When you have an underage cyclist you’re trying to get to join you in the world of wheels, it’s hard to strike the right level of support. If you ride a bike you clearly care dearly for, it’s hard to tell the little grommet that they’ve got to make do with something janky. And when you’re getting dressed up with plenty of accessories that you’ve told others are necessary, it’s hard to tell them they don’t need the same.
Especially when you’re ‘making’ the kid ride when you ride. Bike commuting has many benefits, but making it fun or interesting helps when it’s bitterly cold or biblically wet.
Protective eyewear is one of the accessories adult cyclists see as a must-have. But, when considering kids, sunglasses are a tough buy. The cheapies are so obviously and generally so distressingly tatty. Uncomfortable nose and ear contact points, frames that break easily, lenses with distortion; nothing a person who spends quality time riding would buy for themselves. And all parents fear the fate of anything that leaves home with a child. Even the most conscientious kid is prone to lose stuff. One cold season, three right-hand winter gloves were lost (the lefts were saved, just in case). So they need to be over a certain age, which, based on personal observation probably starts around seven years, before an investment in good eyewear makes practical sense.
Tifosi Optics is the sport sunglass company that makes solid shades without fanfare. Their offerings are from $25.00 to $79.95. They seem to use most of the same materials as fancier pickings. They package their glasses with not only spare lenses (for most models) and both a hard and soft case. The styles are often a bit derivative, but they look pretty good—and can come in cool colors.
They have an offering that fits the bill for kids. The model is the Wisp. It’s designed for small faces. In fact, it’s in the “ladies running sunglasses and cycling sunglasses” categories on the Tifosi site. They are small. the lenses are 37mm tall by 63mm wide. the nose is 7mm wide. The arms are 114mm long. The glasses are also light: 22g on our own scale.
Price is $69.95, a bit high, even by Tifosi’s standards, but if they get near daily use, it seems a worthwhile investment.
The model we tried out was the Midnight Blue, a color that looks good without being gender specific. The frames are made of Grilamid TR-90, which feels stiff enough to hold its shape, but flexible enough to conform as well as withstand near-daily lens swapping. The nose piece and ears are covered in hydrophilic rubber. Tifosi claims the nose and ear pieces are adjustable; but in the hand that doesn’t seem to be the case with this model, though they are replaceable. The Wisp comes with three lenses: Smoke (15.4% light transmission), All Conditions Red (41.4%), and Clear (95.6%). All three lenses are made of polycarbonate, have UV protection, and are optically decentered lenses, which Tifosi describes as “vary the thickness of the lens to take out any distortion, making them optically correct.”
The glasses were tested by two kids riding through the winter. Both liked the looks. One was less accessory-focused and preferred to ride without glasses. The second wanted to wear them every ride. Started with the Clear lens and then tried the Red and Smoke. In terms of fit, they went on easily and stayed on. No difference in comfort noted whether wearing glasses under hat or over helmet straps. No desire to take off the glasses until the riding was over.
While Clear or Red seemed to be the wiser choices for most of the riding conditions—either low flat light or changing conditions—Smoke was preferred. Perhaps this was an affect. Too cool for school. What was surprising was a seeming discomfort with the Red lenses; the report was that the colors that red lenses changed things to seem too far from reality to be comforting.
If they’re happy with the glasses, we’re happy. If it’s another reason to ride, or removes an excuse not to ride, the glasses are worth it in the long run.
Here’s a video from Tifosi on the installation and removal of lenses.