Buying swim goggles is a lot like buying running shoes: There are a variety of shapes for different bodies and different recreational applications — lap swimming differs from snorkeling, as sprinting does from walking. Ultimately, though, the best litmus test for sticking with a pair of goggles is putting them on and getting in the water to see how they feel, whether they leak, if they offer good peripheral vision, etc. And so it’s a little bit surprising how long it’s taken for a goggle company to to offer a variety of options in a flagship product. Dallas-based Roka, which was founded as a wetsuit company in 2013 by two former All-American swimmers from Stanford, did just that in March 2015 when it launched Spctrm ($15+), a line of 27 total goggle options across four shapes and (in most cases) eight tints.
That’s a lot of goggles — overkill for anyone who just swims laps in the pool. But Roka is a triathlon brand — they sponsor some of the best triathletes in the world, including Javier Gomez, Gwen Jorgensen and Jesse Thomas, plus a number of club teams — and their target market is the gear-savvy multisport athlete who likely has between three and five interchangeable lenses for his sunglasses to best suit a variety of cycling and running terrains and weather conditions. This, anyway, is the explanation for having eight tints, including light amber, dark amber mirror, light vermillion, dark vermillion mirror, light gray, dark gray mirror, clear mirror and cobalt. These colors are intended for very specific environmental conditions, from indoors (clear mirror) to early morning transition light in a race with orange and red buoys (dark amber mirror) to a sunny day with an urban backdrop (dark gray mirror), and everything in between.
The sweet spot for most triathletes is probably F1 and F2, which are both comfortable, relatively low profile and offer a wide field of view for open water sighting.
Choosing one of the four different shapes is really a matter of preference rather than conditions. S1 is a 35 x 26mm small lens; F1 is a 38 x 28mm medium lens; F2 is a 44 x 33mm medium lens; X1 is a 53 x 44mm large lens. As you move from the S1, a classic, Swedish-shaped goggle, to the X1, you increase the comfort and the field of view at the expense of increased drag, which isn’t really a factor unless you’re counting seconds. Comfort is a factor, though, especially if you’re swimming regularly for an hour or more. While plenty of competitive swimmers put up with the minimalist, gasket-free Swedes, having a bit of silicone between the plastic and your face is a nice amenity. The sweet spot for most triathletes is probably F1 and F2, which are both comfortable, relatively low profile and offer a wide field of view for open water sighting (especially F2).
In my experience, like buying a pair of shoes, the goggle really chooses the athlete. I want to be the hardcore guy in the pool wearing S1, but the reality is I just don’t like the feeling of hard plastic against my eye sockets. F1 and F2 both fit well, but since I’m used to swimming in the TYR Special Ops, I prefer the wide field of view that F2 offers. X1 feels a little like I should be scuba diving. But whatever the shape, each goggle benefits from the range tints. Until now, goggle makers haven’t kept pace with the likes of Oakley, which offers a staggering number of tint options for everyone from snowboarders to golfers. Swimming is already the least expensive sport of the three disciplines in triathlon, and since everything in the Spctrm line is under $30, it’s reasonable to have a few pairs in the gear bag for swimming in different conditions. For a lot of triathletes who train the whole year for a few big races — or maybe just one Ironman — that’s a small price to pay for knowing you’ll have the appropriate eyewear for any race backdrop or weather condition.