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30 Dec 11 Liberty Sport Riding Sunglasses – Review

Sunglasses. Protective eyewear. Shades.

Regardless what they’re called, it’s an essential piece of equipment needed for riding. Sunglasses could be considered a helmet for the eyes, keeping out the dirt, small road debris and bugs a rider faces every time they get in the saddle.

Like many riders, the staff of Clutch and Chrome have bought their fair share of sunglasses from bike nights and motorcycle events with the decision being made on price (cheap is good) and of course looks. Other factors that make their way into how long or how favored a pair of glasses may be fall to fit, comfort and the effectiveness of keeping out the wind and road hazards.

Like many things in life, it’s hard to know how wrong you can be about sunglasses until someone shows you just how right they can be. When we received a couple of pairs of sunglasses from Liberty Sport to test, we had our eyes opened (excuse the pun).

Between the Liberty Sport sunglasses and a coincidental visit to an optician by one of the Clutch and Chrome staff, the impact of wearing the correct sunglasses came into view (yes there are quite a few of these in this review).

Beyond looking cool

There are two challenges to riders; finding riding glasses that can protect their eyes from both road hazards and helping them see correctly.

While the most obvious road hazards to a rider’s eyes are grit and bugs, it’s the invisible threat that can impact a biker. The unseen enemy that poses the biggest threat to riders comes from the sun, more specifically, the spectrum of light known as ultra-violet (UV) radiation which can have long term harmful effects on a person’s eyes.

What most people don’t know is that sunglasses should be worn every day, regardless of whether it’s sunny or cloudy. UV radiation reaches our eyes in either light condition and its damage to vision is cumulative – it often goes unnoticed until years down the line. The long-term negative effects of UV exposure to the eyes include cataracts, age related macular degeneration, corneal sunburn, and even skin cancer around the eyelids. Most of these effects are often irreversible, too.

As for helping a rider see properly, not only is reducing road glare important but also the ability to have a prescription in the sunglasses to correct their eyesight when needed. Those ‘three-for-ten dollars’ sunglasses may not be something your optician wants to mess with.

It could be the history of Liberty Sport that brings the bigger picture approach to riding glasses. The company was founded in 1929 as a manufacturer of plastic and metal ophthalmic frames. In 1978 they introduced the world’s first prescription sport goggle under the Rec Specs line of protective sports eyewear.

According to the company’s website, for over 30 years Liberty Sport has been at the forefront of a national movement encompassing health professionals, educators and the private sector to prevent eye injuries in sports and recreational activities.

The company designs sunglasses for a range of activities or lifestyles as they like to call them. Snow (winter sports, skiing, snowboarding), water (fishing, water sports, boating), cross training (multiple sports such as running and hiking), swimming (swim, scuba, snorkel) as well as speed and motion (motorcycling, cycling, mountain biking, running).

‘We design performance sunglasses for use-specific basis – each style has unique, functional product advantages,’ the company states on their website.

This focus explains the quality of the sunglasses we enjoyed. While we’re not implying Clutch and Chrome has a certain reputation, the model we tested were the ‘Choppers’ (Chopper 2 to be precise). The curved sunglasses were fashioned in the style expected for biker’s sunglasses, but it was the small things that made the Liberty Sports the eyewear we’ve worn since first receiving them.

The two pair tested are a copper-brown and black. Both featured the 8-base wrap around lens shape which offers excellent peripheral field of vision. Included with the sunglasses are a semi-rigid case, cleaning cloth, eye cups pouch and adjustable cord to keep your glasses close at hand and around the neck.

It’s the term eye-cups that may have uninitiated scratch their motorcycle loving heads. A complaint of sunglasses designed for riding is how difficult they are to wear when not on the road. The effort to keep wind and road debris out also ends up trapping body heat around the eyes when not riding causing fogging and bikers to sweat. Liberty Sport gets around this challenge with their MagTraxion™ magnetic eye cups.

They firmly snap into place to give that added protection while riding and come out when off the road. Because the ‘eye-cups’ are magnetic, they stick together when off the sunglasses. For the more anal-retentive among us, an eye-cup pouch protects the plastic parts from being scratched whiles bouncing around in the jean pocket.

The driver lenses give a great view, reducing glare and allowing for a detailed view. The lenses are referred to as ‘Ultimate Driver Polycarbonate’ which are made for speed and motion activities. Tint is tailored for mid-range, contrast transmission to provide both sustained comfort and uncompromised visibility under the varying conditions encountered.

According to Liberty Sport the lenses feature a hard coat premium scratch coating and offer 100% UVA and UVB protection.

As with most fashion glasses, the colors on the copper brown pair are textured to give a subtle ‘tortoise shell’ effect with accents coming from a solid dark copper steel on the hinges and arms. The black pair are simply that, black with highlights coming from silver similar metal accents on the hinges and arms.

The glasses fit well, remarkably so with the eye-cups and they are extremely light. If the ‘chopper’ style isn’t how you ride, there are three other models in the lifestyle section focuses on motorcyclists; Adventure, Biker and Biker polarized.

If you’re a biker that should wear a corrective prescription while riding Liberty Sport should be high among your choices. But even if don’t, these are a great pair of sunglasses that will quickly become a favored part of your riding gear.

Prices for the pair tested range from $110 – $130 with any prescription lenses adding to the cost.

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