While lenses that transition from light to dark are sometimes associated with those who wear socks with sandals, the eyewear aficionados at Julbo have somehow taken the transitioning lens technology and made it cool. Julbo calls the photochromic lenses found in the Aero sunglasses “Zebra.” Though the namesake animal doesn’t change from light to dark based on exposure to the sun, the marketeers seem to think the Zebra name is a clever moniker for the lenses. Marketing terms aside, the big takeaway is that the technology works and is great for sports like mountain biking, where lighting conditions can shift quickly.
As trite as it may sound, some of the best gear is the kind that fades to the background and makes the wearer forget it’s even there. Throughout my testing, I’ve found myself completely unaware that the Julbo Aero glasses were even hanging out on my face, which speaks volumes to not only the near weightlessness of the glasses, but also to efficacy of the lenses.
Speaking of weightlessness, the Aero sunglasses weigh a barely perceptible 26 grams, or 0.91 ounces if you measure in freedom units. While far from being overwrought, the Aero has a decidedly sporting appearance, as is to be expected of a pair of sunglasses designed for the outdoor enthusiast. The glasses look the part on the bike, but stray too far from the trail with them on and you run the risk of looking like a bit of a goofball.
While some sunglass manufacturers tout the tint of their eyewear as a selling point, Julbo’s lenses take a different approach, preferring to present the world without any sort of color temperature shift. I was certainly skeptical when I first took the Julbos out of their protective, hard case. Would these transparent lenses be able to keep my baby blues safe from the sun’s rays? The skepticism continued when I first stepped out from the protective cocoon of my overly tinted vehicle at the trailhead. Everything seemed to be bright and vibrant, almost as if my eyes weren’t covered at all. Or so I thought.
As a quick test, I removed the Julbos, fully anticipating to see no difference at all. Almost instantly, my eyeballs’ desire for self-preservation kicked in and reflexively clamped my eyelids shut. Though the trailhead seemed pleasantly sunny when viewed through the Zebra lenses, in reality the midday sun was far more potent than the picture behind the lenses led me to believe. Putting the sunglasses back on, my pupils relaxed and the forest came back into view. Impressive.
In full direct sunlight, Julbo’s Zebra photochromic lenses darken to protect the rider’s eyes, with Julbo claiming a 22 second transition time from full transparency to fully protective. In reality, this change was nearly imperceptible, which is more a compliment than a criticism. My eyes felt immediate relief once the glasses were perched atop my schnoz.
As the trail dipped into the dense forest that the northwestern USA is known for, I mentally prepared for the scene to go dark while my rods and cones adjusted to the lack of light. This only led to more pleasant surprises from the Julbos, as the lenses quickly shifted back to transparent and the trail was laid out in perfect clarity. Dipping in and out of densely wooded sections of trail, I found myself impressed with how uniform the amount of light seemed, never too light in the direct sun, never too dark in the woods. The Julbo Aero sunglasses seemed to magically find that perfect Goldilocks level of “just right” and hang out right there.
I struggle to find any shortcomings of the Julbo Aero sunglasses; they’re lightweight, fit securely and comfortably, look the part, and, most impressively, handle varying lighting conditions with aplomb. Since the beginning of testing, I’ve worn the Aero sunglasses while riding on rainy days in the woods, bluebird days while ski touring, and all conditions in between, finding myself impressed every time.
The Julbo Aero sunglasses perform well in a wide range of conditions while remaining completely unobtrusive. As a result, the Julbo Aeros get this reviewer’s much-coveted seal of approval. I think anyone who enjoys vision would do well to consider picking up a pair for themselves.
Thanks to Julbo for providing the Aero sunglasses for review.