Oakley Anorak review: Perfect on paper, rough in execution

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There was a point on a gravel climb out the back of Warburton last spring, with sweat streaming down my face in the humid late-afternoon air, that I thought “I should really sort out my sunglass situation”. The situation in question: a set of Ray Ban Wayfarers that were alternately fogging up or sliding down my nose in a slurry of sunscreen and sweat.

It could be argued that, sunglass-wise, I’d chosen the wrong tool for the task. Heck, I’d probably agree with that myself. But I was in baggy shorts and a flanny, and had made the call six hours earlier that I wasn’t going to take this ride too seriously. My fluoro yellow Jawbreakers stayed in the car, and my Wayfarers came along for the ride. Which, about four hours later, brings us back to how I really needed to sort out my sunglass situation.

That night, a search began, based on the question: “is there a set of riding sunnies that look normal off the bike, and function well on it?”

There’s barely a segment of the cycling market that hasn’t caught gravel fever, but as far as I can tell, eyewear hasn’t yet fallen prey to the trend.

That is, of course, totally fine. But it also means that riders looking for a more casual look – as many gravel riders are – are caught in the no-man’s-land between the likes of POC, Oakley and 100% sports glasses, and more conventional fashion eyewear from the likes of Ray Ban and Persol.

I’ve had good luck with Oakley’s cycling sunglasses, so that was my first port of call on my quest.

A scan of the company’s catalogue revealed a lot of vast cycling-specific visors in eye-searing colour-schemes, but when I asked for suggestions on a more casual-looking cycling-appropriate alternative, Oakley pointed me towards a model nestled in its huge range of ‘performance lifestyle’ sunglasses.

That model was the Anorak, which seemed to combine a couple of cycling-friendly features with a less-showy aesthetic.

The good

Oakley’s Prizm lenses have been one of the most significant and well-received advances in the history of the brand’s technology, and for good reason: Prizm offers exceptional clarity and allows Oakley to target the way that light is highlighted, amplifying certain colour bandwidths and reducing others.

Oakley’s collection of Prizm lenses has grown steadily over the years, encompassing nearly every common usage scenario. Photo: James Huang

The Prizm Road lens is what road riders will be most familiar with – it’s the most common variant in the brand’s cycling-specific sunglass portfolio. It has a pinkish hue and increased contrast, helping the eye detect imperfections in the road surface.

The Anorak features a Prizm lens too – albeit non-road specific – with a grey base lens colour through the range, and a number of different tints overlaid. The one reviewed here, in a Prizm Jade, gives slightly reduced light transmission compared to the Prizm Road (14% vs 20%), with a somewhat green tinge that makes rides through the bush a more verdant experience.

There are seven different colour schemes available in the Anorak range , with frames varying from subdued black to parrot-like greens and yellows. The black with grey lenses would be the obvious choice for a more subtle appearance, but that wasn’t what I got sent by Oakley for review, so here we are.

Similar in shape to a Wayfarer but with a more squared-off silhouette, the Anorak has a 59 mm lens width, which is large by the standards of conventional sunglasses but appears somewhat small in comparison to the enormous cycling glasses that are currently in vogue. Despite their size, the Anoraks are light and comfortable to wear, although feel a little flimsy in the hinges and arms.

So far so good, but if you cast your mind back a few paragraphs, you’ll remember that there was a problem I was trying to solve: fogging lenses and sliding frames. And at a glance, the Anorak looked to have a couple of snappily-named features to help overcome those obstacles.

The flawed

At the bridge of these glasses, in teal, is a button that activates what Oakley calls ‘Advancer technology’ – a feature that debuted on the Flight Jacket cycling sunglasses in 2018. This pushes the nosepiece out, moving the sunglasses away from your face, increasing airflow and reducing fogging.

I haven’t tried the Flight Jacket – perhaps its a marvel of modern sunglass engineering – but I can’t really recommend this feature based on my experiences here. At the most basic level, I’ll admit it works in reducing fog, but it introduces several significant compromises to get there.

Activating the Advancer is a whole-hand operation that requires you to hold the frame with a couple of fingers while forcefully pushing down on the switch. If you’re not careful with your finger placement – like, say, if you’re riding up a technical climb and your glasses are fogging up – it’s easy to smear your fingers over the lens, leaving a smudge.

If or when you’ve mastered this hold and pushed the switch down, the nosepiece pivots from the base, pushing the bridge of the nosepiece against your face. This is not particularly comfortable, which is suboptimal, but it also reduces the amount of nose-gripper in contact with your face, making the sunglasses’ grip tenuous at best. On paved climbs it’s acceptable – just – but on rougher off-road surfaces there’s a distracting amount of movement and the real risk that the glasses will come bouncing off the face altogether.

Advancer Technology is deployed with a forceful press of the button on top…
…which pops the nosepiece back toward the face, and pivots the glasses away.

Rather than going through the hassle and risk of using the Advancer, I ended up just putting up with the (admittedly minor) fogging that occurred in my use in the standard position.

Oakley touts its Unobtainium (®, naturally) nose-pads as providing slip-free security, and silly name aside, I’ve had good experiences with the material on other Oakley models. I didn’t feel so favourably about the nose-pads on the Anorak, seeing as the glasses still slid down my face during hard efforts when I got sweaty.

I thought this might have been attributable to a fit issue, but on closer examination, I don’t feel this to be the case. The bridge width of the Anorak is 16 mm – on the narrow side – in comparison to 18 mm on the Jawbreaker, which I experience no such problem with. That unfortunately leads me to the conclusion that the Anorak simply has a poor pad placement, with too little of the material in contact with the face, in either of the Advancer’s positions.

Everyone’s face shape is different, and what doesn’t work for me may work for you. But based on my experiences, the Anorak seemed to have a lot going for them, and ended up delivering on very little of that promise. The Advancer thing was fiddly to use, uncomfortable and tenuous in its hold on the bike, and the nose grippers didn’t grip well enough, regardless of whether the Advancer toggle was on or off.

That leaves us with a nice-enough-looking pair of sunglasses with an excellent lens, but doesn’t equal a good pair of cycling sunglasses.

RRP: AU$214.95 / US$166 / €146


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