Oakley Sutro vs Sutro Lite review: casual performance
The eyewear industry is a fast-paced beast with new models, styles and iterations being released almost faster than seasons change. Lately, there’s been a clear trend toward bigger frames housing forever-bigger lenses, all of which give obvious retro ski village vibes.
American eyewear brand Oakley is no stranger to bringing a little casual style to the cycling world, and its big-and-bold Sutro frame has been offering just that for the past few seasons. For 2021 the company has introduced the Sutro Lite, an equally large Sutro with no frame rim on the lower half.
The basics of the Sutro and Sutro Lite
The Sutro and Sutro Lite play to the “bigger is bolder” trend flooding cycling eyewear at the moment. Compared to a number of Oakley’s other performance models, the Sutro line provides noticeably more lens coverage along with a more-casual straighter wrap across the height and width of the lens.
The Sutro’s frame surrounds the entire one-piece shield-type lens, while the Sutro Lite leaves the lower half of the lens bare and instead features a subtly thicker reinforced frame up top.
To help confuse things further, Oakley also offers the “Sutro S” (not tested) that’s designed for smaller faces with a marginally narrower lens and fit. But wait, there’s more. Oakley also offers the Sutro and Sutro Lite in the “Asian fit” which are designed for faces with shallower nose bridges (also not tested). And if that weren’t enough, a number of the models use their own unique lens fitment.
Both the Sutro and Sutro Lite frames share a similar edgy profile, with the arms angling into highly flexible and surprisingly slim tips. As with most Oakley glasses, the company’s grippier-when-you-sweat rubber is found on the nose piece, while the Sutro Lite’s gain that same material on the arms for more grip versus the Sutro. Notably, there’s no adjustment or fit customisation available at all.
As is usually the case, Oakley offers these models with a wide range of lens tints and treatments, including the company’s premium-priced condition-specific-enhancing Prizm Road and Prizm Trail options (both tested). Lenses can be changed, but you’ll need to bend the frames slightly to do so. As discovered by accident, it’s almost easier to pop the arms off the frame (a useful feature in the event your glasses occupy a chair that’s then used for its intended purpose) than to exchange the lens.
Both the Sutro and Sutro Lite weigh the same at 32 grams. By comparison, Oakley’s Radar EV Path is 30 g, while the Jawbreaker is 34 g.
And as with most Oakley eyewear you can expect to pay handsomely for 32 g of American-moulded plastic. The Sutro is priced at US$166 / AU$216, while the Sutro Lite (with Prizm lens) is surprisingly a little more at US$176 / AU$230.
Both the Sutro and Sutro Lite fit on the larger end and are likely to best suit medium or larger helmet wearers. Smaller-headed riders are likely best served by the Sutro S.
Personally, I fall right in between most small- and medium-sized helmets and found the fit of the Sutros to be good but lacking absolute security. The snugness is closely comparable to Oakley’s Jawbreaker, and certainly looser than the Radar EV.
And it’s worth noting that while the fit is supposed to be matched between the two Sutro models, my Sutro Lite sample offers a more pronounced bend in the arms, that when combined with rubber grippers on the arms, provides a subtly tighter and more secure fit than the regular Sutro.
For road cycling, I really like this simple and relaxed fit that quickly goes unnoticed. They stay put under normal conditions and don’t cause any discomfort that can experienced with tighter-fitting eyewear. The oversized look seemed ridiculous when these were first released, but recent enormous-eyewear releases from POC, 100% and Scicon have put things into perspective and these now look quite normal-sized to me.
Off-road I missed the tighter wrap and snugger hold provided by my favoured Oakley Radar EV Paths. Over rough terrain the Sutro and even Sutro Lite had a tendency to jiggle off the top of my nose and occasionally had me reaching to push them back up. However, it’s worth noting that for my smaller-sized head the Sutros seemingly stay put slightly better than Oakley’s popular Jawbreaker (which offer less grip at the arms versus the Sutro Lite).
My colleague Iain Treloar shared a similar sentiment with the Oakley Sutros he’s been using for the past year between writing about goats, fashionable timepieces and Pizza hut. “I don’t like that the nose piece is not adjustable and find it slightly too loose – when I’m sweaty or on a bumpy ride I need to push them back up the nose occasionally.”
