When it came to finding riding eyewear that would accept prescription lenses, the Oakley Plazma emerged as the best option. Designed for cycling in a form factor in line with traditional eyewear that is prescription friendly, (as opposed to one-piece lens design) the Plazma performs well in a wide range of sporting activities.
This was key, as the prescription Oakley lenses are not cheap. The frame alone starts at $154, but adding prescription lenses adds quite a bit to the final sticker price.
Features (via Oakley)
- Functional sport design with optimized coverage, wider field of view, frame retention, and impact protection.
- Oakley “O-Matter” frame
- Unobtainium® earsocks and nosepads help provide sport-level retention with a no-slip grip and all-day comfort
- Available with Prizm™ lenses that are designed to enhance color, contrast
- Available with Oakley Prescription lenses that come laser etched with the ellipse logo on left lens
Based on the classic racing jacket
The Plazma frame bears similar lines to the Oakley Racing Jacket, a spiritual successor. Comparing my Plazma glasses to my brother’s Jacket model show some shifts in the form factor that provides a bit more coverage.
In comparison to larger, more common eyewear we’re seeing on the trails, the Plazma has a bit of a retro sci-fi vibe in its design; one easily could see the X-men’s Cyclops sporting the eyewear.
On the trail (and everywhere)
The Oakley Plazma glasses are quite comfortable, and lightweight for prescription eyewear. I’ve worn them in a wide activities beyond cycling including back country skiing/ splitboarding, XC skiing, and even raced in them paddle boarding.
They feel secure on ones face, and I’ve found they stayed my face reliably. I’ve even fallen in water paddling boarding multiple times and never felt like they were going to come off — though they did once. (fortunately, my frantic swipes in the water were successful and I managed to secure them before they sank out of sight and reach)
Though I’ve become a fan of larger, “goggle-like” glasses, that hasn’t been an option for me for a while as I don’t want to wear contacts. That said, the Plazma had performed adequately at keeping the wind out of ones eyes.
Sadly, my first experience wearing the prescription Oakley Plazma glasses was not good. And when I say that, I mean to say “horrible”. TLDR; on my first ride wearing the Plazmas, I took a hard fall after hitting a small root on my cyclocross bike. (I was not used to the abrupt change in my vision) The crash was bad enough the lenses were scratched to the point of being unusable. (plus I had lacerations on the side of my face)
The idea of replacing brand new $600+ lenses after 20 minutes use made me nauseous; I was lucky though, as the vendor I purchased the glasses through offered a “crash replacement” warranty of sorts, and I had paid for the premium coverage. I was able to have new replacement lenses ordered at a replacement cost of $50 and I gave it another go a week or so later.
While this was 100% due to user error on my behalf, its worth warning users that with these lightweight lenses, you’re trading durability for the minimal heft.
If this is an option at all when purchasing prescription sports eyewear I highly recommend it, as plastic Oakley lenses scratch very easily – even after paying for the additional scratch resistant coating – such is the trade off for the minimal heft.
Don’t lose the nose pieces
It’s also worth noting that the frames come with a spare pair of the rubber nose pieces. Do not lose these, as its really difficult to source a replacement. After a few months, one side disappeared from the frame and it took me weeks to get a replacement set. In addition, working with Oakley’s warranty team was a nightmare – they made me send the frames in, leaving me without my prescription riding glasses for several weeks in prime riding season – just to replace one rubber nose piece that cost less than a dime. Worse, they didn’t even provide me with a spares — although I requested them. I would have just bought several sets if they would have let me.
It is also difficult to wrap one’s head around that sticker price. Upon receiving my new eyewear, I encountered a bad feeling in my stomach. $600 (with my insurance kicking in a bit) feels like a lot; apparently, that is the rate for prescription eyewear. Though it is in line with designer glasses, paying that much out of pocket for mountain bike sunglasses is a lot of money. Contact lenses would cost a lot less money, and it would be covered under my health insurance.
Overall, though I had some frustrating experiences with Oakley customer service, and a crappy start to wearing prescription riding glasses again, they are a solid performing product for someone that lives an active lifestyle and needs corrective eyewear. They were the best option I could find, and far better than riding in my regular eye glasses.
The Oakley Plazma starts at $164, with the prescription options and lens treatments costing as much as $800+ total. They are available through a number of vendors, so it’s worth shopping around. Your eye doctor will likely be the most expensive, with online stores like Sport RX being a more affordable option.