Simplicity is not cycling’s strong suit. Look at the broad swath of reviews on VeloNews and you’ll find countless write-ups of products designed specifically for one purpose or another. Before long, you’ve got a quiver of wheels or multiple jerseys of different weights to use depending on the day’s weather.
Smith’s Photochromic Ignitor NXT lens is one of the rare products that actually promises to simplify your equipment arsenal, and we found that it delivered.
No need to swap
Remember when Smith Sliders first came out? It was a dream to easily swap out lenses depending on the day — something any New England mountain biker relied on in that wildly variable climate. Smith continues to offer sunglasses with interchangeable lenses, but the Photochromic lenses are on their way to rendering the feature superfluous.
Currently, the Photochromic lens is only available for the Pivlock V2 and V2 Max, which both have easily swappable lenses. It’s available in a clear and rose-tinted Ignitor variety; we tested the latter. Both offer coverage of 14-60 percent VLT by available UV light, nearly half the light spectrum.
At $80, these lenses are not an inexpensive upgrade. That’s half the cost of a new pair of Pivlock V2s, which include three lenses. However, for the sake of comparison, Oakley’s photochromic Radar lens costs a jawdropping $165. Either way, you’re spending quite a bit of money on something that can easily be dropped, scratched, lost, forgotten or eaten by the dog. So be careful.
Grab and go
Despite the hang-ups that come with being somewhat accident-prone, we loved the simplicity of throwing on these shades and heading out to ride. In a sunny place like Colorado, this is usually less of an issue. Yet on days when the forecast was shifty, the NXT was ready for anything. The lens was in its element at the Giro d’Italia Gran Fondo held at the Sea Otter Classic. From the foggy 6:30 a.m. rollout to the blazing afternoon sun at the finish, our eyes were comfortable.
Mountain bikers will also appreciate the rose tint’s versatility and clear optics. However, like any photochromic lens, the NXT won’t change immediately. Also, if you’re a desert dweller that copes with broiling hot sunshine on long road rides, the bulletproof protection of a mirrored lens will be missed.
There will always be days when we want to choose the lens that will be best for the ride or race. We are cyclists, after all, and we like to tweak, tune and control every little detail. But there are lots of days when you want to simply grab your sunglasses and hop on the bike, and Smith’s Photochromic Ignitor NXT is perfect for just that.
Pros: Awesome versatility, great optics, simplicity.
Cons: An expensive upgrade, not dark enough for midsummer sunshine.
The Lowdown: Riders of all stripes will enjoy having a lens that keeps up with whatever weather conditions are on tap. If you start at sunrise and go long, the NXT is a great option.