Tifosi (opens in new tab), the North American eyewear brand, has just launched its first rimless sunglasses (opens in new tab), seeking to combine stylish looks with unobstructed vision. The pricing is designed to be competitive too, with the MSRP starting at $79.95, compared to $159.00 for the Smith Reverb, which offers a similar package.
With a fashionably oversized lens, the Rail promises “maximum protection”, while the “increased airflow” should serve to limit fogging – at least when clipped in and rolling. The lens itself is made from a shatterproof and scratch resistant polycarbonate which has been “optically decentred for optimal clarity.”
The Rail sunglasses are available in two formats: Interchange and Fototec. The former comes with three-lens supplied, which can be swapped in and out for “bright, low and no light conditions” (otherwise known as ‘night’). The latter features Tifosi’s photochromic lens, which automatically adjusts the tint to ambient light conditions.
For a “comfortable and customised fit”, the ear and nose pieces are both adjustable, while the nose pieces themselves are made from a hydrophilic rubber is designed to grip more strongly the wetter it gets.
Tifosi pitches the glasses as suitable for both gravel and road riding and stresses their emphasis on “affordability without the sacrifice of best-in-class materials”, believing money should be spent on your bike, not your eyewear.
Although $79.95 is certainly a lot less than the $159 that some of the bigger sunglasses brands sell their wares for, it is still a not insignificant amount of money. We’ve recently had a set of Amazon photochromic sunglasses in which cost just $29.99 – so how do Tifosi’s Rail stack up against the very cheapest, and the most expensive?
First ride review
I was sent the Rail with Tifosi’s Fototec lens, and it's proved a pretty perfect match for my UK riding through the tail-end of winter and early spring.
Yes, naturally, there have been many dark and overcast days where the sun has failed to shine. For those, the photochromic lens has been great for protecting my eyes from bits of grit and road spray with minimal tint.
But it certainly hasn’t been gloomy for every ride. Although it doesn't get anywhere near as cold, the Welsh capital of Cardiff is actually further north than Canada's Calgary – bringing with it a low winter sun that’s always a challenge.
Still, the Tifosi Rail’s FotoTec photochromic lens kept up admirably. Its tint change was quick and the range of the visible light transmission felt a good balance at both ends, going sufficiently dark as well as clear.
Now, you can get photochromic sunglasses from retailers such as Amazon for significantly less. But from my experience the performance of those cheaper lenses simply isn’t as good – they take longer to change and the range of tint isn’t as wide.
On the other end, although there are some, more expensive, photochromic lenses that the Rail does succeed in going toe-to-toe with, there are also more expensive lenses which you can really see where the extra money has gone.
But that's not exactly a criticism of the Rail. You can draw an almost exact analogy with Dura-Ace and Ultegra: there are improvements to be had but for most people they are too marginal to warrant the extra cost.
The fit of the arms felt natural, balancing a secure feeling fit while not being so grippy as to become noticeably for that in its own right. The bendable nose piece was quite easy to mould to my required shape, but was still rigid enough not to lose shape in the face of a slight knock.
Although the lens is supposed to have an anti fogging effect, it’s not as good as others I’ve used. I found the Rail would steam up once stopped after working hard, but at least it always remained clear when moving – even when that moving is quite slow up an unfriendly climb.
The Rail really impressed. Sunglasses can be so expensive but I've also been reticent to fork out more than the cost of my tyres. The Rail blends a great level of performance for a much more reasonable price tag, which should strike the right balance for most people.
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Starting off riding mountain bikes on the South Downs way, he soon made the switch the road cycling. Now, he’s come full circle and is back out on the trails, although the flat bars have been swapped for the curly ones of a gravel bike.
Always looking for the next challenge, he’s Everested in under 12 hours (opens in new tab) and ridden the South Downs Double in sub 20 (opens in new tab). Although dabbling in racing off-road, on-road and virtually (opens in new tab), to date his only significant achievement has been winning the National Single-Speed Cross-Country Mountain Bike Championships in 2019.
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