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The Rapha Explore Sunglasses offer impressive clarity in a range of conditions, they don't fog up easily, and the inclusion of a strap and clear lens is a big plus.
In the last few years Rapha has really embraced the gravel scene, and these new Explore glasses actually sit at the top of the pyramid in terms of the company's eyewear offerings, above its Pro Team models.
The glasses come in three colour variations: Brown Havana/Bronze Lens, Brown/Black Mirror Lens, and Dark Navy/Purple Green Lens, plus a clear lens with each. The Dark Navy version on test looks really good in my opinion, with a slight gradient and slight transparency in areas across the frame to give them an interesting aesthetic.
As with all glasses, though, they live and die by the lens and luckily these excel in that area. Rapha has designed these lenses itself, with the key quality being the ability to heighten the contrast between different road surfaces, essentially meaning you can better see potholes, gravel, and so on. This is along the same lines as Oakley claims of its Prizm lens, and with this purple green lens there is definitely a similarity in clarity and how they highlight different areas of the road.
A hydrophobic and anti-fogging treatment helps with clarity, along with simple and effective venting: six holes on both sides across the top. This prevents fogging while you're riding, and when it does occur – when you're stopped at traffic lights, for instance – it clears quickly, even at lower speeds.
The field of vision is also impressive, with only a very small section of frame visible right in the top left and right corners of your peripheral vision, and there is nothing getting in the way for shoulder checks.
The inclusion of a spare clear lens is a nice touch, and swapping them over is relatively simple, although it would be useful to have some instructions somewhere as I needed to initially just try it out and hope I wasn't going to break anything.
As well as the extra lens, the glasses also come with a soft case, a hard case, a spare adjustable nose pad, and a strap.
Thanks to the the interchangeable nose pads and and the grip on the arms they're stable and comfortable on the head. Despite using these on some very rough roads and for several hours at a time, I didn't notice any discomfort or lack of stability, and no hot spots at the points of contact with the skin.
Helping with this stability is the weight, or lack of: 29g is very impressive considering the Oakley Encoder glasses come in 1g heavier and cost £64 more, and the Scicon Aeroshade Kunkens are £40 more and 7g heavier.
Okay, at £140 they're not exactly cheap, but it's still a pretty good deal when you compare them with others at the same sort of price. The Koo Demos, for example, are £1 less but 6g heavier, don't come with a hard case or spare lens, and I don't think look as good. The Spektrum Blank sunglasses are £5 less but 4g heavier, and don't come with a hard case.
Overall, I was really impressed with these glasses. They offer excellent clarity and field of vision, and resistance to fogging. You also get a good amount of accessories and extras for the money, with the hard case, soft case, spare nose pad, and strap. Yes, £130 is still a fair amount of money, but in the wider context of high-end glasses, you could easily pay double that.
Good looking, impressive clarity and lots of accessories included – a great pair of do-all cycling glasses
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Explore Sunglasses
Size tested: One size
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?
Rapha says, "A durable, secure pair of cycling glasses for off-road riding and all-day adventures."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Made with injection moulded Grilamid for strength and flexibility
Interchangeable hydrophobic lenses
Oversized lens improves field of vision and coverage
Megol arm grippers and nosepiece for stability in all conditions
Interchangeable nose pieces for a secure fit on the face
Removable security strap for wearing around the neck
Two-point snap lock hinges for stability and durability
Available in four colourways
UV rating: UV400
Made in Italy
Weight: 32g (including the strap)
Lens curvature: 5.5 Cylindrical
They appear to be well made with a dependable and solid feeling hinge action.
They offer great clarity and field of vision and sit well on the head.
Nothing to suggest that they wouldn't survive being dropped.
29g is impressive.
They aren't cheap, but the quality is high and they come with some good extras that others around this price don't.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well, comfortable on the head, excellent field of vision, and good protection means they do everything you would want from a high end pair of glasses
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The clarity from the lens; it reminds me of Oakley's Prizms, which in my opinion is a good thing.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Nothing really, though £140 isn't cheap, despite them being better value than some.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
The Koo Demos are £1 less and 6g heavier, and don't come with a hard case or spare lens and in my opinion don't look as good. The Spektrum Blank sunglasses are £5 less, 4g heavier, and don't come with a hard case.
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
They're very good – they sit comfortably on the head, offer excellent clarity and field of vision, and you get a decent package of extras for the money. They look great too.
About the tester
I usually ride: CAAD13 My best bike is: Cannondale Supersix Evo
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed,
George is the host of the road.cc podcast and has been writing for road.cc since 2014. He has reviewed everything from a saddle with a shark fin through to a set of glasses with a HUD and everything in between.
Although, ironically, spending more time writing and talking about cycling than on the bike nowadays, he still manages to do a couple of decent rides every week on his ever changing number of bikes.