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Oakley Plazma photochromic sunglasses review

7 Jan 2022

A homage to Geraint Thomas from this retro-inspired Oakley Plazma photchromic sunnies

Cyclist Rating: 
Excellent lens quality for multiple conditions • Comfortable
Smaller lenses provide less protection from elements • Made me look like Bono

The Oakley Plazma photochromic sunglasses are a homage to the American brand’s iconic Racing Jackets made famous by PR nightmare Geraint Thomas.

Whatever contractual pressures there may have been, the Welsh Tour de France winner has shown unwavering loyalty to the infamous white rimmed Oakleys throughout his career. No matter how many times he lost a pair over the side of a mountain after an untimely crash, he would always reappear at the start of the next stage or race in a fresh pair of Racing Jackets, long after Oakley had switched its focus to newer designs.

So by way of a mark of appreciation, Oakley designed its new Plazma sunglasses, an almost like-for-like replica of the Racing Jacket just with Oakley’s newest and fanciest technology and one of the few cycling sunglasses fighting the good fight of normal-sized shades.

Look through the peloton, or any weekend club ride, and it will be awash with riders like Mathieu van der Poel and Peter Sagan wearing ski goggle-esque shades that would make even Elton John baulk at their extravagance.

The irony here is that for me, personally, I am unashamedly pro huge sunglasses. I have a large head and I consider a big set of sunglasses to offer the same effect as wearing an oversized t-shirt to hide any unwanted timber.

Despite that, I quite like the understated, streamline approach of the Plazma sunglasses. Understated, retro, they gave me the essence of a early 2000s Belgian Classics powerhouse who always seemed one size too big for his bike, something I personally aspire to.

One thing I could not get away from was how much the Plazmas made me look like Bono from U2. Go watch the video for their hit ‘The Sweetest Thing’ here and you’ll see what I mean. It’s all I could think whenever I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror.

Issue is I don’t really like U2 or Bono. I don’t know him personally but I just get bad vibes. If a set of cycling sunglasses were going to make me look like a rockstar, I’d much rather Elvis
Costello or Lenny Kravitz.

Plus, on a more technical note, having worn large lensed glasses for so long, I’ve become so used to the protection they offer from the elements. Wind and rain was no match for the giant piece of plastic often shielding my eyes. The narrower Plazmas sometimes proved penetrable and nobody wants simultaneously dry and wet eyes, do they?

It’s a shame because, in terms of lens performance, these Plazmas are outstanding. Oakley uses its HDO ('high definition optics') technology and here offers photochromic lenses which, in layman’s terms, are lenses that will adjust the amount of light allowed through to the eye depending on how bright conditions are. I’ve used various photochromic lenses before and these are among the best, if not the best.

The speed of transition is lightning fast from clear to dark, and I found the claimed minimum 23% light transmission to be plenty dark for those blindingly light winter rides. The Plazmas were in fact the perfect partner for the awful weather we experienced this festive season.

It's also worth noting that if photochromic lenses are not your thing, you can also pick up the Plazmas with Oakley’s Prizm lens which comes in a variety of light transmissions too.

I found the Plazmas to be very comfortable. They sat securely on my face, locked in by the Unobtainium nose grips and earsocks, but they weren't tight or restrictive and they didn’t leave dents on the side of my head or the bridge of my nose after long periods of use.

Then there's the price. ‘£139 (RRP) for a piece of plastic’ I hear you cry. I know, the markup must be phenomenal, but somebody’s got to foot the bill for all of those Racing Jackets Geraint is losing over the side of Alpine mountains.


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