Bollé SHIFTER Phanton sunglasses review

Bollé SHIFTER Phanton sunglasses review

Bollé’s World Tour sunglasses have dropped in for a thorough summer walloping

Words - James Raison
Real world shots by Oliver Armstrong, product shots by James Raison


Hot on the heels of our review of Bollé’s The One helmet comes the eyewear giant’s SHIFTER sunglasses. It’s another entry into the very entertaining “big sunglasses” movement that’s become an arms race over the last couple of years. Oakley, POC, Scott, 100%, KOO, and Bollé themselves are all mainstays of the more is more approach cycling optics. So, how does the SHIFTER go in a crowded market? Well, it’s got elbows firmly out and there’s some very neat tricks up its sleeve.

PHANTOM

Bollé sent me a pair with Phanton Clear Green lenses and they are truly fantastic.

Their exceptional talent is adjusting to ambient light conditions; switching from almost completely clear in low light to dark and reflective in bright sun. Bollé claim their light transmission range is a broad 62% to 9%. For comparison; my casual Oakley Frogskins with Prizm Sapphire lenses are rated at 12%, and my KOO Open Cubes with Smoke Mirror lenses are rated at 21%. The Phantom shifters go far beyond the range of both.

I spent some time playing with them; covering one lens with the included bag and leaving them in the sun. A few minutes later there’s two visibly different tints as the exposed side darkens and the covered side lightens. Certain torches can be pressed against the lens leaving a dark circle that slowly dissipates once the light is removed and the lens re-adjusts.

The Phantom lenses are almost clear after they’ve adjusted to low ambient light levels

The Phantom lenses are almost clear after they’ve adjusted to low ambient light levels

On the bike that gives you a broad range of usable light for the SHIFTERs. Bollé us a light rating system of 1-4 (1 being low light, 4 being very bright) for their Phantom lenses. The included Clear Green is rated from 1-3 meaning they can adjust to very low through to quite bright, with just the very top end of bright light falling outside the range. That holds true out on the road. I had no problems using them in the pre-dawn and post-sunset darkness. They adjust exceptionally well during changeable light from sunrise through to full sun. Only when I was riding directly into the rising or setting sun did I find the tint lacking. Such a wide range of usability have made these my go-to glasses. The only thing that could get them off my face was having to test other review glasses. I like them that much.

They turn fully reflective in bright light

They turn fully reflective in bright light

COLOUR PROFILE

The SHIFTERs flatten out and de-saturate the surrounding world. Vivid greens and reds are quashed, and contrast is reduced. The world looks quite dull through the lenses - and that’s just the way I like it for cycling glasses. The reduced contrast makes shadows and fast changes in light less severe. A dull palette helps reduce the visual load because you aren’t being hammered with bright colours. Having tested a few very colour-saturated glasses, I was happy with the SHIFTERs.

FRAMES

Bollé have made some subtle but clever design touches with the SHIFTER’s frames. They’re a light and flexy Italian-made plastic without any bumps or bulges. Despite their size, they look very understated in the big-glasses movement. The frame top has been flattened off to reduce sweat from running down your forehead from dirtying the lenses. Bollé have designed the arms to curve inwards and narrow at your ears. It helps give a comfortable fit, and helps them cooperate with varying helmet retention systems. The SHIFTERs got along fine with my notoriously picky Kask helmets that clash with all but the slenderest sunglass arms. The rubber nose bridge keeps the glasses far enough off your face to keep air moving behind the lenses and is comfortable to boot. Finally, the shape wraps far enough around to give very good visibility. They lack the outright massiveness of Oakley Jawbreakers but I never felt they obstructed any views.

All things considered; the frames are damn comfortable, light, and compatible with every helmet I had on hand.

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AIRFLOW AND BREATHABILITY

Bollé have positioned a vent on the top middle, and two on the bottom sides of the lens to get air behind the lenses. The top-down profile is wide enough on the sides to let some air into the edges without creating pressure vortexes that make your eyes water. There’s anti-fog treatment to keep internal moisture out and I had no problems with fogging during the warm weather test period. I’ll have to wait until the cold weather rolls around before crowning it a success.

Airflow was mercifully quite good during my horrendous summer test period and fogging has been a non-issue so far.

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OPTICAL ANOMALIES

It’s not entirely smooth sailing with the SHIFTERs because there’s a couple of drawbacks to the Phantom treatment to the lens.

There’s quite dramatic flaring when the sun is low. Around sunrise and sunset you get some large, bright streaks and sunstars spreading around the lens if the sun is in front of you. The lens treatment splits and diffuses the sun’s rays, making it hard to see at times. It’s always hard to see with the sun shining directly into your eyes but the lenses make it a little more chaotic.

Another oddity is the treatment on the inside of the lens is reflective. At times of low ambient light, or if there’s a light source behind or to the side, you can see a faint reflection of your own eyes on the inside of the lens. It took me a while to work out exactly what the reflection was but when the light conditions were just right I could clearly see my own eyes looking back at me. It’s something you need to learn to ignore when you’re riding in the light conditions that cause it. It’s not a problem during the day at all.

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WRAPPING UP

I have been very impressed with the SHIFTERs and their talented Phantom lenses. They’re comfortable, nice to ride in, compatible with all my helmets, and can be used in a broad range of light conditions. At $250 they’re at the pointy end of the sunglasses market but their excellent versatility makes that a more than palatable price. They have some quirks with the flaring and internal reflectiveness but I’m more than willing to put up with that for all the SHIFTER’s virtues.

Head on over to the Bollé website for more information and to find your local dealer.

Disclosure statement: The SHIFTER sunglasses were sent for review by Bollé Australia. It is not a paid review and we don’t receive any benefits for the sale of Bollé products.