The Melon Optics Kingpin glasses are a full-frame offering that benefits from the usual customisation and the excellent Zeiss lens that we’ve come to expect from the brand. They look slick, too, making them a top choice for anyone who wants a quality set of specs. However, as they straddle the line between fashion and performance, they are lacking in some areas which may affect their position among the best mountain bike sunglasses.
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Melon Optics Kingpin sunglasses - Technical details
Home to a single-piece Zeiss lens is a Hyperflex TR90 plastic frame, a material that’s been chosen for its durability, flexibility and light weight. Thanks to the frame’s flexibility, the Kingpin accommodates interchangeable lenses but it only comes with one lens. Extra lenses can be bought separately and a low-light lens can be added to your order for an extra £20.
Also found on the Kingpin’s frame is a rubberised nose piece and arms that have been added for comfort and to keep the glasses in place.
Fog resistance is handled by a Smart Venting System which encourages air to flow underneath the lens. It also benefits from a Ripel coating claimed to keep dirt, dust and sweat from sticking to the lens surface.
As with all Melon Optics products, the Kingpin is incredibly customisable, with the choice of 10 frame colour options, 10 lens options to suit trail and road riding, and a photochromic option (which will set you back another £25). The nosepiece and logo colours can also be colour customised.
Melon’s selection of lenses is designed to excel in either off-road or on-road conditions with the trail lenses shaped to reduce green and orange light. The brand says that doing so improves environmental clarity and depth perception.
The glasses weigh 30g which is certainly nothing to complain about.
Melon Optics Kingpin sunglasses - Performance
I own and still regularly use a set of Melon Optics Alleycat glasses which have set very high expectations of the Kingpin. Having used them for a good few months now, the Kingpin strikes a balance between performance wear and fashion.
But first, if anything, the Kingpin is comfortable. The weight is minimal and the arms aren’t in any way tight around the head. That said, the glasses are stable and plenty secure enough.
A first gripe is that the Kingpin’s coverage leaves a little to be desired. When head down, everything’s fine but in any other situation, the bottom and side edges of the frame are visible, and there’s a good gap at the bottom and sides where the specs don’t offer any coverage at all. This is the main area where the Kingpin’s more casual/fashion design affects its on-trail performance
However, that lens is excellent and it’s clear that Melon has been very careful in picking its lens tech from Zeiss. This Red Chrome lens does in fact bathe the field of vision in a relaxing and calm blue tint but importantly, it’s super clear and works brilliantly as a trail lens, picking out the trail ahead from any masses of foliage.
I will nitpick here though. There is a warm patch towards the centre of the lens. Concerned that this may be a manufacturing problem from Zeiss, I went back to Melon who kindly supplied me with a replacement but there was no difference. Personally, I’m not a fan of lenses that have any kind of colour gradient as I find it distracting - I like consistency – but I know that this won’t be an issue for the vast majority of riders.
Because of this, and the harsh conditions that the British summer threw, I rode mostly with the low-light lens, which is also awesome. It casts a slightly warm tint over the field of view which offers serious clarity and also picks the trail out from the greens of the forest. And it must be said, lens swaps are easy thanks to that flexy plastic frame and the process of swapping lenses couldn’t be simpler. It’s a case of popping out the top of the lens, and the rest follows and in reverse, it’s equally as joyous.
The fog resistance is nothing to be sniffed at, although it's not as effective as other specs on the market. Generally, I’ve ridden happily fog-free but I’ve found that on slower climbs, these mist up a little quicker than others and clear a little slower. Unlike the Alleycat, the Kingpin doesn’t get any kind of venting, instead, it relies on air finding its way behind the lens to clear fog. However, once moving at a good enough speed, the glasses clear as expected.
And it’s the combination of the not-quite-as-capable fog resistance, and the somewhat lacking coverage but great looks that makes me believe that these straddle the line between fashion and performance.
But it must be said, lens swaps are easy thanks to that flexible plastic frame and the process of swapping lenses couldn’t be simpler. It’s a case of popping out the top of the lens, and the rest follows and in reverse, it’s equally as joyous.
Melon Optics Kingpin sunglasses - Verdict
What you’re getting for £120 is good value for money. For that asking price, Melon offers full customisation, that cracking Zeiss lens and a great-looking pair of specs that can be worn on- and off the bike – and, for an extra £20, everyone should buy that low-light lens because it makes the glasses far more versatile.
But as you can probably imagine, we can’t compare the Kingpin without bringing the Alleycat into contention and, for a pair of glasses aimed just towards riding bikes, the Alleycats take it. The coverage feels more complete and the half-frame design means there's less frame to obscure vision. They are also better ventilated, so they resist and clear fog much better. They’re just as comfortable and secure but I wouldn’t go out wearing the Alleycats to the pub garden.
A direct competitor to Melon that also offers a lot of customisation is SunGod and that brand’s Vulcans Top Frame scored rather well in its review though Tom found issues with its coverage and wind interference at speed. These will cost £140.
To throw another option into the mix, the Smith Optics Flywheel is a great pair of specs with excellent coverage and that great ChromaPop lens tech. However, the lens isn’t interchangeable and there are no customisation options. These will set you back £130.
If customisation, good looks and a very good lens are priorities for you, the Melon Optics Kingpin is a great option. However, their more fashionable shape leaves something to be desired when used out on the bike, namely the coverage and fog resistance.