The Spy Alpha

I got quite the shock this past summer when I noticed during a visit to Giro’s web site that all the eyewear was gone, save a few pair of goggles. Specialized dittoed around the same time. Instantly, two of my three favorite eyewear lines had gone the route of the Dodo. Naturally, the other of my favorites, Oakley, isn’t going anywhere, but they are precisely why Giro and Specialized are out of the eyewear market. They won’t say so specifically, but that’s always the problem when you enter a market and there’s one gorilla and it weighs 12,000 pounds.

As much as I love Oakley, Giro and Specialized had become favorites because they were offering some killer lens tints that were just a bit better suited to where I live than anywhere else. The issue is that I’m on the bike early and our climate frequently includes low cloud cover, what gets referred to around here as marine layer. My taste runs to relatively light-tinted lenses, and though they let lots of light through (though not as much as a high visibility yellow or orange), they still feature a light mirror coating to keep them from looking, well, boring.

Giro did a great job with its rose silver tint. I was hyperventilating when I thought I’d never find a pair of shades with such a great lens tint again.

Enter the Spy Alpha and its rose with blue mirror tint. I like eyewear that looks like it means business, and while I like the Oakley Jawbone, it seems that’s the one shade everyone is wearing, so the Alpha is a refreshing switch for me. They are lightweight, don’t feel brittle to the touch and feature grippers that keep the shades in place without getting grabby, which is how I’ve described some glasses that have overly developed nose and ear grippers. The frames are constructed from a material called Grilamid, which I’m told is virtually indestructible.

The lenses benefit from both hydrophobic and oleophobic coatings. They hydrophobic coating repels water and helps in fog, mist and light rain, but the oleophobic coating repels oils and dust and is the one that makes rinsing sweat off of the lenses a real snap.

The Alpha also provides another really respectable service: It helps ratchet down the arms battle of eyewear pricing. It seems like the first thing to go in a crash are the glasses; I’ve seen people escape without a nick on their helmet, only to notice their lenses are scratched beyond use. At only $119, should something happen to yours, the impact isn’t quite so dear.

One aspect of Spy’s marketing materials is that they make clear just how much wrap each model gives. That is, traditional fashion eyewear doesn’t feature a wraparound look, while performance models need that in large doses in order to offer an unobstructed but protected view. Spy offers four different grades of wrap. Their fashion stuff gets a 4. In-between stuff gets a 6. Performance models come in at 8 and 9. The Alphas are an 8, very much in line with other typical performance eyewear, like the Oakley Radars.

The Alphas also feature temple vents and unlike the vents in some glasses I’ve tried over the years, the vents in the Alphas actually work. As long as I’m moving they don’t fog over, even if I’m moving slowly. I’ve worn glasses from some manufacturers that would fog during a slow roll at a stop sign.

It used to be that keeping your expensive eyewear safe was harder than trying to get through the airport with an undamaged lithograph (I know a thing or two about this). Spy offers the Commando Kit, which includes a case, three lens tints, and a carry/wipe bag. That package is a little pricier, of course, going for $159.

Spy has a dozen more technologies that I could use to try to convince you these are great glasses, but I’ve got a better way to recommend them. If you’re ready for a fresh look and a great value, check these out.

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    1. Author

      Thanks Mark. Sounds like they’re worth checking out.

      I’ve got a pair of early production shades from a Euro company on super-secret double-nought spy review that are likely to blow minds. You’ll hear more about them in November.

  1. bob

    I too share your affection for my Giro Havik;s. Along with my Jawbones and Radar’s. I have been spendig the most time with the Jawbones, one because they are comfy but two because I have two very ugly models – the retnia burns and the limited camo’s.

    I have had a pair Specialized, but they did not fit well at all.

    I have had Rudy Projects, but again, not very comfy.

  2. randomactsofcycling

    Plus one for the Rudys. Pricey but very well made and a good fit for me. I have a pair of Smith Optics that I am pretty sure are made of Grilamid. Indestructible stuff. Shame the lenses are now scratched beyond opaque.
    Is is purely a cost factor that ‘Sports’ glasses cannot come with a good quality lens? The only pair of glasses I have used for cycling with a lens I would consider ‘optical’ quality have been Julbo. And they are now next to impossible to get in Australia.

  3. s_h

    How are the Spys for it? I have a smallish face which requires a smaller pair of glasses. Lately I’ve been wearing Oakley Flackjackets, and even these may be a smidge too big when off the bike (and don’t get me started on the “scratch if you look mean at them” fragility of the lenses.

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