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POC Aspire Solar Switch sunglasses review

POC's Aspire Solar Switch sunglasses have redefined the cycling eyecare concept by dialling in never-before-seen levels of technology and sophistication

POC Aspire Solar Switch sunglasses
(Image: © Aaron Borrill)

Our Verdict

The POC Aspire Solar Switch and its electrochromic LCD lens makes it the most advanced pair of cycling sunglasses in the world right now

For

  • Solar Switch functionality is seamless
  • Lens clarity and field of vision
  • Refined aesthetics and design
  • Ergonomics and fit

Against

  • Lens prone to scratching if careless
  • Works best with POC helmets

Unveiled at Eurobike 2019, the POC Aspire Solar Switch sunglasses represent the zenith of cycling eye protection. This comes as no surprise considering the Swedish-based company is world-renowned for pushing the boundaries when it comes to safety, comfort and performance across its entire range of sports products.

Featuring a two-in-one LCD lens that instantly reacts to prevailing light nuances, the POC Aspire Solar Switch sunglasses have ushered in a new era for on-the-bike eye protection and performance.

With an initial run limited to just 250 units worldwide they sold out instantly but field testing by the EF Pro Cycling team at this year's Tour Down Under suggests a more refined version is in the works. (We have it on good authority that this is the case).

Cyclingnews was also sent a pair to try out over an extended period of testing which included in excess of 1500km/69 hours of hot-weather riding in South Africa.

POC Aspire Solar Switch

The POC Aspire Solar Switch is built around the same cues and ergonomic properties as the regular Aspire sunglasses (Image credit: Aaron Borrill)

Design and aesthetics

As the name suggests the POC Aspire Solar Switch is built around the same cues and ergonomic properties as the regular Aspire sunglasses. As such, everything from the fit and design is practically identical save for a couple of subtle touches that hint at the tech lurking beneath the surface.

Closer inspection reveals an integrated solar panel located at the top portion of the frame, accompanied by a POC Aid Solar Switch logo tastefully placed alongside it. A second lens made from electrochromic LCD technology is positioned behind the Clarity lens and, while this has done little to affect the aesthetics and functionality, it has added 11 grams to the package - the regular POC Aspire Clarity sunglasses tip the scales at 40g.

In terms of colourway options, the Solar Switch is only available in black for now but we believe a full bouquet of eight colours will be available on the next production run.

POC Aspire Solar Switch sunglasses

While the Solar Switch shades can be used with any road helmet, they work best with POC's own lids - the POC Omne Spin more specifically (Image credit: Aaron Borrill)

Specification

Utilising hydrophilic rubber grippers on the nose and temple areas, the Aspire Solar Switch is as comfortable as the regular model, even in wet conditions.

Of course the big talking point here is the electrochromic LCD lens which allows the Solar Switch to instantaneously change its tint from category 3 to 4 and back based purely on the prevailing light conditions and power of the sun. Comprising what is essentially two lenses - a nylon Carl Zeiss Vision Clarity outer and LCD inner - the solar panel integrated into the top section of the frame is what causes the liquid crystals to open and close, providing a darker hue in sunnier conditions and instantly becoming lighter when it's overcast.

Not only does this promote better visibility but it also ensures both hands remain on the handlebars at all times.

POC Aspire Solar Switch sunglasses

The devil is in the details: those with an eagle eye will notice the solar panel in upper frame, replete with POC Aid Solar Switch insignia (Image credit: Aaron Borrill)

Riding experience

Like the Aspire sunglasses on which it is based, the Solar Switch also utilises a one-piece Clarity lens, which supplies enhanced contrast and colour definition across the spectrum. While the lens is decently sized, it doesn’t offer much of a wrap-around effect which limits peripheral vision to a certain extent but still does a decent job of shielding the eyes from debris and harsh sunlight.

What it does possess in spades, however, are superior ergonomic qualities – particularly when it comes to fit and comfort thanks to the sizeable nose piece and flexibility of the grilamid frame and arms. While they can be used in combination with any road bike helmet, they work best when paired with any of POC's current range - the Ventral, Octal or Omne - each of which help foster better overall comfort and work more as a system.

With that in mind, I chose to do most of my Solar Switch field testing together with the POC Omne Spin helmet. Not only do they complement each other from a visual standpoint, but the recessed upper flanks of the Omne also ensures there's no contact between the two, and the sunglasses remain unaffected by any movement from the helmet.

Before heading out to South Africa, I did complete several test rides here in the UK but never found much of a difference to the regular Aspire Clarity shades owing to the fact that the solar panel needs the sun for the liquid crystals to open and close. My first ride home along Cape Town's spectacular Chapman's Peak Drive demonstrated the true brilliance of the Aspire Solar Switch sunglasses. The manner in which the lens switches between tints in different light conditions is truly astonishing, providing an unparalleled field of view. 

The same effect, albeit on a more intense level, happens when you're barrelling down an avenue of trees, the sensation of which can be likened to a strobe light-effect from a 90s disco. It's all very cool - and it works. In fact, the notion behind these sunglasses makes complete sense as far as overall safety is concerned: without having to fiddle with your glasses or helmet means you can keep both hands fixed to the handlebar at all times. 

POC Aspire Solar Switch sunglasses

The POC Aspire (top) offer a category 2 lens whereas the Aspire Solar Switch (below) can flip between a category 3 and 4 tint (Image credit: Aaron Borrill)

Verdict

Limited to an initial run of just 250 units the POC Aspire Solar Switch sunglasses constitute the future of cycling eye care protection systems. Not only does the Aspire Clarity lens deliver a detailed and crisp field of vision, but the additional electrochromic LCD lens has taken everything we thought we knew and needed from cycling sunglasses and turned it on its head. 

The POC Solar Switch then is not just a pair of sunglasses - oh no, it's much more than that.  It's a precursor of what's to come - not only from POC but rival brands too - showcasing how a holistic approach to safety can result in quite possibly the best and most sophisticated pair of cycling sunglasses ever made.

While every Aspire Solar Switch is already spoken for, POC says another production run is scheduled for the Cycling '21 season.

Tech spec

  • Price: £340
  • Weight: 51g (actual)
  • Lens technology: Carl Zeiss Clarity lens, Solar Switch sensor with electrochromic LCD technology
  • Frame type: Half frame
  • Lens colours: 1
  • UV protection: Yes