If you want to wear the exact same sunglasses your favorite pro riders wear, you could end up paying upwards of a couple hundred dollars (especially if you want multiple lenses for different light/weather conditions). But if you’re on a budget yet still want high quality optics and pro peloton style, Tifosi is a brand you may want to look at. Their latest and greatest is their just released Kilo.
Tifosi Kilo – starting at $69.95
Full disclosure: I’m a bit of a Tifosi fanboi. I’ve ridden wearing their sunglasses for many years now and own several different pairs — including the Aethon I reviewed for PEZ.
Tifosi may not be a brand as familiar to PEZ readers because it’s not a brand worn in the pro peloton. But according to Tifosi, their sunglasses are “the #1 selling brand of eyewear in specialty cycling stores.” The main reason for that is because they sell at a very affordable price point. If you look at their catalog, all their sunglasses are less than $100! But lower price doesn’t mean lower quality. Their technology is on par with the more known brands. In a word, their stuff is a great value (or is that two words?)
The Kilo is the newest model in the Tifosi range and per Tifosi:
Kilo is available in three interchange models that are equipped with three included lenses for bright, low, and no light settings. For those looking for a single-lens solution, it is also available available in Blackout with a smoke polarized lens engineered to eliminate glare. Kilo will also be offered in Tifosi’s new Clarion Red Fototec lens, a photochromic lens that can adapt on the fly to ambient light, transitioning from a nearly clear tint in low light to a red mirrored smoke tint in full sun.
PEZ tested the Crystal Smoke model with Clarion yellow, AC red, and clear lenses plus the Black/White model with the Clarion Red Fototec lens.
Crystal Smoke – $79.95
For less than C-note, here’s what you get:
- A pair of Kilo sunglasses
- Adjustable ear pieces with hydrophilic rubber to increase grip the more you sweat
- Adjustable nose piece to increase comfort and limit slip
- Three sets of lenses (Clarion blue, AC red, and clear lenses) — scratch resistant and shatterproof polycarbonate glare guard to reduce eye strain and optically decentered to eliminate distortion
- Microfiber bag
- Hardshell case (with separate compartments for spare lenses)
- Lifetime warranty (I’ve actually had experience with Tifosi’s warranty when my Clarion blue lens in my Podium XCs just split while out on a ride. Tifosi replaced them and just asked me to send the broken lens back to them so they could try to figure out what happened with them.)
What you get for your (not a lot of) money
But unlike many current sunglasses that are a single lens (such as the Tifosi Aethon), the Kilo has two separate lenses.
Look ma, no lenses!
Speaking of lenses, the Kilo is essentially a full frame sunglass and removing the lenses can be a little daunting (at least the first time … after you’ve done it a couple of times and gotten the hang of it, it’s actually fairly easy). The Grilamid TR-90 frame is “flexible” and you pull it apart (just enough) to pop the lens out. Per the instructions that come with the sunglasses:
- With the sunglasses facing down and the arms fully extended, hold the top and bottom of the frame with both hands.
- Place your fingers on the front side of the frame and your thumbs on the back side of the frame while letting your thumbs rest on the lens.
- Gently flex/spread the frame apart with your fingers as your press down on the lens with your thumbs releasing the lens to the front of the sunglass.
If you’re like me, the first time you do it you’ll be afraid you’re going to break either the frame or lens or both. But as shown by this video, not to worry:
To reinstall the lens:
- With the sunglasses facing up and the arms fully extended, place the lens over the frame and line it up with the groove on the outside corner.
- Place your finger on the back side of the frame and your thumbs on the front side bracing the lens over the frame.
- Gently flex/spread the frame with your fingers as you guide the lens down into the outer corner of the frame with your thumbs.
- Press the inner and outer edges of the lens into the frame with your thumbs.
- Make sure the lens is seated in the frame by squeezing the outside perimeter of the frame. (And you’ll need to wipe the lens clean afterwards since it will have fingerprints all over it.)
Once again, a video to show you the way:
As is often the case with cycling kit, it’s often easier to let pictures do most of the talking and I’ll let the Tifosi Kilo speak for itself.
