To my mind, the worst looking glasses on the planet are those with transition lenses – which is what I was worried the Uvex Variotronic FF would be like. They aren't, though. They are actually good looking, practical and adjustable glasses. They have a couple of things I would change, but overall they perform well – even if the price might put many off.
When I was given these glasses I was told they were 'the fanciest glasses we have ever reviewed', but looking at them I couldn't see it. It's only when you put them on that you get it: they have LCD technology which covers most of the lenses and adapts to the light around you. It does this within 0.1 seconds thanks to a light sensor on the left hand arm.
This is therefore the place to start, and they work well. I found that when riding from dark to light or visa versa they transitioned well and quickly. Sometimes it would take longer than 0.1 seconds, but in most cases it was under 5 seconds and worked well.
The transition happens when a small electrical current goes through the LCD crystals, darkening or lightening them. It doesn't happen when riding through sun-dappled tree lines, which is good as I was worried it would be very distracting if they were in constant transition.
You can recalibrate the glasses while riding to make sure they are at the best brightness for the conditions and this is simply done by holding down the button for three seconds. I needed to do this a couple of times, but generally they managed to get the tinting about right for the conditions at the time. They can also be set to on (full tint of 64%) or off (only slight 16% tint), and offer 100% UV protection. This is done through the large and easy to use button on the left hand arm, next to the light sensor.
They look like regular glasses, but there is a slight border around the edge of the LCD area which sets them apart. As the FF in the name suggests, they are the full frame version of the glasses, but are also available in a half frame (the Variotronic S, for the same price). They have a nose pad and rubberised sections on the arms, which gives them additional grip and keeps them on your head. It means they are comfortable to wear on longer rides and you don't get too sweaty on the nose or top of the ears.
The glasses are unvented, but despite this I didn't find that they fogged too badly and not at all on the LCD areas, even when at a stop. This is an unexpected but welcome benefit of the LCD technology.
Another side effect is that they can make objects – mainly water, drain covers and metallic paint – almost jump out at you. They give them a kind of silvery, 3D effect which takes some getting used to and makes sitting water almost look like ice, which was originally fairly disconcerting.
The full frame version also limits your peripheral vision compared with other glasses I have used. However, it is only an extra five degree head turn and I never felt like it was too much of an issue. It's worth noting that the FF versions are stated to be for mountain biking and the half frame (Sports Shield) for road biking, which may well be better in terms of peripheral vision.
As they have an electrical charge needed to change the LCD, they do need charging. This is done through a micro USB hidden under a dust cap, which also protects it from water and dirt. Charging doesn't take too long, although there is no battery indicator, and you don't need to charge them often – I used them every day for three weeks and the battery is still going strong.
With an RRP of £299.99, they are the most expensive glasses I have used. The price is difficult to justify, except that this is a brand new technology and they perform well overall. As with most products, you can find them for less if you look around, and some places on the internet are selling them at closer to £200, which makes the outlay more justifiable – especially if you're a fan of new technology.
Overall, I liked these glasses. They have a quirkiness and usefulness that others can't offer. Sometimes when I show new cycling tech to people I get a 'why is this needed?' – but with these, more or less everybody thought they would be useful.
They do have some flaws, such as the peripheral vision and the way they make manhole covers and water look, but once you get past these they work well. Many will baulk at the price, but ultimately if you are willing to pay the money you won't be disappointed.
Expensive and high tech, and ultimately strong performing pair of glasses
road.cc test report
Make and model: Uvex Variotronic FF Glasses
Size tested: Colour black mat carbon, variotonic smoke
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
High tech cycling glasses designed for variable light conditions.
Uvex describes it as 'a trend-setting glass technology that adapts to rapidly changing lighting conditions automatically or with the press of a button'. I would say that this is a fair reflection on what they are and what they aim to do.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
100% UVA-, -B, - C protection
Adaptable soft nosepads
Adjustable, cold formable earpieces
They are very well made, as good as any I have used in the past.
They performed well, the tint changed quickly and easily and they were simply to use. They lose a couple of marks because of the peripheral vision and trippy drain covers.
They seem well made and likely to last.
A full 18g lighter than the Oakley Jawbreakers, and they have a battery and LCD tech in, not bad at all.
Adjustable rubber nose pad and ear pad work very effectively.
This is hard to say. You can, of course, get much cheaper glasses (and a few more expensive) but none have this new technology that sets these apart.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well, they changed tint quickly and the adjustability was a nice touch too. They sit well on the head and are comfortable for long rides – what more do you need?
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The LCD technology could end up being a real game changer. I have used lenses that change colour before, but these take it to a totally new level.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The peripheral vision could be improved, but the half frame version seems like it may well fix this issue.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? If I had the money, then yes.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
They perform well and bring a new technology to the wider cycling market, which is always a risk. Luckily I think they pull it off, they just need to improve peripherals and perhaps make drain covers and water look a little less 3D.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cannondale Supersix Evo 6 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 5-10 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
George spends his days flitting between writing about data, running business magazines and writing about sports technology. The latter gave him the impetus (excuse) to get even further into the cycling world before taking the dive and starting his own cycling sites and writing for Road.cc.
When he is not writing about cycling, he is either out on his bike cursing not living in the countryside or boring anybody who will listen about the latest pro peloton/cycling tech/cycling infrastructure projects.