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The Bollé Lightshifter glasses with prescription Phantom lenses work extremely well – if you can get past the challenging looks of lenses set within lenses. They're not the cheapest option either, but the quality is impressive.
Check out our guide to the best cycling sunglasses for more options.
You can't accuse Bollé of not giving you options. These frames come in at least seven colours (more if you count various nosepiece accents), while the lenses come in three types (Classic, Phantom or Volt+ Polarised) and within those there's a host of tints, mirror finishes and yet more colours. Then, of course, there's this option – prescription lenses, in either single vision or varifocal flavours.
This test pair features a Phantom lens in Brown Red, which transmits 35-15% of visible light (VLT) and rates as Cat 2-3, and it's glazed with my prescription for single vision. It may look like these are inserts, but they're not sitting behind the regular lens – the prescription bits are bonded right into it.
The result, I think we can agree, looks quite weird when the prescription part is clear, kind of like glasses for Cybermen, because the surrounding section is a fixed tint.
Bollé is not the only company to use 'implant' type lenses, and it's really the best way of getting corrective lenses into very large shields like these. To be fair, the look is what it is. I honestly think they look less weird once you put them on, which I didn't expect (I've had others agree with this), and once the photochromic lenses darken to match the edges, they're almost not weird at all.
To get these made you just need a 'partnering' optician that deals with Bollé, plus your current prescription. You could have a new eye test especially, but it's nice to know that extra expense is not mandatory. You then wait a couple of weeks for them to come back from Bollé.
Bollé has a useful storefinder on its website, though that did throw up one oddity – if you're Welsh you better live close to Caernarfon up in the north, as that's the only shop in the entire country. Scotland, Ireland and England have the expected host of locations, meanwhile. A body could take offence at that.
I went the 'hand over a recent prescription' route and the result is very good. There's no distortion through any part of the lens and the view is crystal clear. Even the joins to the outer lens are unobtrusive during normal riding, though they can create strange bursts of colour and contrast if you're looking around at things close up, such as when finding tools or choosing cake.
For reasons I can't quite identify, however, these aren't exactly like my regular glasses; it's almost as if there's a slight magnifying effect, at least on anything closer than around 10ft. It's either they're just a few per cent stronger than my regular specs (an acceptable difference when I've no guarantee the specs I'm used to are that accurate), or it's the 'contrast enhancing' treatment.
I should say the effect is not a deal breaker; I've had prescription inserts that actually made the floor look about two feet closer than it really is, which is extremely disorientating and obviously unusable. This is not that, and I can read, see distances and do everything else just fine in these. There's just some fractional difference from my norm, which you may get as well.
Possibly the varifocal lenses would negate the effect, but those come at extra cost.
Examine the photochromic lenses when they're clear and there's a noticeable blue tinge to them, but put them on and it's not hugely noticeable. In the sunshine they boost greens in particular, and the 35% maximum tint is great for taking the edge off bright winter and spring sun. It's enough to make the shade in dappled lanes noticeably darker, certainly, and that was the sole drawback I experienced.
At the same time, these are just fine for overcast gloom; in fact, I've used these a lot in full dark on mostly unlit roads and found them basically like using clear lenses.
If you're not convinced, Bollé does a Phantom Clear Green option that goes brighter still at 62-9% VLT and rates as Cat 1-3. Category 1 shades are so lightly tinted they're more for overcast than actually sunny conditions. Everyday sunnies tend to be Cat 3.
The rest of what you're getting is great too; the Lightshifters are basically half-frame versions of the Shifters we tested back in 2019.
That means you get the strong resistance to fogging thanks to both the anti-fog coating and the vented frame that sits nicely clear of your brow, and a generally very comfortable and extremely secure fit. The upper vent also allows easy lens changes; 'derail' the frame at that point and you can then bend the corners off their hooks and separate the parts.
The nosepiece adjusts to pinch in just right, and the 'Thermogrip' inserts on the arms cling onto skin for dear life. I have some truly terrible local lanes that can give you arthritis in one descent, but none are rough enough to dislodge these 37g Lightshifters.
