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Oakley Flight Jacket sunglasses review

10 May 2018

Impressive array of innovative features for a pair of sunglasses but the Prizm lens is the real star

Cyclist Rating: 
Unrivalled lens clarity, Enhanced vision, On-trend aesthetic, Natty little features
Not all features work as well as claimed, Expensive, On-trend aesthetic

Everything is cyclic. Lairy fluoro came back, tan-wall tyres came back, suspension on road bikes came back, and now big-ass sunglasses a la Andy Hampsten and Greg LeMond have come back. There is nothing new under the sun, which these Oakley Flight Jackets have been expressly designed to be under.

Whys and wherefores

I’m going to jump straight in here and ask the question you probably think every time you see a new pair of shades being released and reviewed. What’s the point? Or moreover, why should I care?

With the Flight Jackets the answer is ‘Yes’, there is more here than just another pair of sunnies in a different shape. These are better than your average glasses in (almost) every way.

First, the lenses. Oaklet’s Prizm lenses are honestly second to none. Rudy Project do some fantastic photochromatic lenses, Smith do lenses with fantastically wide coverage, but Oakley’s Prizm lenses genuinely improve vision on the bike; they are better than just the naked eye for clarity. That isn’t just marketing gumph.

They have been tuned (no, seriously) to augment certain colours and filter others using ‘hyperpectral imaging’, which apparently satellites use to better see things from space.

On a road bike it means the sharpness of a road surface is increased noticeably, and I could really see more detail with the Flight Jackets on than off, which in theory means I react quicker to things, eg patches of gravel, errant stones, tyre-deflecting sticks.

It’s along the lines of the way reaction times slow as light fades. The more you can see in the greater detail, the better chance you have of reacting to it in time.

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Oakley has also chosen to boost blues and greens (hyperspectral imaging basically means filtering some wave lengths of light in order to make other stand out more), which gives everything a dreamy Instagram filter look.

Not all riders will like that aspect of course, but Prizm lenses certainly make dull days look more inviting, and bright days feel like a movie. Prizm lenses are available on a host of Oakley glasses, not just the Flight Jackets, and come in a variety of types for different sports, including Prizm Fishing, which Oakley alleges boost ‘green and coopers hues that define hiding spots’.

Those carp ain’t got a chance. So maybe just get some Prizm lenses for your current Oakleys, which is quite possible. But, the Flight Jackets have more to offer than any pair of Oakleys – or cycling sunglasses – I’ve ever tried.

Claims and execution

Apparently they are more aero. Maybe. But what isn’t up for debate is the claim they offer a superior field of vision compared to, say, Oakley’s Jawbreakers. The lenses run high up the face and have no brow rims, a bit like Dennis Taylor’s snooker glasses, so when you’re in the riding position, bent back and looking up, you are still looking through the lens, not slightly over it or at a part of the frame.

To be honest I have found few problems with frames interrupting my vision in other sunglasses, but I still felt in sum total the coverage of the Flight Jackets was immense and uninterrupted, such that whatever direction I looked from whatever head/neck angle, I was looking through them, and looking square
on, so there was no distortion due to light refraction.

Paris-Roubaix was one of the first places we saw the Flight Jackets. Image: Sean Hardy 

The USP here, the thing the sales people would push in a shop, is the clicky nosepiece. Oakley calls it the ‘Advancer’ nosepiece, and it’s essentially a small hinge betwixt frame and nosepiece that allows the glasses to flick up and off the nose bridge a few millimetres so they sit further away from your face.

You can achieve a similar thing by pulling regular glasses down the nose bridge a fraction, but I find doing this on my nose at least, means glasses feel less secure, and also means the whole lens moves away from my face, but also downwards, effecting the upper portion of the field of vision.

The Flight Jackets, by contrast, do not suffer from this problem as the nosepiece stays in precisely the same
position on your nose bridge; it is only the frames that move.

The idea is by moving the frames away from the face there is more room for airflow which should prevent fogging, or get rid of it when it happens. It’s a nice idea, and it kind of works, in that it works better with than without it, but on a really hot, sweaty day the Flight Jackets still misted up a bit.

It is also sort of hand to operate on the fly, the mechanism is stiff and the motions needed to operate it quite alien. I got used to it over time, but it was a damn sight easier to do when fiddling around with them off my face than it was when on my face.

The other issue is with the glasses sitting more proud of my nose I found vision in some directions became slightly distorted. I’m sure physics could explain way, but for the sake of brevity, this was a thing, and coupled with the somewhat finicky nature of the Advancer nosepiece and how less than perfectly it prevented fogging, I just found myself wearing the Flight Jackets in ‘normal’ mode.

A cool little feature to impress your mates (or to see them scoff with mock bluster), but its real worth is limited

The real boon in design beyond the supremely excellent Prizm lenses and lens shape are the arms. Oakley supplies two sizes, which can be interchanged easily by clicking in and out with a simple bend halfway down the arm.

One size is shorter than the other to accommodate helmets where the cage or straps fouls with longer arms, as I find with a Lazer Z1 and a pair of Oakley Radar Locks, for example (but do not find with the same sunnies and Giro Synthe).

Having two arm options should therefore mean there’s less chance of you finding your chosen lid doesn’t sit happily with the Flight Jackets. However, my favourite feature is one Oakley doesn’t even mention.

Perhaps that means it’s less a feature and more a happy accident, but at any rate, the little kink in the arms nearest the lens, just by the Oakley ‘O’ seems to provide a nice little catch to so the Flight Jackets literally ‘click’ into a secure position when you insert them into the vents of a helmet when you no longer want to wear them.

I’ve scratched several pairs of glasses when they’ve fallen out of said vents as I’ve looked down, but that kink on the Flight Jacket’s frames provides positive engagement unlike any other helmet/glasses combo I’ve come across.

For the record, it seems to work well with a variety of helmets from Lazer, Giro and Bell. It may not work with others, but I’d reckon there’s every chance.

Given all this, and if you like the styling of course, there’s every reason the Flight Jackets are worth a peer through. And even if they’re not your cup of tea, I’d still recommend trying a pair of Prizm lenses, you will be surprised, and just might be a convert.

Buy the Oakley Flight Jacket from eBay here


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