We jinx the spring weather with a pair of Julbo's top-end shades, sorry...
A few weeks back, the guys from French eyewear specialists, Julbo got in touch to see if we wanted to try out a pair of their top-end sun-glasses. Looking back, saying yes was probably the worst decision we've made this year. Since the Julbo Race shades arrived, the weather has been consistently dreadful, so we're sorry about that...
Julbo, if you're not familar with the brand, has been making classic glacier glasses since way back when - we've had a pair since the late 90s - but also has an extensive range of more general outdoors eye protection using high spec technologies and materials.
Why Spend More?
The big question for many, is what advantages there are in spending a little more on your eye protection compared to classic middle-range glasses. The Julbo Race sells for £95 in the UK, with others at a similar sort of level in the range priced from from £90 up to around £120 for the Bivouak model which features ingenious removable magnetic side shades for glacier and high mountain use.
So what are you getting? Well, first, they're pretty obviously nicely made kit with a quality feel. The Race is an all-round sports sunglass that you could happily use for walking, biking, running and pretty much anything except full-ion glacier use where the huge amount of reflected light makes side protection a must.
There are grippy nose and temple inserts to keep things in place - we'll be watching to see how they cope with sweat, a real bug-bear for performance shades - and the arms are nicely engineered to grip securely, but lightly so they feel comfortable. Fit seems great as well with the lenses curving round using something Julbo calls HCD concept 'for extra-wide field of vision'. Close on us, but without being too close - eyelashes on lenses is never a good thing...
All About The Optics
So they look and feel good, they fit well and show every sign of wanting to stay on our face, but the crucial bit with sun-glasses is the lens quality. We'll go into it properly when we write a full review, but there's some interesting stuff going one here.
First, Julbo's optics are Optical Class 1, which is the best you can get. That matters because a small amount of distortion could be the difference between putting your foot accurately where you want to, when, say, running, and missing slightly and twisting your ankle. We've used budget shades which make it feel as if the ground is further away than it actually is, which is really disconcerting when on a bike or running. The Julbo Race don't do that, the ground is apparently the right distance away, which is reassuring.
Then there's the lens technology. The Race has Zebra NXT photochromic lenses developed with the US military - no stripes though - and adapts to ambient light getting lighter or darker and giving category 2 to 4 protection depending on the UV intensity - the material gives better optical quality than polycarbonate they say. They're made using a low-temperature casting technique which apparently reduces internal stresses and improves optical quality as a result.
And then there's the inside of the lenses, which are laser treated rather than coated for durable anti-fogging technology, as used on Formula One drivers' helmet visors.
Based on using the Race(s) in mostly non-sunny conditions so far we'd say the optics do indeed seem good, no obvious distortion and a nice slightly golden tint to the lenses that means they're still just about wearable even on dull days a little like those yellow lenses. Plus when the sun does appear, they darken impressively quickly.
All we need now is something like sunshine... Fingers crossed.
More about Julbo's range at www.julbo-eyewear.com.