Review: Oakley's Vast Cycling Collection
(2015) There is a small disagreement amongst cyclists when it comes to eyewear. No, this isn’t regarding whether the glasses go under the helmet straps or over (they go over), this is the old guard versus new school. Traditional cyclists stand by Fausto Coppi who sported current- for-the-time sunglasses while pedaling to victory. Whether it was due to his nearsighted-ness or not, Coppi wanted one set of sunglasses for on and off the bike. Contemporary cyclists insist in- competition glasses are the way to go; Casual glasses are to be worried about when the bike is out of sight. This argument can be discussed in a multitude of ways, but let’s not forget if traditionalists had their way we’d be sipping post-ride beers with aviator goggles on smudged foreheads. Those wearing the goggles while sipping beers run the risk of being dismissed from said wateringhole for odd behavior. And let’s not forget POC’s recent attempt to bring the wayfarer sunglasses to the peloton. Quietly even those glasses had a go at the wind tunnel. The edges have been filed down; the visor has been rounded. Times have changed from the bomber goggles. The last thing I want to do is make a mess of my riding glasses through sweat and water bottle spray only to wear them to the pub afterwards. To me, that’s the equivalent of sitting at the bar while still wearing the jersey I poured sweat into all day.
The company that has arguably commanded the Pro Tour peloton for much of the last three decades is Oakley. In the past five years Oakley has flooded the cycling industry with predominantly three styles of performance glasses. How can one tell if Oakley intends the glasses to be for performance? Look at the O on the side. If it’s circular, it’s for performance. If it’s square, it’s for leisure (lifestyle as Oakley calls it). The most successful Oakley glasses have been the Radar/ Radar Lock/ Radar EV/ Radar Lock XL. The Jawbone followed the Radar (the name was eventually changed to Racing Jacket). Recently Oakley released the Jawbreaker. So which one to purchase?
Jawbone/ Racing Jacket
Let’s get the lame duck out of the way. It’s not everyday riders in the peloton start off with glasses such as the Racing Jacket, but ultimately switch back to the tried-and-true Radars as the Tour progressed. The Jawbone looked to potentially take care of cyclists' concerns on the bike as well as being aesthetically pleasing off. Lens swapping is a non-abrasive process. The Jawbone could have been a fusing between the Oakley Water Jacket (intended for surfers and river guides who wanted to reduce glare in the line-up and in white water, respectively) and the Monster Dog, both seemingy discontinued. Holding true to their Water Jacket roots, they even come with a head strap. Ultimately, though, the glasses fell short for a couple important reasons.
Among the three glasses, the Racing Jacket looks industrial and stylish off the bike. Purposely they sit high on the face to take riding position into consideration of looking out of the top of the glasses. If getting back from a ride were followed immediately by a post-ride beverage or errand, it wouldn’t be a bad thing to run out with the Racing Jacket.
The shining aspect of the Racing Jacket shows when it’s time to make a quick lens swap without worrying about getting finger prints on the lenses or snapping the frame via pressure. To swap, just lift the nosepiece on each side, lower the mandible portion of the glasses, and the lens comes out with minimal effort. Got the sunny lenses in but it’s raining? It takes fewer than two minutes to slide clear lenses in. This is a relief when it comes to preparing for variable conditions. If one lives in San Diego, this might not be an issue, unless riding at night is a possibility. However, as one will notice regarding the Radars, the Racing Jacket isn’t as versatile. This means swapping out lenses doesn’t happen as much since the rider isn’t using them across the spectrum of sport.
And why wouldn’t someone use the Racing Jacket as much? Several reasons. I bought the Racing Jackets with hopes of a closer fit for one specific purpose: pollen. In the spring pollen skirts around the lenses of my Radars and makes a beeline for my eyes. Searching for riding glasses with better coverage, the Racing Jacket was a hope to minimalize this effect. It didn’t. Secondly, I am constantly reminded of their presence. The Racing Jacket feels like it’s in a constant state of movement. Also, many mountain bikers have pointed to a separate issue: the jawbones themselves interfere with identifying close obstacles. On the road this equates to looking over the shoulder for traffic only to have the mandible block most of the view of potential upcoming vehicles. Riding in a peloton can be equally concerning when the jawbone is in the view of the wheel in front. Add the possibility of the glasses sliding down and it makes one wonder why use them for cycling?
While they pulled stock from the performance category to add to the aesthetics category, the Racing Jacket fell short of expectations. And even when a rider gets frustrated by them, the glasses have the last laugh when they don’t stay clipped into the helmet vents; they slide down to create some weird visor. Why do they constantly want to run away from me? With multiple blind spots in an activity that calls for minimal distractions, the Racing Jacket may just quietly slip away from the Oakley rotation like the Water Jacket and Monster Dog.
