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Two notable goggles

Written by: Dan Empfield
Date: Mon May 10 2010

For most of my swimming life, goggle manufacture had a lot in common with wetsuit manufacture and, really, even more in common with how I made those little neoprene half show covers (and which are still obtainable from De Soto and other companies). We'd die cut neoprene sheets, sew them together, and, presto, half shoe covers.

Likewise, goggle makers would die cut "eye gaskets" out of neoprene sheets, glue them onto clear or smoked formed plastic pieces and—Voilà!—goggles.

Or, you just omitted the neoprene gaskets altogether—the goggle version of going commando—and you wore Swedish goggles, aka Swedes. In this iteration, it's just the hard plastic against your face. Many or most hard core competitive swimmers still swim with Swedes.

Swedes are adjustable, and they're cheap, but, they're very basic. If you've ever seen a carbon fiber saddle consisting of only the shell, and no padding or upper, that's more or less what we're talking about here, just for your eyes instead of your arse.

Me, I'm not a Swedes guy, at least not nowadays. I need a little more. But I'm an agnostic about goggles, like a guy who goes to an Anglican church one week and a Presbyterian the next. I have no firm conviction.

So it's been a happy surprise to find two goggle models that I am willing and eager to champion.
Aquasphere Kayenne

This goggle features an incredible fit, great visibility, and a strap-adjust system that is unparalleled.

The Kayenne is the end result of a process that started with what is now simply known as the Seal (previously the Seal Mask). That thing was (is) big, and if you're in any way a performance swimmer you wouldn't be caught dead wearing it. Nevertheless, a decade ago and still today the Seal (Mask) remains a useful swim tool for those who aren't fashion conscious, because of its great visibility and great comfort.

The Kayenne is finally a Seal Mask built down to goggle size. It's a great looking goggle. And, it retains two elements that made the Seal Mask noteworthy: visibility and fit. The Kayenne does not require nose piece adjustability—at least I haven't found anyone in my posse who can't just put the Kayenne on and wear it. No leaks. No need for a tight strap.

About that strap: it adjusts via its Quick-Fit Buckle™, a push button catch mechanism that renders obsolete the maddening push-pull of the rubber strap through the plastic clip.

I have two minor gripes about the Kayenne. First, the lens slightly magnifies the view underwater. You'll get used to this. I did. Still, it's like swimming with reading glasses on. It's a bit disorienting at first. Second, its anti-fog properties are okay, but not great.

In short, the lens is good as goggle lenses go, but, the real sizzle in this goggle is its universally great fit and comfort, a strap adjustment system that has every other goggle beat, and superior visibility, all built into a goggle that offers all these features and still looks great.

The Kayenne comes in several colors and three lens shades: clear, smoke and blue. I found it available at a lot of stores, or you can buy it online. The goggle is very fairly priced at $24.95.
Sable Water Optics RS 101

When I was a teenager, in the early 1970s, I distinctly remember the first time I put on a set of Vuarnet sunglasses. The world just looked better through those glasses. With this goggle, it's all about the lens. If I might be permitted, this is the Vuarnet of swim goggles.

Unlike the Aquasphere Kayenne, the RS 101 is more typical of swim goggles. It does not feature the visibility of the Kayenne, but, its visibility is by no means bad, that is, it's typical of swim goggles (nothing compares to the visibility you get with the Kayenne).

Also, it's not a universal fit out of the box. It comes with four nose bridges, you pop out the middlin' bridge that is the standard install if you need your nose bridge wider or narrower. I always need the widest nose bridge, so I had to pop out the factory install and insert the bridge that worked for me. Adjustment completed, no problem, it fit like a charm.

Also, it lacks the Kayenne's easily-adjustable strap. But I did not not have to adjust the strap tight. The goggle fits nicely and does not leak.

And the lens! It's just the best through which I've ever viewed water through a goggle. It's the first anti-fog goggle I've ever used that lives up to the claim. The lens is crystal clear, it does not scratch, it does not distort the underwater view.

As with the Kayenne, the RS 101 comes with three lens options: clear, smoke and blue. Prescription lenses are also available. The goggle is widely available in stores and online.

These goggle are not inexpensive. The street price is just shy of $50. Nevertheless, it's worth the price. Let's face it. There's the price to get into the pool facility, and/or your master's membership. There's the price you pay for your swimsuit which, for me, is $25 times two per year. Then there's the price you pay for your implements (paddles, fins, kickboard, pull buoy). This, if you're an implement guy, which I'm not.

Swimming is cheap, as sports go. Cycling is too, for that matter, if you compare it to sailing or equestrian events. But swimming is really cheap. Just as we preach comfort and utility in "contact points" on the bike, we're of the same mind in swimming and running. The most important contact point in swimming is the goggle.

If the Sable WaterOptics goggle seems of interest to you, you might also want to read what Jordan Rapp writes
about this goggle (link below).

I'm a goggle agnostic because I rarely find a goggle that impresses me. These two above are worthy of mention. Of course, neither goggle is the perfect goggle; there are features to each that are admirable. But each is the best-in-class among the goggles I've tried.

I currently swim in the Kayenne on clear-lens days, and the RS 101 on sunny days. I would be happy to have either of these goggles be my everyday goggle, assuming I had both a clear and a smoke lens version of each.


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Great but rather large 4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed by: Rob, Jun 11 2010 7:16AM

I bought the Kayenne´s based on your review. I have really liked them, they are very comfortable on long swims and provide an excellent view. Initially I found them to be huge verus my old googles but im getting used to them, as I have used them only 5 times. No water in my eyes, great visibility and comfy fit what more could you want and for 25 bucks.

Ok goggles, not for me though 3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed by: Bryan, May 24 2010 9:55AM

Bought the Kayenne's based upon Dan's review and I'm sending them back today. I have a narrow face and they didn't work for me - they were too wide. Because the width is fixed, there's just no way to make them work, they constantly leaked. I'd only recommend them to people with larger heads and wider faces.

I also noticed the magnification while underwater, but strangely enough, I didn't notice the magnification out of the water. The distorted view was definitely awkward, but since I only swam about 500 meters in them, I can't say if I'd ever adjust to it.

Back to my Tyr Tracer Racing goggles...

Sable 5 out of 5 stars

Best goggles I've ever used

Reviewed by: Ken Sharlin, May 12 2010 12:53PM

Bought a pair of Sables at IM Kansas last year at the urging of my son who is a competitive swimmer. At first I was hesitant about the price, but my conversion to a Sable groupie was near instantaneous (as soon as I got in the water). The vendor let us "try before we buy," which made it easy choice. They are comfortable, seal well, and--the real reason for loving these goggles--I can see! The optics, even on the nonprescription, are fantastic. I wouldn't think of wearing anything else.

Goggles are for keeping water off your eyes. 1 out of 5 stars

these giant things are for scuba diving

Reviewed by: jack mott, May 11 2010 9:29AM

These goggles are terrible. They are huge and for scuba diving. The simple Blueseventys are some of the best that still allow you to sight buoys. But in reality people need two sets: clear for bad weather and mirrored or smoke for sunny weather sighting. Therefore goggles need to be cheap not only because you need multiple pairs but also because these are often lost and they just get old quickly. [Editor's note: you obviously haven't seen (in person), or tried either of the goggles reviewed here, or else you wouldn't have written what you did. I, likewise, haven't tried the blueseventies yet, which is why I can't opine on their utility. Goggles can be either $5 a pair (Swedes) or $50 a pair. I tend not to lose my goggles, hence, I don't mind paying for quality.]