When I started taking on rides over 100 miles, I found myself using increasingly lighter lenses on my ride glasses. That assured me that if conditions took a turn for the worse that I could still see and keep my eyes protected.
Of course, that also meant that in very bright, midday light I was stressing my eyes unnecessarily. I would sometimes feel a headache coming on. At times I resorted to putting on a cap under my helmet to shade myself. On hot days, this wasn’t a great solution, though.
Then, a package arrived at the Velo offices. Inside was a pair of Oakley Flak Jacket XLJs with Transitions photochromatic lenses. These lenses go from virtually clear to black iridium (mirrored) tint.
I’m not sure why it never occurred to me to try these sooner. Simply put, for me, they work exceptionally well. I’ve ridden in them at night, during early morning hours, in bright sunlight and overcast conditions and they always seem to be perfectly tinted. No squinting. No taking them off when riding into shade.
The lenses go from nearly clear to quite dark. I take them off only when going indoors after being in bright sunshine. During normal riding, I’ve never wanted them to change any quicker. I’ve heard that the lenses don’t change tint as quickly in truly frigid temperatures, but I’ve yet to experience that.
I did run into one small issue. In the past I’ve worn many larger glasses and on long, fast descents I find that the Flak Jacket XLJs let more air hit my eyes. Playing with the different nosepieces that Oakley supplies didn’t help. Oakley Radars, Giro Havik 2’s (regrettably no longer made) and Rudy Project Rydons all seem to keep my eyes from watering on fast descents a bit better.
But if long, fast descents aren’t in your ride repertoire, Flak Jackets are a great set of glasses. They’re likely to fit smaller faces well too. Fortunately Oakley also offers Transition lenses in its other popular models (Radar, Jawbone, Split Jacket, Fast Jacket and M-Frame).
With Oakley’s Transition lenses I have found the solution to my epic-ride eyewear issues. I used the Flak Jacket XLJ glasses at the Dirty Kanza where I never took them off during the 17-hour long event (the winning time was considerably shorter).
I’ve continued using them when mountain biking, hiking and running (a little cross-training never hurt anyone … wait, running really hurts). The Flak Jackets are my go-to glasses now.
Oakley Flak Jacket XLJs with Transitions lenses
• Pros: Transition lens tint is perfect for long rides or when conditions are likely to change.
• Cons: Flak Jackets XLJs don’t offer as much coverage at Oakley Radars and other cycling-eyewear options. Better for low-speed applications (running, off-road riding).
2011 Oakley Flak Jacket, Transition lenses
Even with the bright glare of winter days, the Transition lenses were plenty dark. Photo: Nick Legan
2011 Oakley Flak Jacket, quick change
The tint change of Oakley's Transition lenses is so subtly quick that I've never noticed it. Suffice it to say that it's fast and across a wide range, from clear to what's pictured. Photo: Nick Legan
2011 Oakley Flak Jacket, clear as day
Oakley's clear-to-black-iridium Transition lenses are true to their name. I've used these during night rides, in bright light conditions and everything in between. Photo: Nick Legan
2011 Oakley Flak Jacket XKJ
For smaller faces or low-speed applications, Oakley's Flak Jacket XLJ glasses are fantastic. For other faces and/or uses the Transitions lenses are available in other Oakley models as well. Photo: Nick Legan