The Sweet Protection Firewall is one of the only goggles currently available that’s designed specifically for mountain biking, and it’s aimed at gravity fed disciplines in-particular.
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Goggles from most major eyewear brands are usually focussed more towards motocross and other engine-driven wheeled sports which need protection against a number of factors we don’t encounter when riding/racing mountain bikes – this isn’t something that causes huge issues in the real world, but when it comes to the best goggles for mountain biking, does the Firewall’s MTB specific design have what it takes to change the game on the trail?
Design and specification
A sleek TPU frame brings a retro vibe to the Firewall’s appearance and the lack of garish lines means they look classy when compared to the ultra edgy and racy vibe a lot of moto options bring. The main standout is how the ventilation is open at both the top and bottom of the frame itself, as opposed to covered with foam like most of the competition. This open design is said to offer better anti-fog properties for mountain biking, which has a slower average speed when compared to motocross and ATV. Unlike motocross riders, us mountain bikers don’t have to deal with exhaust fumes or roost from other riders either (unless you’re really going head to head with your mates!), something again which makes the open ventilation a stellar choice.
The lens itself sees a cylindrical injection molded design and is available in a variety of different tints to best suit specific riding conditions. While all lenses feature 100 percent UV protection, some tinted options get Sweet Protection’s RIG lens technology which they claim offers superior contrast, minimum color distortion and lower eye fatigue while riding. I opted to test the clear lens option as it tends to perform for the dark and dank riding conditions often found in the UK.
There’s no way of mounting tear offs to the lens itself which does limit potential for riding and racing in really grim conditions, and while I’m skeptical about how much difference it’ll make both sides of the lens are treated with hydrophobic and oleophobic coatings to better deal with fogging and debris on the lens.
Comfort is provided via a triple layer foam around the perimeter and the wide and adjustable silicone lined strap should keep things secure and in place. The black clear lens version we have here costs a respectable $79.95 / £69.99, while the tinted RIG equipped options rock in at $99.95 / £89.99.
With the Firewall’s frame been relatively slimline the first thing I noticed upon installation was how there is next to no obstruction within the peripheral fields of vision, and it’s only when you’re really pushing your eyeballs into their extremities when areas of the frame come into view. Another thing I found that contributed to this unobstructed line of view was the lack of tear off mounts on the lens itself, and when riding the Firewall’s back-to-back with other manufacturers goggles it was a fairly noticeable eyeline interference when riding with tabs. This, however, is a double-edged sword, especially if you’re racing in wet climates where tear offs can be the difference between crashing or crossing the line.
The Firewall’s worked well with every open and full-face helmet I tried them with and the triple layer foam provided comfort even when worn for long durations – something that’s made possible by the open ventilation, and not once during testing did I experience any sign of fogging, even when riding in sub-optimal conditions. This meant I ended up just leaving the Firewall’s on in-between runs, especially when using the e-bike to self shuttle back to the trail head.
Top performance and great comfort meant they quickly became my go-to goggle, and after a summer of riding in the Alps, my test set leave me with no doubts about longevity. I noticed the clear lens seems to be much more scratch resistant when compared to the competition too, it’s hard to say if this is solely down to the oleophobic treatment or not, but either way I’m impressed with how things have held up to daily alpine use.
The obvious competition for the Firewall’s is Smith’s Squad goggle, and while I think the Smith’s take the slight edge in terms of fit and performance the Firewall’s lens quality and clarity does feel superior. It’s splitting hairs when deciding which of the two is best – I’d say if you’re racing the Smiths and their tear off tabs are the best suited option, but for general mountain biking, the Sweet Protection Firewall’s clarity is hard to beat.
While the ventilation is the Sweet Protection Firewall’s standout feature on paper, the entire package is impressive on the trail. With a dialled fit, zero fogging issues, and a lens option to suit most riders tastes means they’re a must look option for anyone wanting new goggles. Their comfortable nature means they’re almost fit and forget too, but the lack of tear off tabs could be a deal breaker for anyone racing in rain prone climates. So to complete this sorted package, it’d be great if Sweet Protection offered a range of lenses that are tear off compatible.
Tech specs: Sweet Protection Firewall MTB goggle
Price: Clear lens – $79.95 / £69.99, Tinted – $99.95 / £89.95
Options: Clear/Matte Black/Black, Clear/Matte Crystal Black/Fluo Fade, Clear/Matte Bronco White/Bronco Fade, Clear/Matte Crystal Purple/Purple Fade, RIG Topaz/Matte Black/Black,