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At this price we are venturing firmly into Oakley territory and the upper echelons of the likes of Rudy Project, but the Rapha Classic Glasses II are a little different from the usual cycling specs offerings, particularly in this price range. You're still forking out a lot of money for a pair of high quality cycling glasses, but you're getting something you can wear casually as well as on the bike – so arguably better value...
Handmade in Italy, the Classic II (and indeed the non-II Classics) are styled after the, erm, classic Wayfarer sunglasses, and come in a variety of frame and lens colours to suit, including prescription lens options. They come with smaller frames and lenses than the Classic, and as such are better suited to smaller faces.
The look is low-key stylish, but these are intended to match that insouciance with genuinely high on-the-bike performance and usability. With a super-lightweight frame, long arms, rubber grippers and high quality optics, these are designed to perform as well as much more high-tech looking shades.
There's no denying that they do look very different from what we've come to accept as 'normal' cycling glasses, styled much more along the lines of sunnies you'd expect to see at a piazza café in Italy than in the pro peloton. Weirdly, though, they look good with most helmet shapes, as well as without. Instead of looking like you've forgotten your cycling specs and grabbed a pair of beach glasses, these somehow manage to just look cool. I'm not sure how they manage it, really.
They feel light and pleasant to wear, with no interference between the arms of the glasses and helmet or head. Comfort levels of both frame and lenses is superb.
Optical clarity is up there with the best and they offer UV protection, with levels to suit depending on which variant you choose. Peripheral vision isn't quite as good as with shield type glasses, but there's very little in it and certainly a lot less than the frames might suggest. They kept the wind and dust out of my eyes very effectively and felt very unobtrusive to wear.
They come with a metal storage tin and a simple faux leather pouch – the only slightly disappointing part of the package; at this price I'd have expected it to be a little more sophisticated.
While many would still regard the likes of the Oakley Radar Path to be the epitome of cycling eyewear, all said and done you would look a bit of a tit going to the pub in them, whereas these offer a surprisingly similar level of on-bike performance but with more than their fair share of off-bike cool. Surely that's got to make that £195 more palatable?
Similar levels of performance on the bike as sportier glasses, yet look far cooler off the bike
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Classic Glasses II
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?
Aimed at style-conscious cyclists wanting high performance from their cycling glasses.
Rapha says: "The new Rapha Classic Glasses II are the perfect blend of classic style and modern performance. Using the same state-of-the-art components as technical sports eyewear, they are equally at home on or off the bike. Scaled down by 20%, the Classic Glasses II have a smaller frame and lens than the original Classic Glasses. A longer frame arm, finished with the same ribbed gripper as used on the Pro Team Flyweight Glasses, ensures a secure fit, whether worn on top of the head or in the vents of a helmet.
"The frames are made from fine Italian acetate, and the frame arms are reinforced with a metal core. Handmade in Italy by prestigious acetate manufacturers Mazzucchelli 1849, this cotton-based organic material is extremely durable, and has a great hand feel and depth of colour. The Classic Glasses II offer a similar field of vision, and the same minimal weight, as more technical-looking styles of the pro peloton."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Grey lens as tested:
Category 3 lens: 14.28% light transmittance
Oleophobic and hydrophobic coating on back and front
Polarized to reduce glare and blinding reflections
AR–5 anti-reflective coating on back of lens
100% protection from UV rays
Refined, smaller fit
Handmade in Italy
Wraparound shape for excellent coverage field of vision
Carl Zeiss Vision Lens
Designed to fit with any helmet
Mazzucchelli acetate frames
Nose pads built into frame
Come with pouch and tin
Very well made from exceptionally light and high quality materials.
Performed very well.
Very lightweight but seem durable nonetheless. At this price you'll try to look after them anyway.
Replacement lenses for the Classic are available, but not currently the Classic II.
Extremely comfortable, both on their own and with a helmet. No issues at all.
Yes, they are expensive but given that they will almost certainly get worn as casual sunglasses as well as on the bike, they probably represent much better value than many high-end cycling glasses.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Extremely well. Comfortable, stylish and very effective on the bike.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Style, light weight, comfort, versatility.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Pouch could have been a little bit better at this price.
Did you enjoy using the product? Very much.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Possibly, although I'd want to stay looking cooler than them!
Use this box to explain your score
These are an interesting fusion of real cycling performance with more casual and fashionable looks, and it works. That makes these pretty good value for money for doing double duty on and off the bike.
About the tester
I usually ride: Boardman Hybrid Fi My best bike is: Specialized Ruby Elite
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mountain biking
Lara has been riding bikes for longer than she'd care to admit, and writing about them nearly as long. Since 2009 she has been working as part of the road.cc review team whilst championing women's cycling on the side, most notably via two years as editor of the, sadly now defunct, UK's first and only women's cycling mag, erm, Women's Cycling.
Believing fervently that cycling will save the world, she wishes that more people would just ride a bike and be pleasant to each other.
She will ride anything with two wheels, occasionally likes to go fast, definitely likes to go far and is always up for a bit of exploring somewhere new and exciting.