Monday, July 21, 2014

Gear Review: Ryders Via

Sunglasses are one of those items that make running much more pleasant (because no one likes squinting into the sun, or eye damage for that matter), but tend to cost a lot of money. While everyone tends to recognize big (expensive) names like Oakley, there are also companies that are making high-performance sunglasses at a lower price point, (the previously reviewed Tifosi Slip and Podium XC fall into this category). I've recently discovered another bang-for-your-buck company: Ryders. The Ryders Via is one of their lightweight sport models, and today I'll be reviewing the photochromic version.

Ryders Via in Crystal Clear with Photochromic Grey lens (light, since indoors and out of sunlight). You can see the adjustable nose pieces in this picture.

The Ryders Via is a frameless shield-style pair of sunglasses that weighs just 24 grams (the lightest pair of sunglasses that I've reviewed thus far). It is available in both regular and photochromic versions. Ryders' photochromic lenses lighten and darken automatically to adjust to the light conditions outside, so they'll be lighter on cloudy days, and darker on bright, sunny days. The photochromic dark grey lenses (which were the lenses that were reviewed) vary between 15-47% light transmission for low to very bright light, though the Via is also available with photochromic melanin brown (8-43% light transmission, also for low to very bright light) and photochromic yellow lenses (27-76% light transmission, for very low to bright light). The Via is also available in grey, brown, and grey flash (semi-mirrored) non-photochromic lenses, all with 14% light transmission for very bright light. The lenses do well in both overcast and bright conditions, and they seem to adjust to changes in light fairly quickly, darkening quickly upon going outside, and lightening if the run turns cloudy (though adapting to low light takes a little longer than adapting to bright light). I've found that they do a little better in very bright light than my Fototec Tifosi Slips, but considering those use a yellow and brown lens (yellow GT), it's not a perfect comparison. Furthermore, since the Ryders use a grey lens, they don't have the same "yellow-tint" effect that the Slips did (again, not a perfect comparison since Tifosi does make a grey Fototec lens, which I've never used).

The Ryders Via sits close to my face and provides good coverage. Shown here in Crystal Clear with the Photochromic Grey lens (light, since indoors and out of sunlight).

The Via has a medium lens that provides good coverage (at least on my relatively small face). It's a bit larger and has more coverage than both the Tifosi Slip and Podium XC, which are also shield-style sunglasses. The lack of a frame also means that you have unobstructed vision. The Via sits close to my face, with the bottom of the lens actually resting on my cheek. However, despite sitting close to your face, the Via vents well and I haven't had any problems with fogging. They're a light and comfortable pair of sunglasses, and they manage to stay in place and don't bounce around or slide down while running. The hydrophilic nose pads and rubber ear pieces also insure that the glasses stay in place even when your face gets sweaty. Also, unlike the Tifosi nose pieces while claim to be adjustable but actually aren't, the Via's nose pieces can be bent to fit your face.

The Via appears to be a durable pair of sunglasses, as I've thrown them in my backpack (sans case) several times and the lenses remain unscratched. The lenses also have some give to them, so they can be bent a little bit without cracking. This is especially important since only a soft sleeve, and not a hard case, is included for protection.

The Via's lens is screwed onto the arm pieces and not interchangeable. I found that an odd choice since Ryders' competitors generally have interchangeable lenses. While having a photochromic lens partially eliminates the necessity for interchangeable lenses, it would still have been nice to include the option to swap the lenses out. For example, I'm a fan of mirrored lenses (call me vain, it's an aesthetic thing). I would have liked the option to swap the photochromic lens for a flash lens, and to have the ability to replace the photochromic lenses when they wear out and lose their ability to darken (according to the website, they wear out in about two years...I haven't used them for two years to verify this, and two years isn't a bad lifespan for sunglasses, but it's good to know).

The Ryders Via's lenses are screwed to the arms and are not interchangeable. You can also see the hydrophilic temple pads on the ear pieces in this picture (black).

While the Via itself is, in my opinion, an attractive and sporty-looking pair of sunglasses, the crystal clear frame colorway tends to look a little plasticky (a problem that I think many clear frame sunglasses suffer from). Obviously just about any pair of sport sunglasses is going to be made of plastic, but in my opinion, the clear frames tend to look a little bit cheaper than solid colors. The Via is also available in matte black and metallic white colorways, and I would advise sticking to those colors (there's also a crystal red, but I have a hunch they probably look plasticky too). The frame material is Ryders' TR90, which is their proprietary frame material that is designed to be lightweight and flexible (for durability).

Ryders Via. Shown here in Crystal Clear with the Photochromic Grey lens (light, since indoors and out of sunlight).

The Ryders Via is a solid entry into the bang-for-your-buck, great-value-for-your-money sunglasses category, and the photochromic version is great for anything from overcast to sunny days. I really like the fit, look, and weight of the Via, and would recommend them to anyone looking for a one-piece-lens shield-style pair of sunglasses without breaking the bank. I do, however, wish that they had interchangeable lenses, especially when many of the Via's competitors offer that option, and hope that that's taken into consideration for the next iteration of the Via.

The Ryders Via retails for $50 for the regular model and $90 for the photochromic model, and is available on the Ryders website, as well as at retailers where Ryders sunglasses are sold. It is available in a variety of frame colors and lens combinations, which can also be viewed on the website.

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

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