If you’ve been following this year’s Tour de France, you’ll know that the three-week Super Bowl of cycling started out with some unfortunate, fast-paced crashes, exhilarating breakaways, and is chugging right along through the brutal climbs and speedy descents of the mountain stages. And even if you don’t know anything about road cycling, there’s one thing other than the brightly-colored kits and incredible feats of athleticism that commands attention in the peloton: the prevalence of Oakley’s Jawbreaker sunglasses.
Back in the early to mid- ‘80s, pro cyclists didn’t even wear helmets, never mind sunglasses, and if they did, they usually wore non-performance-style aviators. But Greg LeMond, the only American to ever officially win the Tour de France (three times, we might add), broke the mold when he started wearing Oakley’s Eyeshades (originally called “Factory Pilots”). LeMond says that despite the ridicule from his European peers, he made the choice to wear the oversized shades to protect his eyes from dirt and debris. Images of “Le Monster” racing in eyeshades are now some of the most iconic in the history of the sport.
Fast-forward to 2015, and now helmets and sunglasses are essential parts of every cyclist’s kit, from the pro level all the way down to the recreational rider. This year, the pros have spoken when it comes to eyewear choice—the Jawbreaker can be seen on top riders from nearly every team in the peloton.
Two years ago, the idea for the Jawbreaker was just a twinkle in the eye of Mark Cavendish, professional cyclist on team Etixx Quickstep. Cavendish is well known for being completely obsessed with every detail in his preparation, paying close attention to everything from his wattage output to adjusting his saddle position a fraction of a millimeter. He leaves nothing to chance, and his obsession with perfection led to the unique collaboration with Oakley.
Cavendish asked for the highest degree of protection, “an armor for speed,” but Oakley knows that protection is nothing without ventilation, so the company went through more than a hundred design iterations, 9,600 hours of lab and field testing, 27 eyewear components over the course of two years before the Jawbreaker was born.
So what’s in the name? “Jawbreaker” comes from the mechanism that allows you to separate the lower “jaw” from the upper frame to switch out the lens. The lenses are equipped with impact resistance to protect against flying rocks and debris —fulfilling Cavendish’s vision of an “armor for speed.”
There are a variety of lens options that suit different riding styles, including road and trail lenses. In addition to the increased field of view, the temples of the glasses adjust to three different lengths for helmet compatibility and they were engineered with ventilation ports, which help enhance airflow to reduce fogging. There’s nothing more debilitating than cloudy lenses on the road, so this feature truly offers an edge.
In the lab, eye-tracking technology was used to discover that the upward field of view and peripheral needs of cyclists were the most extreme. On the bike, you’re constantly scanning the road ahead of you or focused on the rider’s wheel in front of you, head tilted down, eyes up, so Oakley maximized the upper lens zone to give the cyclist an unprecedented field of view—a 44 percent increase when compared to the average pair sunglasses.
Check out this video with Ryan Calilung, Director of Concept Development, Oakley R&D, to get the behind-the-scenes scoop of how Jawbreaker came to be.