Rudy Project offers a replacement lens program wherein they will replace any of their lenses for frames that are in the current year’s product catalog. They require you send in the lens you want replaced, and charge $29.95 per pair.
I just learned about this warranty program a couple weeks ago and thought I’d give it a whirl. I sent in two pairs of lenses for my Rydon spectacles.
One pair was ImpactX Photochromic Black. These were one of the two original sets of lenses I bought with the Rydons in 2011. Prior to my shine job, these were what I kept mounted in the Rydon chassis most of the time, with the RX carrier behind them. The lenses had some noticable scratches on them, I think caused by my face, the RX carrier, ImpactX lens, and other people’s fists all coming into loving embrace.
The second pair was ImpactX Photochromic Laser Red. These are the ones I’ve used almost everyday for the past 4.5 years. These had some minor scratches on them from normal use – nothing that was noticeable when worn, but I figured as long as I was sending a package in for warranty I’d include these.
I classify both of these lenses as critical equipment, so I already had a spare pair of each. I was prepared for a long wait, or for Rudy to reject my claim because both lenses were still usable as is.
I put both lenses in a padded envelope, with a check for $59.90, and dropped it in the mail last Monday. The postage cost me $3.42. Today, nine days later, I received a package with two new lenses.
Purchasing those two lenses would cost $209.98. There’s a lot of ridiculous markup in the eyewear industry, but knowing that I can easily replace my Rudy lenses for about 30% of their MSRP makes me happy to continue to do business with Rudy. In past years I’ve looked at third parties, such as Revant, to expand my lens collection with less money. But now I can’t say that I have any interest in purchasing lenses from anyone other than Rudy.
I’ve previously mentioned my infatuation with the ImpactX2 Photochromic Laser Red lenses. These remain my lense of choice 99% of the time. But sometimes I want a polarized lens (such as when on water), or one with lower light transmission (such as when the sun is low during the equinox), or one with higher contrast (such as when on snow), or one that is not photochromic (such as when in an enclosed vehicle for an extended period of time). All of these conditions are satisfied by the Polar3FX brown lenses. I carry these in the wallet inside of the small microfiber lens pouch that Rudy provides.
A microfiber bag is useful when I want to put the Rydons inside my pack. The bag doesn’t provide any crush protection, but prevents the lenses from getting scratched. I use the bag that came with my old Revision Sawfly optics.
I also carry a full-size microfiber cloth. This is the same large model I use to protect my laptop screen. It is slightly redundant with the microfiber bag – both can be used to clean the lenses – but I find the larger size of the dedicated cloth useful.
There’s enough room in the wallet to store my Cablz retention strap. I have kept this attached to the Rydons most of the time since purchasing the strap last year, but if I remove it, it goes in the wallet.
The wallet can fit a 5ml spray bottle filled with ROR. That’s not something I carry around on a daily basis, but I’d consider tossing it in for an extended trip.
As you may have gathered, one of my pet peeves is dirty optics. I want to protect my corneas from UV radiation and impact, but I also want vision that is high definition and high fidelity. The Rydons, coupled with this small and lightweight kit, support that objective.
I’ve previously mentioned my fondness for Rudy Rydon eyewear (particularly with the photochromic laser red lenses). One of the benefits of the Rydons is the adjustability of the temples and the nose pad, which allow for a secure, custom fit. This makes added retention via a strap unnecessary for securing the Rydons on the face, yet I’ve come to appreciate having a retainer attached simply because it allows me to drop the eyewear around my neck when I don’t need it. This offers more security than pushing them up onto the crown of my head or hanging them over the edge of my shirt or pocket, without requiring the hassle of putting them away in a pack.
For this application I’ve come to like the Cablz Zipz Adjustable Eyewear Retainer. I use the 12 inch version. These are made of a coated, stainless steel wire. When you’re wearing the eyewear, the wire sits up off the neck so you don’t feel the retainer at all. When you’re hanging it around your neck, it is thin and light enough that you soon forget it is there (this is also a result of the lightness of the Rydons, of course). The zip allows the length of the retainer to adjust from about 6 inches to 12 inches. At the smallest setting this keeps the Rydons tight on my face, but since that is not what I’m looking for I keep it adjusted about half way. At roughly 9 inches in length, I find that I can easily don and doff the eyewear, and that they sit at a comfortable position on my chest when I’m hanging them around my neck. The “universal” silicon ends of the retainer grab securely on the Rydon temples.
