Oakley Radar Pace review: A fitness coach for the face

Price when reviewed

When this review was first published, it was a first impressions style piece, before the long-term wear had been tested. I have now updated the piece with more thoughts and a verdict on page 2.

Something is guaranteed to happen if you rock up to a Saturday morning 5K fun run in Croydon wearing a pair of £400 running sunglasses. In January.

It doesn’t involve the words “personal” and “best” in close proximity, by the way. My time was a dismal 29 minutes, significantly slower that my all-time distance PB of 24mins 41secs, although at least part of that is down to the particularly vindictive place the geographical makeup of London has decided to put a bloody great hill.

Another, perhaps more important, factor is my decline in fitness over the past six months. Something that Oakley is confident that, over time, the ostentatious eyewear will fix.

No, what actually happens is that you mark yourself out as something of a curiosity, even with the particularly egregious, iridescent “Prizm” lenses replaced with transparent versions. My regular running buddy was conspicuously absent from this particular run – I’m 99% sure he had other plans, but the fact that I have even a single percentage point of doubt shows you exactly how self-conscious you’re likely to be when you wear these ocular oddities.

Oakley Radar Pace review: Radar to be different

If you’re feeling self-conscious just looking at them, prepare for your anxiety to go off the scale: like Siri and Alexa, you’re expected to control your glasses not with your hands but via the occasional chinwag.

To be fair to Oakley, the voice assistant – Radar – is very good, and can pick up on plenty of natural ways of phrasing the same question, but that doesn’t change the fact that you’re talking to your glasses in public. In my case, you’re talking to your glasses in a field in Croydon at 9am, surrounded by 226 other runners.[gallery:4]

You don’t have to talk to your glasses, but that’s the way you’re supposed to check in on your various analytics, in the same way that you’d typically look at your running watch. The Oakley Radar Pace glasses are ANT+ compliant, meaning you can attach chest straps or cadence sensors should you wish. Out of the box, though, it pairs with your phone and uses its own sensors (an accelerometer, gyroscope, humidity sensor and barometer, since you ask) to give you pretty solid information as you go. For example, it didn’t take long for Radar to inform me that my strides were too long and that I should aim for shorter faster steps.

The lenses are just lenses, by the way: they’re not little screens, as with Google Glass. The coaching updates are delivered through a pair of micro-USB earbuds that clip into each arm of the glasses. They have hinges that allow you to push them directly into your ear canal, and this has a very positive side effect: usually around 5% of my runs are dedicated to reinserting earbuds after they’ve escaped from my ears.

That wasn’t a problem here, with each bud being firmly held in place. Because the glasses are connected via Bluetooth, you can listen to podcasts or music as you’re running, just as you would normally, with the glasses knowing when to lower the volume to give you an update on your form.[gallery:9]

These updates occur passively without you asking for feedback, interrupting your music, meaning your can stay relatively inconspicuous. I only really chatted to my glasses when in a wide enough open space for me saying “OK Radar, how’s my pace?” not to be misconstrued as trying to initiate conversation with my fellow runners based on a friendly new nickname.

The glasses passively detect when you stop and restart running, which is interesting, because it tells you both how long the session was and how long you were moving for, which differentiates in a way that most fitness trackers don’t – albeit with a short delay in spotting the transition.

Oakley Radar Pace review: In for the long haul

But this was just a single race, and that’s not really what the Oakley Radar Pace glasses are all about: the idea is to give anyone (well, anyone with £400 to blow, anyway) their own personal running coach. And it’s for this reason I’m not giving it a star rating just yet.[gallery:7]

Radar has me on a six-week training plan, involving me running four to five times per week to its own schedule. I pick the days, but if (or more likely, when) I miss one, my new coach will step in to move things around. I’ll be back with a full review once I’ve seen enough to know whether the feature delivers on its promise.

Early signs are good: Radar will set up training programmes for both running and cycling and will set them according to your own personal goal, be that improving your stamina or top speed. If you’re training for a specific race, Radar will attempt to coach you for your aim, whether you’re simply just hoping to finish or you’re going for the win.

I’m not expecting miracles (and being able to train me, at 32, to go from a 25-minute 5K to winning a marathon would be a feat worthy of Jesus himself), but personalised feedback is something that’s been quite patchy in wearables so far. If Radar can deliver even half of its promise, I might just be willing to overlook its gaudy style and recommend it for the runner with the money to fine-tune their form.

Go to page 2 for my thoughts based on more extensive testing.

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