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Techs-Mechs: Eyewear is Nike's Next Cycling Foray

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Nike Vision Show X-2 glasses -- light and tight

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I was into eyewear before it was cool. No, really! Somewhere I think my Greg LeMond-style Oakley sunglasses -- basically ski masks without all the padding -- are sitting at the bottom of a box, next to some replacement toe clips and laces for my Detto Pietro's. The idea that you could get sufficient eye coverage against dust and debris was born back then in the mid-80s, or at least transformed from the days of real goggles. Yep, real goggles:

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And Serse's expression sums up his experience with army-issue eyewear.

Fear not, though, my eyewear experience did not stall out in the 80s. When Scott came along with its Sliders, and its many competitors did the same, I happily joined the quantum leap in satisfaction with lightweight, decent-looking glasses and the option of interchangeable lenses. It all made sense, and was just a matter of execution.

Enter Nike.

The Pacific Northwest's own footwear and clothing behemoth has dabbled in Cycling, with some unfortunate results -- for Cycling. Because the sport needs sponsors, and Nike has generally stood for high quality gear, it seemed serendipitous that they caught on to Lance-Mania around the turn of the Millennium. The unfortunate part is that everything Lance turned back into a sow's ear, and Nike weaned itself out of harm's way slowly, before disappearing last fall. I remember going to Niketown in Portland a couple years back to see what they had on display vis-a-vis cycling, and the answer was... some socks. Cycling drove them off. Or more accurately, Armstrong did.

So I took it as an interesting sign when I was asked to check out a pair of NikeVision Show X-2 glasses, Nike's multi-purpose, lightweight, interchangeable-lens shades billed as "Ideal for baseball and training, they are also functional for winter sport, golf, tennis and cycling." Cycling! We're back! Well, it's a toehold anyway.

Back to me: I've ridden a few different items over the years, and while the lenses were all satisfactory, it was the contact points which repeatedly failed. Nike's Max Optics lenses were sure to do their job, I figured, giving plenty of coverage and nice tinting. The bridge sits a few millimeters off the lenses, and more airflow always means less fogging. Even the process for changing the lens was a big improvement over my old Scotts, with their tiny, breakable snap piece. To change up the lenses on the Show X-2, you just bend the frame a bit (up with the sides, down with the middle) and the notched lenses can be unhooked from their slot. Devilishly simple. And apparently easy for lens-makers to do prescription versions.

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To test the contact points, I decided to wait for my Cross season to begin. Three races in, I can say the best thing possible about the Show X-2s: I forgot they were there. Those three races consisted of one mud pit (with some BMX jumps), one washboard field, and one beach blast, all with their share of either heavy rain or bright sun. In all three races, those glasses never moved, not once. No slipping on the bridge. No sliding off my ears. Nothing.

In a sense, Nike's emphasis on other sports is Cycling's gain. Swinging a golf club or a baseball bat or tennis racket is a more violent movement for the neck/face area than bouncing around on your bike. So when designing lightweight eyewear for those actions, Nike has figured out a few things with regard to maximizing stability. The bridge, apart from encouraging airflow, is adjustable -- you can simply bend it into whatever shape your nose requires. This is good news to my rather, um, charismatic Roman shnozz, and to my trail-running wife's more refined features. Like I said, no movement happening there.

The over-ear contacts are even more forehead-slappingly smart. Not just relying on the friction of the rubberized surface -- which would always get slick over time -- Nike has added some thin vertical strips to alter the contact points in a way that resist slippage. To wit:

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Do you feel them on your head? Nope. Do they stop the glasses from moving? Yep. Will they get slick over time? Ask me in time, but I doubt it. The extra surface area will always be there.

Retail price is $169. That's not the low end, but Nike didn't ask me for my opinion about the price. They asked me what I think of the glasses themselves. And the answer is, they're the best ones I've ever had. Even better than my old Oakley shields.