Italians are known for their style. In fact, Italy is home to some of the biggest fashion houses in the world, so it makes sense that their style transfers into the cycling space. We’ve seen some of the best brands in cycling hail from Italy – and ALBA Optics is one of them. They launched a few years back, in 2017 in fact, and their range of sunnies play on ‘80s retro-style fashion. Whilst other sunglass brands are all about future shapes, ALBA Optics bring the old iconic shapes back to life. They bridge the gap between old and new, adapting to the latest modern technology and producing their sunglasses in Italy. ALBA Optics are staunchly proud of their county’s heritage.
The SOLO sunnies look rad and, more importantly, they perform very well. Think of them as a modern take on Aviators. After a few weeks of testing these glasses during different weather and light conditions, I am pretty convinced that they’re up there with the best. Out of the box, the eyewear is packaged well – we’ve seen this with high-end products recently. The experience really starts with the unpacking. There’s no hard case per se, however, there’s an uber practical nylon pouch to protect your shades during travel. This will come in handy on rugged bikepacking excursions, for sure. There’s a lens cloth too. All in all, the attention to detail is impressive.
The SOLO sunglasses have a detachable flap, or side shield, which gives them a nostalgic feel. These have been designed to protect the sides of the eye from strong winds and debris, as well as assisting to align forward focus. However, this feature is more suitable for a hike-a-bike, adventures way off the grid and other outdoor pursuits, for obvious safety reasons. The side flap can prevent you from seeing traffic and creates a blind spot, so it’s good this feature is detachable – and I quite like that these sunnies have multiple style options. Another nifty feature is that the arms of the frame are telescopic, adjusting to comfortably fit the wearers head. The frame is also compatible with the brand’s Optical Clip, a separate attachment for prescription lens wearers. Finally, the lens is VZUM, which has been designed by the brand. Not content with other lenses out there, ALBA Optics has created these for the best visual experience in all-weather conditions and on all types of terrain. The material of the VZUM lenses are composed of is a durable ultra-light polycarbonate.
Before my first ride with them, I easily adjusted the arms to fit and wrap around my ears. I removed the side flaps as I knew I would be riding with traffic, then I threw them on and checked them out in the mirror. I know this is a little vain, but you’ve gotta check if the style suits! Turns out they did – and I even got the approval from my wife. Plus, the fit felt great. Out of my house and onto the road they protected my eyes well, from the glare. There are several hills in my hood which made for good testing for fogging, as I tend to sweat quite a bit. I didn’t experience any fogging – what’s more, after further riding with them on, they continued to impress me. I’ve had other sunnies that needed to be pulled away from the face briefly to prevent them from fogging – but not the SOLO. This is down to the central vent in the frame, which slots along the top of the lenses. It’s made to allow heat and steam to escape. The clarity was another thing I really noticed; you get this with other sunnies, of course, but these have a certain sharpness. I tested the SOLO WHT VZUM LEAF, which come with a light spectrum closer to infrared, allowing optimised focus and blue light protection.
On some of my other rides, I took on tougher terrain with mixed light conditions. The grit and debris from the wet gravel flicked up several times. The shades offered great protection along with superb vision to see any potholes that I needed to dodge. Again, I was impressed with the shades and would like to take them on some multi-day trips. The clarity, comfort and being adaptable to a change in conditions, makes them ideal for bikepacking trips.
Look, the style is out there and not for everyone – but I rate these shades. I’ve followed the Italian brand for some time, so it’s nice to see that the product stands up. Bravo to ALBA Optics for going down a different route and bringing old school style back in vogue.
Reviewed by Liam Friary
Distributed by Green Monkey