When Oakley launched the Jawbreaker model, it was 1 April 2015. We looked at the images; then we looked at the date; and we thought it was an April Fools joke. Seriously, we did. The sports eyewear brand that has led the way in design and innovation of eyewear would never take 10 steps back and launch a model that looked like it belonged in the 1980s and lacked the sleek, uncluttered styling we’ve become so accustomed to.
Well, turned out it wasn’t an April Fools prank. The Jawbreaker was aesthetically difficult to accept in the TREAD office, even when a pair arrived for us to review.
“One good thing, nobody will dare wear the Jawbreaker off the bike as casual eyewear,” said one of our testers.
Oakley worked with road sprinter Mark Cavendish on the design of the Jawbreaker. Another bullet-point on our prejudice list… There’s a difference between road and MTB we said. Surely they should have worked with Nino Schurter too?
The first thing that struck us was the size. You have to go back to the late 1980s and the Factory Pilot to see when last lenses this size rolled off an Oakley production line. We winced. Then the frame – it looks, well, the opposite of classy. It looks busy and overdesigned. We winced again.
A full frame? We’ve all discussed and agreed that the bottom of a full frame is distracting when you’re flying down a trail at high speed. We winced again.
We saw, on social media, other South African cycling media posting selfies with the Jawbones and adding hashtags that made us, well, wince again,
Never have we been so negative about a product before we started testing it. And then, we started testing it.
The first thing we noticed is how the shorter, straighter arms fit better with any helmet, but especially the trail/Enduro style helmets with more side-head coverage and less room for eyewear arms to fit. They’re actually adjustable in terms of length, so can be set to fit small, medium and large head/helmet combos. We liked that.
Then we noticed how we didn’t actually notice the bottom of the full frame because of the height of the large lens. The field of vision is large. Really large. We liked that too.
There are six ‘anti-fog’ vents to encourage airflow and minimise fogging. And they worked pretty damn well (we tested them in winter, so we know). We liked that.
The Switchlock system Oakley uses to remove and replace the Jawbreaker lenses sees you unlatching the nosepiece, which allows the bottom of the frame to separate from the top via hinges on either side. It’s intuitive and mechanically rather sound and makes for lens removal to swap or clean very simple. Again, we liked that.
It seems like we liked a lot. But we must interrupt our gushing praise with the fact that we found ourselves comparing the arms to those on the Radarlock model and, in comparison, they’re more flimsy/bendy and lack the same amount of grip. Not that we felt the Jawbreaker really moving much at all, just an observation. They actually sit really firmly on your head, even through the bumpiest of fast descents.
We also, when glancing even slightly sideways on uncomplicated trail, found the slight protrusion of the frame into the lenses on the edges to be mildly distracting, but only when we thought about it and only when we weren’t looking ahead, which is the most common/obvious place to look when moving forward. So not a big thing, but a thing nonetheless.
We got to try two different lenses, both using Oakley’s new PRIZM lens technology. The one is darker and more suited to road riding the other is lighter and aimed more at mountain biking. Oakley claims PRIZM “dramatically enhances contrast and visibility in a variety of light conditions”.
Well that’s an understatement. The PRIZM lenses certainly do improve contrast allowing you to pick out trail obstacles sooner, allowing you to anticipate better, which is safer and faster.
The optics are just superb. The visual clarity we experienced with PRIZM Trail in particular is unmatched. It makes certain colours richer, allowing you to determine texture differences too. It’s a bit of on an anticlimax taking them off to be honest. Like watching regular TV after having watched HD… The lenses also incorporate Oakley’s well-known impact protection so that your eyes are protected from airborne objects.
So after wearing the Jawbones with PRIZM lenses for a few weeks and in various weather and light conditions, we find ourselves still not loving the look, but having fallen deeply in love with the function. Besides, they look fine if you’re wearing them with a helmet. We’ll probably unfriend anyone we see wearing them off the bike though…
COLOURS: Seven different colour/lens combos currently available. More are sure to follow. Best to check them out on the Oakley website.
PRICE: Depending on frame, ranging from R2500–R2625
CONTACT: www.oakley.com; 021 486 6100
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*Originally published in TREAD Issue 36, 2015 – All rights reserved