While they look best under a bike helmet, Tifosi’s Rail rimless sunglasses pack a wallop in terms of value, style, and features.
The sunglasses you wear on a cycling trek often don’t match the look — or budget — of the shades you take around town off the bike. Premium features like swappable lenses, photochromic optics, low weight, and high-airflow frames typically command a price north of three figures.
Tifosi takes a stab at addressing this with the new Rail line of sunglasses. Available as both swappable-lens and photochromic options, the Rail carries a rimless design that promotes maximum venting and minimum weight, but it does so at roughly half the price of its primary competition.
We tested a pair to see if the Rail can live up to the performance features at a sub-$80 price without feeling or looking cheap.
In short: While it still has the look of an athletic pair of sunglasses, the Rail is a distinctively sharp-looking design, and it works well across a range of activities. It provides reliable protection and loads of comfort at a price that makes it very attractive. The only caveat is that you treat them carefully.
Tifosi Rail Sunglasses Review
If you’re not a fan of the sleek, speedy design that’s ubiquitous in the peloton, look elsewhere. The Rail maintains that cycling-chic style, so be advised if that won’t work for you.
That said, if you can keep an open mind, I’ll tell you that look serves a purpose. If you’re pushing watts in the saddle, the Rail’s wraparound design keeps wind from creeping in around the sides and tickling your eyes.
Off the bike, that same design offers peripheral protection from UV rays. For some, like myself, that solves an issue that plagues so many “pedestrian” shades.
First and foremost, the Rail prides itself on a rimless design. This is not unique in the world of cycling, and there’s a reason: Rims block view.
When you’re pedaling a road bike, your body cants forward and you tend to look out of the top of your sunglasses. And when you’re riding in a group or in traffic, rims can block your periphery, especially when glancing back over your shoulder.
The Rail solves this beautifully, with no frame to speak of, save the nosepiece and folding arms. Wearing them, you might catch a glimpse of the nose pad, but otherwise the view is totally unobstructed.
This design also maintains significant airflow around the glasses. The lenses effectively hover over your eyes, with no contact points on your face. Only the arms and nose pads touch; air can flow through a small gap around the lens.
As noted, no air hit my eyes in testing thanks to the broad, wraparound shape of the lens.
I tested both the photochromic lenses, which automatically change tint according to light conditions, and the swappable lenses. In terms of their design, they’re identical — same fit and feel.
I used to prefer the simplicity and high-tech nature of photochromic, but I’ve converted back to swappable lenses. I’d suggest photochromic if most of your rides take place around dawn or dusk, as you’ll want that variability.
But otherwise, I prefer the consistency of one lens. After all, whether clear or tinted, a dedicated lens does what it does better than a photochromic lens will.
The good news here is that swapping lenses proves easy, but with a catch. While most rimmed frames pop out the lens(es), the frameless nature of the Rail means you will remove the arms and nosepiece individually.
On the surface, this might seem more complicated, but the ease of decoupling and snapping back each of the pieces makes it a breeze. What’s more, this helps alleviate any anxiety around breaking a full frame when twisting or pressing along the rim.
While I’m a big fan of these lenses, I see two potential issues — one that impacts me and might impact others.
First off, while the Rail sits reliably off my face, there’s a chance some folks may have facial features that leave the lens resting on their skin. If that happens, you’re likely to have sweat and smudging. To combat this, the nose and ear pieces are moldable to allow micro-adjustments in fit.
Second, the lack of a frame leaves these sleek shades open to damage. While Tifosi boasts the polycarbonate lenses’ durability, I’ve managed to scratch virtually every pair of sunglasses I’ve owned.
Because of this, especially if you’re as careless (and forgetful) as me, be sure to keep the Rail’s hard case handy, and be mindful when they’re parked on your helmet. One good tumble onto pavement could leave a scratch that you’ll be stuck looking at.
Tifosi Rail Sunglasses
- Lenses: Polycarbonate
- Photochromic or swappable 3-lens package (tint, high-contrast, clear options)
- Frame: Grilamid TR-90
- Hydrophilic rubber works to stick as you sweat
- Weight: 31 g
- Price: $80
Who are these for? For the money, this might be the most advanced pair of cycling sunglasses I’ve tried. Rapha already launched a similar frameless design, but it costs $150. To be fair, that’s all premium materials and weighs only 28 g.
But for roughly half the cost, and only an extra 3 g, you can have a reliable pair of performance cycling glasses with a wide range of lens options to choose from. Just remember: Treat these like they cost twice as much.