Cablz isn’t the only company to offer this style of retainer.
The Croakies ARC Endless is the same basic idea. I bought one to try out, but found it to be inferior. The silicon ends are significantly thicker and less comfortable behind the ear. I could bend the Rydon temples to account for this extra thickness, but I appreciate that the Cablz retainer requires no adjustment of the eyewear. With the Croakies, the pieces you grab to tighten the retainer are quite small. You’re adjusting the retainer blind by reaching behind your head, so the haptics are important. I found the Croakies difficult to use when wearing gloves. The Cablz adjustment pieces are large enough to be easy to use whether gloved or gloveless.
The equivalent from Chums is the Adjustable Orbiter. It only adjusts from 10 inches to 15.5 inches, which is too large for my needs, so I didn’t buy one to try.
I recommend the retainer from Cablz. It provides a simple but helpful augmentation to my eyeball protection system.
Late last year I ran out of lens cleaner. In the past I’ve never made an informed purchase of lens cleaner, opting instead for the free bottles given out at optometry offices or whatever generic bottles were presented on the counter of the closest drug store. This time around I thought I’d look to see if there was any specific product worth purchasing. I assumed that there were probably picky photographers who had performed a survey of cleaners for their camera lenses, and that their conclusions would apply to other optical surfaces.
Three branded cleaners out of about a dozen, after 5 test repetitions, walked away with the honors. They are: Zeiss Lens Cleaning Solution, Nikon Lens Cleaning solution and ROR Lens Cleaning Solution. At the bottom of the list was surprisingly, Purosol, that tied with straight distilled water for having absolutely zero emulsifying properties for removing skin oil in all 5 of our test repetitions. When I spoke with the Purosol folks, and asked “How does NASA use your product and for what cleaning purposes”, I was politely told, “That information is classified, and, we unfortunately don’t know!”
Between the 3 top reviewed products, I flipped a coin and ended up purchasing ROR, or Residual Oil Remover.
ROR certainly works. I use it on my Rudy lenses, my laptop screen and external monitors, as well as the screen of my phone. But because I made the purchase after I was out of my previous cleaner, I wasn’t able to compare it to anything else for a couple months. Later on I found a partially used bottle of generic lens cleaner from my optometrist and was able to do a comparison. ROR cleans better with less rubbing.
I don’t know what the contents were of that last bottle of generic cleaner, or how it compares to the other cheap, generic cleaners that I’ve used in the past. But I am happy enough with ROR that I will continue to use and recommend it. I have three bottles stashed around my frequented areas at home and work, and appreciate its ability to keep the clarity of my optical devices at a maximum.
They must offer impact protection. Not protecting my eyeballs has always seemed dumb. Not protecting them after I’ve sunk a few thousand dollars into my cornea would be even dumber. ANSI Z87.1 is a good standard for impact protection, but I will of course happily accept MIL-PRF-31013.
They should offer interchangeable lenses. This is not critical, but it is nice to have. Different lens colors are appropriate in different environments. Good eyewear is usually expensive, which can make purchasing multiple pairs prohibitive. If you do purchase multiple pairs, you still have to carry them, which is much less attractive than carrying one pair of frames and different lenses. Photochromic lenses make the single-lens option more palatable, until you realize that the alternative is interchangeable photochromic lenses.
They should not be butt-ugly.
Prior to PRK, the fourth and most important criteria was that they somehow be prescription compatible. I always assumed this was the most limiting criteria. While recovering from my shine job I lay in bed thinking about eyewear, and assumed that there would be a much wider range of options available to me when I could see again.
Imagine my disappointment when, after I recovered enough to see a computer, I found that there were actually no compelling new options. Even without the need of prescription lenses, the Rudy Rydon Stealth are still the best thing out there.
