Saturday, May 26, 2018

Julbo Aerospeed with Zebra Light Fire Photochromic Lens Sunglass Review - A Grand View and Unbeatable Any Light Versatility

Article by Jeff Valliere with Sam Winebaum

Julbo Aerospeed with Zebra Light Fire Lens

The Julbo Aerospeed is the big brother of the Aerolite, which Sam discusses in this mini review and is a great addition to the Julbo line, adding increased coverage, still at a very light weight (27 grams) and with a giant unobstructed field of vision.


Stats
17-75% Visible Light Transmission (VLT), Photocrhomic
27 grams
$189.95

Like the Aerolite, the Aerospeed has a frameless design, which decreases weight and eliminates having a frame in your field of view when looking down at the trail, or looking up in a cycling position.  The Aerospeed has a very large lens, which is great for those with large faces and/or those who are looking for maximum coverage when cycling, nordic skiing, trail running, or just about any other outdoor sport.
The temples are fixed securely to the lens and even though they are not malleable, the Grip Tech and Air Link Temple system fit perfect on my head and have enough spring to them where they would easily fit and conform to any size head.  No matter how fast I run down rocky, technical trails, the Aerospeed stays locked on my face with no bounce.
There are clever vents to allow air flow through the side of the lens and the center of the temple, which really help to reduce fogging with the increased venting.  The lenses are also treated with anti fog, which also works remarkably well in all but the wettest, most damp and humid conditions, circumstances where any glasses would fog.
The 3D Nose Fit accommodates quite the wide range of beaks and allows for custom positioning for either a closer fit, or allowing more room for air flow, wearing glasses underneath as Sam tends to do, or bushy brows.
Sam: Yes indeed I do goofy things with sunglasses. I wear them over my prescription sunglasses. Prescription sunglasses and me have a bad history. For some reason I lose them.
While the AeroLite worked fine over my glasses the Speed are better yet. 
Both share the small "shelf" created by the hinge. The Aerospeed sits on top of my regular glasses at the hinges. Being so much larger and broader, the sunglass coverage off the face is better yet than the Aerolite with fewer side reflections and light leaks. 

Best of all, and this has nothing to do with my eyeglasses the goggle like expanse of lens provides the broadest view horizontally and vertically of any sunglass I have used. Better even than the more classically styled District Vision Nagata Speed Blade (RTR review).

Optics
Jeff: As unbelievable as fit, low weight and quality are with the Julbo Aerospeed (and all other Julbos), I could not be more impressed with the Reactiv Photochromic Zebra Light Fire lens. Zebra Light Reactiv lenses are called out with a photochromic (changing) visible light performance of 1-3. This means that the lens will transition from transmitting 75% of visible light in its clear "1" state to 17% when it is in its dark "3" state, and uniquely doing this in about 25 seconds regardless of temperature.
The unique part is that other photochromic lenses stay dark in cold and really only transition as they are warmed. Julbo's Zebra Light transition far better in cold between light conditions than for example Rudy Project which get dark and stay dark in cold, so dark that I often have to remove them in moderate winter light. With the same wide range of light conditions as the Zebra Light (see our review of the Aero here) at 75% for low light, down to 17% for brighter, sunny conditions, the Zebra Light Fire lens with the orange reflective flash coating is darn near magical.  The added flash coating does a great job deflecting sunlight, helping to ease eye strain and to increase contrast.

Sam: The Zebra Light lenses are superb. I have used them in all conditions from overcast, at dusk in falling light, falling snow with flat light to bright sun near water and at higher altitudes. While not a mountaineering or water type lens it provides superb protection over a wide range of light conditions and temperatures, something a higher fixed VLT lens cannot. As such they are the lenses and glasses which I never fiddle with, on and then off, during trail runs, in winter and at dawn or dusk.
Jeff: Looking through the lens, Julbo describes the tint as brown, to accentuate relief, but sometimes looks blue to me, depending on the level of tint and light conditions.  Either way, lens clarity and trail contrast is as good or better than any glasses I have ever used.

Though the Aeorspeed is a bit large on my face, they are light enough that they do not feel bulky and essentially go unnoticed.
Size comparison with the Aerolite front, with Aerospeed back.
Aerospeed left, Aerolite right.
Comparing the Zebra Light lens in the Aero (top) with the Zebra Light Fire lens in the Aerospeed (bottom).

