The Julbo Aerospeed photochromic sunglasses are a sophisticated and very well-made set of sports glasses. The lenses automatically adjust to changing light and offer CAT 1-3 ratings for ultra-violet protection. Better still, should a lens, arm or similar component break, replacements are readily available. I don't like triple lens systems, so they've delivered in every respect through a wide range of riding conditions.
Pros: Superb optics, extremely comfortable
Cons: Price tag to match
The lenses are made from NXT, a kind of plastic originally developed for helicopter windscreens. It has several properties that sound ideal for glasses. Aside from being lightweight and shatterproof (which goes for polycarbonate), it has the lowest distortion of any plastic so there's no bending of light or warped vision. Now, this comes with a cost implication, since the lens is cast, and so takes longer to produce than an injected type.
I'm told the reactive element is a dye, produced to Julbo's standards. This is activated by ultra-violet light and will steadily darken, from clear to a dark shade, in around 15 seconds. This is also cast into the lens, so cannot scratch, or otherwise deteriorate. From a performance perspective, it's reckoned to react further and faster than anything else presently on the market.
The other features are pretty much what you'd expect from high-end sports sunglasses. The inside and outsides feature anti-fogging and water-repelling (hydrophobic) treatments and the frame is made from Rilsan G85 polyamide and features silicone grippers for a secure, unobtrusive fit. There is also a standard version available for £75.
To some extent, technology is only one factor. If a pair of glasses doesn't fit properly, its technology and performance benefits are academic. For these reasons, I'd always recommend trying a few pairs, rather than simply adding to cart. The Julbo Aerospeeds have sat perfectly at all points, gently caressing my nose ears and head. I've had no problems with my eyelashes scraping the lenses, or other discomfort, even after 8-10 hours continuous wear.
I do a fair bit of mixed terrain riding and even when tackling dirt roads at 20-25mph. the frames have held steady. I haven't needed to slide them back into position, which extends their usefulness to mountain biking, cross and gravel riding, and rough stuff touring.
The wraparound design seals out annoying, sometimes painful wind blast, bugs, dust and mud or anything else that would impair comfort and vision were it to sneak past.
I was expecting something special for this price and for the most part, they've delivered. For the most part, you ask? Well, during our formative snowy rides, with the temperature in minus figures I'd donned my Northwave Balaclava. With this drawn up to my nose, I noticed some misting under moderate effort. Exposing my nose proved an immediate cure. Response to changing light is extremely subtle, as you'd hope, but very prompt. I've worn them on night rides with no problems either.
More importantly, the lenses respond in sync with my pupils. Really intense, low sun left my pupils struggling for a few seconds, so the change doesn't happen at quite the pace you get from, say, modern, self-actuating welder's dark shields but the same goes for others in my collection, including these Uvex Gravity Zero glasses, which are still going strong almost eight years on.
At the other extreme, during some extremely heavy rain of the sort that taxes car windscreen wipers, the lenses' hydrophobic properties saw water, sleet and slush slither away, leaving me to concentrate on a decent tempo and conditions ahead.
The lenses have taken a few direct hits, protecting my own from stones, flints and glass. Despite considerable force, they remain completely unscathed and the reactive component is doing its thing impeccably.
Similarly, aside from muddy spatter, they also do a decent job of self-cleansing – there's been little hint of water staining or similar residue these past few weeks.
I've been very impressed with the Julbo Aerospeeds and so far they have lived up to the hype very convincingly. No less than I'd expect from this end of the market. Rather like the ten-pound head, ten-pound helmet saying, we only get one pair of eyes, so it pays to protect them.
That said, they are quite an investment. If you are looking for a single pair of glasses that will perform consistently well across the board, these are well worth a closer look. There are several designs, including the Uvex glasses mentioned previously that deliver very good performance for half the outlay. In this respect, they may represent better value for some riders, but if you want something better, the Julbo Aerospeeds command your attention.
Premium quality photochromic eye wear but with a price tag to match
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Julbo Aerospeed Sunglasses
Size tested: n/a
Tell us what the product is for
Julbo Say "For endurance addicts, triathletes seeking peak performance, cyclists and runners, Aerospeed is the perfect answer for a new dimension of vision and speed. Its giant photochromic REACTIV lens creates an XXL field of vision in the maximum speed position and in all other configurations. Innovative aerodynamics guarantee both all-comfort coverage and excellent penetration through air. Light, rapid and streamlined for seeing ever faster!" My feelings " Excellent glasses for all types of riding and those, including myself, who don't like triple lens systems"
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The lenses are made from NXT which is a type of plastic originally developed for helicopter windscreens, the reason it is so good for glasses is that it is very light, shatter proof and most importantly optical has the lowest distortion of any plastic meaning no weird bending of the light and warped vision. The main reason for the advantages is that it is a cast material rather than injected making it take longer to make but resulting in higher performance.
The Reactiv element is a dye made to Julbo's own specifications that is cast into the lens, meaning that it won't ever wear off/out, it also reacts further and faster than other options on the market.
On the inside is an anti fog treatment and on the outside Hydrophobic.
The lenses and all the glasses parts are replaceable if you break them and Julbo hold spare parts for 5 years after the glasses stop being made.
In terms of the protection levels this is measured in the % of visible light transmitted through the lens or VLT, the Zebra Light lense you are testing range from 15-75% giving them protection ratings of CAT 1- 3.
Very well made but then, I'd expect so given the asking price.
Have lived up to expectations.
Well made and backed by readily available spares.
I have only been conscious of them in a positive way, which is exactly what I'd hope for.
Given their overall performance and specification, they are worth the money. That said; there are considerably cheaper designs that offer decent performance for quite a bit less. These might prove a better bet, if you didn't need the additional refinements.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Overall, the aerospeed have performed to a consistently high standard throughout. Lenses react quickly to changing light, fitted me perfectly and have been completely unobtrusive and comfortable day long. Grippy detailing also ensures they're not easily dislodged, which is a definite plus off road.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Pretty much the whole package.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Nothing. However, there are designs offering similar performance. These may offer better bang for buck, if you didn't need spares backup and the same standards of construction/spares availability.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Quite possibly
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, if they had this kind of budget and needed this level of specification/spares backup.
Use this box to explain your overall score
Well made optics which really deliver but pricey compared with the alternatives.
About the tester
I usually ride: Rough Stuff Tourer Based around 4130 Univega mtb Frameset My best bike is: 1955 Holdsworth Road Path and several others including cross & traditional road
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,
Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)