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.
Coming in at a whopping 140mm wide, the 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.
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.
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.
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