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Smith Attack Max Performance sunglasses review

21 Jun 2018

A perfect pair of cycling sunglasses, the Smith Attack Max prove there is more to like than just Oakley

Cyclist Rating: 
• Excellent ChromaPop lens • Good coverage • Smart lens swap • Look good
• Expensive, but even that's harsh

I still remember when Wahoo released its Elemnt GPS cycling computer in 2016. The American company was pretty clear in its aims to challenge Garmin's stranglehold as the big players in the bike computer market.

Fast forward two years and Wahoo has three iterations of the Elemnt to choose from, and they're being used by riders from two WorldTour teams, including three-time world champ Peter Sagan – with hordes of devotees now proclaiming Wahoo the new King of cycling computers. Garmin is dead, long live Wahoo.

In many ways American sunglasses brand Oakley is in a similar position to Garmin. Yes, there is greater competition in the sunglasses market, including the likes of European brands Ekoi and Rudy Project and new brand 100%, but Oakley rules supreme. 

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The majority of pros (though not Sagan, ever the hipster) for the past couple of decades have worn Oakleys and, like we always do, us amatuers have followed.

For the past month or so, however, I have been using Smith's Attack Max sunglasses and while I don't know if Smith has made the kind of bold claims Wahoo did a couple of years ago, the point remains: if it can repeat what it has done with the Attack Max Performance glasses across its range, then Oakley has a serious challenger on its hands.

Respect is deserved 

Before going any further, it should be said that I have absolutely no problem with Oakley. In fact, I own a pair of Oakley Jawbreakers which were bought for me for my 21st birthday.

I remember that was the only thing I wanted actually wrapped up and handed to me. I decided to go for a custom paint job of red, white and blue. It was 2015 after all and we were still allowed to like Sir Wiggo. If they hadn't been gifted to me, chances are I would have wasted some of my student loan on buying them myself.

To this day, they are still my go-to set of shades for any ride and they're what I wear on 90% of test rides here for Cyclist.

But it's nonetheless refreshing and exciting to see a new brand produce a product that grabs the attention as firmly as the Attack Max Performance glasses do.

What makes them so special? Two things mainly – lens performance and interchangeability. 

Poppin' colour

Let's start with lens performance, and more specifically – ChromaPop. Despite sounding like some kind of niche off-shoot of K-Pop, ChromaPop has nothing to do with music. Its the technology behind the two lenses Smith provides with a pair of Attack Max sunglasses. 

What ChromaPop claims to do is help define the difference between blue and green and green and red, colours that our eyes struggle to distinguish. ChromaPop supposedly filters the two wavelenghts of light that cause this confusion and therefore helps provide better definition and clarity by doing so.

Of course any cyclist sunglasses manufacturer would claim that its lenses do this, but with Smith, as far as I'm concerned it genuinely has.

For more on the Smith Attack Max sunglasses check its website here

Take the ChromaPop Sun Red Mirror lens provided with the pair tested. Its 15% visible light transmission rating is a dark lens and perfect for the sunny days of summer sportives or trips to Mallorca.

While eveything appears brighter and clearer, the sunlight is prevented from getting to your eyes and I wasn't forced into squinting to protect myself. They were particularly impressive when riding in that dulled, bright light of a cloudy day.

Even when the sun is not visible, its rays are nonetheless beaming through the light layer of cloud and illuminating the sky, often making it more difficult on the eye than a cloudless day. On this ride, I found the dark lens to be particularly useful where previous competitors had struggled.

With every set of Smith Attack Max sunglasses comes a second set of lenses, the ChromaPop Contrast Rose Flash lens. These have a 48% light transmission which is suited to low light, overcast days, something we have in abundance in the UK.

Swapping over to the rose tinted shades, I was left with a rosy opinion as the lighter lenses adjusted well to sudden changes in light from the breaking of the cloud to the sudden darkness of an underpass while also clarifying objects to sight which could have been hard to make out on a grey day.

Both lenses were also impressive in defending themselves from the drenching my sodden forehead often gives sunglasses. With rimless glasses, I often find sweat pouring down on to the shades causing fogging on both sides of lens. Usually, I will have to stop and give them a wipe on my jersey.

Additionally, the lens is sizeable, enough to cover your whole range of view unless you peer through your eyebrows. This keeps wind from your eyes and allows you to stay shielded despite where you look, particularly useful when looking back over a shoulder.

But with Smith treating both its lenses with a hydrophobic coating, I found this not to be an issue per se, and kept me from having to stop mid-effort to see again.

The lighter lenses do not perform fantastically well in direct sunlight, granted, but that's why you are provided with two lenses and the method of swapping from one to the other is pretty smart.

Six second lens change

Which leads me onto the next thing that got me so excited about the Smith Attack Max sunglasses – the ease in which you can change the lens. 

As mentioned, I have Jawbreakers which have interchangeable lenses and I have used the Lazer Walter glasses which again can be changed around. To change the lens on these rimmed shades is quite cumbersome and if anything feels quite forceful.

On the Smith Attack Max sunglasses, these worries are taken away. 

Both arms can be unclipped through the magnetic clasps on the side of the lens being pinched while the nose bridge just pulls off. To refix them you simply push the arm into place and it clicks back in.

Despite such an easy, care-free assembly I wasn't in fear of the arms coming off as the magnets are strong and there is nothing for the glasses to be caught on.

This means, after a day's practice, I could swap from dark to light lens in six seconds. Much easier and neater than my Jawbreakers.

This clever method also gives you the option of having interchangeable lenses on a set of rimless sunglasses, something that we don't usually see.

Take the Oakley EVZero glassses, a rimless option. You cannot change lenses. Yes, there are 25 different lens options but you can only use one per set of glasses.

This means I get the benefits of a set of sunglasses without rims which are lighter and do less to obstruct field of vision while also having the bonus of being to adapt my lens dependant on the day's weather.

Cost-effective competitor 

At £199 they're certainly not cheap, and the price would probably be enough to mark these sunglasses down in many people's estimations. 

Comparatively, you could get Oakleys for £60 less and a similar pair from Ekoi at a whopping £140 less. But realistically, you don't get one pair of sunglasses for £200 with Smith, you get two.

I know many people who have invested in two sets of Oakleys so that they can be worn across all 12 months of the year. They reached deep into their pockets and expended north of £300 for that privilege, so when this is considered, £199 could be deemed reasonable.

While I think Smith is someway off of raising the heartbeats in Oakley HQ, I do think the current cycling shade kings should be taking notice. The Smith Attack Max sunglasses uses very impressive technology and it will not be long till others cotton on.

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