It’s been years since I worked at a bike shop. But five words still throw me into a bad, bike-shop flashback — “a little bit of everything.” This is a popular response to the first question (“What do you want to use the bike for?”) that you ask a potential customer looking for a new bike. The problem? People don’t need a bike that “does everything.” And — like world peace, unicorns, and BP doing the right thing — the do-all bike doesn’t exist.
Where am I going with this? Well, when it comes to sunglasses, I do actually want a pair that “does a bit of everything.” (Eyewear is different from bikes!) The glasses need to handle a variety of light conditions. They must be good-looking enough to be worn casually and for a diverse selection of activities outdoors. They need to stand up to abuse.
Smith’s Touchstone glasses hit on most of those marks. The photochromatic and polarized lenses can handle extremes better than anything I’ve used. They handle low light really well — I wore them recently during a couple days of fly fishing in Idaho. (Brand new to fly fishing, I soon learned that spotting a steelhead trout is paramount because they aren’t often moving much, and I had to learn to land a fly in front of their face.)
The other extreme? California in June, sun bouncing off the late-spring snow. You’d be pressed to find any light as bright as high noon and high altitude in these conditions. The words “sun blind” come to mind up there, and if you don’t have the right pair of shades, you’re in real trouble.
This spring, I’ve spent hours in those sunny/snowy conditions at Mammoth Mountain. To my pleasant surprise, the Smith sunglasses held true to their word of keeping my eyes comfortable and safe. (Going down toward lower elevations, the Touchstones were also great for snowboarding at speeds in the high 40mphs.)
That said, the Touchstones are not sport-specific glasses. I never grab them when I’m going to do a lot of climbing on the bike. I could see that would probably yield to some fogging issues.
Aesthetically, the big block-ish design of the Italian-made frames fit my large face well. I also love the heft and weight of the glasses — they just feel significant in my hands. They’re not cheap, though, depending on lens choice. The Touchstones range from $160 to $200.
If you’re looking for a pair of sunglasses that do the impossible — “a little of everything” — save the bike-shop clerk some hair loss and try on the Touchstone first.