Released in the run-in to the 2018 Tour de France, the Shifter from eyewear pioneer Bollé represents a subtle re-direction in the French outfit’s technology and design philosophy. Developed in conjunction with WorldTour outfit AG2R La Mondiale and Essilor Sun Solutions, the shades feature a large single lens design, an all-new lens technology dubbed Phantom NXT, and a feathery weight figure.
With several on-trend features and a range of colour options available, we’ve spent the last couple of months putting the Shifter through its paces to see if it can indeed live up to its promise of being the “natural choice for all road cyclists.”
Who’s it for?: The cyclist or fitness enthusiast wanting a capable set of glasses that excels in most lighting conditions, regardless of the weather or riding terrain.
What we liked?: The on-trend design, superb photochromic lens clarity and anti-fog capabilities.
What we didn’t: Lens coating could be more durable, Phantom Lens not available in all colourways, and they're not exactly cheap.
An evolution of the French outfits design philosophy, the Shifter aesthetic harks back to the iconic Bollé Chrono Shield, the brands first foray into cycling eyewear back in 1988. Our test models make use of the company’s new photochromic lens technology dubbed Phantom NXT.
Available in four different hues, the Phantom Lens comes courtesy of Italian sunglass lens specialists, Essilor Sun Solutions. The lens is manufactured from NXT® material, which is said to be lighter than polycarbonate, and embedded with several features including; high impact resistance, a photochromic filter, 100% UV resistance and chemical resistance. Add to this Bollé’s oleophobic coating, and the result is a durable, high-contrast lens that’s said to provide sharp optics and perform admirably in most lighting and weather conditions, something we concur with wholeheartedly.
Also featuring is Bollé’s own proprietary hydrophilic rubber compound on the nose and temples dubbed “Thermogrip”, which aids in keeping the glasses in place regardless of the activity.
The Bollé Shifter’s sent for test make use of an Italian made nylon frame, which is both pleasantly lightweight and flexible enough to handle the wear and tear us cyclists put our gear through. Both models' make use of Phantom NXT lenses, one with a clear green tint, the other with a vermillion gun tint. The clear green lens has a light variability of between 9% and 62%, with the vermillion gun boasting a variability of 15% to 33%. For reference, my usual go-to Oakley Radar EV Path Prizm Road sunglasses have a claimed light transmission of 20%
All told, we measured both of our samples at an impressive 31 grams per pair. The Shifter is available in seven different colourways; however, only three of those feature the Phantom NXT lens. Polycarbonate lens Shifter models will set consumers back AU$210, whereas Phantom NXT Lens models are priced at AU$260.
With both myself and our other main tester previously been devout [Oakley] wearers in the past, when the review pairs turned up at BikeExchange HQ, we were both excited at the prospect of putting the shades through their paces. Initial impressions were excellent, with both of us impressed at the lightweight feel of the glasses, and the sharp optics on offer. I predominantly used the matte black pair pictured, with the clear green lens throughout the test period; however, the assessment below is valid for both pairs provided by Bollé Australia.
What was immediately noticeable when sliding the shades on for the first time was the effortless comfort. The arms were the perfect length, not to tight, or too loose, the rubber contact patches sat nicely on my face and provided a decent hold on all of my cycling helmet I have in my rotation. This comfort carried through to my extensive road tests too, I often forgot I was wearing the glasses at all, indeed a set and forget bit of kit.
The aesthetics of the glasses follow the modern tall and wide trend, with Bollé stating its a “retro-futuristic style”. The lines are less aggressive than those found on similar glasses such as the 100% Speedcraft and Oakley Jawbreaker, so will likely appeal to those sitting on the fence when it comes to single lens shades. The frame, in general, was more or less invisible when in use, and didn’t come into contact with the brow of any of the helmets I wore during the test period.
The Phantom lens, simply put, is one of the best sunglass lenses I’ve had the pleasure of wearing, right up there with the Prizm range of lenses from industry rivals Oakley. The photochromic filter was the real trump card, with the Shifter performing admirably in all but the very brightest lighting conditions. From gloomy pre-dawn spins guided by bike lights, or midday jaunts in the sunshine, there were very few occasions where the lens didn’t suit.
The optics on both lenses are sharp, providing a high-contrast, yet slightly muted colour display that was a pleasure to peer out through. The transition from the lightest to the darkest setting takes around 30 seconds and is more or less unnoticeable when in use, with both lenses tested excelling a wide range of riding conditions.
The oleophobic treatment applied to both the inside and outside of the lens proved invaluable when riding in wet weather, or when getting a sweat up on long and steady climbs. It’s conditions such as this where other lenses I’ve tested tended to fog up, gather salt and sweat, or mist over; however, the Shifters rarely needed tending to. Aiding in this are large vents located at the very top and bottom edges of the lens.
The only minor gripe we had was with the outer coating on the clear green lens, despite keeping the glasses in the provided case when not in use, we still managed to mark the outer surface ever so slightly. While this is unnoticeable when wearing the glasses, it’s still worth noting that we’d like to see a more durable outer coating applied, certainly given the AU$260 price point. On the subject of things we’d add, Essilor also offers its NXT lens with a semi-polarised filter, which would be a welcome addition to the lineup. While the glare reduction on the sunglasses wasn’t bad by any means, it’d make the glasses much more usable in the harsh ultra-bright conditions that can are common in the Australian summer.
With a market loaded with options, for those in the market for competent sports eyewear, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of product offered. Very often, all users want is something that performs well, is easy to see through, and doesn’t fog up during vigorous exercise. I’m happy to report that, for me, the Shifter ticks all these boxes and more. The aesthetics, personally, are spot on, the lens clarity is superb, and the glasses rarely shifted around, regardless of whether I was, running, mountain biking or road cycling.
So if you’re in the market for a capable set of shades that are a genuine competitor to the likes of Oakley, Kask and POC, and you can swallow the AU$260 price tag, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better all-rounder than the Bollé Shifter.
Thanks to Bollé Australia for providing the product for this review.
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