Sunday, September 13, 2009

Oakley Jawbone Review

The first time I saw the Oakley Jawbones debut at this year's Tour de France I was very skeptical. They seemed to be a big departure for Oakley's sports line which features models with no bottom rim to obstruct downward views. They also have lenses "suspended" in the rim, reducing stress on the lenses and improving optical quality. Again this seems redundant since all Oakley lenses incorporate their HDO technology. My current riding glasses are Oakley Radars. My sunglasses for everything else are Oakley Flak Jackets. I love them both and have very few complaints. I wear the Flak Jackets while playing golf, and have never experienced any distortion. However, the more I saw of the Jawbones, the more intrigued I was. Once I tried them on, I was sold.

The Jawbone package complete with extra lenses, soft case, and lens cloth.

The most obvious piece of technology in the Jawbones is Switchlock. The bottom rim of the frame is hinged and designed to swing down once the locking nose piece is flipped up. This makes switching lenses very easy and also allows the lens to be suspended inside the frame which gives the lenses optimal clarity since the frame exerts almost no pressure. The lenses are also coated in Oakley's hydrophobic coating to help repel dust and oils.

The Jawbone and Radar have almost identical lens coverage

Initially I was worried that the Jawbones might be too large for my smaller face. However, I was very pleased to find they fit great. That's not to say the Jawbone is a conservatively shaped pair of glasses, and the colors Oakley has chosen reflect that. Thankfully, matte black is a welcome option for guys like me who prefer to blend into the crowd. This model combines the most subtle frame color with my favorite lens tint. If you want, there are neon yellow, bright orange, white and Livestrong models as well.

Performance wise, Oakley may have created the perfect set of cycling glasses. I was a very big fan of the Radars. I loved the full frame coverage the lenses provided. However, the ear stems were a touch too long and frequently hit the back of my helmet causing the glasses to need mid-ride adjustments. The Flak Jackets were very light and comfortable but didn't have the lens coverage I desired while riding. With the Jawbones, Oakley created the perfect compromise between the two. The Jawbones are as light and comfortable as the Flak Jackets, but the larger lenses provide much more coverage. Oakley also shortened the ear stems compared to the Radars helping the Jawbones fit much better under helmets and hats.

Jawbone (right) has shorter and more comfortable ear stems than the Radar (left).

The frame feels very solid. The ear stems fold out and "click" into place with a very solid feel. There are no creaking noises such as the ones which emanate every time you move the Radar's ear stems. The vents on the lens prevent fogging even in very hot temperatures. The lens coverage is excellent and the shape of the lens is the first I've found that doesn't rub against my eyelashes.

Switching lenses is also extremely easy. I'm not 100% sold on the Jawbones having any better optical quality than other glasses. However, the Jawbone system makes lens changes very easy. Changing lenses with the Flak Jackets and Radars involves some bending, pushing, and pressure. It can be difficult and done incorrectly can lead to breakage. The Jawbones make things much easier. Simply flip up the nosepiece, swing the frame down, and slide the lens out. No hassle or stress at all.

Switchlock in action. Image from Oakley's Website.

There is not much I have to criticize with these glasses. One bone I have to pick are the spare lenses. Oakley was kind enough to include an extra pair of lenses for "low light" conditions. However, the second lenses are either yellow or persimmon tinted. Not typically the sort of lens I see most cyclists donning, even in very low light. For a $200 pair of sunglasses, the extra lenses are a nice touch, but how more useful tint like the G30? Also, after over two years of wearing glasses without a bottom rim, it took some time to get used to looking down and seeing a black line with the Jawbones. However, after a few minutes, it's a non-issue.

When it's all said and done, the Jawbone is an extremely comfortable and well designed pair of glasses. Their shape may not be the perfect fit for everyone, but current Radar and Flak Jacket owners who find themselves wanting a good compromise between the two should give the Jawbones some serious thought.


  1. Hey, thanks for the review! It must be dragonfly mating season in Sydney so i'll probably invest in a set of these, instead of the radars. Flak jackets seem to direct flow into my eyes :s

  2. argh, i just got it, was so excited. was comfortable didnt fall/slip off. but when looking closer theres a huge gap between bridge of my nose to the frame...this is not an asian fit either. what should i do?? is this normal? i feel so stupid now.

  3. which fit better for wider head ? as i tried radar, the temples pinches slightly, which is not comfortable for longer ride.

  4. I recently bought two pairs of Oakley Wind Jacket, I buy them because it simply protect my eyes from dust and UV rays.