Determined to not be so easily dissuaded from spending money, I decided to treat myself to a new pair of lenses for the Rydons. After some consideration I landed on the ImpactX2 Photochromic Laser Red. Red lenses provide excellent contrast and visual depth. I have owned a pair of Rudy’s non-photochromic Racing Red lenses for a while and found them to be the ideal option for overcast days, but their static nature gave them a more narrow window of effectiveness which limited their actual use. The Photochromic Laser Red take the same excellent color and add the dynamism I’ve come to enjoy: the lenses offer 75% light transmission on the clear side and 16% light transmission on the dark side. On the light side that’s actually 1 point higher than the same generation clear-to-black lenses, making them even more appropriate for indoor or night work. On the dark side, that’s right in the middle of the transmission range typical of most sunglasses. The “laser” in the name refers to a light mirrored coating. These aren’t the mirrorshades Bruce Sterling promised you, but the lasering does serve to reduce glare and eye strain by reflecting some of the light away rather than absorbing it. It also adds an attractive bluish sheen.
I bought these lenses last December and I’ve removed them from the Rydons in exactly two situations: on water and on snow. In those environments I think a good, dark polarized brown lens is hard to beat. I opt for the Rudy Polar 3FX. In every other environment I’ve been in over the past year, my preference has been for the Photochromic Laser Red. I wear them whenever I’m on the bike. Even if I’m riding past midnight and it is pitch black, they transmit enough light that I barely notice I have them on. I wear them indoors when things are going bang. I wear them during the equinox when the sun is low on the horizon, pointing directly into my eyes. Like all photochromic lenses, they react to UV light, and so are suboptimal in cars. They will darken, but not completely. I tend to only spend a collective handful of hours per year in cars, so this isn’t a consideration for me.
If I was only going to have one pair of lenses, it’d be these. (But I like interchangeable lenses so I keep the brown lenses in my pack too.)
I’ve used a pair of Rudy Project Rydon Stealth glasses as sun and safety glasses for about five years now. They’re a great eye protection system for active wear, and I think are especially attractive for those who require prescription eyewear. The Rydon offers an adaptable system with interchangeable lenses and full coverage, in a lower profile compared to popular tactical eyewear systems like the Revision Sawfly, Oakley M Frame or ESS ICE.
The temples and nosepads of the Rydon are made from an pliable rubber material that lets the user adjust them however they want. You can have straight temples or hook them down behind your ears. You can move the nosepads to get the right height and clearance on your face. I find that both adjustments largely stay in place after being set. If they do move, it is simple to reset them.
Safety & Durability
The only difference between Rudy’s “Stealth” and non-“Stealth” line is the ANSI Z87.1 rating applied to the frame. Z87.1 is the standard for eyewear protection that will be familiar to anyone who has worn safety glasses or so-called “tactical” eyewear. It describes, among other things, impact resistance. The Rydon lenses are interchangeable between Stealth and non-Stealth variants, and certain lens selections have their own Z87.1 ratings. The Stealth frames are made from a different material than non-Stealth. The non-Stealth Rydons fail to meet Z87.1 standards due to how they shatter1.
Unfortunately, Rudy has not certified the Rydon for MIL-PRF-32432, the military specification for ballistic eyewear.
As you might expect, the Rydon have proven to be very durable. I’ve used them regularly over the past five years. I shoot in them, I crash bikes in them, and I’ve been punched in the face more times than I can count in them. They’re none the worse for wear. Certain lenses have minor scratches, but none that I notice when I’m actually wearing them. The frames themselves are like new. The rubber material does not absorb sweat and odors, which is a complaint I’ve heard of Oakley’s “unobtainium” rubber temples.
Rudy is well known for their ImpactX lenses. They describe it as being a “bullet-proof, transparent, and light-weight material capable of providing superior protection, reliability and longer lasting performance than polycarbonate”. It is what Apache windshield panels are made out of, which makes me feel good about myself2.
ImpactX is actually just Rudy-branded NXT. NXT is a variant of Trivex. I’m not sure what the difference is between NXT and Trivex. It may be that NXT is just a specific branding of Trivex. I do know that the Z87.1 impact protection that NXT/ImpactX claims is a property of the Trivex. Trivex gives equal protection.
Trivex is a polymer that was introduced as an alternative to polycarbonate. Traditionally, most safety glasses are made out of polycarbonate. When you get a prescription insert from Revision or ESS and have them fill the prescription, the lenses they’re putting in are polycarbonate. “Plutonite” is Oakley’s proprietary brand of polycarbonate. Trivex offers equal impact protection, but has a lower Abbe number than polycarbonate, which translates to superior optical quality.
