Reviewed: Gargoyles Cardinal Eyewear

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Overview

Reviewing cycling specific eyewear is a favorite category for us at CogSnob. Why? With our base elevation and average UV exposure here in Colorado higher than most of the lower 48, the quality of specs on long rides is paramount. Buy a bad pair of sunglasses and head out for a long ride in the high-country and you will see what I mean.

Over the last two-years, we have reviewed a host of cycling specific performance specs including the Oakley Radar Path (our overall favorite) and the popular Oakley Jawbone. What have we learned you ask? The lens quality and field of vision are the biggest factors to consider when buying cycling specific eyewear...period.
Look as cool as you want, but if the specs don't excel in this category--looking fabo on your club ride won't matter.

That is exactly why we loved the new Cardinal from Gargoyles. Quite frankly, Gargoyles had dropped-off our radar for a while. With the recent entry of Giro in the space and the utter dominance and professional backing of Oakley, we forgot about this once popular option.

Before Oakley dominated the mindset of the populous, Gargoyles were the "it" pair of specs. Who could forget the shades Arnold wore in the Terminator, or Clint in Sudden Impact? Heck, back then, the military even took note and selected Gargoyles as their chosen eyewear for all military personnel. And while the decades have changed, the Gargoyle patented, Toric Curve Lens, has pretty much stayed the same.

Gargoyle states, "The Toric Curve Lens allows light to transmit directly to the eye. No refraction, no distortion. Precision-molded and hand-finished, the design provides 210° of seamless wraparound protection, plenty of room considering our own peripheral vision is only 180°."

The Good

Between myself and another tester, we tallied roughly 500 miles wearing the Cardinal's. So, how did they rank? Damn good.

  1. Field of vision: Like the Oakley Radar Path, the Cardinal's offer a wonderful, unobstructed view due to the omission of a bottom frame. This point alone is the single reason, we gave the Oakley Jawbone's a lower Cog rating due to the fact that the bottom frame impaired our vision when looking over the left or right shoulders.
  2. Wind dampening: Again, very impressive. The large size of the lenses--following the natural facial curve, did a fantastic job of keeping ole' man winter's gusts from our eyes during rapid descents.
  3. Solar/sun dissipation: More of a "traditional" tint (when combined to the Radar's Black Iridium Lenses), providing a natural diminished tonal quality. The Gargoyle folks told us that the Cardinal comes in two lens color technologies, Signature Green and Drive. Gargoyles' Signature Green lens provides a unique balance of target and background brightness to help in the tracking and location of objects in motion against a variety of outdoor backgrounds including Earth, sky and water. The Drive (our test pair) is Gargoyles' smoke colored lens, which reduces light intensity without altering the color of objects. This lens technology has been formulated for varying light conditions and provides the most natural color vision possible.
  4. Overall durability: High marks here as well. We weren't kind to our pair--putting them through the normal treatment regimen. Our favorite test is the 25 mph "drop" scenario. The lenses survived the drop with a few wipeable smudges, and no scratches whatsoever. Try as we might, we couldn't scratch the lenses at all. Gargoyle's official description states that "the Cardinal incorporates Gargoyles' Ballistic Defense technology into their lenses, making them 5-6 times more impact resistant than regular polycarbonate lenses. Developed from a superior blend of polymers by Carl Zeiss Vision®, the Gargoyles Ballistic Defense lenses are designed for military, safety and sport applications and exceed all ISO and ANSI test standards, as well as the MIL-STD 622 ballistic test, which consists of stopping a .22 caliber bullet at 20 feet."
  5. Other things we liked: We were thrilled to see that the nose piece was truly adjustable. If you have ever worn a pair of Smith's, you know that they state the nose-piece is adjustable, but we found them to be anything but.
    Lastly, the price. Retailing for $110, that's nearly $50 off the popular Oakley and Rudy Project specs.

The Snob In Us

Unlike the Oakley Jawbone and Radar, the Cardinal's don't offer an easy method for switching lenses. Small thing really, but having an easy mechanism for switching between lenses is always a nice option.

Our Recommendation

We loved these specs. No, their frames don't come in neon green or sport fancy clasp style lens apparatus thingies, they offer a fantastic field of vision with nearly indestructible lens coating technology...at nearly $50 off the comparable Oakley specs.

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