Smith’s Squad goggles are our benchmark for enduro/DH eye protection but they’re overkill for a lot of situations and riders. That meant when the oversized Smith Optics Wildcat glasses came in we were super excited to give them a try but how much protection do they actually give and are they really worth twice the money of their goggles?
The Wildcat frame is pretty minimal, with just a brow piece and nose and lower lens section visible from the front. There’s a full-frame at the back though complete with sprung auto-lock arm hinges that make the glasses easy to poke onto your face or into helmet vents one-handed. Unsurprisingly the frames are specifically designed to fit with Smith’s range of trail lids but they didn’t fight with any of the mountain bike helmets we tried.
The nose bridge also uses a very simple but effective twin position ‘click hinge’ mount to set it up for different snout widths or alter face to lens clearance. The flexibly sprung and gently tapered arms use the same super grippy ‘megol’ rubber as the nose bridge for their sleeves.
Flex in the frame makes it super easy to unclip the lenses and swap between the tinted ‘ChromaPop’ lens and the ‘spare’ clear set that are provided with every set of Wildcats. You get seven different frame and lens colour options from retro dayglo to military stealth, all with a zipped soft case and carry bag/cleaning cloth included too.
The price is definitely eye-watering and the fact they’re double the price of goggles with a similar lens and much more material and construction involved is baffling but they are definitely more versatile. Cost is also comparable with switchable lens glasses from other brands like Oakley and Ryders who don’t include the spare lens which makes them decent value in premium optics terms.
Compared to average glasses the Optics are absolutely outstanding too. While recent weather means we’ve not had a chance to wear the dark ‘ChromaPop’ lens in the Wildcats we’ve worn them loads in Squad goggles. We’ve always loved the clarity they deliver and how fresh they keep our eyes feeling even in changeable conditions. Considering the full wraparound coverage and the flexible/replaceable frame design the complete lack of distortion from the '5 base' cylindrical lens is exceptional too. That particularly help in low light or long day situations where eyes can get confused more easily and have to work harder to asses the trail and surroundings.
The amount of coverage - particularly with the nose spread to bring them in close - is right up there with a mid-sized goggle too. Obviously the frame edges aren’t completely sealed against roost or rain but you’ll definitely find you’re blinking a lot less when things get wet or filthy. They shed water off the lens pretty well too and there’s certainly no reduction in the totally solid fit security when wet.
The soft contact points, lightly sprung arms, 32g weight and minimal frame intrusion in your peripherals make it very easy to forget you’re even wearing them which is probably the best comfort compliment we can possibly give. Ventilation and de-fogging are excellent too, so you can hammer climbs on hot days (we just about remember a couple of them) without having to stick them in your helmet or wave them about before diving straight into a descent. That makes them far more useable for trail and XC riding, or even XC racing, than goggles but with minimum sacrifice in terms of protection and a noticeable boost in terms of bright conditions vision. They work just as well for road and gravel too, and we’ve even used them as eye protectors for trail building and domestic demolition. That’s not really advisable though, particularly as the lenses seem to scratch relatively easily if you’re clumsy with them and they’re not cheap to replace. The frames themselves do appear to be really tough though with no signs of fatigue or floppiness and ‘as new’ looks even after several months of almost continuous use. If they do fail unexpectedly they’re covered with a lifetime warranty too.
Smith’s Wildcats are outstanding maximum coverage optics with an exceptionally stable fit and soft touch comfort however roasting or rowdy your riding gets. Compared to other premium brands they’re relatively well priced too, just be careful to keep them away from potentially scarring situations.
Tech spec: Smith Optic Wildcat
- Version tested: Matte Mystic Green with ChromaPop Black and clear lenses
- Weight: 32g
- Price: £165