In Any Light: Shimano S-Phyre Eyewear

In Any Light: Shimano S-Phyre Eyewear

One of the upsides to moving from Southern California to Northern California is that the sun isn’t quite as bright. You don’t need quite so much sunscreen and you don’t need your glasses to be quite so dark.


(There’s always a however in life, right? I mean, sure, there are exceptions like the love of your kids, but few other things are as perfect.)

So, however. The however being, in this particular case the fact that while bright sun on my road rides may not be as bright as it used to be, I ride roads paved and unpaved and singletrack trails where the light can be all but eclipsed by Redwoods that make telephone poles seem Lilliputian. I mean, I’m not even sure how many F-stops that would be on my camera. In the case of mountain biking I’m betting the range is on the order of F 2.8 to F 16, a change of so many orders of magnitude that I have to refer to arcane camera terminology to describe it.

The upshot to this is that I’ve become an enormous fan of photochromic lenses. I need lenses that change and change a lot and do it quickly. Transitions lenses can take 20 seconds. After investing in a pair of Oakleys with Transitions lenses a few years ago I sold them after running off the trail when they didn’t change quickly enough.

Among the many things Shimano does well (can you imagine if they started making laptops?), they do eyewear, and they do it well. Why their eyewear hasn’t caught on the way their footwear has baffles me.

As part of their S-Phyre line, Shimano has just introduced new eyewear. I’ve previously reviewed their eyewear because they have done photochromic lenses that worked very well and changed quickly. I’ve been wearing the new S-Phyre R. These are frameless and offer terrific peripheral vision, which I want when I’m doing road and gravel rides.

The kit that I have came with three lenses: polarized grey red (which has a bluish tint), clear and photochromic clear. For road riding in places with bright light that won’t be hidden by trees, the polarized grey red is a terrific lens. The clear is good for bad weather and riding at dawn or dusk. However (there’s that word again), I use the photochromic clear exclusively.

In addition to the three lenses, there’s a carrying case, an XL nose pad, and a protective bag that you can use to wipe the lens.

At its clearest, the photochromic lens lets 86 percent of the light through, while at its darkest it lets only 24 percent of the available light reach your eyes, and this change will elapse in as few as eight seconds.

Changing lenses isn’t the most intuitive process. It requires pulling the earpiece down slightly, then out and up. Once snapped into place there’s no chance of an accidental separation.

Shimano’s first photochromic lenses had one flaw that limited their use: they had no hydrophobic coating, so in rain, or even mist, the glasses were rendered useless in mere moments. The S-Phyre R lens has a new hydrophobic coating which will make them my go-to for riding in the rain, which is supposed to happen later this week.

Final thought: I wouldn’t mind having these in readers.


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  1. Aar

    I wonder how much of Lazer’s lens technology Shimano is leveraging in these? I use their crystal photochromic lenses for night/dawn/dusk rides and their melanin photochromic lenses for daytime rides. Their Magneto system is an acquired taste that works for me. IMHO, the best kept secret in cycling eyewear. I hope Shimano’s purchase of Lazer results in more innovative products across the board and better marketing/distribution for Lazer. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen any new product announcements since the acquisition.

  2. Tominalbany

    Padraig, What is the impact of ‘strobing’ from sun flitering through trees? Does it leave the lenses darker?

    Also, have you ridden in the dark with the clear? I commute and, during the shorter days, the entirety of my ride will be in the dark while, the ride home will be in all daylight. This could be what I’m looking for. I currently use clear safety glasses for those rides and deal with the brightness on the ride home.

    1. Author

      Strobing hasn’t been an issue. Because the change takes eight seconds (their measurement, not mine, but it seems accurate), a moment of bright sunlight won’t to anything. One interesting phenomenon I’ve experienced with all photochromic lenses is that if you wear them with a helmet that casts any amount of shadow on the lens (particularly susceptible with visors), the portion of the lens in the shadow will stay lighter. It’s a bizarre phenomenon that can actually be pretty helpful when you dive into the trees.

      For your commute, I’d totally use the photochromic lens. It’s roughly as clear as the clear lens in dark conditions. I rarely use a clear lens because photochromics are just so much more cooperative with changing conditions.

  3. Andrew

    I have a pair of the Lazer’s you reviewed here a while back. Excellent lens, problematic metal frame. I have a lot of trouble getting them unbent to fit my head properly. Current fave are the Rudy Projects photochromic- very fast, very comfortable. I got them from Europe for half price.

  4. Les.B.

    Just as an FYI for people on the market for eyewear, Tifosi makes a couple of lenses that are both polarized and photochromatic. I don’t know if anyone else does that, Tifosi is the only one I know of.

  5. Author

    Hi All, I don’t much like to have to do this, but this is a reminder that the conversation needs to stay focused on the product reviewed, not some other product you feel is superior. We’ve had problems in the past with representatives of other companies writing reviews of their products in our comments and for that reason, we need to be consistent in our reminder to everyone to talk about the product at hand. Thanks for your understanding.

    1. concernedloop

      How is this a concern, unless you are receiving compensation for the review? Why do you think this content restriction is otherwise necessary?

    2. Author

      I’m not being paid for this or any other review. Like I wrote above, I’ve had representatives from other companies, commenting as if they were ordinary readers, write about how the product I’d just reviewed was total crap but this other widget from Brand Z was much, much better, but never let on that they represented Brand Z. The comments section needs to focus on the matter at hand, for that reason, as well as because readers deserve to know on behalf of whom an opinion is offered, and also because we don’t want the comments to go completely off the topic—we’ve had people decide to write treatises on the nature of man. So, the dictum is, let’s just stick to the topic at hand.

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