Sometimes you don’t recognise how nice something can be until you’ve experienced it. The Smith Arena Max glasses are a perfect example of that. I’m not all that picky about my riding glasses, but each time I’ve looked at a nicer pair, I become aware of how much nicer they can be.
The cheap Tifosi glasses I had for years were fine. I could tell they weren’t great, but they worked well enough. When I looked at the Serfas glasses, I was impressed with them as well. Still not one of the most expensive out there, but they were pretty nice glasses. I had good things to say about those Serfas glasses, but let me assure you, the Smith offering is substantially nicer. The thing is, you don’t realise how much the edges of a lens, and the frame, sits in your field of view until it’s gone. Smith has created a set of glasses that feel as if you are riding without glasses.
You can’t see the edges of the lens because there is no frame and the lens wraps beyond your field of view. It’s a solution to a problem you never knew existed until you’ve experienced the solution. The scant 27 gram weight certainly helps the glasses disappear on your face as well. Aside from the experience of riding with glasses without a frame, the big feature of the Arena Max glasses is Pivlock.
Pivlock is the system that allows for swapping out lenses. The arms rotate to an unlocked position and come right out. It’s a very elegant system and is used on a variety of Smith glasses, including the Arena Max. Again, this is a solution to a problem you might not even realize you have. As soon as you experience such an elegant design feature, you instantly realize that other solutions are lacking. With other glasses, you often feel as if you have to force the frames to the breaking point before they release the lenses. Pivlock works better.
Another really nice feature is the way the center nosepiece adjusts. Most glasses adjust by bending the nose piece. Smith’s are articulated and offer three positions. I think this is a much better choice. The adjustment won’t fatigue and break if you repeatedly bend it, and it allows you to set the nosepiece so it’s perfectly symmetrical, or not, without a fuss. Again it’s the kind of smart, elegant, design feature that I find time and again is what really sets higher quality gear apart.
When you go looking to purchase the Arena Max there are some details which you might wonder about. I’ll see if I can answer a couple of those questions here. For me, one of the big ones was what is the difference between the Arena Max and the V2 Max. If you were to put the glasses on a table next to each other and look down on them, you’d find that the profile of the Arena Max is more circular than that of the V2 Max.
The next thing is the shape of the lenses. The Arena Max has an angular cut along the bottom that allows for more space between the cheek and the bottom of the lens. Finally, the temple area of the frame is slightly thicker on the Arena Max. Once you’ve picked a frame design, in this case the Arena Max, then you’ll have options for lenses.
What the frames come with vary a bit by which colour you choose, but most of them come with the primary lenses, an “ignitor” coloured lens which is rose in colour, and a clear lens. You can also purchase additional lenses for $20 or $40 depending on color. The Arena Max does not have a photochromic option, however, the V2 Max does have a photochromic option which runs $80.
The bottom line is that these are a great set of glasses, and the features they offer really do set them apart. Everyone knows the guy, and maybe it’s you, who will go on and on about how the $5 fishing glasses that work great and saved him a ton of money. The Smith Arena Max isn’t the cheapest option out there, but it’s also not the most expensive, and you can feel confident that the $160 you spend on the Smith Arena Max is money well spent. The stand out features work as designed, and you end up with a collection of small, subtle, features that elevate the design in an unexpected way.
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