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Tested: Julbo Aerospeed—$190

I-wear the eyewear I should have found years ago

For years, I avoided sunglasses entirely. I wasn't opposed to eye protection, but I was opposed to falling. For me, sunglasses and crashing had a direct, irrefutable correlation. Correct, it makes no sense at all.

I sweat. A lot. Every pair of eyewear I've worn while riding has protected my eyes. They've also ensured I can see nothing. A waterfall cascades across the lenses, things appear very badly blurred and presto! I find myself within a bush, unintentionally embracing a tree or hefted through the air, courtesy of an unforeseen (pun noted) rock garden. It happened enough that I swore off sunglasses altogether even while riding very tight itchy and scratchy trails thinking to myself, "Damn, sure hope one of these branches doesn't snag my eye."

I am stupid and stubborn but had to change. I finally developed pingueclitis, where eyes become particularly irritated by wind and sunlight, among other things. So, time to give shades a real go again.

The frameless Aerospeed lens promotes airflow to prevent fogging.

Of all the eyewear I've tried and repeatedly sworn off over the years, the Aerospeeds seem to be the best at sidestepping my rainforest effect. Somehow, the broad windshield of a lens is either just far enough out, or close enough in to not need the wipers, not even on the 'intermittent' setting. Yet, self-raindrops are unavoidable entirely for me, so eventually, yes, allow myself to blurry myself and I will, the Aerospeeds cannot withstand forever. But they do a remarkably good job leading up to that point, and it seems that point takes a lot longer to achieve.

The Aerospeed nosepiece is an adjustable rubber allowing riders to control fit.

Cleaning the lenses is not quite as foolproof an affair as other eyewear I've owned. For me, it takes a very conscious and heavy-handed effort to remove blurs and smudges from the lens. Others shine up with ease and grime miraculously disperses in wonderment through the power of the soft case. Not quite the case for the Aerospeeds. They shine up great, but it takes some dish soap and warm water, less of an on-the-fly adjustment. It is worth noting in all fairness, that the Aerospeeds I tested came equipped with the Zebra Light lens, which, aside from sounding like an exciting lens, do not tout hydrophobic tendencies. Julbo does offer Octopus lenses throughout their eyewear range, specifically instilling a fear of hydro, perhaps aiding and abetting in a better cleaning capability.

Where the Zebra Lights (sounds like a great cigarette name, doesn't it--ex: I smoked two packs of Zebra Lights) hit their stride is in the photocromic sphere of magic. The 'Light' in Zebra Light is quite light. I happily wore my Aerospeeds while riding home in the dark without feeling as though I was doing my eyes a further disservice by darkening things. You can night ride in them, they're not quite as light as clear lenses, but clear-lens eyewear may as well be night-ride specific, they don't do much for you in true daylight.

The Zebra Light lens is clear enough for night riding. But put the lenses in the sun and they quickly darken to protect your eyes.

In stunningly SoCal bright sunlight, the Zebra Light lens was adept and reactionary as well. I folded the Aerospeeds and set them down while resting atop a climb, then reached for them after realizing, indeed, it was still sunny out. In that mere moment the shadow of the folded frames had lightened the otherwise dark lens. Magic. On the trail, they always felt dark enough and I never noticed the tunnel effect when entering tree-lined trail in the San Gabriel Mountains. Only during a trip to Argentina's Puna de Atacama high desert during the southern hemisphere's summer did I long for a darker lens. Perhaps no lens is dark enough for that arid, sun-wrought world.

Fit, feel, durability and value--criteria to which all life should be judged. The Julbo Aerospeeds feel incredibly light, it's very easy to forget they're there, and the frames are without hot spots or tightness while also don't seem prone to slipping. After three months of careless continuous use, often thrown caseless into the same pocket in my pack containing keys, the Aerospeeds are still in great shape, particularly after a dish-soap cleansing. At $190, they're not cheap but then again, nothing is these days. Pity. But, you get what you pay for, a do-it-all piece of eyewear that quickly adapts to an incredibly broad range of lighting conditions and, like SoCal, they stay devoid of rainfall, even mine.

Julbo Aerospeed