Trivex is slightly more expensive (polycarbonate costs ~$40, Trivex ~$50). Trivex also has a slightly lower refractive index, which translates to Trivex prescription lenses being slightly thicker than polycarbonate. But Trivex has a lower specific gravity, so the Trivex lenses will be slightly lighter than the equivalent polycarbonate, despite the added thickness.
There’s nothing rare or special about Trivex. Everyone does it. You can bring any set of frames into any optometry office and tell them you want to put Trivex lenses in it. As long as your prescription fits the frame, they can do it. The resulting lenses will meet or exceed Z87.1, even though your optometrist likely isn’t going to get them certified for the Z87.1 stamp.
The ImpactX lenses, in addition to offering impact protection, are also photochromic. Photochromic lenses darken when exposed to ultraviolet radiation. Having a clear lens in a pair of safety glasses is critical for indoor work, and being able to use the same lenses as sunglasses outdoors keeps the overall price down. It is also helpful for transitions. If you start out in the sun and then go inside, or the clouds roll in or the sun sets, your optics quickly respond without you needing to take time to remove the glasses or swap lenses.
When I first purchased the Rydon system, one of the lenses I included was the ImpactX photochromic clear-to-black. This is a neutral lens that offered 18-78% light transmission. A few months ago, I purchased Rudy’s ImpactX-2 photochromic clear-to-black lenses. These offer 9-74% light transmission. In addition to the change in light transmission, ImpactX-2 also reacts faster and is supposed to respond slightly better to non-UV light3.
While the ImpactX lenses are the only offerings from Rudy with the Z87.1 stamp, the company does offer some other lens options.
Rudy’s Polar 3FX is their polarized lens solution. Polarized lenses reduce glare, which is useful on water and snow. I have a pair of Polar 3FX brown lenses. At 15% light transmission, these offer about the same protection as my old Julbo Micropore glacier glasses. They’re a great supplement to the ImpactX photochromic lenses, and are light enough that I am happy to carry them as a secondary option on backpacking trips for use above the tree line.
The third lens I went with is what Rudy calls Racing Red. These are a high contrast red lens with 28% light transmission. A contrast lens in something like red or yellow is a great option for hazy days when it isn’t bright out and you don’t want much light reduction, but you find yourself squinting from the glare4.
Of the three lenses (or four, since I now have two of the photochromic clear-to-black lenses), I use the Racing Red least of all. They’re great in certain conditions, but the ImpactX(-2) lenses work well in all conditions, so I find that I can just leave them in the frame all the time and never think about it. Plus, Z87.1.
Rudy has a few options for people who need prescription lenses. The option that I’ve gone for is the Optical Insert. I used a similar setup back in the day with Revision Sawfly eyewear and their insert, but I think Rudy does it better. While this kind of dual lens system does result in a slight degradation of optical quality, it means that you only pay for the prescription once. Being able to purchase multiple non-prescription lenses that sit in front of the prescription lens is the only thing that makes this kind of multi-lens system tenable.
Rudy offers two different carrier styles: a full metal frame and a “rimless” option.
When I first purchased the Rydon system I went with the full metal frame. It has served well over the years. Like the Rydon frame, it still functions like new. Occasionally a punch in the face will cause the insert to be knocked out of the Rydon, but that hasn’t caused any damage to the carrier, and it only takes a second to pop it back in.
This past spring, when I bought the new ImpactX-2 lenses, I also wanted to purchase another carrier to have my new prescription put in it. This time around I tried the “rimless” model. The “rimless” carrier is not actually rimless: the lenses are held in place by a thin wire that goes around the circumference of each lens. This can result in a thicker lens. With a rimless carrier, the lens need a groove cut into it to accept the wire. Prescription lenses are thinnest on the inside (near the nose) and thickest on the outside. If your prescription is weak enough that the outside of the lens is not already thick enough for the groove to be cut, the thickness will need to be increased.
I’ve not found that the lenses in my rimless carrier appear any thicker than the ones in my old carrier, but that’s something that you may want to keep in mind when deciding between the two carrier options.
When you’ve received the carrier, you can take it to any optometrist to have your prescription lenses filled. Finding an optometrist who has some experience with this kind of setup – whether they are actually a Rudy dealer or offer some other sport brand with an insert system – will like behoove you. With my first pair, I used a Rudy dealer. The optometrist that I used when filling the new carriers this year was not a Rudy dealer, nor had they ever dealt with something like this before. However, they actually grind their lenses in house, which is something I’ve never seen before. When placing the order I was able to talk with the lab manager who would actually be making the lenses, which gave me confidence that I wouldn’t be wasting my money5.
