Tested: Oakley Jawbone Polarized Sunglasses
While regular sunglasses work just fine for keeping the sun (and mud) out of your eyes, there’s no denying the experience that is wearing high-end sunglasses. Ask just about anyone what the #1 brand of sunglasses is, and they’ll say Oakley.
When looking for some top-notch eyewear, I considered Smith, Spy, and Rudy Project, but in the end, Oakley won thanks to their new Oakley Jawbone Polarized Sunglasses.
I wanted something with a full frame that was great for riding, but didn’t look so out of place off the bike. They needed to work well for other sports, too – running, kayaking, and XC skiing. I also wanted them to come in white, fold, and have interchangeable lenses. The slick new lens changing method sealed the deal – Jawbone it was!
Without even trying them on in a store, I scooped some up off eBay. Now two years later, I’m glad I did!
Here are my thoughts…
When I first started riding, I wouldn’t have even considered Oakleys. My only prior experience with Oakleys was when a friend described why his gold Oakleys cost $400, so getting some for myself was a distant dream! (At the time, I was training on a rigid Trek 800 that cost $280.)
Luckily, not all Oakleys cost that much, and it’s easier to find good deals today. I found the Jawbones on eBay for $169 total, and that included the white frames, brown polarized lenses, orange regular lenses, hard case, and soft case. I consider that a great deal since $250 is the retail price!
Looks and Style
As for looks, the Jawbones are probably a “love em or hate em” type of sunglasses, kind of like their cousin the Racing Jackets. So if you don’t like them, you don’t like them.
But… I like them! They are very aggressive looking, and they don’t have that “bug eye” overly-sporty look where they can’t be worn in other situations. Maybe they’re a little too aggressive and sporty for a night on the town (if you wear sunglasses at night,) but they work well for any situation where I need sunglasses.
These glasses look fairly “bulky” due to the tall/thick frames, but you’d never know it once you put them on! They are super light and comfortable. I’ve never bothered to weigh sunglasses, but even if these weigh a few more grams than other nice sunglasses, it’s no big deal.
Because, despite the aggressive looks, the Jawbones rest delicately on your face. I think they are designed to only touch your head at three points – the ear pieces and nose piece. Somehow the weight and design is so balanced that you hardly notice theme.
This is why you buy Oakleys – the optical clarity is amazing! Literally, it’s best I’ve ever worn. It totally blows away my last pair of sunglasses from Bolle. I’ve tried on some other nice sunglasses and the Jawbones are the best, even compared to some other Oakleys.
It’s like there isn’t even a lens in front of your eye!
The two lens colors I have are (I think) VR28 Polarized and Persimmon. In reality, this is a brown/amber lens and an orange lens.
For me, those two cover all conditions. The brown lens is great for road riding, XC skiing, kayaking, and running. Orange is for anytime it’s very foggy, or if I’m mountain biking under dense foliage. If I had a 24 hour MTB racing coming up, I’d get a set of clear lenses.
(Need help deciding on lens colors? Check my lens color guide.)
Oakley offers just about every color option you need. A photochromatic lens is available, but I haven’t tried it yet.
First off, let me just say that polarized lenses serve no benefit to cyclists. There’s no need to pay extra for polarized lenses unless you actually need them.
Who needs polarized lenses? Anyone dealing with reflected light. For example, I’d say fishermen get the most out of polarized lenses; rather than seeing glare off the water’s surface, they see right through it and see the fish.
For me, the polarized lenses are spectacular for kayaking and XC skiing. Glare off of water and snow is terrible, and the polarized lenses really save my eyes. I’ve worn cheaper “polarized” sunglasses, but after wearing these, I don’t believe those other sunglasses ($40 and less) were actually polarized! That’s how big of a difference it was!
When it comes to mountain biking in nasty conditions, I typically wear my regular orange lenses. I only wear the polarized brown lenses on bright sunny days. The polarization actually gets really annoying when you’re riding on wet, rocky trails because wet rocks and leaves give you this nasty reflection that can be almost like a strobe light! (That’s probably not a great description, but it’s weird.)
