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Transitioning from a dark tint in sunlight to a lighter or near-translucent tint in darker conditions, photochromic lenses are nothing new. But that transition can take several seconds with current technologies. That might not seem like a big deal, but if you encounter a shady patch of road at 20 mph, you’ll have traveled 90 feet in the few seconds it takes for the tint of your glasses to have lightened up enough to be useful.
With Solar Switch technology, POC slashes that transition time to practically zero. The Swedish brand tells us the idea for these lenses had been floating around for several years, and then took a couple of years to develop and refine. The final product uses an electrochromic LCD lens to instantaneously change with exposure to sunlight, transitioning between 15- and 8-percent light transmission.
For Solar Switch’s debut, POC is rolling out the technology in its Aspire sunglasses. At 51 grams, the Aspire Solar Switch is about 20 grams heavier than many performance cycling sunglasses—somewhat noticeable, but not a deal breaker for us. With a lens that transitions from mirrored gold in dark conditions to black in direct sunlight, these shades look pretty cool. But with a frame surrounding the entire lens, and slight distortion at the top of the lens, riders who spend a lot of time in the drops or TT position will probably prefer something with an unobscured field of view on top.
The speed of tint changes is in a class of its own. The technology works well, really well. In fact, you can only accuse it of working too well at times. When riding toward the sun in the morning or evening, when the sun is low in the sky, jumping in and out of view behind trees and buildings, there can be a bit of a flickering effect as the lens rapidly changes between light and dark. But after a couple of rides, it becomes less noticeable. And if the sun is at your back, it’s not an issue at all.
When the sun isn’t pointing directly at the lens, like at midday, the transition occurs so subtly that you have to actively think about it to even notice the tint has changed. It’s impressive. The only place where the lens tint isn’t quite light enough is in dimly lit tunnels.
The privilege of wearing these sunglasses doesn’t come cheap. Integrating an LCD lens with solar power requires a new and advanced manufacturing technique that takes longer, which is part of the reason for a $400 price tag. But if you want the fastest-transitioning lenses on the market, look no further. $400, pocsports.com