For the prescription lenses, I went with polycarbonate. With a dual lens system like this, both weight and thickness are a concern. While Trivex would have been lighter, we decided that the thinner polycarbonate would be better suited for my prescription. The polycarbonate prescription lenses would be behind the Rydon’s ImpactX(/NXT/Trivex) lenses, so I don’t have much concern about the lower impact resistance.
This time around I went with an anti-fog coating, which I did not have previously. While it was rarely ever an issue, I did occasionally experience fogging with the old lenses. It usually happens when walking into a sweaty gym when it is cold and dry outside. It’s not really the time of year for me to be able to evaluate if the anti-fog coating is doing anything on the new lenses.
I think an anti-glare coating on the prescription lens is unnecessary. The tinted Rydon lenses should take care of that problem whenever necessary.
I did also go with an edge polish on the new prescription lenses. Previously I opted to forgo that option with the old metal carriers, but with the rimless carrier I thought that it would help maintain a lower profile look – both from the outside looking in and the inside looking out. I think it was a smart decision.
↵ Personally, I think that wearing sunglasses which are not Z87.1 rated is stupid and a waste of money, outside of certain specialty requirements. Eyes are important. You can't fight what you can't see, unless you are a time travelling samurai.
↵ When you get down to it, why wouldn't you protect your eyeballs with the same technology used in gunships?
↵ Traditionally, one of the shortcomings of photochromic lenses is that they don't work well in cars. Windshields filter UV light. ImpactX-2 is supposed to handle that a little better. I can't comment on that -- I spend very little time in cars.
↵ I also believe that having a contrast lens that you can wear when it isn't necessarily bright enough for normal sunglasses is useful to combat color-based advertising intended to condition us to better suit our extraterrestrial overlords.
↵ With most optometrists you end up dealing with the people who sell lenses. Talking to someone who actually makes the things lets you dip into a different knowledge base.
Last week, my Oakley glasses broke, cracking right down the center of the nose piece. I had had them for only a year and a half, which is not very long for a pair of frames. I would have expected to have had the same set for twice that amount of time. Such an event does not bode well for Oakley or my opinion of the quality of their product.
An attempt at repairing the glasses by taping them back together failed. I needed to buy a new pair of frames. Luckily, I was able to take advantage of a sale and acquired two pairs of frames for the price of one, which makes the otherwise obscenely high price of glasses more reasonable. This also gives me a backup pair in case I bust my primary set again.
(This time around, during the period between breaking the Oakleys and receiving the new pairs, I was able to use an older pair of frames with a weaker prescription that I had saved. I should have also been able to use my Revision Sawflys with clear lenses installed, but I have not kept the prescription in the insert up to date. This will be addressed for the future.)
Both the new pairs of frames that I chose had advertisements on either side of the arm. Clearly, that would not do. I grabbed the handy-dandy Sharpie sanitizing tool out of my EDC and, in a few moments, had the problem addressed to my satisfaction.
The sanitation job with the Sharpie is evident when inspecting the frames up close, but, at a distance, from where most people are standing, it is not to be noticed. I’ve also found that the ink will wear off over time. It will have to be reapplied every few months. The small effort is worth it, though, as it helps to clean the environment for all those around me.
My bike entered into an argument with a set of train tracks today. In a bit of a Snidely-Whiplash-moment, I took a nasty spill on said tracks. No damage to me, thanks to a helmet, gloves, and, most importantly Revision Sawflys.
I conked the side of my face pretty good. There’s no doubt that if I’d been wearing my normal glasses, there would have been scratched lenses, snapped frames, and I probably would have lost one of those damned little screws, too. But with the Sawflys? Not a scratch! (No screws to loose, either.) Had I no eye-wear at all? Well, I probably would have gotten into a confrontation with a delivery truck before ever making it to the train tracks, but assuming no eye-wear and no genetic defects – I don’t really want to think about what that would have been like.
If you haven’t yet, do yourself a favor and buy a pair.
And the bike? No damage, save for one of the brake levers slightly bent. I was only a couple blocks from the bike shop, so I rode down there and they recommended I just bend it back. Good as new!