Ok, confession time: despite having lived in Whistler for 15 years and ridden a mountain bike for over 25 years, I’m a total bike park novice. I didn’t avoid the Whistler Bike Park on purpose, I just never really had any desire to ride it. I’ve always preferred pedaling to earn my descents mainly because it’s easier to justify a couple (or 3-4) post-ride beers without getting a guilty conscience. But this summer my day-to-day bike mechanic job came with a Whistler Bike Park seasons pass so why not, right? Maybe an old dog can learn a few new tricks? Errmmm, maybe not. Let just say if you charted my learning curve for bike park riding it would look more like a flat line.
The biggest limiting factor in my progression has definitely been the speed; trees, rocks, roots, berms, jumps, drops, etc… come at you much faster than riding singletrack. An over-the-bars crash on Heart of Darkness on Opening Day certainly wasn’t a confidence booster and it feels like I’ve been hanging on for dear life ever since. My reflexes and reaction times certainly aren’t what they used to be and my eyesight definitely isn’t getting any better. When I was given the chance to test out the latest Prizm™ MX lens technology from Oakley, I figured it could only help my riding. Prizm™ lens technology aids in bringing out contrast so you’re able to read changes in terrain more easily. Or as Oakley puts it “Prizm™ MX lenses help you see subtle transitions in dirt conditions so you can master all those split-second decisions.” Sounds good to me.
When riding the Fitzsimmons Chair, you may have noticed some signage from Oakley when you get off the lift. Oakley and Whistler Blackcomb have determined which Prizm™ lens tint is optimal for each specific riding zone, each having a specific range of light conditions : Prizm™ MX Black Iridium for the Peak Chair zone, Prizm™ MX Jade Iridium for the Creekside and Garbanzo zones and Prizm™ MX Bronze for Fitzsimmons. With 3 sets of lenses to test, I set out on 3 separate rides.
The first ride was all the way to the peak of Whistler to ride Top Of The World; Whistler’s iconic 5000 vertical foot descent back down to the village. The day I rode Top of the World was a full bluebird day without a cloud in the sky. My first impression of the Prizm™ MX Black Iridium lens was how well it cut down the bright sunlight. My riding partner for the day was wearing a clear lens and he thought his lens was actually magnifying the sun. While excelling in the open alpine, the Prizm™ MX Black Iridium lens also provided good contrast when we descended into to the treeline.
My second ride was up Garbanzo and conditions were the exact opposite from my day on Top Of The World: overcast skies with bands on clouds blowing in and out around the mountain. The Prizm™ Jade Iridium lens actually excelled in these conditions. I assumed the tint would make everything too dark, but it actually enhanced the colours. With the lens on, the trees looked a little greener and there was definitely an increase in contrast. The trails were pretty slick so I stuck to cruisers like Una Moss and Blue Velvet. There’s not a ton of definition to those trails but the lens faired well riding in and out of the trees.
My last ride was a few after work laps in the Fitzsimmon zone. Again, it was a bluebird day, but the evening light meant the sun was at that particularly tricky angle where it shines through the trees. Going from dark shade to sun directly in your eyes makes for tricky vision. These types of conditions would usually have me reaching for a clear lens, but the Prizm™ MX Bronze was surprisingly helpful in this situation. The lens allowed enough light transmission in the woods while the cutting down on the glare when I rode out into open patches. They also seemed to even out the transitions between bright sunlight and dark shade.
Will Oakley Prizm™ lenses make you as good a rider as World Champions Gee and Rachel Atherton or Greg Minnaar? Of course not, but they definitely enhance the contrast in trails which should improve your riding. Of course, this review is coming from an average Joe just trying to get down the mountain in one piece. Put any of these lenses in the hands (or on the eyes) of a capable rider and they will benefit. The only way to really find out if they work for you is to try a pair for yourself.
Oakley team rider Casey Brown getting the most out of her Prizm™ lens during the Whistler Enduro World Series.