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Rudy Project Defender sunglasses review

3 Jan 2019

The Italians have gone big with the Defender glasses and we are fans, and not just because Nibali wears them

Cyclist Rating: 
• Stylish • Fail to fog up • Comfortable
• Unclipped lens while riding • Doesn't sit in helmet vents

It was September when I first spotted Rudy Project's new Defender sunglasses. I plonked myself down in front of the television and switched on Eurosport to catch up with the day's action in the Vuelta a Espana

It was the stage that Alexandre Geniez of AG2R La Mondiale won. Although you are more likely to remember Team Sky's Dylan van Baarle crashing into an official across the finish line than the victory. 

Anyway, earlier in the day, something had piqued my interest. In the day's breakaway was Vincenzo Nibali. He wasn't up to much at the Vuelta, considering he was returning from a broken back, but he had fought to get in the day's move because he is a racer and that's what racers do.

Perched on the Sicilian nose of Nibali was a new set of Rudy Project glasses. Set big against his pointed face, they were noticeably different to his usual sunglasses of choice or anything else the brand offered. They were big, bright and reminded me of Bret Hart, the old Candian wrestler with a bad attitude. I wanted a pair.

But just because four-time Grand Tour champion Nibali wore these sunglasses, doesn't mean they're up to much. After all, he is paid to wear them.

Go with the flow

I reckon Nibali is just as pleased with Rudy Project's Power Flow ventilation system as I am. A set of small holes above and below the lens which allow airflow through the glasses. 

This means that when you ride along the lens seldom gets misty. Even in wet, humid weather, like last weekend, the lens manages to remain clear when riding along regardless of speed or effort levels.

Then even when you stop, and the one-piece lens ultimately fills with your evaporated sweat and air moisture, it clears itself which is handy.

Sure beats stopping roadside to scrub your glasses against a baselayer, something I have done plenty of times with less capable glasses. Rudy Project also claims it makes you more aerodynamic, which is a nice.

Rudy Project offers the Defender glasses with its ImpactX Photochromatic lenses, which from previous experience, are outstanding. The Photochromatic lenses darken on exposure to bright lights and then clear when in darker, duller light. Like the cool specs your Grandad wears.

The transition happens almost instantly, making the lenses transferrable across the brightest summer rides and darkest winter commutes and perfect for riding in the UK, in which any ride could be met with all four seasons.

I'm also a fan of the ImpactX lens, which as Alvise from Rudy Project demonstrated by dropping an anvil onto the lenses, are practically unbreakable. Shatterproof at the very least.

As with all sunglasses worth their salt, you can also interchange the lens which you can do by just quickly unclipping the lower rims and popping out the lens. As simple as any system I've dealt with but not without its flaw.

While it was easy to unclip, it was also a little flimsy and at times too easy to unclip. So much so that when I took them off mid-ride to wipe my brow the lens popped out by itself, leaving the sunglasses in pieces as I rolled along. Something I'm sure Vincenzo wouldn't appreciate. 

Customisability is not just reserved for the lenses as Rudy Project has also been generous enough to create an adjustable nose pad and temple tips.

The soft nose pads are malleable and can be moulded to any nose fit which is both comfortable and provides good grip, stopping the glasses sliding down the nose. 

The system also allows you to adjust how far the glasses are from your face, something experimented with by Oakley and its Flight Jackets, which not only helps with the aforementioned misting but also allows almost any user find the optimum position of comfort and adjust depending on the helmet you wear. I like mine close to the face.

Unfortunately, one thing you cannot adjust is the arms of the sunglasses that hook towards the tips.

While it keeps the glasses firmly in place around the ears it makes an awkward shape that wouldn't slot into the helmet vents of my Kask helmet. Annoying, because I'm partial to sliding my shades into my lid when I climb.

Stylistically, the Defender glasses are bang on trend and not just in cycling. This Summer, a pair of Oakley shades hit the New York runway as part of Alexander Wang's Spring/Summer 2019 collection while a set of Rudy Projects made the Parisian runway.

Even the likes of Kim Kardashian and Rihanna are wearing cycling sunglasses.

Big and brash, a throwback to the 1980s when the likes of LeMond and Hampsten rode around in Oakleys that were more ski goggle than cycling sunglasses, the Defenders are cool.

This isn't to everyone's liking, and I get that, but I'm personally a fan and I, for one, think the Defender glasses are stylish, especially on my massive face. Small glasses usually amplify how big my head is.

Rudy Project has also released the Defender in 10 different colourways meaning that even the pickiest Peter in the playground should have one colour they like.

The Rudy Project Defender sunglasses are a good bit of kit and if the glaring issues of the lens popping out and being able to fit in my helmet were solved, I'd go as far as to say they are exceptional. After all, if they are good enough for Vincenzo...

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