These premium sunglasses are from Julbo, a company most famous for their mountaineering glasses. The ones reviewed here are the Julbo Aero model from their Speed range. There are other lenses available but I was lucky enough to test their top of the range Zebra photochromatic category 2-4 lenses.
You may have never heard of Julbo, although they’re a French company they don’t have much of a presence in pro cycling (yet). In 1888 Jules Baud started making specialist protective eyewear for men searching for crystals in the French Alps. In the 1990’s the firm introduced a range especially for the delicate eyes of young children. They now design sunglasses and prescription sunglasses for a whole host of extreme activities including; Mountain Climbing, Skiing, Base Jumping, Sailing, Trail Running and Mountain Biking.
With every activity they adopt, they use experts in each one to help them design the best equipment for it. Their ‘Speed’ range is where you’ll find glasses perfect for cycling of all types, we’ve previewed their Mtb orientated Dust glasses here on CyleTechReview.
Julbo has an excellent reputation for its lenses; the Cameleon is for mountain and desert environments; the Octopus is designed for watersports; the Falcon is recommended as a multipurpose and driving lens and finally the Zebra, which comes in two versions. The Zebra is photochromatic, with an anti-fog coating inside and a hydrophobic layer outside. It has category 2-4 protection, which will suit average to exceptional light conditions. The Zebra Light is the same but has category 1-3 protection, which is a slightly lighter tint.
The lenses on the Julbo Aero glasses are wide and offer a very good field of vision. It’s difficult to tell if the Zebra lenses change tint as quickly as the 28 seconds the manufacturers quote from 43% light transmission to the 3% for brighter sunlight, but it’s a nice statistic if you’re trying to justify their cost to the other half. So far I’ve ridden with them at night, in the gloom of winter and on several days where we actually had some sunshine. The brown tint seems very yellow in low light, which is the best colour for gloomy days.
Part of my ride is in nearly pitch black and the Aero glasses coped well with that, and the oncoming drivers that didn’t bother to turn off their high beams. For me this was a revelation as normally at night I wear either clear lenses or lightly tinted yellow ones. They don’t cope that well with the sudden appearance of Audi’s finest laser high beams! I guess that 28 seconds to change tint is quite handy after all. The low sun didn’t prove to be a problem either, no squinting and no sore eyes.
The frames look expensive and weigh 26g on my scales which is the quoted weight, so they’re pretty light. They have a 3d fit nose with special wingtips that adjust in every direction for the perfect fit. There’s two parts to the nose piece, one of which is made of a silicone material that grips your nose gently. I found that it’s best to keep this clean. Sweat and grime build up makes them slightly less grippy over time as it would with any glasses, but because these are so good it’s even more noticeable when they aren’t performing at their best.
I’m now much more aware of how much I have to screw up my nose, or frown, to re-seat my cheaper glasses because with the Julbo ones I simply don’t need to. I think it’s fair to say that with this in mind, wearing these glasses may actually help stop my face looking quite so old and wrinkly in years to come!
There’s also Griptech inserts at the stem ends, which are made from the same silicon material as the nose piece. Apparently it’s designed not to grip hair, but I don’t have any hair around my ears so I can’t tell if it’s an issue. The arms are very comfortable. The part that rests on your ear has a flexible silicone bumper; I’ve not seen anything similar on other glasses. It’s unique and I like it.
The actual plastic part in the arm of the glasses is tiny so it fits nicely between your ear and helmet, the silicone part can be squashed slightly and this wedges it in without putting extra pressure on your ear. The glasses fit well with both of my helmets, and didn’t have a problem going over a skull-cap either.
The frames have a gap between them and the lenses most of the way around to let extra air through. With this and the anti fog coating there won’t be any need to move them out the way when you’re sitting at traffic lights, so now there’s no excuse not to stop for the red. The hydrophobic coating on the outside of the lenses helps to bead water off when it’s raining too.
It’s not something I can say very often, but I was trying so hard to think how these glasses felt when I first wore them that I forgot to turn on my Garmin. They’re so light and planted on your face that you can’t feel them. They do their job with no fuss, as you should expect from a premium pair of sunglasses. The only problem I can see with the Julbo Aero is that you may forget to take them off before your helmet, so wearing them outside your straps might not be a good idea if you haven’t already got that routine hardwired into your brain.
The Aero frames are available with other lenses and if you only ride in certain conditions, or your budget is limited, then the frames are well worth having on your head even with those cheaper lenses. If you ride in all weathers, and at different times of day, you can’t beat photochromatic lenses. The Zebra photochromatic lenses with their combination of effective anti-fog coating inside and a hydrophobic layer outside, are perfect for all types of cycling, and when summer arrives I’ll be wearing them off the bike too, even though Julbo sells sunglasses that are better suited to general wear and driving with their Falcon lenses. Just don’t let anyone try them on because they won’t want to give them back!
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