The rider passing in the other direction gave a cheery wave. The greeting was returned. It wasn’t one of those non-committal acknowledgements of a fellow cyclist. She knew me and, presumably, I knew her.
The next week, a similar scenario: another waving rider, this time accompanied by a hearty “Hey, Ian!” I blurted out something in response, probably too late for him to hear, and wondered who the hell that might have been. Who had I blanked this time?
This has been going on for months; years even, if I’m totally honest. Club jerseys can be picked out easy enough, so with a concentrated stare I might make out the face of someone familiar. But most of the time, it’s a blur. Bearing in mind I race cyclo-cross and the terrain passing beneath my wheels is equally indistinct, that’s quite a scary admission.
Time to do something about it.
RxSport are prescription eyewear specialists covering a wide variety of sports with skiing and cycling to the fore. They stock an array of glasses from major players like Oakley, Rudy Project, Adidas and Ray-Ban, but as Bollé were recommended to me by a trusted source, I plumped for the French company’s Tempest with lemon-tinted lenses for gloomy British winter conditions, fired off my prescription details to RxSport and the new glasses arrived the following week.
Without meaning to sound overdramatic, there’s a whole new world out there I wasn’t seeing before: crisp, clear, vivid. All fuzziness banished. Off-road riding is most definitely more assured. Familiar faces are now spotted and acknowledged when out riding before they have even clocked me. Not only am I a safer and more aware rider, I’m not losing friends…
It makes you wonder how many others are out on the road riding with blurred vision. I asked James Coakley from RxSport if he gets many customers reporting back with a similar reaction to mine.
“Yes, we do, to be honest, and the feedback we get most often is ‘I didn’t know this stuff existed’. We’ve been doing it for the last ten years, so excuse the pun, but it does tend to be something of an eye-opener.”
Perhaps the memory of famously myopic double Vuelta winner Alex Zulle, with those clunky-looking inserts clipped inside his cycling glasses, colours cyclists perceptions of what the options are when it comes to correcting their vision when contact lenses are not an option. There have been advances since the ’90s, thankfully.
“In the last ten years, it has changed dramatically,” Coakley confirms. “When we first started, wrapped prescription lenses going straight into the frame like the Bollés were very few and far between. It used to be more focused on having a flat frame, or having an insert that clips onto the nosepiece. The Bollé approach, which is the same as Oakley and Rudy Project as well, is a lot better, a lot cleaner, and looks like an ordinary pair of sunglasses to all intents and purposes.”
There are advantages with the old clip-on style, cost of extra lenses being one – around £30, Coakley estimates, as opposed to £150 or so should a darker summer set be required – but there’s no need to buy lenses for every occasion. Photochromatics are an increasingly popular alternative, he says.
“They will change colour: much lighter when it’s overcast and they will darken down when the sun shines. You can then get into different tints, so there are a lot of options.”
A bewildering array of options is nearer the mark. Bollé has a long tradition of producing eyewear stretching back over 100 years, with safety glasses and ski goggles paving the way before they entered the cycling market. The French company seemed like a safe bet.
Which brand should the interested consumer plump for? A name they trust or whatever looks the coolest?
“A little bit of both,” Coakly advises. “The major player that has invested the most in their prescription programme is Bollé. One of the key things with Bollé is that they have a particular technique of glazing that allows them to go down to minus 8, which covers at least 90 per cent of the population. They are very good in that regard.
“You then have Oakley who are very strong with their glazing programme – they back their reputation up very well with really good technology. And then the other one is Rudy Project. I would say those three are above everybody else, in terms of brands that tend to be popular with cyclists.
“There are brands that work within other budgets as well, like Tifosi or Dirty Dog, which rather than being in the £200-plus area, can be down to £150 or so. We struggle to do much below £150 because everything has to be done in a specialist lab.”
Varifocal lenses are another area seeing a surge in demand, Coakley reports, as riders “of a certain age” struggle to focus on their handlebar-mounted gizmos.
For those of us “of a certain age” who gave up on the idea of a Garmin years ago because we couldn’t read the damn things, this could be a godsend. But then some of us are equally happy not knowing how slow we are going.
Being able to see where we are going, however, is just brilliant.