Friday, September 04, 2009

Oakley Jawbone Review

I recently was afforded the opportunity to try out some new Oakley eyewear. The model I received was the Jawbone with the HD Polarized lenses. Before I launch into all the technology and my thoughts on using these shades, let me give you a bit of back round on my past experiences with Oakley eyewear that I think will be relevant here.

<==The Jawbones with HD Polarized lenses

Long ago, when I first became aware of Oakley eyewear, I was just starting out as a mountain biker. I had been wearing some eye protection that was cheap and barely getting me by. A friend at the time had some Oakley Mumbo shades and let me try them on. Whoa! What a difference! I wanted to know more and find out how much they were. Well, when I heard the price, I about fainted. No way was I about to spend that much on a pair of shades. But my friend said that they would be worth it, that I should think it over and give them a try. Besides, seeing well is worth the price. So, I gave it some time, ended up buying the Mumbos, and a whole lot more Oakley product afterward.

My friend was right. The Oakley Mumbos were awesome. But over time that model was phased out and some of the following models were, uh......less than good looking, shall we say? At least on my mug, at any rate. So, I went with another brand for awhile, and they were passable. Now with the Jawbones and the style that they have which is more suitable to my tastes and looks good on me, I am reminded why it was I popped for the purchase of those Mumbos years ago. These shades are fantastic!

Oakley hasn't rested on their laurels over the years either. Here's a rundown of the improvements the Jawbones have over my old Oakleys:

  • Bonded at the molecular level, Oakley doesn't have to "sandwich" in their polarization in between layers of lens material. The one piece lens gets better clarity, and the polarization can not be rubbed off or worn off. Better technology equals clearer and longer lasting performance.

  • Every Oakley polarized lens achieves 99% efficiency in blocking polarized light waves. this cuts way down on glare and sharpens your view on the world.
    Jawbone has interchangeable lenses with three optional lens shapes and a wide variety of colors.

  • Switchlock Technology: Instead of "popping" out lenses the old way, the Jawbone has a pivoting nose piece that unlocks the lower frame around the lens. This pivots downward to allow you to simply drop out the lens for an easy and no mess swap. Nice! Not only that, but the lens is easily secured back into place without stressing the lens or your nerves.

  • Lens Suspension System: The way the Switchlock works allowed Oakley to let the lens "virtually float in the orbital space". This does not cause tension on the lens like the old way of securing lenses did, which caused more distortion in the lens itself. Jawbone is free of such problems because of the new technology holding the lens in place.

  • Hydrophobic Technology: Okay, this is pretty cool. The lenses in the Jawbone resists water, sweat, and smudging. Water peels right off, leaving no trace. Sweat? No sweat!. Skin oils, residues, and lotions are easily wiped away, making your job of seeing easier. They are even anti-static, which helps repel dust.

  • High Definition Optics: The way the lenses are made allows for crystal clear undistorted vision at all angles and to the edges of the lens. Peripheral vision is enhanced, and sun protection is maximised. The lenses surpass ANSI Z87.1 standards for clarity, refraction, and prism. The lenses also block 100% UVA, UVB, and UVC rays.

Whew! That's a load of technology. But does any of it make any difference? Well, to test out the Jawbone eyewear, I took them on a brutal first ride. I was entered into the Good Life Gravel Adventure in Lincoln, Nebraska which featured 140 miles of dusty, hilly gravel and dirt roads being baked by blinding sunshine all day. After wearing the Jawbone for ten hours in these conditions, here are my thoughts:

<==Jawbone with Persimmon lenses

Comfort: Look, it doesn't matter what the technology is if you can't stand wearing the shades. Oakley has a "Three Point" contact system that is so comfortable, the glasses nearly were invisible in terms of contact. The ear pieces are usually a concern when wearing a helmet for me with other shades. I can get a soreness above my ears, which is bothersome, but not with the Jawbone. No issues at all. High marks here for comfort from me. Nearly 100% perfect in that way.

Lens Clarity/Vision: As expected, the Oakley Jawbone didn't disappoint here. The High Definition Optics really do work too. My peripheral vision was clear as a bell, vison straight ahead was crystal clear, and the polarization made finding the right line in the gravel a breeze. I took the glasses off for a moment out on course and was amazed at how much glare there was in the bright sunlight. The lenses really operated as advertised in this way.

Hydrophobic Technology: In an amazing display of technological advancement, my sweat was not able to streak, smear, or even stay on the lenses. And let me tell you, I sweat a lot that day! This was easily the most cool thing about the Jawbone in my mind. Nothing like having the distraction of a sweat streak that impedes your vision on a fast descent. Or having to stop to clean it off when you have a good groove going on. (Or having to take off the eyewear because you can't even see through the lenses anymore: The worst!) This and the fact that dust from the gravel couldn't find a hold on the lenses either was a huge plus for me as far as my performance on the course that day was concerned.

Switchlock: This is really cool! I hated changing lenses in older Oakley models and on anything that had the stressed, interference fit lenses. I always had to spend twice as much time cleaning up my finger prints afterwards than it took for me to swap out lenses. Plus, I always cringed at the thought that I might break the dang things. Nothing of the sort now with the Switchlock system. Swapping lenses is a no stress, no smudge affair. Easy-peasy! The fact that my lenses are not being distorted by a stressed fit is gravy.

Conclusions: At around $200.00, give or take depending upon the model, MSRP, the Jawbone is a heady investment in a pair of "sunglasses". But really, to refer to these as "sunglasses" is a disservice. This technical eyewear blows most sunglasses out of the water in terms of....well, almost everything! The optics are top notch, and the performance enhancements like the Hydrophobic lenses, the Switchlock, and the High Definition Optics are a boon to performance minded mountain and road cyclists alike. You can spend less, but you will also get less performance. The only nit I had with the Jawbone was that I could barely make out the edge of each lenses outer frame in my peripheral vision, but in my type of riding, this wasn't a huge issue. Road cyclists that are used to checking over their shoulders for other cyclists or traffic may want to be aware of this. Oakley has other models that don't have full frames for those this is an issue with as well.

Overall I give the Oakley Jawbone eyewear my recommendo for anyone who wants the best performance in a cycling friendly eye protection system that is at once stylish, high tech, and comfortable to use.

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