The surface area these large glasses occupy isn’t small and so compatibility with various helmets should also be considered. I personally didn’t run into any contact issues with road helmets, but the deeper coverage of some mountain bike helmets didn’t play so well. Also, keep in mind that the arms – much like on the Oakley Radar range – are quite long and will reach most helmet retention systems. Thankfully they’re highly flexible and slim down to almost nothing, and so you’ll likely have the option to stick them over or under most retention systems.
Such large coverage means both models offer an impressive range of view. Of course, the lack of a lower frame on the Sutro Lite means it’s better for peering over your shoulder, while the frame of the regular Sutro can be seen at times – namely when riding in an upright position.
While Oakley does sell limited edition vented versions of the Sutros, the standard versions (as tested) lack any obvious lens vents or effort to stave off fogging.The vision remains pretty good in slower and humid conditions, but the general lack of vents means these glasses can fog up when you stop moving. This is more obvious with the close-framed Sutro, while the Sutro Lite anecdotally seems to stave off and then clear fog more rapidly.
Similar findings are present with regards to sweat drips on the lens. The open nature of the Sutro Lite sees the droplets bead straight through while they can pool on the lower edge of the closed Sutro. There’s no noticeably effective anti-sweat or anti-fog treatment applied to the inner side of the lens.
The lenses themselves offer exactly what I’ve come to appreciate with Oakley Prizm – clear, high clarity and wonderfully coloured vision. We’ve previously covered how this now widely copied technology works, but in the simplest sense, Oakley’s Prizm lenses aim to cut out specific wavelengths of light which, in turn, enhances the colours that matter most for the use case.
These lenses really do enhance your vision when used for the intended use. For example, the Prizm Road lens offers a fairly dark 20% light transmission while boosting the contrast and visibility of things like white lines and street signs. Meanwhile, the Prizm Trail Torch lens assumes you’ll be shaded by trees and so features a far brighter 35% transmission while boosting many of nature’s trail obstacles and associated shadows.
Of course, there is an obvious limitation with such condition-specific designs, and that’s fairly obvious once you go beyond the intended use of the respective lens. For example, the Prizm Road lens is too dark and dull-feeling when ridden on shady trails, while the Prizm Trail lens can often feel too bright and weirdly orange when used on the tarmac. And then things get somewhat confusing when riding gravel … what’s your gravel like?
Iain and I have both experienced durability issues with Oakley Prizm lenses in the past, notably where the coating would bubble, chip or crack away from the lens leaving a sort of fuzzy vision. So far things are looking up and neither of us have seen a hint of such issues here. It does seem the newer versions of Prizm are greatly improved in this regard.
All of this is to say that Oakley’s Prizm lenses are brilliant but also not for riders looking for one lens to cover all disciplines of cycling. Owning multiple Prizm lenses is of course an option, but then you’re back at the fact that these are by no means a cheap product. Alternatively, Oakley offers more traditional lenses which may prove more versatile, at least assuming the tint is right.
Compared to the Sutro, the newer Sutro Lite offers a subtly snugger fit, uninteruppted peripheral viewing, and tends to have a better handle on hot and/or humid conditions. And while that should be enough to give it the win, there is one obvious drawback to the Sutro Lite – it’s a little flimsy.
The regular Sutro offers a solid feeling, the lens is well protected at the base, and it’s secured tightly in the frame, too. By contrast, the lens in the Sutro Lite actually rattles within the frame when you shake it. That rattle isn’t something I’ve heard while rolling along, but there’s no doubt eyewear at this price should feel more solid.
When it comes to riding off-road I’m not sold on the looser fit these offer and I’ll be returning to my trusty Radar EV Paths.
For road riding though, I have taken a liking to the imperfect Sutro Lite. Call me vain, but I’ve come to really appreciate that large poker-face coverage. And Iain is of a similar mindset, suggesting that he finds the Sutro’s shape more pleasing than his “gold standard” Jawbreakers that admittedly offer far more adjustability in fit.