For storage/transport, everything fits in the hardshell case
The Kilo lenses are vented to help prevent fogging. TOP: Because of the Clarion Yellow mirror finish, it’s harder to see the venting from the front. BOTTOM: But the venting is more apparent when viewed from the back.
Three sets of lenses all included at a price that’s less than the cost of an additional lens with some other brands (that don’t include extra lenses)
Top: Clarion Yellow for bright sunlight
Middle: AC Red for cloudier conditions
Bottom: Clear for low light or night riding
The Kilo isn’t a specific Asian fit model (my ethnic heritage is Filipino), but they fit me well and comfortably right out of the box. The ear pieces hug without being too tight. They grip with no slip, but it’s still relatively easy to get the glasses on and off while riding. And they sit on my nose such that there’s the right amount of space between my face and the lenses. Of course, everyone’s face is different so YMMV and try-before-you-buy is always a good idea. And I’d recommend bringing your helmet with you because fitting with a helmet isn’t always the same as just wearing a pair of sunglasses. BTW, Tifosi has a pretty cool “virtual try on” so you can see what the glasses look like on you.
The ear pieces and nose piece are adjustable for fit, if needed
Black/White – $79.95
Instead of three different lenses, this version of the Kilo comes with a single Clarion Red Fototec lens that changes tint based on light conditions. In low light, the Clarion Red Fototec lens is mostly clear, allowing 64% light transmission. The lens transitions to a darker grey tint with a Clarion Red reflective mirror finish in bright sunlight with only 14% light transmission. In other words, it’s a do-it-all lens that works from cloudy and overcast to clear blue skies with full sun.
Top: Mostly clear
I would’ve been worried if they didn’t weight the same. Not the lightest (you could spend $100 more on a different brand to shed another 10 grams), but still respectably light.
If I know I’m going to be riding in variable/changing light conditions, the Kilo with Clarion Red Fototec lens is my sunglass of choice. Cloudy in the morning to start the ride but with the sun coming out later (or vice-versa)? Check. Constantly riding in and out of bright sunlight and shaded areas? Check. Riding late in the day with waning light? Check. In fact, I can ride with this lens at night — at least in an urban environment with street lighting (and, of course, with a good headlight).
Life is a coffee ride (or at least mine is)
Pro peloton style and tech for less
In keeping with the current trend in cycling sunglasses, the Kilo are what I call “semi-large” size but not ski goggle-oversized. For my fashion taste, the Kilo is “big enough” (there’s more than enough lens real estate to provide sun and wind protection) without being too big. So I don’t think I need to worry about running afoul of my PEZ amigo Ed Hood: “be careful of sizing, if you have a small head and wear huge shades you could stray into ‘Dame Edna’ or ‘Fearless Fly’ territory.”
When you’re a total badass like Mathieu Van der Poel, you can wear any size sunglasses you want
If you like the style (and style is a very personal choice), the Kilo with either interchangeable lenses or the Clarion Red Fototec lens is a value proposition IMHO. In addition to the “standard” models, you can also build the Kilo to your personal spec with the Tifosi Custom Lab.
Optically, the Kilo is on par with more expensive “name brand” sunglasses (at least to my Lasik corrected eyes). But since you’re not forking over big bucks for a pair, if you happen to scratch or otherwise damage a lens, replacement lenses are available priced from US$14 – $50 depending on the lens. And in the worst case scenario, i.e., if you lose or break your sunglasses, you can buy a second pair and still probably have paid less than if you bought one pair of a lot of other “pro” sunglasses (and many of those don’t come with extra lenses so that’s even more money spent if you want/need those).
I’m not here to tell you how to spend your money and if you want to emulate your favorite pro by wearing the same sunglasses, there’s nothing wrong with that and please do so. I mean, who doesn’t want to look pro? But the pros get their sunglasses for free. For mere mortals who have to shell out their own hard earned $$$ (and many of whom are on a budget), the Tifosi Kilo is a great example of getting a lot of bang for the buck.
- Shop for Tifosi Sunglasses at Amazon here.
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