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May 13, 2015
Approximately every four years Oakley shakes up the eyewear market with a new product which sets the benchmark amongst the pro peloton and amateurs alike. Ever since they gave a suitcase full of Factory Pilots to Phil Anderson and Greg LeMond to distribute amongst the peloton at the ’84 Dauphine, they’ve been the most popular sunglasses and eyewear in all of cycling.
Jump ahead 31 years and the new Jawbreakers offer one of the most ultra-modern styling efforts we’ve seen from Oakley in recent times. Oakley claims that it’s been two years in the making (video), 100 design iterations, and 9600 hours of lab and field testing is the effort that went behind the release of the Jawbreaker.
The Jawbreaker is noticeably larger than the Radarlock, its aesthetic design is more controversial than the Racing Jackets, and they hold a subtle design reference to the Factory Pilots that gives them a sense of nostalgia which we were recently reminded of with Oakley’s Heritage Collection. But that’s where the comparisons end.
One problem with mixing eyewear and bike helmets is that the arms sometimes get in the way of the rear fastening/adjustment mechanism. Oakley has addressed this problem by making the arm lengths adjustable to three different lengths to accommodate the helmet:
After wearing the Radarlocks over the past three years, the comparison I can draw from them is that their arms feel more sturdy and chunky than the Jawbreakers. The Jawbreaker arms feel more ‘plasticy’ as there isn’t as much rubber gripping and material as the Radarlocks.
Five vents are cut away from the lenses to improve ventilation and prevent fogging. I’ve ridden in many different weather conditions with these lenses and haven’t come across significant fogging, especially with the Iridium coating that keep the lenses crystal clear against sweat, water and road grime.
To remove the lenses, Oakley have come up with an intuitive mechanism called “Switchlock” for releasing the nose fixture and the bottom part of the glasses hinging away from the top. This makes it easy to replace the lenses without needing to use force to install and to secure, which eliminates any distortion and possible damage.
The new lens that comes with the Jawbreaker is Oakley’s new “Prizm.” According to Oakley, Prizm is their new technology that fine tunes vision for specific sports and environments. Emphasizing colors where the eye is most sensitive to detail, Prizm improves performance and safety by enhancing vision without the compromises of conventional lens tints.
Oakley says the benefits include:
– Sharpens visual acuity to help you see more clearly and react faster
– Enhances color recognition to help you spot what you need to see
– Optimizes your ability to see and track moving objects in your periphery
– Improves performance and safety to help you compete with confidence
To me however, what it simply means is that the world looks amazing when seen through these lenses. The colors are deeper and richer and it gives meaning to the saying “through rose-tinted glasses.” Ordinary lenses just make everything darker or boost contrast. The optics of these Prizm lenses are out of this world.
On a more practical note, protection is one of the biggest benefits to wearing sunglasses during a ride. If you’ve ever had a stone or an insect unexpectedly fly into your face (you’d be in the minority if you hadn’t), you’ll appreciate that owning a set of eyewear is not all about looking cool (see here for a demonstration of Oakley’s impact testing).
It’s still early days but we’re starting to see some variations of lenses, arms, and bottoms make their way into the peloton. Oakley released the Jawbreakers in seven different colorways, but with so many small pieces you can almost guarantee a customisation offering in the future.
Oakley has not played it safe with the aesthetic design of the Jawbreakers, but I don’t believe they’ve ever played the conservative game. The ultra-modern look paired with the retro design reference to the Factory Pilots give these glasses something that we’re both familiar with, and something new.
Aside from aesthetics, the Jawbreakers have set a new standard with lens optics, functionality and fit. They’re not cheap, but when I think about how long I’ve owned my many sets of Oakleys for and the thousands of kilometers of enjoyment and protection, the cost every three years seems insignificant.