Conclusions:
Sam: While the style, huge and colorful in a goggle or fighter pilot helmet shield way, may not be for everyone, on the roads and trails that huge coverage truly provides a grand and un obstructed view front, sides, up and down. The Zebra Light photochromic tech dramatically extends the glasses utility in all light conditions and temperatures, super bright high altitude or sun on water conditions for extended periods the exception. The tinting enhances contrast without overwhelming and dramatically changing reality. The Fire reflective coating adds a measure of clarity when light can sometimes break through and strain the eyes. The comfort and hold, even with my over eyeglasses approach, is outstanding the best of any I have tested with the broad high lens also appearing to reduce distortions and reflections.

Jeff: I highly recommend the Julbos with Zebra Light Fire lens, be it the Aerospeed for max coverage or the Aerolite for smaller faces and saving a few grams.  I find them to be ideal for just about any sport in nearly all light condition, from early morning, to late evening and through the day, as the lenses change quickly and imperceptibly, even in cold conditions.  If I am out in blinding light for any length of time, such as high altitude snow,  above treeline, the beach or a sunny summer mid day run, then I would typically prefer the Zebra 2-4 with its lens darkening to 7%.  The Aerospeed is light, comfortable, adjustable, don't bounce or fog and though a bit on the pricey side, are not out of line with competing sunglasses and are the best of the bunch.

Comparisons (Click links for RTR reviews)
Oakley EVZero Path with Prizm Road - Jeff: Best for lightest weight and for being nearly imperceptible on the face, top notch optical clarity, definition and unobstructed visibility.  Prizm Road lens is ideal for moderately brighter conditions and also do well in/out of shade/sun.

Oakley EVZero Path with Prizm Trail - Jeff: Best for lightest weight and near imperceptible on face, top notch optical clarity, definition and unobstructed visibility.  Prizm Trail lens ideal for cloudy days, shady trails.
Sam: I agree with Jeff. The orange tint really sharpens contrast. At 36% VLT vs. 17% for the Aero on brighter sunny days I will reach for the Aero or my Revo polarized. In winter on overcast or snowy days the Prizm Trail.

Zeal Optics Sable with Ellume Copper lens - Jeff: Best for versatility, blending every day use style and sports performance.  Polarized lens brings has excellent contrast on wet, snowy, icy trails.  Good for moderately sunny conditions and lighter shaded trails.

adidas Zonyk Aero Pro with Chrome Mirror lens (review coming) - Best for maximal coverage on the brightest, sunny days. Has an optional brow pad.  The Chrome Mirror lens struggles to bring out definition on shaded trails.

Bolle 6th Sense - Jeff:Very close in size and also with a photochromic lens, the 6th sense weighs the same at 27 grams and both glasses are quite comfortable and well vented.  The Bolle is better in bright sun with 9% vlt vs. 17% for the Julbo, but the range is less in lower light, so the Aerospeed is a bit more versatile in a wider range of conditions.

District Vision Nagata Speed Blade  Sam: Another large surface area run focused sunglass, the Nagata also has a classic big blade approach, styled beautifully with some modern urban vibe it can cross over more subtly to everyday use. Its Black Rose lens also changes its VLT ranging from15% to 31%, so overall darker when light is low as the Aerospeed and AeroLite go to 75%. The Aero is a better choice for dawn and dusk runs and with their contrast tint for flatter light. The Black Rose lenses have a carefully researched low eye strain tint we found effective and more natural to look through, The pricier District is beautifully crafted, lighter at 23 g, its thin temples slightly more comfortable and depending on tastes (with several other frame styles available) more versatile day in day out after the run while for pure run or sports performance the Speed is the choice.

Reviewer Bio
Jeff Valliere is a former pro cyclist who now runs and climbs the mountains of Colorado. He has been top 5 Masters, top 25 overall, at the Pike's Peak Marathon several times, finishing 2d Masters in 2015. Jeff loves vertical accumulating more than 500,000 vertical feet per year, has climbed all the Colorado 14's and 200 of the 13's and has held FKT on several. 

Sam Winebaum is the Editor and Founder of RoadTrailRun. He has been running and shoe geeking for 45 years. As he turned 60 in 2017 he was thrilled to clock a 1:35.24 half and as he turned 61 a 3:40 marathon to qualify for Boston. Sam runs his roads and trails in coastal New Hampshire and Park City, Utah.
The Julbo  products were provided at no cost. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

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