Monday, November 11, 2013

Gear Review: Tifosi Podium XC

A little while ago, I reviewed the Tifosi Slip. Tifosi fills a niche as a budget-performance sunglass company, with most of their offerings falling between $50 and $80. I've always considered them a great value, bang-for-your-buck company, since they're less than half the price of similar products from companies like Oakley and Smith, yet they're still high quality products (though perhaps not quite as solid feeling as their far more expensive brethren). My parents both wear Tifosi, and I tend to wear the Slip whenever I'm doing something where I want sunglasses but am afraid of breaking my expensive Oakley Flak Jackets (mountain biking comes to mind), or whenever I want something other than the really dark Flak Jacket lenses (replacement Oakley lenses are ridiculously expensive). Today I'll be reviewing the Tifosi Podium XC.

Tifosi Podium XC with Clarion Blue lens side view

The Tifosi Podium XC is a frameless pair of shield-style sunglasses. At 27 grams, they're extremely lightweight (just 2 grams heavier than the Slip, and far lighter than the Flak Jacket, which I can't find a weight for). The earpieces of the crystal blue Podium are gloss black with a transparent blue stripe. The blue is a little plastic-y looking up close, but from a distance, they're a really attractive pair of sunglasses (I'd assume the matte colors suffer less from the up-close plastic appearance, judging by other Tifosi sunglasses I've seen and used). The Podium XC is a medium-size pair of sunglasses that fit a variety of face sizes and shapes, and isn't so huge that it drowns smaller faces like some of the larger shield-style sunglasses that I've seen. It's a unisex design that can appeal to both men and women. The rubber ear and nose pieces are supposedly adjustable, but I couldn't figure out how to bend them and have them stay that way rather than just going back to their original position. Nevertheless, they are comfortable and stay on my face without bouncing around, so I guess in the end it doesn't matter unless you normally have problems with getting sunglasses to stay on your face. Also, they come with both a hard case and a soft case (that doubles as a lens cloth) to safely store both the sunglasses and extra lenses.

Tifosi Podium XC indoor sweat test

To see how the Podium XC dealt with sweat, I headed indoors to the bike trainer (a little too cold out to really do a sweat test outdoors). Anyone who's spent any time on a bike trainer knows that you sweat a ridiculous amount on stationary bikes. The Podium XC performed very well...the rubber ear and nose pieces remained tacky enough that the sunglasses didn't slip at all, and I didn't get any fogging despite keeping my window open to try to create as much of a temperature differential of inside the glasses by my face versus outside the glasses as possible.

The Podium XC's frameless design makes for (mostly) unobstructed vision. The nose piece is situated such that I saw that, but other than that, there's no plastic to deal with above or below the frames. Also, considering that they're smaller than many other frameless designs, the Podium XC has good coverage for its size.

The Podium XC is available with a variety of different lens combinations, which include their Clarion Blue (14.7% light transmission) and Clarion Purple (17.1% L.T.), Light Night Fototec (photochromic 75.9-27.7% L.T.), Smoke (15.4% L.T.), Golf/Tennis (16.4% L.T.), Extreme Contrast (39.1% L.T.), All-Conditions Red (41.4% L.T.), and Clear (95.6% L.T.). Each comes with three lenses, with the exception of the Fototec model, which only comes with the photochromic lens. I'll be reviewing the Clarion Blue, All-Conditions Red, and Clear lenses.

Tifosi Podium XC with all accessories: hard case, soft case/lens cloth, extra lenses (AC Red, Clear, Clarion Blue)

The Clarion lenses are mirrored lenses that include a hydrophobic coating to deal with water. Since Central New York doesn't ever seem to have sun and rain at the same time, I took these in the shower one day that my roommates weren't around to see me walk into the bathroom with sunglasses on my head (the things I do for you guys...). Sure enough, I didn't get any annoying water streaks. To be fair, I don't remember ever getting water streaks on my Oakleys either, but for as much as I paid for them, they better have some type of hydrophobic coating too.

The Clarion blue lenses do a good job on sunny days, but have a slightly reddish-orange tint to them if that's of concern to you. The All-Conditions Red lenses aren't quite as dark, and provide an option for trail runners, mountain bikers, and other athletes who spend time in tree-lined areas and can't have dark lenses obscuring the ground in front of them. They have a similar reddish-orange tint, though it's not as dark. The Clear lenses are exactly what you'd expect, and can serve as eye-protection for cyclists and mountain bikers in darker conditions. Despite the curvature of the lenses, I didn't get any distortion. Lens removal and replacement is easy and is just a matter of snapping the ear and nose pieces off and on the lens. Directions are included with the sunglasses.

Exploded view of the Tifosi Podium XC with Clarion Blue lens

The Podium XC doesn't feel quite as durable as the Slip and Flak Jacket, probably because it is frameless. However, they did just fine when I gave them some (gentle) bends and twists. I still would recommend using the hard case they come with though, and wouldn't leave them on a chair where someone could accidentally sit on them. I also didn't have any issues with scratching, even when I scraped my fingernail against the corner of the lens to test (but again, I'd recommend storing them in the case and not loose in your bag with your keys).

Tifosi Podium XC in crystal blue with Clarion Blue lens

The Tifosi Podium XC is an attractive, comfortable, performance-focused pair of sunglasses that is available at a far lower price than many of its competitors. I still prefer my Flak Jackets overall, but the Flak Jacket is double the price of the Podium XC, yet nowhere near double the quality. Tifosi continues to be my bang-for-your-buck, best-value-for-the-money recommendation for sports sunglasses, and the Podium XC is a great option for anyone looking for a shield-style pair of sunglasses without breaking the bank. My only real complaint is that I wish the lenses were a little more true-color instead of having that red-orange tint. I've used the Tifosi smoke lenses in the past, which don't have any color tint to them (and the Podium XC is available with smoke lenses), but I'm not going to lie, the Clarion Blue looks so freaking about some sweet mirror lenses without red tints, Tifosi?

The Tifosi Podium XC retails for $79.99 for the models that include Clarion and Fototec lenses, and $69.99 for the models with regular lenses. They are available in a number of different colors and lens configurations that can be viewed on the Tifosi website. They are available at select online retailers as well as brick-and-mortar stores where Tifosi Optics products are sold.

Full disclosure: The Tifosi Podium XC was provided free of charge in exchange for a review. The opinions contained in this review are mine and based on my experience, and do not reflect the opinion of Tifosi or anyone else.


  1. Love the Tifosi sunglasses. I have the frameless as well, however, I use them for everything: running, mountain biking, kayaking, snowshoeing, SUP. Been durable enough for me and sure beats the jacked up pricing of those fancy brands.

    1. I just had to Google SUP to figure out what it meant (stand-up paddleboarding?). ;) And I agree, they seem durable enough, as I haven't broken any of mine yet, including the Slip (which is a half-frame) that I use for mountain biking and has ended up on the ground more than once. Good to know the frameless ones have held up well for you too!

  2. I own a pair of Tifosi Tempt Fototecs with the Light Night technology. I find the sunglasses very durable and with the Light Night's I've run in them during early morning when it's dark and the sun starts to blaze and dusk when it gets dark out and the transitions are really quick and I can't even tell the difference in the transition. I really like the Tifosi brand as I find Oakley's a little too steep for my pocketbook. It's true what you said...Tifosi seems to be the Subaru's of the sport sunglasses world.

    Great site as I found this googling for a good Tifosi review :).

    1. Thanks, Ruben, glad you enjoyed the review! And good to hear the Tempt is working out for you! I haven't worn any of their Light Night sunglasses, though I do have a pair of Fototec Slips that are pretty sweet.

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