Review: Oakley Encoder Sunglasses
Cycling sunglasses aren’t just functional they’re a style statement. Oakley has been making style statements since way back. These days there’s a plethora of options out there but Oakley seems to always stay on point.
With that said let’s tackle design and aesthetics first. The Encoder feature a frameless mono-lens design with a distinctive ridge along the upper edge. Now we have seen the frameless design before and having no edge for your field of view in the upper portion of the sunglasses makes sense especially when you are riding with your head in a tucked position. The risk with this design is that sometimes the sturdiness is taken away but with the Encoder Oakley have got the balance right. Encoder's have a flared top edge which increases the rigidity. The arms, in true Oakley style, are narrow and straight while viewed from the side – they’re also heavily curved inwards, designed to hug the back of your head more than hook behind your ears. The tip or rear section has grippy rubber around the sleeve. Interestingly they also have a block of rubberised material on each arm close to the hinge – I think these are to assist in storing them in your helmet vent or gripping them when you take them off or put them on.
They come with one set of lens and to my knowledge, they’re not meant to be switched out often. This is unusual for Oakley but does make for less faff - however, if you’re only going to have one lens then you better make sure it’s a good one. The Prizm Road lens is one of the best all-around lens I've used. In low-light conditions and even when the sun has gone or is about to come up (twenty minutes on either side) it works well. Sure, it’s not as good as a clear lens but it performs adequately. They perform exceptionally well in bright sun. And, as the weather in Aotearoa is very changeable, they are great in all conditions. The Encoder lens is plenty deep enough to give a respectable field of view without staring at the edge of a frame in extreme riding positions. The nosepiece features a large rubber flange that sits flush with the lens and covers most of curved nose area. On the road and moving swiftly the retention was also exceptional – this is due to the lens ridge and the firm nosepiece. The arms don’t interfere with the helmet straps and the curved shape means they grip your head rather than rest on your ears. A win win for all-day comfort in my book.
Often you don’t always need or want to have the sunglasses on. So, putting them into your helmet vents is the simplest solution. However, this isn’t always straightforward when keeping the bike upright and faffing around as they don’t dock in the vent properly. This is something Oakley has considered from a rider’s perspective, and I found stowing them away seamless thanks to the grips on the arms and little rubber grips close to the hinges. If I was to pressed to hunt for a downside it would have to be the price tag.
So, these are a style statement backed up with practicality. Of course, that style is subjective to us all so I will let you be the judge of that. Oakley Encoder performs to a high standard as you’d expect from a brand of this caliber. The large field of view paired with Prizm Road lenses makes them shine.
Reviewed by Liam Friary