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The Koo California Sunglasses are billed as fashionable 'lifestyle' sunglasses with eye-catching style, but they're top performers for all sorts of cycling too. The water and dust repellent lenses give a consistent clear view, and the frames are sturdy and secure. This polarised lens option commands a premium price though.
The Koo Californias are available in a wide variety of colours (14) and lens type (8) – there's a lot of choice. We're testing the polarised versions that cut glaring from reflective surfaces, which comes in at £179. There are cheaper versions; with a mirrored Zeiss lens these are £119.
They have Visible Light Transmission (VLT) of 17%. The lower the percentage, the darker the lens. These are best suited to sunnier days as they are quite dark – though not the darkest, which are 11% – and they give 100% UV protection too.
The lenses also have what Zeiss calls a 'Tri-flection coating' for a consistent colour performance across the whole lens, and it works really well. They are water, dust and oil repellent too, and have an easy to clean, super smooth surface.
Designed to look cool both on and off the bike, I think these are aimed more at laid back riding, such as gravel or touring, rather than hard-core road cycling. That said, and despite their lack of a rubberised nosepiece, they don't feel loose at all, even during head-down sprints.
They weigh in at 33 grams; surprisingly light, considering how sturdy the frame feels.
The Koo Californias feel like a really quality pair of sunnies – the polycarbonate frame feels very tough, and suffered no scratches during the test period. The hinges feel strong and stiff with no floppiness, too. There's a just enough flex in the frame to place them on helmets or on the outside of your helmet straps, but I would have preferred sprung hinges for a bit more flex in the arms.
Although Koo is part of Kask, these weren't a particularly better or worse fit with my Kask helmets (Mojito, Vertigo and K-50) than any other sunglasses I own. They fitted through the vents okay for storage though.
This lens choice has a yellow-amber tint which makes colours pop very vividly. The consistent tint across the lenses came in handy when the sun was low, when you can otherwise get a flickering effect through hedges, or when doing over-the-shoulder checks for traffic. The polarisation is also very good, reducing bright glare from metal and glass.
The contrast is excellent for spotting potholes or other hazards too, unless you're under very heavy tree cover. As I said, they are quite dark, but the vast majority of the time they are excellent.
So too is the water repellency of the lenses, which is the best I've seen on any sunglasses. On some sweltering days, with sweat pouring down my forehead, the Californias just shrugged it off in a few seconds, keeping vision clear and consistent. The left-hand lens has a quirky air vent down the side, but this seems to be for aesthetics – neither lens steamed up.
The clip works just fine on your bar or stem, and gives a tight but secure fit around the sunglasses. I didn't find this feature all that useful myself, preferring to stow them in a pocket or top tube bag.
Included in the box is a semi-soft case, a generous handkerchief-sized polishing cloth and a clip for attaching them to handlebars.
The soft-cup storage bag is disappointing though, and offers the bare minimum of protection. For the money I'd like to see a full hard case – this is an expensive pair of sunglasses to damage.
These are at the higher end of the price range for their spec and casual style. SunGod's Classics3 Polarised 8Kos are similarly well made with great, clear optics, for instance, and they're £69 cheaper yet include a proper storage case.
The Spektrum Blank – another multi-use design – has similarly water-repellent Zeiss lenses and is £135, though this pair has no case at all.
If you really want to save money, the Galibier Surveillance Precision Optics are only £39 for the polarised option, and scored highly. I own two pairs myself, and can vouch that they are indeed a bargain.
At the other extreme, the Roka Konas are tough and stylish with great optics and sprung arms, and will help you get rid of money much more efficiently at £205. The Koo California sunglasses aren't the most expensive, then, but they're up there.
The Koo Californias are a stylish pair of casual but bike-effective sunglasses, with clear, consistently shaded optics and very water repellent lenses that look great on and off the bike.
Technically I found these great, and I really liked the look; they have a lot of Italian flair. If Robert De Niro cycled, he'd wear these. The lack of a true hard case or sprung hinges – plus the high cost of this polarised lens option – takes the shine off a tad, though.
Clear, tough and very water repellent, these look great on and off the bike – polarised option is expensive though
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Koo California
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?
The Koo California sunglasses are billed as "fashionable lifestyle sunglasses with eye-catching style". Koo is Kask's sister brand, and these proudly display their 'Product of Italy' logo on the inners of the arms.
This particular model features polarised lenses to prevent glare from bright surfaces.
These are different from the usual, more obviously cycling-specific sunglasses I've tested or purchased before. I'd say they are aimed more at laid back riding styles, such as gravel or touring, rather than pure road cycling.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Zeiss Polarised Lenses to reduce glare from light-reflecting surfaces, with what Zeiss calls a 'Tri-flection coating' for consistent colour performance across the whole lens.
Water, dust and oil repellent.
Visible Light Transmission (VLT) rating of 17%, and filter category 3 on Zeiss's scale – essentially, they are quite dark (if not the darkest).
100% UV protection
Includes a semi-soft case, a handkerchief-sized polishing cloth, and a clip for attaching the glasses to handlebars.
The frame and hinges feel very tough.
Noticeable yellow-amber tint makes colours pop and helps with the flickering effect through hedges, or when doing over the shoulder checks for traffic.
At 33 grams they are pretty light.
Polarised lens option commands a hefty £60 premium over the base model, and makes them relatively expensive.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well – only under heavy tree cover do they seem overly dark.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
They definitely pick out the contrast of things like potholes or rocks on the road, so are genuinely good for cycling.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Sprung hinges would be nice to help guide them over helmet straps into vents, and the polarised lens is expensive.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
These are at the top end of the spectrum for their spec and performance.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
These offer cool looks, are well made, and boast clear Zeiss optics that help you spot potholes and other road obstacles. They also repel water better than other sunglasses I've tried.
Just the lack of a better case, no sprung hinges, and the high premium for the polarised lens option slightly let them down. I think they are a good 7 out of 10.
About the tester
I usually ride: GT Grade My best bike is: Boardman ASR 8.9
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb, Zwifting