Optilabs is a Croydon-based specialist sports optician which offers a range of eyewear from brands such as Bollé and Cébé, plus a growing range of exclusive styles that they've sourced direct from manufacturers in the far east, all of which are available with prescription lenses. The Switch is a new design from a Taiwanese manufacturer called Olink which comes with a range of six lenses and can be supplied with a prescription insert which sits behind.
Unusually, you can also unclip the arms and fit a strap; a feature which has been seen on shades aimed at motorcyclists for a while. I don't see the need for it on a bike but it means that they could adapt well for other winter or water sports. Pricewise the Switch sits somewhere between the high-end eyewear brands and the budget options, but with a wide range of lenses, a good quality case and the strap included, you get a lot for your money. The price shown here is for the package including prescription inserts - if you're lucky enough to have perfect vision then you can buy without the inserts for £89.95. Optilabs can provide bifocal or varifocal lenses too, at a higher price. You can also upgrade to high-refractive lens material to make high-prescription lenses thinner and lighter.
I've previously bought lenses from Optilabs. They were able to fit lenses to a couple of wraparound Oakley frames, despite my prescription (-6.75) being higher than Oakley are willing to fit. I was consistently impressed with their customer service. On one occasion it turned out that the local optician who'd done my eye test had made a mistake, and the lenses weren't right. Even though this wasn't at all the fault of Optilabs, they insisted on replacing the lenses at their own cost once I'd had another eye test.
These are the first glasses I've used with a prescription insert. Lenses are made to suit your prescription and fitted to a small transparent frame which clips behind the main shield. This is a popular approach with this style of sports eyewear where it would be difficult to fit the lens in the conventional fashion. Difficult but not impossible - Oakley do it with their Shield Implant Technology (you knew there'd be a fancy name for it and a price to match) on some models. This involves cutting a hole in the shield and bonding the lenses into it. While Oakley's approach means that you do away with the insert behind the shield, it means it would be very expensive to have a range of shield colours, as each would need its own insert.
Not having used prescription inserts before, I found they worked well. The transparent clip-in frame is slightly noticeable in your peripheral vision, so you're conscious of having something extra in front of your eyes but not to the extent that it's distracting or annoying. If you're a sometime contact-lens wearer, this is a great system as you can remove the insert if you're using your contacts.
Due to the special-needs strength of my prescription, my other sunglasses have fairly thick lenses, and the smaller lenses used in the inserts here meant that the overall weight was actually less - this was noticeable and made them more pleasant to wear for long rides. The downside of having an extra set of lenses is that you have four surfaces instead of two which can get dirty, sweaty or steamed up. In practice I found it wasn't a major problem in the dry, and was only marginally more hassle in the wet - not that big a deal. It helps that the insert is made with anti-mist and scratchproof coatings as standard.
One word of caution regarding the insert - treat it with care. The thin transparent plastic frame is unsurprisingly a bit less tough than the (heavier) metal insert frames favoured by the likes of Rudy Project. I dropped it once on the kitchen floor when changing shields, and the frame cracked at one end. It went back to Optilabs who had a replacement with me in 48 hours - their customer service is really excellent.
The range of included shields is really impressive here, especially at the price. You get three different mirrors, a yellow lens for low light conditions, a clear lens and a grey polarised lens which cuts reflections and works well on wet days. All of the shields are made of tough polycarbonate and very well made. I found that the clarity of vision was as good as those from the big O. Optilabs say that the all of the shields offer 100% UV protection, and I found that they are well-shaped to provide good protection from the wind, insects and so on.
Changing shields is relatively straightforward - you unclip them from the sides and then coax them out in the centre (Optilabs have a video showing how to change lenses and fit the strap). I found it was best to remove the prescription insert first and this is how Optilabs recommend doing it. The insert clips into two small recesses in the nose bridge - at first look this doesn't seem hugely secure but I never had any issues with it coming out in use, and in reality there's nowhere for it to go while you're wearing them.
The Switch has a modern style, bearing something of a resemblance to the Radar range from Oakley. The vent hole in the arm in particular is a bit derivative, and it's perhaps unfortunate that the silver button which releases the arms to fit the strap has such a similar shape to that O. Nevertheless, they are handsome sunglasses and I had several other riders commenting favourably on the looks. They are an awful lot better-looking than the range that Optilabs had a few years ago. You can have the frame in a range of colours beside the white that we tested - black, red and a TdF-tastic yellow are the other options.
