Smith Pivlock V2 Review
Last year, I reviewed the Smith Pivlock V90, a fantastic set of rimless sunglasses that delivers everything that a triathlete needs, and then some. As mentioned in that review, the key to a good pair of triathlon shades is a rimless design. If you ride an aggressive aero position, then regular shades just don't cut it. They make it impossible to look up the road properly, because you either end up staring at the top rim of your sunglasses, or more likely, you're forced to lift your head up into the air, compromising your position. I've also said many times that I really prefer helmets with visors for this reason, but that's not really feasible in training while wearing standard road helmet.
Smith has a newer set of shades in the same Pivlock line, dubbed the V2. Again, to be clear, the V2 is actually newer than the V90. Those are the only models in the lineup, and no, I don't understand the naming scheme either. But if you can get past that, you'll find that both models are very awesome pieces of eyewear. And just like the V90, the V2 lenses are also offered in a V2 MAX size, with taller lenses that provide more coverage than the 'standard' lens size. But the MAX lenses are compatible with the same frame hardware, so you can buy one frame and then just get extra lenses if you want to try out the larger size. That's very convenient, and a feature not offered by many of Smith's competitors. The Oakley Radar, for example, isn't compatible with the Radar XL lenses. You have to buy a new frame.
Fit & Features
The first thing you'll notice about the V2 is its more angular design compared to its predecessor. My initial impression was that I wouldn't like it as much, because I loved the lines of the original V90. However, I ended up loving the style. The sharp lines look great in person, and the slightly larger lenses offer better coverage, even in the smaller 'standard' size. Moreover, the V2 comes with a nice new feature: an adjustable-width nosepiece. Now, I'm usually not a fan of moveable nosepieces. The ones Rudy Project offers are built on a bendable wire, which you can move in any direction you want. This is annoying to me, because not only is it hard to make each side identical to the other, but they can easily get out of whack.
The Pivlock V2 is a different story, and a much better one. There are three distinct width settings, and each one clicks snugly into place. This solves both of the complaints I mentioned above with bendable wire solutions. And the width adjustment is very useful. It lets you pick the right setting for your particular face. I ended up liking the narrow option the best, which also makes the glasses sit a little further out from my face. That's useful for me, because I have some long eyelashes that can end up scraping lenses if they're too close to the face.
The V2 has one other improvement over the V90. It has a subtly tighter grip around the head. Where the V90 was rather loose in fit (read: utterly comfortable), the V2 has just a very gentle (and still very comfortable) fit. The result is that it is a better product for running. I could pretty easily get the V90's to bounce on my nose while running, but the V2's stay firmly in place. This is also helped by the adjustable nose bridge, which you can set nice and snug to help keep them from moving around. While the V90's were great for cycling, the V2's are truly a triathlete's best friend, offering superb performance on and off the bike.
The Pivlock V2 is an incredible value. Every pair of sunglasses sold comes with three pairs of lenses, and a hard case, for a retail price of $159. Lenses come in two sizes: the standard V2, pictured here, and the V2 MAX, which is just slightly taller, for a bit more coverage. I recommend the MAX for triathletes, because it adds just that little bit of extra coverage while in aero. Fortunately, the lenses are interchangeable - the frame hardware is the same. So you can go back and forth between standard and MAX with no fuss at all. And swapping lenses is trivially easy - just rotate the temples up, and they pop straight out of the holes in the lens. Then they pop right into your new lens. Same story for the nose piece.
Last year, I told you that I really liked the V90. This year, I can tell you that I LOVE the V2. It has all the strengths of the original, and adds some improvements. It's the best set of shades currently on the market for triathletes, and puts some of the 'big boys' to shame. Oakley is most likely the biggest eyewear investor in athletic sponsorships, but their ubiquitous products (which I also love, by the way) just can't touch the brilliant simplicity of Smith's rimless Pivlock platform. If you're in the market for shades, and particularly if you ride a low, aggressive position, it's tough to beat what Smith has put together in the Pivlock V2.