Field of view / Peripheral vision
Before buying these, one thing did concern me – people said they had issues with the large frames taking away their peripheral vision and limiting their field of view.
In the two years I’ve had these, it never bothered me once. Yeah, sometimes you can see the frames when looking up, down, or to the side. But it never concerned me. I could always see wherever I wanted to.
If it’s that big of a concern for you, you might want to stick with more traditional cycling sunglasses like the Oakley M-Frame. But I don’t see a problem.
The most prominent, new and exciting feature on the Jawbones is the hinged design for swapping lenses. To swap lenses, you flip the nose piece back, swing the bottom of the frame down, and pull the lens down. The hinged frame moves like a human jaw, hence the name.
This is the feature that really sold me. See, my last sunglasses, Bolle Vigilante or something, had interchangeable lenses. But you had to bend the frames quite a bit to get the lenses to snap in. The Bolle’s lasted for years and the frames are actually still as solid as ever, but I never *liked* bending them.
With the Jawbones, there is no bending, thanks to the hinge design. It’s pretty simple to swap lenses, although it still takes some patience to line them up correctly. And you’re limited to holding the bottom of the lens during the install, which usually means putting it between your fingers if you want it done quickly (i.e. you leave a fingerprint.)
Even in the Oakley videos, where they say you can swap lenses without leaving fingerprints, the person places the lens between their fingers when putting it in the frame! I’ll just say it takes some practice to insert the lenses without actually touching the lens face.
But once the lens is in, it’s in solid, yet not under tension. Another feature to ease your mind about bending stuff! Oakley calls it a “lens suspension system.” It means the lens is held in place without force being applied to it. Supposedly this is a reason why the optical clarity is so good (no tension means the lens isn’t distorted.)
Staying in one place
The “staying in one place” factor. Unfortunately, I’ve found a slight problem with the Jawbones in this regard.
Under certain circumstances, these glasses seem to pivot up and down, at the nose piece. As in, the nose piece lifts up off my nose. Like if I’m running, sometimes the glasses will bounce. Or if if riding and I look down and back at the cassette to check my gear, the glasses slide up.
Luckily, if I’m wearing a skull cap or sweat band, that seems to keep them in place. I guess the skull cap has more friction than my hair does, and by holding the frames in place at my ears, there is no pivoting around my nose.
So, while it’s really cool how lightly these rest on my face, it’s not cool when they don’t stay in place!!
As with every pair of sunglasses I’ve ever worn, there’s some fogging. Even these nice Oakleys aren’t totally immune. Eventually you just get to the point where you accept the fact that your sunglasses are going to fog up, no matter what you paid for them!
If I’m running or riding and keeping a good pace, there are no issues. But if I’m out for a run and then I stop for a minute to rest or check my shoe, they fog up a little bit. Likewise, if I’m racing hard on my mountain bike but have to stop for a mechanical, these can fog.
And if I’m out skiing and my hot breath hits the relatively cold lenses, they’ll fog for sure.
But, I’ll give Oakley some props for their hydrophobic lens coating (kinda like “Rain X” for sunglasses.) Water beads right off the lenses! It’s actually fun to rinse dust and sweat off them post-ride, because the water from the sink just hits them and runs right off like nothing!
My final verdict is…
I wouldn’t say the Jawbones are the perfect cycling sunglasses by any means (M-Frames are probably a better choice.) And I think the new “Jawbone” hinge system doesn’t quite live up to the hype.
But for the overall versatility I get with these, and with the cool styling, I really like these sunglasses. They are very comfortable, and the optical clarity is simply amazing! You don’t have to spend $169 on sunglasses, but if you can afford it, these Oakleys are well worth the price!
Official website: www.Oakley.com
Product: Oakley Jawbone Polarized Sunglasses
Reviewed by: Coach Levi
My Rating: out of 5
Date last updated: 2011-09-14
Obtained Product: Purchased at retailer.
CoachLevi.com Advertiser: No.
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