Melon Optics Alleycat Photochromic are a great pair of glasses available in pick-and-mix colour palettes for mountain biking or gravel riding. The photochromic lens works well in bright sunlight or dappled woodland. The lens sheds rain and dirt on its outer face exceptionally well and doesn’t appear to fog up much on its inner face. The fit is very secure and they can take a RX lens insert if you need that service, making them a good shout if you're looking for one of the best mountain bike sunglasses.
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Melon Optics Alleycat Photochromic sunglasses - Technical details
Melon Optics Alleycat Photochromic sunglasses are made from a thermoplastic material called Grimalod TR90 which is very flexible and lightweight and is available in a range of solid colours, speckled finishes and special-edition colour schemes. The Hyperflex Alleycat frame is also available in two sizes: standard at 146mm wide (pictured here) and S which is 15% smaller at 130mm for smaller faces. Whichever colour you choose, the arms have rubberised tips for comfort and security and they weigh in at a lightweight 31g.
The lens is removable so you can choose a heavier non-photochromic tint if you fancy a change for a sunny Majorca gravel holiday. The nose piece is removable and rubberised for comfort and fit. The lens is UV400 compliant and has cutouts at the sides for venting to prevent fog build-up.
If you want a pair of Alleycat sunglasses, you are able to customise them from the list of coloured frames, lenses, nose pieces and logos on the arms all included in the asking price. You can create crazy or subtle designs and as long as you avoid the limited edition options the price is the same. However, the photochromic lens does add an extra charge.
When you purchase a set of photochromic Alleycats you will get a bag, a hard case, and the glasses. You won’t get the low light lens FOC but you can add one in for £20. You can also buy a non-photochromic version for £120 if you prefer.
Melon Optics Alleycat Photochromic sunglasses - Performance
Melon Optics Alleycat photochromic lens is the only version in Melon’s range that's not made in conjunction with Zeiss but I have not noticed any issues with the lens in terms of image distortion or refractive elements appearing with car lights or when riding dappled woodland lanes.
They have been excellent partners for a lot of the off-road riding I have been doing recently. Gone is the bright sunshine from June and now we have had everything thrown at us in one ride from bright blue skies to purple and black thunderclouds. The Photochromic lens has been very much ride and forget which has been brilliant.
It changes pretty fast, maybe not the fastest on the market but it's good for the price. Riding in and out of wooded sections for short bursts might catch them out but they would be no worse than a standard pair of sunglasses in that respect, but for all-round riding in various light conditions, I found them to be excellent.
They don’t fog up much thanks to the large air vent at the side, which allows airflow in and out but, if they do, they clear quickly as soon as you turn the pedals again. Both rain and sweat are managed well on the surfaces. Cleaning the lens is easy and washing is simple – wash and then wipe to dry.
The lens sits close to the face to prevent the crud from getting behind it and into your eyes. It also extends quite a long way above my eyebrow line so that when you are bent over holding the bars and looking up and forward the upper edge of the frame doesn't get in the way of your eyeline.
But that same frame can clatter against the bottom edge of some helmets I tried it with, namely the Endura MT500 and the Met Trenta 3K which was a little annoying. However, it was perfectly fine with the Abus Moventor 2.0 and an older Lazer Z1. Adjusting your helmet's rear cradle height to change how it sits on your head should fix the problem, but that might not be possible with your helmet or the right solution for you.
Changing the lens is not difficult but you do need to be positive and pull the bottom edge of the lower corner of the frame away, then the top section on the same side before finally pulling the other side of the lens out of the frame. However, you won’t need to do that with the photochromic lens as it offers the right lens for all situations and I have not felt the need to change the lens yet no matter how bright or dark the conditions.
The only issue I have had every time I put them on is that they feel a little tight behind my ears, I’ve tried bending the arms a little – but they don’t stay bent. The feeling goes pretty much as soon as you start riding so it's not unpleasant while riding just odd when you put them on. They certainly won't slip off with sweat which is good to know. In fact, they don't move at all on my face.
Melon Optics Alleycat Photochromic sunglasses - Verdict
At £140, the Alleycat Photochromic glasses sit below other photochromic glasses such as SunGod Airas BF with Iris Photochromic lens (£196) and Julbo’s Fury Reactiv photochromic glasses with photochromic lenses – now €210. They are almost the same price as the Alpina Rocket V glasses £130 and a long way above some of our favourites from Decathlon (which have now been updated) the Rockrider VR Race II Photochromatic HD glasses for £50.
Melon Alleycat Photochromic glasses cost £20 more than the standard tinted lens versions which I think is money well spent as you won’t be looking to buy extra lenses for different situations in the future. They keep the crud out of your eyes and allow you to see really well in a range of light conditions. The fit is pretty close for me but at least I won’t lose them and as long as they don't clash with your helmet they’re definitely worth checking out.