Reviewed: POC Aspire Solar Switch Sunglasses

POC's new Aspire Solar Switch sunglasses use high-tech solar magic that changes color instantaneously from second to second without delay.

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Basics: Solar-powered instant change from dark(ish) to light in changing conditions
Pros: No battery, very cool effect, incredible tech could be the future
Cons: Super-quick tint changing can be a little distracting at first and beware the “Strobe Effect”

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POC has rightfully earned their reputation as a company known for safety innovation for cyclists. The products they produce are the result of extensive R&D that goes into helmets, clothing, partnership products with Volvo (yes another Swedish company passionate about saving lives), and even sunglasses. However, safe is not always sexy. Although POC has excelled in providing safe, functional, and technical eyewear in the past, they have not always been that stylish. That trend stops with the introduction of the Aspire Solar-Switch.

POC Aspire Solar Switch: The Look

If you fall into the conservative camp of sunglasses—you consider your trusty Ray Bans good enough to do the trick, you may be persuaded by the technology in these new POC’s. If, like me, you still remember how cool Ryder Hesjedal was in his larger framed Euro styled POC’s, you will love the styling of the Aspire Solar Switch. Although the sunglasses are designed by POC in Sweden, they are manufactured in Italy, which may contribute to their overt flair. First, these glasses are large. If you have a small face, you may look more like a bug than you prefer. However, for the mid size and larger face, the Apire is a definite pro peleton look. The frames are matte black, and thick arms make them a relatively “stiff” pair of sunglasses, but due to the overall short earpiece they are surprisingly comfortable and do not interfere with helmet retention systems.

However, it is the lenses that set these sunglasses apart from their competitors. The lens is a high-quality gold-mirrored finish provided by Carl Zeiss that is a darker tint in bright conditions and changes instantly to a lighter tint when conditions become less sunny. Yes, you read that correctly – the tint changes instantly in different light conditions.

POC Aspire Solar Switch: The Good

It works. The Solar Switch is a solar-powered electrochromic LCD lens paired with their proven “clarity” lens, allowing the single pair of sunglasses to change instantly between a Category 3 and 4 tint. (For reference, the darkest it gets is not very dark, and the lightest it gets is actually quite light.) This is done to improve vision—and as a result safety and performance—during situations like when a cyclist is going from a sunny road then into mountain tunnels or in changing weather and/or light conditions. Until now, your best option was a photochromic lens that takes time to adjust to the changing amount of UV rays absorbed. This time delay for tint correction doesn’t really work when descending down a road in the sun and suddenly going through a tunnel. With POC’s new lens that change happens instantly, and it’s VERY noticeable.

POC Aspire Solar Switch: The Not-So-Good

So why is an efficient and immediate switch a bad thing? Simply put, “strobe light-effect.” On one of my rides, the sky was partly cloudy, and I intentionally rode down a partially tree-lined street to test the tech. The technology is so sensitive that I experienced a strobe light-effect as the lens flickered between dark and light with every shadow, cloud cover, and turn of my head that resulted in exposure to different intensities of light. However, this only occurred during the first 10-15 minutes and was less noticeable the more I used the sunglasses as my daily shades. I believe, like all of our five senses, we habituate to the stimuli and your brain “gets used to it.” Similar acclimation occurs when using clipless pedals for the first time, or in my unfortunate case, progressive bifocals. When the strobe effect is not evident, the lens switch is imperceptible, and you wish you had this technology years ago.

Conclusions, I’ve Got Some

Are these the right shades for triathletes? For race day, likely no. The lens does not wrap around as well as some competitors shades, and since the bike leg of the triathlon will not have you racing in the Pyrenees in a peloton, you probably don’t need the instant switch. But if you want a pair of sunglasses for your training rides that your friends will envy, these are the ones. As they’re new and limited tech, just expect to pay a premium to be the first in your gang.

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