it is the nice little touches that also make a difference. The Wildcats fit perfectly, and stylishly, with the Smith helmet I have. There is a piece of material separating the sunglasses and the extra lens in the microfiber storage sleeve. And, damn, the Wildcats just look good.

Riding with the Smith Forefront 2 and Smith Wildcat
Travis Reill / Travis Reill

What I didn’t like

This truly is a tough one. The Smith Wildcat sunglasses are hands down the most comfortable and best-performing mountain bike sunglasses I’ve ever used. But high quality often comes at a high price, and the Wildcats are no exception. $219 is pretty steep for something I could potentially leave on my bumper and drive away from. 

My only other gripe was changing the lenses. Changing the lenses required quite a bit of hands-on work. As you can probably imagine, this resulted in lots of fingerprint smudges all over the lenses. Not a problem if I changed them at home, but a trailside change will need some cleaning afterward.

Despite these two quibbles, I’m left with an incredibly favorable overall impression of the Smith Wildcat sunglasses. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the Wildcats to friends or buy a pair myself.

Editors' Recommendations

Travis Reill
Contributor
Hi! I'm Travis, a teacher turned stay-at-home dad turned freelance writer. Mountain biking is my passion. Fortunately, I've…
3 great reasons you should never buy a used mountain bike
Buying a new mountain bike over a used one is a safer option
Four used mountain bikes lined up

There are a lot of different things to consider when you are considering getting a mountain bike. For many, the decision will ultimately come down to price. 

To save money, some may buy an entry-level mountain bike with cheaper components, intending to upgrade those components. Others turn to classified ads to find a good deal on a used mountain bike.

Read more
The 7 best mountain bike brands in 2024
A man riding a Specialized mountain bike down a difficult trail.

If you want to choose the best mountain bike of any given day or month, one of the better ways to do so is to look to great brands and see what their newest bikes are. But what brands are consistently trusted year over year? There are certainly famous bike brands like Schwinn, but nowadays we're featuring them more for things like their recumbent stationary bikes for seniors and less so for their mountain bike prowess. Instead, check out the following brands that have stand out mountain bikes on a recurring basis.
Specialized

With prices that range from the hundred to the thousands and names ranging from 'Rockhopper' to 'Stumpjumper', the Specialized line is built to endure a tough mountain or trail. While each of their mountain bikes are specialized in some way or another to take a beating on the trail, there are some features you should know about that appear time and time again. The first is their SWAT technology, which appears on their biking apparel and mountain bikes. This puts a storage pouch inside the metal frame of your bike without sacrificing frame integrity. It's perfect for your energizing snacks. The other is their 'Body Geometry' system, which designs bicycles to fit the specifics of the human body. Check out their mountain bikes by tapping the button below and you'll see a ton of information about each mountain bike's specific measurements and parameters. They really care about this stuff.

Read more
FORGE+BOND swaps hub, cuts price for revolutionary carbon fiber mountain bike wheels (almost) in half
FORGE+BOND make a huge splash - again
Forge+Bond and CSS carbon fiber manufacturing

It is no surprise that at The Manual we are big fans of Forge+Bond products. I had the privilege of spending time on the Forge+Bond 30AM wheelset and was incredibly impressed. I rode them on an aluminum and carbon fiber mountain bike and was blown away by the lateral stiffness and vertical compliance.

We were surprised, however, when Forge+Bond released a new wheel series, the Shift Series, offering Forge+Bond quality but at a fraction of the price.

Read more