During testing I compared the Switch to some Oakley Radars. The Radar frame is more rigid and has a more engineered feel to it. Despite also being made from plastic, it definitely does feel more premium. There's less flex in the frame, and the hinges also seem more robust. This isn't that surprising - a non-prescription Radar starts at £145; if you add a similar range of shields it would be around £400, compared to £90 here. With prescription lenses, the difference increases further still. At the other end of the market, the cheapest I could find for sports glasses with a couple of lenses and a prescription insert was about £80. However the quality and styling of these budget options appears well short of the Switch.
When riding with the Switch glasses, they stayed in place well and didn't interfere with my helmet at all, something that can be a problem with some glasses. There are rubber pieces in the arms and rubber nose pads which are simple but worked ok in wet and dry conditions. The range of six lenses gives something to suit any conditions - having this included in the package is really good. If you're someone that already spends half an hour trying to decide what to wear for a ride, this will give you another decision to make before heading out, though. Optilabs have another new model aimed at cycling, the Max, which comes with just one set of photochromatic lenses, if you can't cope with choices.
The only time I found the insert somewhat annoying was when riding at night-time. You get an extra set of reflections where the light bounces between the lenses, so each bright light gets duplicated. This would be an issue with any glasses using a prescription insert, so it's certainly not unique to the Switch.
The ability to fit a headstrap in place of the regular arms is an unusual feature. I didn't find it was really compatible with wearing a cycle helmet, but I would anticipate using it for snowboarding, to keep the glasses securely in position. When not in use, the headstrap is stored with the other shields in a large clamshell case, which is solid and well-made. There's a protective wrap for the spare shields, a cleaning cloth and a neck lanyard if you want to go for the librarian look.
In summary, you get a lot for your money here. Given the range of lenses and overall performance, £90 is a great price if you don't need prescription inserts. If like me you need prescription lenses, then the price is still competitive, and much cheaper than the big brand options. Yes, you can buy cheaper, but not with such a wide range of shields. I like the styling, derivative or not, and I found that the Switch works very well on the bike. I'll be using them with the strap on the slopes this winter too. Couple that with the excellent customer service that Optilabs offer, and you've got a winner. If you order before Christmas, Optilabs have £20 off too.
Smart eyewear with great range of included lenses and quality prescription insert; unusual strap option for other sports
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Optilabs Switch glasses
Size tested: n/a
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?
NEW style – everything you need in one sports pack!
4 different frame colours - black, red, yellow or white
Innovative frame design allowing arms to be unclipped and replaced with an adjustable headstrap. Perfect for skiers, rowers, watersports, fishermen, off-road cyclists
Made from shock resistant thermoplastic
Amazingly lightweight and flexible whilst still being ultra-rigid and durable
Anti-slip rubber arms and bridge
Quick and easy interchangeable lens design
Supplied with a FREE clamshell-style case which holds your frames, spare shields, headstrap, adjustable lanyard and cleaning cloth.
Pack includes 6 interchangeable polycarbonate shields – 3 different coloured mirrored shields, a yellow shield for low light, a clear protective shield and, unique to Optilabs, a hi-definition grey polarised shield. The polarised shield will reduce surface glare from sunlight on water, snow, wet roads or even just a really sunny day
For prescription wearers, the sport pack will also include an optical insert (made from virtually unbreakable polycarbonate or CR39), which we make to your individual prescription
100% U.V. protective
Inserts made with anti-mist and scratch coating as standard
Bifocals and varifocal inserts also available
Tinted shield and lenses are of really excellent quality. The frame doesn't feel as premium as some more expensive options but holds the lenses securely and stays in place perfectly. Be careful with the prescription insert, though, as its frame is a little fragile.
Other than when I managed to crack the insert frame, there weren't any issues. The lenses have resisted scratches very well. Even the most expensive sunglasses can break if you're careless, as I've found out over the years. I've had much better experiences with Optilabs than with Oakley when it happens, though.
The lightest prescription sports glasses I've used - inserts work out lighter than direct-glazed if you have a strong prescription like me.
There are cheaper prescription and non-prescription options, but for the money this is a great package. Stacked up against similarly-looking options from you-know-whom, it seems like a total bargain. Optilabs have £20 off across their range until Christmas, making them even better value.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well, good clear vision and comfortable for long periods in the saddle. Only at night-time did I find the insert sometimes bothersome. The strap isn't really ideal for cycling, but it's a good thing to have if you plan to use them on snow or water.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The range of really high quality shields that are all included, rather than sold as expensive aftermarket options. Styling. Was surprised at how little the insert bothered me.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Not a lot - just need to treat the insert with care.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.
About the tester
Age: 36 Height: 190cm Weight: 78kg
I usually ride: Boardman CX team for the daily commute My best bike is: Rose Xeon CRS
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,
Jez spends his days making robots that drive cars but is happiest when on two wheels. His roots are in mountain biking but he spends more time nowadays on the road, occasionally racing but more often just riding.