Assos Zhego

I'm unadorned by choice and nature. I don't wear jewelry, except a simple wedding band. I'm untattooed. I don't wear gloves when I ride unless it's cold outside. And I don't wear glasses when I ride. Ever.

One reason I'm not a sports glass fan is that it so often doesn't function well. Sports glasses fog. Drips of sweat run down the inside of the lens. The top of the frame seems strategically positioned to impede my view. They don't stay put. The lenses get scratched and then my eyes, while riding, fixate on the scratch instead of on the road. The lens distorts what it is I'm riding over. All this conspires to impede rather than improve my vision. Other than that, I have nothing against sports glasses.

That established, an Assos Zhego sports glass arrived a few days before my scheduled departure for a week of mountain biking in Morocco. I took it along.

This product seemed to me worth a try. First, I haven't found anything made by Assos that I don't find to be of superior quality. Second, these glasses had an interesting feature set that piqued my interest, and I'll report on this below.

Still—and true though all of the above may be—it must also be acknowledged that Assos is not shy about charging for its products. If Russian caviar worked as well as Assos chamois cream—as chamois cream—that would pose a conundrum for me (the caviar might be cheaper, by weight). And the bibs! The last time I bought an Assos bib I had to dip into my home equity line. I would call Assos the Cadillac of the cycling world, except Cadillacs don't cost enough.

But, the fact that I do own Assos bibs, and jerseys, and chamois cream, attests to the value that this brand represents; I occasionally do treat myself to the closest thing the cycling world has to Bugatti.

Of interest to me was the shape of the lens. The Zhego's rimless motif, combined with the sheer size and shape of the lens, made me wonder whether this glass may finally produce the performance I've always hoped for out of a product in this category.

I rode for five consecutive days with this glass, and I was glad I did. While of less value during a triathlon, I didn't reckon on the airborne debris while riding in close quarters around and behind other mountain bikers in rocky terrain. Then, of course, there was the fact that I was riding in the Sahara. The sunlight was pretty bright.

I tested this glass for use in triathlon by riding some stretches bent over waist, simulating something like an aero position. The top of the glass did not impede my vision, as is often the case with a sports glass worn during the bike leg of a triathlon. The nose piece did not allow the glass to slide down. Everything stayed put.

The glass has not, so far, suffered a scratch, or had its lens compromised.

The lens provides a true, undistorted, view of the world. And this includes glare and reflections. Assos believes in providing a true representation of the road, glare and all, because—Assos maintains—you should detect rainy, slippery places in the road unhindered by polarization. So, these are not polarized lenses.

Assos does not claim to be an eyewear company, and its Zhego is a collaboration between the Assos idea of what ought to go into a sports glass and a true, high-end, lens maker—Carl Zeiss—upon which Assos relies for the manufacture of its lens. The Zhego does, however, offer substantial UV protection.

I experienced two adverse occurrences. At the end of the first day of riding, while over 7000 feet in elevation, in the snow and cold, ascending a stiff climb with my body hot, I had a slight bit of fogging on the inside of the lens.

Then, on the fourth day, a drip of sweat ran down the inside of the lens. That was the sole drip during my five days of riding.

I do have one complaint. The temples are not straight, rather they feature a rounded shape or, if you will, a slightly bowed aspect. These temples do not fit easily behind my ears and they are not, as I understand it, made to fit behind the ears. Rather, to sit just above the ears. When I ride with this glass, I position the temples—which are straight and do not have that dogleg shape designed to curve around my ears—to sit just above my ears.

The temples took a bit of getting used to, and I think I'd rather the glass was made with a less-bowed temple. The glass comes with an elastic band attached to the temples. This band wraps behind my head, keeping the glass firmly in place, without being intrusive.

The bow in temples caused me to wonder whether the best way to wear this glass is to have the temples sit outside of my helmet straps. Indeed some riders apparently do this. But I found this intrusive. It seemed to me difficult to try to position the glass correctly, with the strap around the back of my head, with the temples outside the helmet straps. Easiest for me was to put the glass on first, and just place my helmet over it.

Look, $400 for a sports glass is a bunch. From Assos' point of view, it's a glass made to last a long time, so, there is value to be had if you look at it that way. And Assos does have a point. Still, a sports glass seems an easier item to mislay or damage than a more obvious and hardy item (I sat on my reading glasses last week and that was the end of them; this would not happen to my cycling helmet).

This is the one sports glass I will use. Assos thought it through, as is typical with that Swiss company. Whether its value, to me, is equal to a Kindle Fire plus the latest Hoka One One—two items I intend to buy once I save my nickels—that's the tough question. I can't conceive of a better sports glass for running and cycling. But I shall leave it to my fellow Slowtwitchers to weigh the investment value of the Assos Zhego.

The Assos Zhego is available, among other places, at Competitive Cyclist. This glass comes in a variety of lens tints and frame colors.