December 2016 Product Picks: Smith Optics, Bontrager, Edco 3ax, Bar Fly, Fix-It Sticks, Tacx, and Wind-Blox

by James Huang

December 7, 2016

Photography by James Huang

In this month’s edition of Product Picks, U.S. technical editor James Huang provides his feedback on Smith Optics’ latest lens technology, some budget-minded footwear from Bontrager, a novel pedal concept from Edco 3ax, Bar Fly’s latest two-in-one gadget, Fix-It Sticks’ innovative take on the lowly multi-tool, Tacx’s stylish water bottle and cage, and a neat idea from Wind-Blox to keep wind noise at bay.


Click the links below to skip through to a particular review:


Smith Optics Pivlock Arena Max Chromapop sunglasses

by James Huang

The Pivlock Arena Max isn’t a new model in Smith Optics’ extensive range of cycling eyewear, but continuous updates have kept it current. As before, the “Max” variant offers a large lens with excellent coverage, and the company’s very clever Pivlock system provides the convenience of interchangeable lenses but with the added field of view that comes with a frameless format.

To swap lenses on the Smith Optics Pivlock Arena Max Chromapop sunglasses, just pivot the arm upward and then pull it off the lens - simple as pie.

To swap lenses on the Smith Optics Pivlock Arena Max Chromapop sunglasses, just pivot the arm upward and then pull it off the lens. Simple.

Recently added is a two-position nosepiece for a more customizable fit, and a new Chromapop lens family, which more precisely filters light frequencies for what Smith Optics says is a higher-contrast, sharper view of the world — similar to Oakley’s Prizm lens, at least in concept. Unlike Oakley, however, Smith Optics treats both sides of the Arena Max lens with a water- and oil-repellent coating to help maintain clear vision both in inclement weather and while sweating.

Included in the asking price is a semi-rigid case and an additional light rose-colored lens for low-light conditions.

Our Take:

I’d already been using an older Arena Max for a few years, and the fit on the new version was pleasantly familiar with its outstanding coverage and ample protection. The frame is a bit softer and more flexible than what you usually find from Oakley, so riders with wider and/or more sensitive heads might find these more comfortable for long days in the saddle. That said, the fit also isn’t quite as secure, either, so bear that in mind depending on how you plan to use them.

The new Chromapop lens is arguably the biggest draw here, and it’s indeed an improvement over previous versions. As promised, there’s a little more visual “pop” that helps you distinguish features in the road, and visual quality is once again excellent with superb clarity and almost no noticeable distortion.

Smith Optics' latest Chromapop lens tint provides more contrast and "pop" than previous lenses, but it's still a step behind Oakley's superb Prizm offerings.

Smith Optics’ latest Chromapop lens tint provides more contrast and “pop” than previous lenses, but it’s still a step behind Oakley’s superb Prizm offerings.

If you’re already in the Smith Optics camp and are looking for something new, the latest Arena Max Chromapop glasses are the best I’ve used from the Idaho company — but in terms of lens technology, these are still a step behind the best-in-class Oakley Prizm in terms of how they make the world look.

Price: US$189 / AU$270 / £140
www.smithoptics.com


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