MELON OPTICS ALLEYCAT
Review by Robert Johnston
Photos by Adam Lievesley
Although we have had some mixed experiences with Melon Optics products in the past, it is impossible to ignore the successes they have had within our biking community, with many of their fully customizable goggles popping up on chairlifts and trailheads around the world. Their combined experience in both casual sunnies and goggles led to the production of the Alleycat riding glasses. The massive lens and bold marketing campaign had my interest captured from the get-go. I was excited to put them to the test, but how did they fair against the UK winter trail conditions?
Melon did not hold back when it came to designing and producing the Alleycats, Zeiss was called upon for the manufacture of the lenses, and holding them in place is a hyperflex TR90 plastic frame produced in. The lenses are easily interchangeable and available in an array of tints to suit your color preferences as well as fine tuning them to your typical riding conditions. As is standard for Melon products, each set of glasses has customization options for the frame, lens, nosepiece, and logo.
Included in the box with every set of Alleycats is a low light lens, designed to improve contrast and help to pick out trail features as they approach at speed in duller lit environments. A rubberized nose piece and arms help to keep things comfortable and stay in place through rough terrain, rounding out a set of glasses that ticks a lot of boxes. Speaking of boxes, they come in a nice zip-up hard case with space for a couple of spare lenses, and a microfiber bag helps you keep them clean and scratch free in between rides, helping to soften the initial £120/$150 blow.
Though I have never had any complaints about the quality of Melon products in the past, the Alleycats immediately stood out as being a particularly premium looking set of shades, with the Zeiss logo sitting proudly on the bright tinted lens, suggesting a high level of optical performance is on offer. I had opted to go for a subdued looking set of glasses and was pleased that, in the flesh, they looked every bit as clean as intended. With some of our testers previously complaining about chromatic aberration reducing visual clarity in the chrome lensed goggles, I was particularly interested to find out if these issues had carried over to the Alleycats too. Thankfully, my ride time in these glasses was not hindered by such issues, with outstanding clarity and impressive contrast produced by the Violet Chrome lens until the light began to disappear. After some fortunately sunny rides providing the required testing ground for this chrome lens, the darkest winter times were soon upon us, at which point I was very fortunate for the provided low light lens. Instead of opting for a plain and simple clear lens, Melon went a step further and developed their low light lens to boost contrast in the forest and help your eyes to decipher the trail ahead. There is not a hint of distortion present with this lens either, and it does slightly bolster the capabilities of your eyes in reading the trail contours as the light disappears at the end of the day.
The fit of the Alleycats – as with all eyewear – will be subject to the proportions of your face and head, but the flexible legs and rubber nosepiece should help them to find a naturally comfortable position on most faces. For me, with a slightly larger pecker than average, there was a slight gap between the bottom of the lens and my cheeks at times, allowing for a little air to pass through but more concerningly, a bit of mud and debris from time to time. It would be nice to see some form of tunable nosepiece to ensure the fit is as good as can be, as I would prefer a slightly tighter fit to keep eye watering and mud infiltration to an absolute minimum.
The lenses on the Melon Alleycats fall in the middle of my non-scientific spectrum for fogging resistance. With several extremely humid days riding combined with my fairly sweaty tendencies, they were worked hard and did end up being unrideably foggy on some of the higher effort, slower speed climbs. Once up to a jogging speed, this fogging cleared reasonably well, and they remained fog free once this had happened, so it was only the first few pedal strokes of a descent that were ever an issue. There’s room for improvement for sure, but I would not say it is a great concern.
Although I was being incredibly careful not to scratch the lenses, I have still been impressed by how fresh they have remained throughout testing as most of my eyewear usually succumb to the inevitable grit-induced micro scratches. In this regard, I think the Alleycats will effectively recoup their costs over their lifetime of use, and thankfully Melon offers replacement tinted lenses for £45 should the worst happen.
Melon has done an excellent job in bringing their first set of dedicated riding glasses to the market, giving very little to complain about. The smart move of teaming up with Zeiss ensured the lenses provide improved vision over your eyes alone, and their construction should allow them to stand up to the test of time. The ability to customize the looks should allow everyone to find their perfect looking set of glasses, so long as they are willing to cough up their premium level price.