SMITH WILDCAT SUNGLASSES REVIEW
Words & Photos by Cole Gregg
Long gone are the days of using Home Depot safety glasses to keep dirt and branches out of your eyes. There’s currently a huge variety of MTB-specific riding glasses on the market ranging from $30 to over $250. Before lens color and features, the most important aspect of choosing glasses is the fit – the same pair that works for me might not fit your face’s shape. The Smith Wildcats are expensive but go some way to make up for it with the number of features specific for bike riding. Are they worth it? Let’s find out.
Coming in at $219 or $229 (Photochromic lens) the Wildcats pack in some awesome technology as you would expect at this price range. Smith’s “ChromaPop” lens delivers a view that boosts up the contrast in harsh lighting conditions while also making colors just a bit more saturated. All ChromaPop lenses offer 100% UV protection. The lens is both smudge and moisture resistant thanks to a special coating that was left unnamed on Smith’s website. They are not advertised as scratch resistant and at this price point that is a bit underwhelming.
The frames have a lens width of 140mm and a height of 62mm with a temple length of 125mm. The material is a hybrid of Grilamid® TR90, marketed as a super light and tough plastic, and TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane). Often used in cell phone cases, this material promises durability and maintains its shape over time. The frame’s overall fit is described by Smith as “medium with extra-large coverage”.
The temple of the glasses is coated with Megol – a silicone that helps keep the glasses in place when things get rowdy. Further helping the glasses stay in place is a 2-way adjustable nose pad built out of the same material that gets grippier with moisture. They click in and out, offering a narrow or wide fit and easily allows for on-the-fly adjustment.
Offered in 10 different color combinations, including one with a Photochromic lens, there’s an option that will blend in with, or stand out from, any riding kit. The lenses on offer have a range of light transmission starting at 10% VLT and going up from there with 14%, 15%, 30% and the Photochromic option at 20% – 85%.
I purchased the Smith Wildcat glasses with the White frame and ChomaPop Violet Mirror Lens. with 15% VLT. Why did I buy these glasses? Well, I am absolutely in love with the Smith Forefront 2 helmet, and wanted to try out something new as my tried-and-true Oakley’s with the Trail Torch lens were getting to the end of their life. I was torn between the Smith Wildcat and Flywheel, ultimately landing on the Wildcat as the Flywheel would not store in the Forefront’s built-in eyewear storage channels due to the curved temple arms.
The fit on the Smith Wildcat is awesome, and rarely do I need to adjust them or feel like they are moving around. The Megol coating on the areas in contact with the face do a stellar job at staying stuck in place for even the rowdiest descents. The adjustable nose piece lets you get things feeling comfortable without too much effort, and the overall size and shape sat nicely on my medium-large head. In the right conditions I absolutely love the ChromaPop technology. I think it rivals or beats the Prizm tech from Oakley, and really enhances the colors while making it easier to read the trail ahead. However, what I found is that the 15% lens is just too dark for my needs in the PNW, where the forests get particularly dark and murky at times.
Most of my time with the Wildcat glasses has been with the clear lens, so much in fact that I ordered a second one. The only reason I see myself needing new frames is if I run them over like I did with another pair! For my area that consists of old growth forests nestled in deep valleys, I don’t feel that the brightest 30% VLT ChromaPop lens option would be bright enough to work well. The clear lens has done the job and done the job well, but you sacrifice the rad “Ultra HD” view that ChromaPop offers, which is a shame given the price tag. In the future I would likely upgrade to one of the MAG glasses options with their magnetic lens replacement system for quick and easy on-the-fly lens switching.
On wet and humid days, I found that the ChromaPop lenses had no issues fogging up while riding. Occasionally when stationary they would fog slightly but a quick shake out and some air flow had them clear up within the first few pedal strokes. The clears had a bit more tendency to fog but similar story here: as soon as I started moving, they cleared up. Even though they are not marketed as scratch resistant, I have not had any issues from branches or debris causing scratches. I did use my glove on a very muddy day to clean the lenses and did get some faint etching but nothing I would not expect given the conditions.
The Wolf’s Last Word
Do you live in a bright area with most of your trails in clear cut or lightly wooded areas? If so, the Smith Wildcat glasses with the ChromaPop lenses are a great option and worth the investment in my experience. However, if you ride in dense forests, the extra money spent on the frames may not be worth it. With that said, the fit is ideal, and I have zero complaints in that department. I do wish Smith offered the Wildcat with just a clear lens.
Price: $219.00 – $229.00