By Michael Nystrom
I've come to expect certain things when testing sunglasses. Obviously every brand fits differently, and it takes time to get used to the feel of each individual pair. Some feature 'revolutionary' new technology, others 'breakthrough' lens quality.
But, at the end of the day, if they shield your eyes from debris, break the wind and protect against the sun, they've done their job. Sunglasses are sunglasses, right?
Wrong. Enter the Oakley Jawbreaker, so inconspicuously left on my desk.
I pulled them out of their case, and immediately recognized their profile as the glasses featured on the mug of the Manx Missile. I mean, if the likes of Mark Cavendish and Peter Sagan wear these, they should be more-than-OK for a recreational cyclist such as myself.
And so began the testing process: I was impressed before I even got on the bike.
You know that dreadful feeling when you try to swap interchangeable lenses, and you aren't sure if you're going to break the frame or the lens? When your sunglasses make those squeaky noises and feel as if they're about to pop?
Jawbreaker's integrated Switchlock technology made swapping out lenses simple. All you have to do is lift up on bridge and a hinge swings down, allowing the gimbal mechanism (the "jaw") to separate the lower from the upper frame. Simply slide the lens out, slide a new lens in and lock it back down. The whole process can be done faster than you can say domestique. Better yet, it's silent and stress-free.
If you're abnormally large (like me), or abnormally small (like my boss), the Jawbreaker still fits. This is mostly due to customizable temples that adjust to three different lengths. Similar to the Switchlock technology for the lenses, a latch locks the temples down depending on preference and head size.
Once adjusted, the temples fit over helmet straps comfortably. Jawbreaker fit into my helmet vent ports when not in use, even with the temples slid out to the max.
Cool design gizmos aside, how did the Jawbreaker perform?
First off, these things are big. Not big, like you're wearing ski goggles big, but still larger than all other pairs I've tried on. They almost have a retro feel, a touch of 1980s style mixed with a more modern flair. I felt like an updated Scott Tinley.
According to Oakley, the Jawbreaker lenses are about 44 percent larger than the average pair of sunglasses--and that size was a definite advantage while cycling.
The extended field of view meant I could see in more directions easier, especially while looking up in riding position. The thick temples did take a little getting used to when using my peripherals, though.
Another perk: Despite the large surface area, the Jawbreaker never fogged up. The lenses have built-in surge ports that increase ventilation. The ports handled the Texas humidity well, as they should.
Now to the lenses, the sweet, sweet lenses.
Vision is just better, sharper and clearer when wearing the Jawbreakers. I was able to see rough patches of asphalt up the road and glass on the shoulder before I rolled over them. It's a dramatic difference.
And the color changes, too. The world seems more vibrant, and even rolling along at speed, you can pick up on the little things.
The Prizm lenses come in different shades, but the Jawbreakers I tested included the Prizm Road lens. It cut the harshness of the sun, but it didn't limit visibility. (Darker lenses aren't always better.) Even in Texas' summer sun, I could still see details in the shadows, and my eyes weren't fatigued after long rides.
Oakley also claims the Prizm lenses are impact-resistant. Bugs aside, I didn't have any rocks hit my sunglasses, so we'll have to take their word on that one. But I did feel pretty bulletproof while riding behind these.
Cavendish called the Jawbreaker his "armor for speed." I'll have to agree.