Last year, I bought sunglasses with interchangeable lenses. But actually changing the lenses is a pain even under the best of circumstances. They'd drive me crazy if I had to change lenses out on the trail at dusk in the middle of a race. I managed to put the clear lenses in, and I left them in. I used one pair of old glasses for daytime riding, and the "interchangeable" pair for night riding.
That paved the way for Switch Vision to offer a pair of its sunglasses for my depraved dungeon of product testing.
All the items in the Switch sunglasses line have a magnetic system (Magnetic Interchange Lens System, in the parlance of Switch) that holds lenses in place. When I first read about it, it sounded like a great theory.
Switch delivered a pair of its Stoke glasses in a tortoiseshell finish to my door.
Forget reading the manual – what about this magnetic deal? Well, the lenses slid right out with a gentle tug. There are metal bits embedded into the top edges of the lenses – I'm not sure if those are the magnets, or if the other metal bits in the frames are the magnets. Either way, I was eager to see how they get back in. With my other glasses, this would cue twisting, pushing and profanity.
Not this time. I got the lens in the vicinity, and the magnets sucked the lenses into place. Impressive! I tried it a few more times with the same result.
I drove around wearing the Stoke glasses for a few days. Then I hit the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, one of the rockier beasts in the area.
Hitting the Trail
First, the optics are super-crisp. I have the Switch "Glare Kit" of lenses, which includes the Polarized True Color Gray and Rose Amber lenses, along with a plastic lens pod. The True Gray turn even the brightest light into something your eyes can live with. (I tried the Rose Amber a few days later on a cloudy day – they allowed a bit more light in while keeping the harshness out.)
The Stoke is not a lightweight pair of sunglasses. But they never dented the side of my nose. They didn't slide down my pointy beak despite being lubricated by sweat. The rock-and-rolling of well-rubbled off-road trails was not a factor.
Even without magnetic lenses, Switch gives you some very sharp optics and a comfortable fit. Add the cool lenses, and you have a standout product.
I wanted to be sure I wasn't just giddy over cool factor, so I showed them to a few buddies. The magnetic retention amazed them all. A few were extra-impressed by the availability of prescription lenses. After the oohs and aahs, they asked "Where can I get a pair?"
Here in Phoenix, the answer so far is that you can find Switch sunglasses at selected local eye clinics. I hope that expands in the future to bike shops and other sports suppliers. For now, it looks like you can also find Switch sunglasses online at REI. I saw the Stoke advertised at other websites from $169. The new Switch model, the Boreal (the company's first full-frame model), will range from $119-$189.
One thing I didn't notice in the lineup of Switch sunglasses is an all-clear lens for middle-of-the-night mountain biking. That's an easy fix, though.
Someone at Switch thinks like an outdoor enthusiast: Dealing with small, finicky bits while your heart is pounding, while you're getting dehydrated, while you're started to cramp ... is absolutely no fun. So they made sunglasses that take at least one gadget-related worry of your mind.
A long-term flogging. The Switch Stoke sunglasses have impressed me. They're a lot pricier than my usual glasses, but I see what Switch is offering for the extra scrilla.
I'll update this post in a few months with new observations and thoughts – the kind that only come from lots of hard-core flogging and use. Stand by!
In the meantime, Switch sunglasses deserve some props.
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