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Oakley sunglasses: worth the price premium?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016 by  
Filed under Daily Blog

January
13
2016

I have to begin today’s blog with a disclaimer of sorts: I am, admittedly, a big fan of Oakley sunglasses. I think they look great, the optical quality is excellent (this is particularly true of their new Prizm Road lenses) and they are very well made. I own several pair of Oakley Sunglasses, and I’m very happy with them. They are the only sunglasses I wear while cycling. Well, at least until recently…

Not too long before Christmas, I was on Amazon adjusting my December Subscribe and Save shipment. While I was browsing the site, a lightning deal caught my eye. The deal was for a few bucks off the already very inexpensive Rivbos 801 Polarized Sports Sunglasses Glasses with 5 Interchangeable Lenses. These sunglasses sell every day on Amazon for less than 20 bucks, and the lighting deal brought them down to around $15.

The Rivbos sunglasses are Chinese-made clones of the Oakley Prizm Road Radarlock sunglasses, which are my absolute favorite pair of Oakleys. The Oakley Prizm Road Radarlock sunglasses sell for about $240.00, and so I figured I should order a pair of the Rivbos and see how they compare.

The Rivbos sunglasses are available in a whole bunch of lens/frame color combinations. I went with Red & Grey. They look very much at home with my collection of Oakleys:

Apart from the company branding, the Rivbos sunglasses (foreground, left) are virtually indistinguishable from the Oakleys.

Apart from the company branding, the Rivbos sunglasses (foreground, left) are virtually indistinguishable from the Oakleys.

 

Aesthetically the Rivbos sunglasses are nearly identical to the Oakleys. If the company branding were removed, you’d be hard pressed to tell the two brands apart.

The Rivbos arms open and close a little more stiffly than the Oakleys, but they function just fine.

The Rivbos nosepads feel 100% identical to the Oakley nosepads.

Optical clarity of the Rivbos sunglasses is excellent (they come with 5 sets of lenses, but I used the mirrored lenses for all my tests). All the lenses have 100% UV 400 protection, and the black lenses are even polarized–something for which Oakley charges quite a premium (about 80 bucks, if I recall correctly).

I’ve worn the Rivbos sunglasses on 4 rides now, and they are just as comfortable as the Oakleys. In fact, I forgot that I was not wearing my Oakleys.

Look, I love my Oakleys, but I came away from this experiment very surprised. I did not expect a product that sells for a tiny fraction of the price of Oakleys to give me 95% of the performance. Oakleys have a little bit better build quality, and the Prizm lenses provide better contrast than the Rivbos mirrored lenses, but apart from that you’re paying a huge premium for the Oakley name.

You could literally buy 12 pair of Rivbos sunglasses for the price of one pair of Oakleys. Lose a pair? Step on them? Crash and break them? Scratch them? No big deal, they cost you 20 bucks.

I’ll still wear my Oakleys on “big” rides, but for most of my training rides, doing yard work, projects outside and so on, I’m going to rock the Rivbos.

EDIT: I did a follow-up blog with a video of me trying to break the Rivbos and the Oakley lenses. Check it out here.

Here are some hastily taken photographs from this morning (click any to enlarge):

Rivbos left, Oakley Prizm right

Rivbos left, Oakley Prizm right

Rivbos

Rivbos

Oakley

Oakley

3/4 view

3/4 view

Back view

Back view

The Rivbos comes with 4 extra lenses (the mirrored lenses come installed). The black lenses are even polarized!

The Rivbos comes with 4 extra lenses (the mirrored lenses come installed). The black lenses are even polarized!

Oakley 3/4 view

Oakley 3/4 view

Rivbos 3/4 view

Rivbos 3/4 view

Both brands provide a hardshell carrying case and a microfiber cleaning cloth/pouch.

Both brands provide a hardshell carrying case and a microfiber cleaning cloth/pouch.


John Stone Fitness Comments

24 Responses to “Oakley sunglasses: worth the price premium?”
  1. Is there any info on the strength of the lenses? Oakley always used to show that they could survive being shot with a shotgun, and whilst that is (hopefully!) unlikely to happen, a stone at high speed on the bike could be dangerous if they aren’t up to it.

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  2. I bought the RIvbos 806 sunglasses with the same five interchangeable lenses almost a year ago for my rides and have been very happy with them. Extremely comfortable, light weight and great clarity/visibility. I have mainly used the mirrored lenses but have swapped with the polarized black lens occasionally and both have worked well in all weather conditions from full sun to overcast skies. I haven’t taken any rocks hitting the lenses but have had a few large bugs bounce off them!

    For the price and as much use I’ve gotten out of them I would have expected to find them showing some wear but they are holding up great! After a long ride, I usually just pop them into the fabric tote and toss it into my bike gear bag without experiencing any damage. I don’t expect them to last forever but as you mention you can just pick up another pair for about $20. Highly recommend the Rivbos sunglasses!

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  3. I’m going to get some other colors, too, Russell. Might as well. One thing that seems obvious after riding with the Rivbos and my breakage tests: Oakley must be making a damn fortune in profit. Kudos to their marketing department.

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