The market for cycling sunglasses is dominated by a small number of big players. Smaller outfits exist, but there is a certain domination of the market at the moment by Oakley and 100%, so having something from a relative newcomer to the scene makes a refreshing change. For today’s review, that refreshing change comes courtesy of the Roka Matador Air.
Roka, hailing from Texas, has already graced the faces of riders from the Legion of LA and Team DSM in the past, as well as numerous privateers like Ted King and Sarah Sturm.
I’ve spent some time with them gracing my face, and while I’m likely to be struggling for the podium in LA have tested them in sunshine and rain, on road and gravel, up hill and down dale, so you can make the Roka Matador on sunglasses compare to the Oakleys, the 100 Per Cents, and the rest of the best cycling sunglasses available today
Design and aesthetics
Despite their divisive aesthetic, I’m a big fan of the Matador Air glasses look. The trend toward monolens ubiquity marches ever on in the pro peloton, but we’re getting to the point now where, like smartphones, a lot of models from various manufacturers look pretty similar. The Roka Matador Features a monolens like its rivals, which is definitely a unique looking standpoint, but it has a unique looking arm design, where the arms seem to flow from the base of the lens rather than the brow. Roka claims this can and does shape the helmet straps, and while it definitely does not interfere with the temples neither has any other pair of cycling glasses tested.
The whole package is likely to appeal to those with a smaller head (like me). The arms are shorter than those from Oakley and 100%, and the lens is slightly smaller too. The lens itself is ‘cylindrical’, which Roka claims produces zero distortion, and is available in two stock colours, or an extra five if you go custom. They pop in and out of the frame with no great force too, so swapping is dead easy. Three small vents at the top of the lens are also in place to stop things getting humid. The rubber on the nose and arms are ridged, purportedly inspired by gecko feet, and made of a hydrophobic compound to keep them glued to your face or matter how sweaty you get.
If you are a conservative style persuasion then the stock black or white options will probably be jazzy enough for you, but if you like me and then you have more options for allowing you to exercise some creativity. I was listening to a custom synthpop at the time , a mid-transmission blue designed for partial sun and overcast conditions.
The first thing you notice with the Roka Matador Air is the weight; they’re an extremely feathery pair, weighing in at 24.9g on my scales. While this isn’t totally class-leading, it’s not important if you’re riding something a bit more bulky like a pair of Oakley Jawbreakers. The weight itself is more noteworthy given they are a half-frame design, and still come more than the frameless Oakley Encoders we recently reviewed by five grams or so. This appears to be mainly down to a less dense frame material. The plastic used on the Rokas is really quite flexible, especially in the frame itself more so than the arms. This means that, while being extremely comfortable, they do not have quite the levels of retention of their rivals. They never slipped down my nose or anything drastic, but over bumpy ground, they did occasionally shift slightly.
The field of view is also excellent; the nosepiece is imperceptible in reality, even if you speculate as I did, and the hinges are set back far enough to never be in your eye line. The upper frame is minimalist enough to not distract, and the lens is tall enough that you never find yourself trying to stare through it. The only issue I had with the view was some distortion at the very bottom of the lens. It was pretty minor though, and definitely never an issue at all on the road or the trail.
The Roka On sits very close to the eyes. I cursed with luxuriously thick eyelashes which kept brushing the lens in the position I’d like to have them on my nose.
The Glacier Blue lens is perfectly suited to the standard British springtime palette of gray skies and the occasional burst of sunshine, but in bright sunshine they did struggle. This isn’t going to count against them though, as the lenses were designed for overcast conditions. What the color of the lenses looks like: conditions. When you consider the sunshine, Oakley is better than a bright sun, it is something of a concern.
The lenses did also occasionally steam up on station days, but never in motion, and in heavy rain I had to remove them and place them in my helmet. In this regard they played very nicely, the V shape of the arms almost hooking them into place when placed upside down. My only criticism on this front is that the arms meet the lower lenses than the normal helmets, when placed in upside down.
I liked the Roka Matador. I think they’re aesthetically very pleasing indeed, and they’re extremely comfortable. Their size makes them compelling for smaller heads, and they only suffer minor retention issues. The lens however is what holds them back, and at the $ 240 or about £ 190, it is hard to recommend these overdue conditions given there are better options that perform better.
In full sun, where there is a lot more compelling offering, so if you live somewhere like Texas and want something that’ll stand out from the usual suspects then they’re definitely worth considering . If you want to opt for cloudy days, or for riding in woodland, then there are better lens options on the market for this price.
|Design and aesthetics||I think they look great, especially with the custom option||9/10|
|Field of vision||Excellent FOV, with very few impediments at all||9/10|
|Lens performance||In lower light, the conditions for which these lenses were designed for, they felt a little hazy and flat||6/10|
|Comfort and retention||Very comfortable, with only minor slippage||8/10|
|Value for money||High end cost is not matched by the lens performance||6/10|
Tech Specs: Roka Matador Air
- Price: £ 190 / $ 240
- Weight: 24.9g (actual)
- Color Options: Matte Black / Gold, Matte Black / Black, Gloss White / Purple, Gloss White / Blue, Custom