Glasses are an essential bit of kit for most of us on almost every ride, and the Julbo Aero sunnies are a quality performing pair, although there's just a single very lightly changeable photochromic lens included in the price.
To be honest, before these glasses arrived for test I had never heard of Julbo. A little internet research tells me it has been around since 1888, based in the Jura region of France, bordering Switzerland, making eyewear initially for the mountaineering sector then branching into other sports throughout the company's history – it knows its stuff that's for sure.
The Aero glasses are a multi-sport design, for running and cycling. The frame is constructed from plastic, and our pair came with Julbo's in-house unbreakable polycarbonate Zebra Light lens, a very light photochromic lens with minimal change in the tint (other lenses are available).
Also notable are the rubber nose section wings and lower arm sections, both of which help to form-fit all nose shapes and grip the head without discomfort. Included in the package is a soft case with a hard plastic lens protector and a soft bag which can be used to clean the glasses. For prescription lens users, the glasses include an Optical Clip system that accepts the prescription lens inserts. All of Julbo's glasses are covered by a lifetime guarantee, too, which adds peace of mind.
First impressions on a local ride were good. They fitted well, were comfortable from the off, and the panoramic lens was perfectly clear and free of blemishes or distortion. The venting kept any misting at bay, too. Since then I have ridden in a variety of conditions – early morning, late afternoon into the evening, and on the Continent in the kind of super-bright sunshine we Brits (normally!) only dream of. In all those conditions they worked really well, although in the sunshine abroad I would have liked a little more tint as the glare could get a bit much.
Only having the one lens option – albeit lightly photochromic – does limit them a little, with no clear or heavily tinted extras included, as you might find with other manufacturers (though certainly not all). However, for average UK conditions they were absolutely fine.
Comfort is another area they perform well in, the rubber nose section forming to the shape of your nose without causing any pressure spots, and the likewise-equipped lower arm sections gripping the side of your head gently but firmly, again with no pressure issues. Julbo also claims some shock absorbing qualities here, but I can't say I noticed any difference (other than the grip) against my all-plastic-armed alternatives.
Although they don't seem to be anti-scratch or aqua-repellent, the lens stayed relatively clean for a long time – other glasses I have used seem to attract dust and show up sweat marks a lot but these didn't, another bonus. A friend was keen to try them while out on a ride and he was suitably impressed with them too, commenting on the clarity and comfort.
While I never had an issue in choosing to wear them for any ride, I did have a slight issue with positioning and the height of the frame. When on the hoods or bar tops they were fine, but I did find that when riding on the drops or tucked down low for a more aero position the top of the frame was in my line of sight quite considerably, leading me to crane my neck uncomfortably further up, or look over the glasses and eventually suffer with runny eyes. I suspect it's because they were designed more with mountain bikers (and runners) in mind, who would generally stay in a more upright position.
Comparing them to other pairs of glasses it looks as though the lens and frame aren't much different in height, but that the nosepiece is deeper, so they sit slightly lower on your face. Not a major issue and it probably won't affect all people as I have a slim nose, but it's worth checking if you can try them on.
In terms of value, at £135 they aren't cheap, but the construction is top notch and the company does have a great reputation for its eyewear and lenses, particularly within running and mountaineering circles. Compare them with Oakley's top end Jawbreaker Prizm, with an RRP of £175, and they don't look quite so bad. If you'd like three lenses you can swap around, Salice's cheaper 016 RW are worth considering, as are Tifosi's Pro Escalate glasses, at £4.99 more than the Julbos.
To sum up, there are many, many options for sports glasses on the market and a wide variety of prices. The Julbo Aeros sit in the mid-range, but the quality of the lens is high-end stuff. My personal preference is for a photochromic lens with a bigger tint range, but saying that these did work well in most conditions, and are definitely worth considering.
Quality glasses from a long-standing manufacturer, with useful features that work well in most conditions
road.cc test report
Make and model: Julbo Aero Zebra Light sunglasses
Size tested: N/A
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
The Julbo Aero frames are a multi-sport orientated pair of glasses, with a choice of lenses for different conditions, aimed at runners and cyclists, although marketed at the mountain bike community.
Julbo says, "The Aero has been designed with the help of world-class ultrarunners and mountain bikers. Its super lightweight (32g) frame offers our new Air link - extra slim & cushion - dampening temple system, 3D fit nose piece, a wide field of vision, and snug but comfortable fit. Its sleek design optimizes ventilation and air flow and three lens options cover every light condition."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The frame is made from high impact plastic, with the patent Zebra Light lens offering a very light photochromic change, 1-3 on Julbo's scale, suitable for running and cycling where crisp vision is required with no polarising. The wide panorama lens is suspended on the frame giving maximum ventilation all around. The nose incorporates a 3D fit system, where the soft rubber wings form to your nose shape, while the arms have the same rubberised material on the lower edge to improve comfort and provide grip to avoid the glasses slipping away. For prescription lens wearers, the glasses include an Optical Clip system for the prescription insert to connect to.
The glasses are really well constructed, with high quality materials used. The lens is suspended from the frame from only three anchor points, yet never felt flimsy or liable to break.
The lens is optically clear, the subtle coloured coating providing a crystal clear enhanced view ahead whatever the weather, while the rubber nosepiece and arm sections keep them comfortable and securely in place.
They have endured many rides and trips stuck in the helmet vents and jersey pockets without incident. I haven't dropped them at any point, but I'm sure they would survive intact, although the lens isn't anti-scratch coated it is supposedly unbreakable.
I don't think many pairs of modern plastic based glasses weigh too much and these don't either, with no noticeable pressure when wearing them or additional weight noticed when stashed.
I found these to be extremely comfortable glasses even on all-day rides thanks in part to the rubber nose wings. I have had issues in the past with hard nosepieces digging in after a while and becoming irritating, not so with these Julbos. The arms aren't set too tight by default, and I have a larger rather than smaller head and didn't suffer any discomfort at all; the rubber arm sections helped here too.
Retailing at £135, they aren't cheap, but the construction is top notch and the company does have a great reputation for its eyewear and lenses, particularly within running and mountaineering circles.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
The glasses performed well in all light conditions, managing well in bright sunlight and only becoming difficult to see through when it was almost dark – even at dusk my vision was clear enough to not to need to remove them. There were no any issues with them slipping down the nose when on the move and turning the head, so no having to constantly push them back into place.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The optically clear panoramic lens is a highlight, and the lack of fogging due to the way it's suspended was a big help on cooler days when stopped.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
I only had one gripe with the glasses, and that was that the top of the frame seemed lower than other pairs I have used. It didn't cause an issue in normal use but when on the drops and looking up the road, I found the top bar was right in my line of sight. I suspect this is because they were designed with runners and mountain bikers in mind who would generally stay in an upright position. This won't affect everyone, but it might be worth checking a tucked pose if you can try them on.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
A very well engineered pair of glasses offering great performance for sport, but less versatile than some with a wider photochromic tint range, and the lack of polarisation means they aren't as suitable for off the bike activities where glare reduction would be a benefit.
About the tester
I usually ride: Boardman AirPro Di2 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, club rides, sportives