Oakley Jawbreakers have been around a little while now and have been a common sight in the pro peloton on many riders such as Mark Cavendish for a little longer but I have never been taken by their look, which takes me back to the skiers of the 80’s in their bright ski suits and funny boots. Given that many riders continued to use the popular Radar and Racing Jacket models, I assumed the Oakley Jawbreakers to be a passing phase and assumed it’s removal from the range would be imminent but they remain, and so I wondered if they truly were function over form and tried a pair to find out.
Now, as a bit of an Oakley fan I have owned all manner of them over the years from the classic M frame through to the current Oakley Radar EV and Racing Jacket models, the latter of which I never enjoyed as a cyclist as the frame tended to restrict vision when looking over my shoulder (not a problem in a pro race but for us mortals on country lanes I saw this as a huge issue). The swapping of lense though, could not have been any easier and was a huge plus for the Racing Jackets. The Radar EV is a slight variation on the long running Radar, with a small raised section on the brow to offer a slightly enhanced view (guess what EV stands for) when head down in a break or TT, and it does make a little difference, which coupled with a lack of lower frame means all round visibility is really rather good, and so these have become my go to glasses and the benchmark by which I measure others.Jawbreaker Prizm Road - A bit more Ski trip than pro racer Click To Tweet
So on to the Oakley Jawbreakers. As mentioned, I’m not taken by the look of them but however important looking good on a bike is (and it is Very important), the performance of the equipment is always the important bit. Oakley themselves describe the Jawbreaker as the “ultimate sport design” thanks to ‘surge ports’ and Unobtanium components (I missed that material during my chemistry classes at school!). In reality, this is all the usual marketing guff that we are used to from Oakley and they really are very good at making their products sound cool and bombproof, stopping just short of calling their equipment the cliched ‘military spec’.
In your hands the Oakley Jawbreakers feel light but well made, with rubber grips on the comfortable arms to hold them in place on your head, the glasses not slipping or shifting whilst on even the hardest of rides. Customisation is limitless with no end of colours available and the option to mix and match parts of the frame as seen previously on the Oakley Racing Jacket glasses allowing pro and club riders alike to match their glasses to their team kit with Dave Brailsford attention to detail. It’s all about the minor details after all. The lower frame is narrower and a little lower on the Oakley Jawbreakers than on the Oakley Racing Jacket and so some of the visibility issue previously mentioned has been solved and really the only impingements on view will be dependent on what angle your turn your head at to check over your shoulder. Probably not an issue for a lot of riders.
A frame is a frame though, and many companies make glasses for a fraction of the price. Yes, I agree, but the lens is where your money is going, and I am yet to find a pair of sports glasses that offer the visibility and clarity offered by Oakley’s recent lenses. The Prizm lens is Oakley’s newer type of lens, claiming to “provide unprecedented control of light transmission resulting in colours precisely tuned to maximise contrast and enhance visibility”. In a nutshell, it does just that, and has been worn on bright days and overcast days and I genuinely prefer wearing them to not, feeling that glare and haze seem to disappear when worn and in a manner superior to alternative offerings.
Almost as good in low light is the Persimmon lens, which seems to clarify the gloom and increase depth perception. To remain objective, I tried some imitation lenses from eBay, to see how they fared against the real mccoy. The difference was stark, and the orange lenses for low light conditions were appalling, offering little improvement over a dark lens, so, I’m happy that the lenses are better on genuine glasses. Oakley also have the famous claim that their glasses are tested to withstand a shot from a shotgun. Only in America would this be considered a “feature” but I guess it is a heavy handed method of demonstrating the resilience of the lens you are spending many hard earned pennies on. Sadly though, it took a little less than a weapon to damage my lens. The beautiful Prizm Road lens was lightly scratch by nothing less than the Oakley polishing cloth provided with the glasses. I was both surprised and disappointed by this. Maybe scratch is a little harsh, more ‘swirl marks’ and very very light scratching, which can only be seen when you take the glasses off and look at them close so although it doesn’t affect your view when wearing them, I found it a little disappointing as we like to keep our toys shine and I’ve never experienced this with other glasses I’ve owned and so I can only assume something about the Prizm lens is softer and I await feedback from Oakley on this. Don’t let that detract though from the performance of the lens, I would buy them again, but maybe see if the glasses shop sell a super soft cloth to go with them.
At £195 rrp though, these really are at the high end of the market and even much higher in price than other offerings from Oakley, with the Radar EV path at £ 155 which, for me, is a much better offering.
With a range of lenses available for all models mentioned, there is little reason to spend the extra money on the Oakley Jawbreakers unless you simply have to have the most up to date glasses or you are fortunate enough to have them from sponsors or a gift.
Save your money, buy a cheaper model, and spend the change on something else for your bike.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but there is no doubting the quality of Oakley’s lenses. Interchangeable lenses adds to features but high price may put off many.