Smith Optics PivLock Arena Max Oakley Sunglasses Review

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Smith’s PivLock has been around for some time now and through various iterations has revolved around the ‘PivLock’ lens changing system.

Instead of relying on the arms snapping on with a hooked structure on the lens, like most other frameless replica sunglasses, Smith uses a small egg-shaped nub that goes through a hole in the lens and allows the arms to pivot down and lock on. Utilizing this this two-structure system for swapping lenses not only means less pressure is put on the lens, but also less wear on the arms from being continually snapped on and off.

The latest-edition Arena Max V2’s lens is quite big, measuring 48mm tall – that’s 2mm smaller than cheap Oakley’s Radar EV – and is totally frameless. But they still weigh in at a feathery 29g. With no frame to get in the way, the lens extends far past your field of vision both up and down, meaning that when tucked in an aero time trial position, you’re not peering over the top of the lens.

Smith has printed the logo on the upper left corner of the PivLock lenses for some time now and we’d previously complained you could see it. From this tester’s persepctive at least, it seems Smith has rectified this issue with the bigger lens – the logo was nowhere to be seen during the test period.

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The large curved lens provides for distortion free vision, and in fact is one of the clearest we’ve used. Smith includes three lenses in the package: Red Sol-X Mirror, Ignitor and clear. The Red Sol-X Mirror is quite dark, only allowing for 11% visible light transmission, and was my go-to for just about every road ride. It kept my eyes comfortable in full sun, while also performing surprisingly well when the light got flat.

With considerably more visible light transmission than the Red Mirror lens, we found the Ignitor lens at 32% VTL best suited to the varied light conditions of mountain biking.

If you’ve ever spent any time around a ski slope on a cloudy day, you’ll hear people in the lift line talking about their lens choice and lamenting that they didn’t wear a ‘rose’ lens. This is because for years, ski coaches have told their athletes that a rose lens helps to bring out contrast and some depth perception when the light is flat – something that my experience through years of running gates proved true.

The Ignitor is a rose base lens with silver reflective coating. I found that, like a rose goggle lens, in the trees I didn’t need to strain my eyes to pick out roots, rocks and other obstacles in the shadows, or when the contrast was lacking. It also provided enough tint to keep my eyes comfortable in full sun.

Though it’s not something I used a whole lot, the clear lens was reserved for riding in darkness. It’s not an essential piece of kit, but I was glad it was included.

All three lenses get hydrophobic coating front and back, meaning rain will bead off the outside and sweat will also bead and run off the inside of the lens. This coating also helps repel oil (like from fingerprints) allowing it to be wiped off rather than smudging on the lens.

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Like most performace sunglasses, the long straight arms touch the retention systems on a fair few helmets

Like most other performance Oakley sunglasses with long straight arms, the tips do overlap with some helmet retention systems. As this is commonplace it’s not a major cause for complaint – but when the helmet moves, so will your sunglasses. Similarly to the PivLock V2 Max, the arms also sit quite high and will make contact with some helmets as a result of riding-related jiggles, which can cause the glasses to slowly work their way down your nose.

That said, the nose pads and temple tips are made from tacky rubber, which helps keep them planted on your face.

Unique to the PivLocks is the adjustable nose piece – though it’s not adjustable in the sense you might expect. Instead of the actual nose pads moving in or out individually, the rubber pads slide up and down bringing the pads together or pushing the apart respectively.

It’s only a few millimetres but it does make a difference in where the lens sits on your face. I found the lower position was most comfortable, allowing the replica glasses to accommodate this tester’s front facing aerofoil (aka sizeable nose).

When you purchase the PivLock Arena Max, Smith givess you three lenses, a hard case and microfibre bag. Considering the Smith lenses are some of the clearest we’ve used, we reckon the PivLocks demonstrate fantastic value, especially considering a pair of basic Radar EVs costs almost the same and you don’t even get a spare lens. Oh, and they’re pretty good looking too.