Smith's Wildcat glasses certainly sit in the 'full coverage' end of the eyewear spectrum and have a size and shape that might divide opinion. What can't be faulted is the quality of Smith's Chromapop lens optics. Light transmission, object definition and lens clarity are superb and are at least on par with the best Oakley and 100% have to offer. The fit is also very comfortable and they happily cling to your face during vigorous activities.
Quality of the optics
Easy lens switching
Might not be compatible with all helmets
Bigger is better. This certainly seems to have been Smith Optics' design brief for the Wildcat glasses, the largest performance oriented eyewear currently in its range.
Designed for everything from lycra-clad road riding through to off-road blasts, the Wildcat glasses' styling is built upon a lens that offers the same size and eye protection as some of Smith's goggles - so you can get a good idea as to the coverage we are talking about.
The Wildcat glasses offer a full frame design, meaning the frame extends around the entirety of the lens. Sometimes a full frame can be a negative as the frame can become quite noticeable in your peripheral vision. The Wildcats aren't immune to this problem, however thanks to the larger and deeper lens the effect is less distracting. Opt for a lighter coloured frame and it becomes less noticeable again.
The Wildcats sit very comfortably on your face thanks to an adjustable width nose piece that produces minimal pressure on the nose. They also have a soft rubber construction that grips to sweaty skin almost as well as Oakley's Unobtanium. The slightly hooked arms are also covered in the same rubber - something Smith call Megol - to help keep them in place.
I have a pretty average width face/head and these glasses didn't apply a lot of pressure to the temples. This is a bit of a double edged sword, on the one hand it minimises any discomfort but at the expense of perceived grip and security - it can feel like they could drop off your face at any given moment (they didn't, though).
The Wildcat glasses don't have the same level of curvature as many other 'performance' style glasses, so they sit away from the face at the sides a little more. This prevents them from fogging a little better than styles that tend to sit closer to the face, although it does also allow a little more wind or debris to infiltrate.
The optical clarity of the Chromapop lens and the additional included clear lens is faultless with zero distortion. I also really like the way the Chromapop lens maintains object definition even under tree cover and in lower light, a quality important for spotting dangers - particularly when travelling at high speeds or riding off-road trails. Despite the red mirrored tint the lens maintains your vision in true colour with just a hint of grey that actually makes green hues really 'pop'.
Lens swapping was very simple and both frame and lens can cope with a lot of abuse. I have been using the same set of Wildcat glasses for well over a year of continuous use and the lenses have picked up minimal scratches, despite my best efforts to neglect them.
The only other thing to note with the Wildcats is that there might be a little integration issue with some helmets owing to the tall shape. I felt with helmets such as the Bontrager XXX WaveCel the low brow of the helmet pushed the glasses a little too low on my face. There is of course zero compatibility issues with Smith's own helmets such as the Ignite.
The Smith Wildcats sit towards the top end of the price spectrum for premium eyewear at £165 and that is a lot of money for most of us. But when you factor in the quality of the optics, the comfort and the durability it seems justified.
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James Bracey's career has seen him move from geography teacher, to MBR writer, to Cycling Weekly's senior tech writer and video presenter. He possesses an in-depth knowledge of bicycle mechanics, as well as bike fit and coaching qualifications. Bracey enjoys all manner of cycling, from road to gravel and mountain biking.
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