Oakley Encoder Strike Vented review - An almost perfect pair of sunglasses
Added vents and an even bigger lens means there isn’t much to criticise about latest Encoders, but they’re not totally perfect, yet
Last week, industry giant Oakley unveiled the latest addition to its eyewear collection with the Oakley Encoder Strike Vented model. Taking inspiration from the Oakley Razor Blades – a popular choice of sunglasses back in the 1980s – the Encoder Strike Vented retains a similar shape as the previous iteration but features small slits along the top of the lens to aid airflow and ensure the glasses don’t steam up. Oakley describes the Encoder Strike as “an extension of the Kato family” and both models visibly share the same DNA, though the Encoder Strikes are perhaps a more palatable and understated choice, forgoing the Katos’ wrap-over nose feature.
Oakley markets the Encoder Strike Vented sunglasses as ‘multi-sport’ but they do have some specific features which make them suitable for cycling, such as helmet compatibility and low-profile ‘O-Matter’ temples. Compared to the Encoder Strike – which doesn’t feature vents on the top of the lens – the Encoder Strike Vented model also has an additional four millimetre lens width which makes for an improved field of vision.
The best cycling sunglasses need to be rigid and secure, while giving a clear and unrestricted view which stays that way when stationary too. Oakley has been a leader in the field of cycling glasses for some time now, but its designs have become more and more unconventional in recent years as it releases new models. While the Encoder Strike Vented glasses aren’t as bold as the Katos, they still are unique and striking compared to other models such as the Oakley Jawbreakers or Radars. However, sunglasses are about far more than just aesthetics, they need to perform well too. How do the Oakey Encoder Strike Vented glasses fare for the everyday rider? Is there more to these lenses than their dazzling looks?
I’ve not had too much experience using frameless sunglasses, mostly opting for glasses similar to the Oakley Jawbreakers for the added rigidity that an enclosed frame design brings. However, I do like the simplicity of a frameless design when it comes to aesthetics, so I was interested to see how the Encoder Strike Vented model felt compared to some of my usual favourites. Oakley says it uses ‘calibrated rigidity’ to stiffen the lens which means it has been bent outward along the top edge and truncated at the nose, almost acting like a frame but actually it is just a modification of the lens itself. I found this to work really well, the Encoder Strike glasses felt as rigid as fully framed glasses such as the Jawbreakers.
One of the key benefits of this frameless design is that it gives a huge field of vision. I felt like I had an extremely wide view when wearing the Encoder Strike Vented glasses, even when glancing over my shoulder on rides or looking down at my head unit on my handlebars. I did find that the nosepiece of the glasses slightly encroached in my vision when I glanced suddenly to the left or right, which was a bit hard to get used to at first, though I largely forgot about it after a couple of days using the Encoder Strike Vented glasses.
The pair I tested was fitted with Oakley’s Prizm Road lens, though they do come in six other lens options too. The Prizm Road lens aims to enhance vision in both bright light and shadows, helping riders spot changes in the texture of road surfaces. They also feature colour and contrast-enhancing to highlight road signs and spot hazards in the road. I found that they offered great optical clarity and were suitable for a very varied range of conditions. If you are riding more regularly in bright light conditions, the Prizm Black lenses offer lower light transmission so these might be a better option and it’s also worth noting that the Encoder Strike glasses do only come with a single lens option in the box and are not interchangeable, so it’s important to make sure you make the right lens choice ahead of purchase.
When it comes to additional ventilation that Oakley has added to the Encoder Strikes in this Vented model, I found that this did lead to a tangible improvement in how much the glasses steamed up when I was stopped at traffic lights or when I was doing tough efforts. Compared to the Oakley Radars and Jawbreakers which I use regularly, the Encoder Strike Vented performed far better in terms of ensuring air was flowing through the glasses. I was worried initially that I would be able to feel a draft from the wind through the top of the glasses when riding along, but I didn’t find this to be an issue at all and, if anything, this simply added some nice additional breeze on hotter rides.
The three-point fit and Unobtainium ear sock on the Oakley Encoder Strike model meant that the glasses stayed sturdy on my face and I never had any issues with them slipping down my nose like I have done with others in the past, even when riding over rough surfaces at speed. The arm socks have a rounded shape which means they sit tight to the forehead and rest comfortably, I don’t remember ever having to push the glasses back up my nose during a ride. I also found they looked good and fit well with every type of helmet I wore them with, which can’t be said for all models of sunglasses on the market.
Retailing for £210, the Oakley Encoder Strike Vented sunglasses are, without a doubt, an investment. They sit at the top end of the price range for cycling sunglasses, Sungod’s Airas retail for almost half the price of the Encoder Strike Vented, for example, but you can feel real durability and quality with the Oakley glasses. If you’re looking for sunglasses that are going to be reliable for the long haul and you have the means to pay a little bit more, the Oakley Encoder Strike Vented model could be a good option.
Apart from some slight issues with the nose piece encroaching in the field of vision when riding along, there’s little not to like about the Oakley Encoder Strike glasses. They offer a unique and striking look but are more understated than the Oakley Kato, while the frameless design helps with a wide field of view while matching the rigidity that enclosed lenses offer. The added vents mean that there are rarely any problems with the glasses misting when riding along. Although the price point is premium, the Oakley Encoder Strike glasses do have the quality to match.