The TR90 nylon build feels plenty strong enough for drops or falls; in fact these are also marketed at tennis players, who may well take 100mph balls or even rackets to the face.
The arms are quite strongly sprung and may start to pressure people with wider heads if worn for hours, though Bollé also does an XL frame that's 8mm wider across the lens and 7mm longer in the arms (these measure 136mm across the lens; 142mm from the outer edges of the frame, and the arms are 123mm).
If you're not keen on the Lightshifters' looks, Bollé says it offers prescription lenses on 94% of its models.
Bollé offers various lens types, and these top-end Trivex Phantom ones are £543 in the single vision type tested and £642 if you want varifocal. That includes the frames, obviously, which you can get from £110 in regular sunglasses form.
You can get far cheaper prescription sports glasses, but you won't get the same unfettered peripheral vision – for instance, the Leader Sunforgers come in single-vision for £169.99, but the lenses are only 57mm diagonally and the frames are very thick. That won't help peripheral vision at all.
Also, at lower prices, glasses with big coverage like these tend to have separate inserts sitting behind them, and that can bring new issues with clearance, weight and fogging.
The Oakley Trajectory frames with Transitions XTRActive New Generation photochromic lenses (who says marketing people do too much coke, eh?) are much more comparable with these Bollés, and are £404 in single vision.
Online shop rxsport.co.uk does the popular Oakley Jawbreaker with the same implanted lens design as these Lightshifters for £379.99, though that's just with a grey polarised tint – there's no photochromic option.
It's also worth noting that you can get prescription Lightshifters from £422 if you go for the standard lenses rather than the fancy Phantom ones here. That's a lot closer to the Oakley examples above.
To be fair, Trivex (as used here) is more expensive than the usual polycarbonate as the lenses are cast rather than injection moulded, which apparently allows them to be lighter, clearer and more scratch resistant. These Bollés are very high quality glasses, but you can get cheaper ones that are still very good.
These are great glasses: strong and secure, able to resist fogging, and protective against wind and sun. They're also safe to crash in. The prescription sections are clear, seem accurate and don't distort, and because they're photochromic they're usable even at night. The slight weirdness I had I can live with, and it could easily just be me – in fact, about the only people I wouldn't recommend the Lightshifters to are those given to Spoonerisms.
Fantastic clarity, comfort and all-conditions versatility for those who need prescriptions, though really not cheap
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Bollé Lightshifter glasses with Phantom prescription lenses
Size tested: Standard
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Bollé says: "A lighter version of the SHIFTER, the LIGHTSHIFTER stands out thanks to its semi-frameless style giving the model a great look. Perfectly adapted for cycling, the LIGHTSHIFTER presents all the technologies of the SHIFTER family : Thermogrip® inserts and adjustable nosepiece for stability, S-Curved temples for helmet integration and vented lens. Available with Phantom, our best photochromic lens for a phenomenal vision or with Volt+, our revolutionary high contrast and polarized lens. A natural choice for the UCI Pro Cycling Team B&B Hotels p/b KTM riders."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Bollé lists these details:
% Visible Light Trans. 35-15%
Cat. 2 to 3
Tint base: Brown
Bollé's Phantom photochromic lenses provide 100% UV protection and outstanding optical clarity in all situations for unmatched eye-comfort.
100% UV protection
37g is negligible.
These looks expensive even against other premium brands.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Great clarity, very secure frames, resist fogging well, great coverage.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
High price, slightly strange looks when lenses are clear.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
With the prescription lenses they're expensive when compared with similar offerings from other brands.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes, though with the cheaper lenses.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
These work very well in all conditions – from pitch darkness and rain to bright sunshine – and they're light, comfortable and secure. The odd looks when they're untinted are slightly offputting, but not as much as the price; there are cheaper options even from other premium brands. Beyond that, however, there's really nothing to complain about.
About the tester
I usually ride: Vitus Zenium SL VR Disc My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: general fitness riding, mtb,