Radar and Radar Lock
I was flipping through the channels one day and it was like an Oakley Radar extravaganza. Baseball players were wearing them, golfers were wearing them, and of course cyclists were wearing them in the Tour. As a matter of fact, the Radar’s success can be witnessed in the Olympics. It’s like the Oakley Radar festival. Speed skaters use Radars as do track and field. Cross-country skiers use them as well as beach volleyball players. The Oakley Radars are extremely versatile in the world of sport. Oakley has had a few incarnations over the years, but the design has stayed relatively true.
The Radar's versatility can be attributed to one aspect involving the three different lens shapes. The wide lens means the glasses virtually disappear from the cyclist’s line of sight. The Radar also benefits from full lenses or vented lenses. Plus they can be fully customized due to being on the market so long.
Oakley offers these glasses with three lens options: path, pitch, and range. The path lens has the bottom of the lenses notched for those with higher cheekbones. The pitch has a droopy bottom to the lens. The least seen lens is the range that also has the notch removed, but it has wider lens to wrap around to accommodate for rifle activities. It would be difficult for a rider to not find two lenses to utilize for cycling. Vented or non-vented, regular, PRIZM, or polarized, one lens for sunny conditions paired with a low-light lens would make it an essential part of kit. The Radars have been updated recently to reflect a progressive movement. The Radar EV has slotted vents at the top along with slotted vents on the arms. Oakley also offers the Radar Lock that does not have foldable arms. The Radar fits nicely into helmet vents and stays there.
While these aren’t the most stylish of options to wear to the coffee shop or pub, they make up for it many other areas. With impact resistance to protect a rider’s eyes from road debris as well as hydrophobic lenses that makes for easier cleaning, the Radar (as well as Radar Lock and Radar EV) is the uncontested leading choice of cyclists around the common peloton. Put them on and it’ll be obvious from the start that these are to be forgotten about while wearing.
Since bike companies are taking two frames and fusing them together to create aero-road bikes, Oakley followed suit by taking the Blades, made famous by Greg Lemond and re-released in 2013, and fusing them with the Radar. The result is the most versatile sunglasses offered. They also offer a large viewing platform, similar in size to the Radar Lock XL. Bigger means less obstruction. Bigger means more filtering through the Oakley lenses to translate road conditions in high definition.
Years ago hockey players donned fighter pilot-like half shields debuted by Oakley. Oakley argued it was necessary for the lens to be the same distance from the eye at any angle. The Jawbreaker mimics this approach with a slightly curved lens. And again, Oakley designed the glasses to be viewed from the riding position: out the top. With the explosion in throwback style, the Jawbreakers look much like an updated version of the Blades from Lemond's years.
Furthering their innovative design with these glasses, Oakley reduced the amount of Unobtainium (the compound that becomes more sticky when sweating) and made the arm lengths adjustable (just like the Blades were). The glasses don’t put as much pressure on the temple as the Radars, but they are comfortable to wear. Basing the lens changing process off of the Radar Lock, Oakley makes swapping easy by continuing the hinge on the bottom of the glasses. The lens slides out, the right condition lens put in, and the bottom gets snapped back in place.
Judging by the fact that the Jawbreaker was seen sporadically throughout the peloton at the start of the Tour and that rider usage is actually increasing, the Jawbreaker will only become more popular as cyclists switch to them. The adjustability and lack of visual interference will be attractive to cyclists looking for enhanced performance eyewear and protection. While they may not be glasses one would wear to the pub for happy hour, Oakley Jawbreakers will be the glasses riders switch to once the Radars are retired.
People often ask when polarized make a difference. In brief: snow, sand, and water reflection. If one is involved in any of those settings, polarized should be heavily considered. The technology Oakley has devoted to high definition is an aspect that should be taking advantage of.
Think of all the cycling companies that have essentially given up competing with Oakley in the cycling category. Those same companies have resigned to designing helmets around Oakley glasses. With the amount of lens tint options, lens vent options, PRIZM options, polarized or non-polarized options, customization, and adjustability, there’s really no wrong way to wear the Oakley brand while cycling.
When it comes to contemporary cycling function, Oakley’s offerings in the sunglass market are impressive. Some people point the high price tag, but cyclists get what they pay for. With the Made in America embossment on the inside of the glasses, it’s nice to see an American symbol in the global peloton. While the sport options aren’t versatile enough for the social scene, have no fear. Oakley’s casual sunglasses aren’t as expensive as the sport versions. Rolling up to the pub or coffee shop in lifestyle glasses will suit one much better.