Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Even a Mantis Shrimp Would Rock Smith Shades. Smith Pivlock V2 / V90 Review

A few weeks ago while driving home from the Iron Mountain Trail Race I was listening to a podcast about color and how the eye and brain interpret color. The podcast went in to great detail to describe how dogs have 2 types of cones in their eyes which allow them to see shades of blue and green. Humans on the other hand, have three types of cones allowing us to see red, blue and green. A species of shrimp called the Mantis Shrimp has 12 cones, enabling it to see colors we cannot even fathom in our pallete. Alas, I digress. How does sunglass lens color affect optical clarity and definition then? We'll come back to color in a bit...

Color is a complex topic, and often times when choosing sunglasses and lenses we opt for what looks sexy off the shelf and the frame which best fits our face. There is however a method to the fun task of grabbing a great lens for your specific sport. After searching high and low, I found the Smith Pivlock series of glasses to be a stellar choice for whatever your need.  They feature interchangable lenses in multiple colors and frameless technology for unobstructed optical clarity. (This means you won't be staring at the top rim of the frames atop your lens if you are tucked low in a cycling position! The perfect aero shade!)

The original Pivlock was introduced several years ago and has been my go-to shade for road/trail running and road/mountain biking as the interchangable lenses are bombproof thanks to the patented Pivlock technology. The temples snap securely to the lens and unlike other interchangable lenses, you don't feel like you're going to break your investment by swapping lenses. Why swap lenses in the first place you ask?

Back to color... The following chart displays how much light each lens in the Pivlock series allows in. On road runs and while road cycling, I prefer the Platinum lens on my Pivlock V2, and the Brown lens on my Pivlock V90's. Platinum and Gray lenses provide slightly less light to pass through the lens as opposed to the Brown lens. Gray and Platinum lenses also allow true color to pass through which means that even while wearing them you are seeing colors just as they appear, undistorted. Brown lenses may not always allow true color to pass through, but they do provide better contrast vision. Here's how to piece this all together; On super bright days I wear the Platinum lens. On days which aren't quite as bright I enjoy the Brown lens which provides better depth perception and contrast. My favorite lens in the line-up however, is the Ignitor lens. As a trailrunner primarily who spends about 15 hours on average per week on trails, I constantly find myself praising the Ignitor lens for its ability to provide contrast and definition to the surroundings along with aiding in depth perception. On the chart below Smith claims that the Ignitor lens doesn't alter color perception. I might disagree with that claim as when I take off the sunglasses after running for hours in the woods, everything seems green/blue immediately and washes together. When I put the shades back on, I have definition amongst colors and shapes moreso than is aparent to the naked unshaded eye.

Today I went mountain biking and on top of the protection that the large lens of the Pivlock offers my eyes while ripping down singeltrack at high speeds, I love their ability to aid in definition on technical trails while moving swiftly. All winter long, even on cloudy days I wear the Ignitor lens as it "brightens" the trail in front of me. It also provides protection from stray branches and from the cold and biting winds which cause the eyes to water on chilly windy runs.

The Pivlock series comes in two main styles; the original Pivlock V90 and the newly released Pivlock V2. Both models are made to fit small and medium faces but don't fret, if you have a big mug both models come in larger sizes under the name Pivlock V90 Max and Pivlock V2 Max. The biggest difference between the V90 and V2 is that the newer V2's offer an adjustable nose piece. The ventilation on the V90's was already pretty great. The nose piece on the new V2's add a little venting but the best feature is that the shades can be custom fit to your shnoz. I notice that the V2's and their adjustable nosepiece sit farther out on my face which could make them a better model for cycling as they seem to have more airflow. I prefer my V90's for running as they feel more secure on my face. I imagine that noth models are so secure fitting you could take a naster digger trailrunning as I've done before and not worry about the glasses flying off, or bite the road on a bike without concern of your sweet shades flying into orbit. Regarding weight, the V90's feel slightly lighter although both models are extremely light especially in relation to any other sunglass models offering multiple lens options with such vast coverage. It's all splitting hairs though, you can't go wrong with either model.

Smith lenses feature TLT, or Tapered Lens Technology, which means higher optical clarity and no distortions as the curvature of the lens tapers in the same way the human eyes cornea tapers for flawless light refraction. The Pivlock
lenses are also coated in a hydroleophobic lens coating. What this means is that the lenses repel dirt, grease, sweat, sunscreen, etc also providing scratch resistance in the process as these particles don't stick to the lens while cleaning.

To help reduce glare, Pivlock lenses contain a multitiered mirror coating. Sunglass lenses typically offer a mirror coating or Polarization. The purpose of using mirror coatings to deflect glare from the lens easing eye strain throughout the day. Polarized lenses can be troublesome in that they don't allow the wearer to see LCD screens or certain types of glass. I love jumping in the car and still being able to see through the windows and use the touch screen and radio while wearing unpolarized glasses. This isn't the case when I wear Polarized lenses. I can't see the screen and my side windows contain reflections I typically wouldn't see. Personally, mirrored is the way to go!

You needn't worry about angering the green party either with your purchase as Smith is on the forefront of eco-friendly production methods and even uses bio-based frame materials with its Evolve technology.

Locally, here in Louisville Smith shades are available at Quest Outdoors located in Shelbyville Road Plaza and also in The Summit Shopping Center. Since this is all mighty interweb however, most of you can find your nearest Smith retailer here:  SMITH STORE LOCATOR

Happy Trails, Roads and Beyond! Enjoy the view!



  1. very interesting article, Troy. I may have to pick up a pair.

  2. I've been looking at shades lately. How long would you say these stay crystal clear. I'm pretty rough on glasses so the interchangeable lenses sound great.

    1. On my original pair of Pivlocks which I've had since spring of 2010 the Brown lenses which get the most use are still clear. They show wear, because they have a mirror coat, but no scratches. If you are super hard on your lenses you can always order a replacement lens through Smith which is really easy. I think they are only $40 for a replacement lens.

    2. Oh, and the temple and nosepiece actually still look new. That's after 2 hard years of use with dirt and grit and suncreen...