Tested: Performance Optics ColorEyes Sunglasses

Great sunglasses with terrific HDL-3C optics and features that make them especially comfortable under a motorcycle helmet. By Art Friedman.

I have a long, unhappy history with sunglasses used for motorcycling. Prior to trying these glasses, no sunglasses (or glasses in general) had been comfortable for me while riding. Most have temples that are too big, so that my ears, pressed under the liner of a helmet, get sore in short order from the presence of the glasses. The pressure on my nose often gets uncomfortable after a few hours of the glasses bouncing up there too.

Most sunglasses don't survive long riding with me either. They get dropped or fall off the seat while my helmet is going on or off. Some break and most get scratched this way. A couple had lenses pop out. Some have succumbed to vibration when the screws backed out and let the lenses or temples depart. Some got scratched or bent when I took them off and shoved into a jacket pocket while riding as the sun set.

Finally, there was the optical and vision issues that many created. Optical imperfections tired my eyes, some frames intruded into my field of vision, and some just reduced clarity slightly.

For these and other reasons, I pretty much had decided to forgo sunglasses until my optometrist told me that exposure to UVA causes macular degeneration. Shortly after that a close friend of a close friend developed cancer (caused by UV radiation) of the eye and lost that eye and eventually died as a result. So I started fussing with sunglasses and dark shields again.

For a while, it seemed a dark faceshield was the solution. The problem is that if you are going to be riding in changing light conditions or after dark, you need to also carry a clear shield. With quick-change shield systems such as offered on current Shoei helmets, shield changes are so simple that I can do it without removing my helmet. I have seen the same thing done with an Arai. However, carrying a spare shield on a bike without luggage was at least a minor hassle, and changing from tinted to clear as darkness fell means I have to stop. With sunglasses, I can just pull them off and stick them in a pocket without even pulling over.

Two years ago I saw ColorEyes sunglasses at an aviation event. Sunglasses are a big deal to pilots, so there are always several purveyors of sunglasses, usually high-end brands, at such events. The maker, Performance Optics, was pitching the optical excellence of the glasses, which use the HDL-3C (High Definition Lens) optical technology with decentered lenes.

What captured my attention was were the weight (less than an ounce), the lack of polarization (which can hide the glare that alerts you to a slippery spot on the road), and the rimless design of certain models. They featured one-piece temples with no hinges (so there are no screws to fall out at that point) and ultra thin arms that hook around the ears, which suggested that they would be comfortable for a long period of time. The arms are a spring metal, which curve in and overlap and then spread to lightly clamp against your head. They felt good when I tried them on, so I got a pair in the green color the maker suggested.

The optics lived up to the maker's claims. My vision was quite sharp with no distortion anywhere. Best of all, they were extremely comfortable. Even after riding with them for 16 hours, I could not feel them. In fact, I frequently forgot I was wearing them. The color accuracy was excellent, but I eventually bought another pair in the rose-brown shade and prefer that because it better highlights the red and orange objects and lights that frequently distinguish hazards. The first pair had the larger (Argento) lens size, and I literally could not see the edges and often had to touch them to make sure I had them on. The second set, the Azzurro style, had a smaller lens, so I can make out the edge at the top if I look up hard. You need two hands to put them on because you need to spread the sprung temples, but if I'm riding with them at dusk, I can easily pull them off one-handed and tuck them away.

I never ride in an open-face helmet, but with the faceshield open on my full-face helmets, the glasses in either size completely shield my eyes from the wind. They don't flutter, even behind a windshield that creates some turbulence, or bounce around. They stayed put riding off-road, because the spring quality of the Japanese-made beta titanium "frame" grips my head, although I have no sense of pressure.

I had just two early reservations about the ColorEyes sunglasses. The first was their bulk when stored. Because the temple arms have no hingles, they curve out and make their stored depth greater than hinged glasses. As a result, the storage case included with the glasses is fairly bulky. I only found this to be an issue when I was dealing with a small pocket to carry it in.

The larger concern was their price. Suggested retail is $239, but an internet search found most outlets selling them for $200, and as I prepared this article one source was selling them for $110 (plus $15 shipping). I purchased two pairs for $149 from iPilot. As you can probably tell, I like the way they work.

They have generally held up well to the rigors of motorcycling use. The Italian-made polycarbonate lenses have an anti-scratch coating, which has worked well. I have dropped the pair I use for riding eight or ten times and crammed them in a jacket pocket while riding dozens of times, and the lenses have no scratches at all. Performance Optics recommends putting them in the micro-fiber sleeve (also used for cleaning), but that isn't possible unless you stop to do it. I hate stopping.

I have had several of the silicone-rubber nose pads, which are designed to be replaced, fall out of their clips. I called Performance Optics, and they suggested gently tightening to tension of the clips and sent a baggie of replacement pads.

More recently, I half-sat on the pair I usually wear for riding and bent one of the temple arms pretty significantly. I have put lesser kinks in them before, and they always bent straight again with no problem. However, this time the arm broke off at the edge of the lens when I tried to straighten it out. Performance Optics told me to send them back and they will exchange them.

The bottom line, at least for me, is that, even though they are expensive, Performance Optics' ColorEyes sunglasses are worth it because their design and optics mean I can wear them while riding from dawn to dusk in comfort. That makes them unique.

Performance Optics, Inc.
12935 16th Ave N, Plymouth, MN 55441
(800) 801-4523

For additional evaluations of, comparisons of, and shopping advice for motorcycle gear and accessories, see the Accessories and Gear section of MotorcycleCruiser.com.

We tried Performance Optics' ColorEyes sunglasses in two lens colors and sizes.
Rose (brown)
Performance Optics touts the optical excellence of the ColorEyes' patented HDL-3C lenses, which are made in Italy.
The ultra-thin one-piece design of the Japanese-made temple arms makes the ColorEyes extremely comfortable under a helmet (or aviation headset).
We found the "rose" lens color to be the best match for motorcycling because it makes red and orange objects stand out and cuts through haze.
The non-hinging one-piece temple stems clip to the edges of the lenses and are anchored with screws from the back sides. The nose bridge uses the same system. The screws have not loosened on any of the three pairs we tried.
We had a problem with the nose pads disappearing. The right one is missing here. They are designed to be replaced, and the maker says it will send replacements to those who need them. Representatives also suggested increasing the tension on the clips that hold them.