The new Oakley RadarLock XL sunglasses improve on the standard Radars with a clever Switchlock system. As opposed to the old setup, where you almost felt as though you were about to break the frame during a lens swap, Switchlock makes it a gentler affair that also leaves fewer fingerprints.
As the name suggests, our 'XL' test variant shares the same features as the regular RadarLock glasses but with a lens that's a substantial 7mm taller. This lends a little more coverage and protection, but for riders who tend to keep their heads tilted further down – during time trials, for example – it also puts the top of the frame well out of the field of view, leaving nothing but a clear perspective of your surroundings.
Oakley's sports marketing man, Steve Blick, says the company's sponsored pros have taken notice, with around 25 percent of them choosing to go big.
Optically, Oakley once again hits it out of the park with the RadarLock XL lens. It produces no noticeable distortion (compared to some budget models that have given us headaches) and is finished with refreshingly dull edges that we anticipate would be less likely to cut you in a crash.
As usual with Oakley, the selection of lens tints is generous, and includes both polarized and photochromic options. As with any large-format piece of eyewear, though, the RadarLock XL glasses aren't totally immune to fogging, particularly on slower and steeper climbs at higher humidity levels. That said, vents across the top edge help, and the fogging dissipates quickly once the speed picks up again.
Oakley's typical three-point fit is secure and stable – we never had to reposition or adjust the glasses during any of our road, cyclocross, or mountain bike test rides. However, the extra mechanical bits that lend easy and speedy lens interchanges (not to mention the expanded possibility of custom color combinations) come at the cost of sturdiness. We didn't break our sample frames during testing but the multi-piece construction feels a little flimsier than standard Radars.
This little slide is the key to Oakley's Switchlock technology
We're a little disappointed that Oakley continues to apply its hydrophobic coating to the exterior of the lens only. This surface treatment is outstanding for keeping rain, road spray, and debris from obscuring your vision but it does nothing to help with the much more common problem of sweat dripping down on to the inside.
"Yes, I agree, both sides would be optimal, and that's something I personally want," Blick told BikeRadar. "Not to let too much out of the bag, but right now we are at the limit of the application technology. It's not really a question of cost."
Blick also went on to defend the company's decision to coating the front side of the lens instead of the back, saying it provides a secondary protective benefit for the Iridium coating.
"The current hydrophobic [coating] has the direct performance benefit to the rider (resistance to debris, water, etc) while riding but there are also secondary long term durability benefits. The Iridium coating is essentially an extremely thin coating of metal. The Hydrophobic layer protects the Iridium from oxidation and physical erosion."
Current Radar owners will also be disappointed to hear that their old lenses won't fit in newer RadarLock frames. The XL and standard RadarLock lenses aren't interchangeable, either.
The Oakley RadarLock XLs are expensive, too – in fact, there are few options that cost more. However, the performance that comes with that price is undeniable, and we've encountered few cyclists who have regretted the purchase.