Goggles are in a strange place in terms of the evolution of the sport. Like chains, they seem very rudimentary, especially in comparison to, say, road racing. Yet, no one has been able to devise a better functioning and cost effective way to either protect your eyes or transfer power from a motor to the rear wheel.
So, rather than move to face shields (although Simpson did attempt it a few years ago, but it never caught on), MX has stuck with goggles through thick and thin…and now thicker with the new Oakley Airbrake MX.
Developed over several years with Oakley’s top athletes, the Airbrake is one of the more innovative goggles to come along in several years. As Oakley has often done, they borrowed ideas from some of the other sports they are heavily involved with. In this case, the Airbrake Snow was used as a starting point, but the Airbrake MX is far more than a repurposed ski and snowboard goggle.
Features like the Switchlock system and Plutonite lens are not only new concepts for motocross, but they actually work. The Switchlock system, while more complex in design than traditional goggles, simplifies the lens swapping process; you no longer need to have a degree in changing lenses. When you want to switch to a different tint, simply pull down on the red tabs of the Switchlock, swing the arms out of the way, and the lens pops right out. Reverse the process for installation; no more finding the little grooves on the lens to pop the frame into.
Away from all of the accouterments, how does the Airbrake MX perform on the track?
The fitment is very good. Although the Airbrake MX appears to be on the larger side, it actually fits quite well in a variety of different helmets, with no pinches or air gaps and this is largely due to the construction materials. While the outer frame of the Airbrake is made of a more rigid proprietary plastic Oakley calls “O Matter”, the removable foam and rubber section provide a more supple contact area with your face. This means that even during sudden jarring movements, like slamming through acceleration bumps while sitting, the foam remains in contact with your face.
Sweat absorption on the Airbrake MX has so far been strong. While the weather has not been the variety to truly put the goggles to the test (average of 70 degrees, low humidity, and sunny skies…ahh California), I do sweat significantly more than the average bear. Even during several long-ish motos (20 to 25 minutes), I’ve only had sweat drip into my eyes once.
At this point, most goggle companies have the sweat management game pretty dialed, but there is always room for improvement. Thanks to the excellent airflow with the Airbrake, there has so far been little opportunity for much sweat to build up at all. Then again, I don’t live in the Deep South with 90 percent humidity. But, while airflow is one of the goggle’s biggest strengths, it may also be one of its biggest weaknesses as well.
Why? On two different occasions after being roosted, enough dirt got into the goggle that within a few seconds there was dirt in my eye. One of these incidents occurred during an actual race, so I had to deal with it. In the other instance I was just riding and could stop to get myself situated. Either way, this is something that should happen only in the rarest of circumstances. While I did not worry one little bit about the safety of my eyes from direct roost, thanks to the tough-as-nails rigid Plutonite lens, I believe the foam at the top of the goggle is to blame for dirt getting through.
I could not find any tears in the foam or places where the glue had detached from the frame, so my thought is that the foam itself is may be too porous.
One of the biggest marketing and performance points Oakley focused on was the excellent peripheral allowance of the new frame and lens design. I cannot say that I’ve ever really felt my field of vision has been obscured much by other goggles, but the efforts made with the Airbrake MX are noticeable on the track, especially after you switch back to a more traditional goggle.
Overall I think the Airbrake MX is a very strong offering. Oakley is well known for thinking outside of the box, and they certainly did that with their latest high-end goggle. Yes, the price is far above that of any other goggle, but when you really think about it, why would want to skimp on eye protection? You only get two eyes and they’re pretty fragile. The lens is practically much bulletproof (at least compared to any other lenses), the ease of assembly/disassembly is second to none, and the fit is superb (thanks largely to the softer, rubber inner frame that can move around without losing the seal to your face). Buy a couple of different lenses and a bunch of tear-offs and you’ll be good to go.
For more information, visit www.oakley.com.