Aug 09, 2023

Bollé C

Excellent optics, tough, lightweight frame and high-end look and feel without the high price

Bollé is better known for its winter sports eyewear, but the C-Shifter cycling glasses prove that the French brand is easily a match for any of its more established US counterparts. The high-contrast Volt lens, developed for snow, supplies excellent optics on the road; the half-frame is sensibly sized, comfortable, tough and understated. The C-Shifters are cannily priced just below much of their high-end competition, so if you're looking for a pair of top-quality cycling glasses without paying a premium for the name, they are ideal. For me, the only thing they're missing is lens replaceability. Great though the Volt lens is, it would be nice to swap in a clear one for winter.

High-quality lens

Comfortable fit

Good compatibility with helmets

Simple, stylish looks

Priced lower than glasses from premium brands

Lens not replaceable

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I included the Bolle C-Shifter glasses in my Gear of the Year 2022 list, and even though we’re now over halfway through 2023 I’m still wearing them on every ride.

The French brand says the C-Shifters allow you to “stay on top of trends and performance” and I’d agree with that: for me they’ve spent many weeks at number one.

Big shades are (thankfully) not quite so in vogue any more, and the Bollés are sensibly sized and stylish looking, with lots of nods to the past. I still have two pairs of Oakley M Frames from the early Noughties, which I loved - even though they now look ridiculously tiny - and I can see their influence in the Bollés with the half frame design. Obviously they have a much a squarer shape than the swoopy M Frames and are more like current 100% S3s, but with the smaller nose bridge they have a cleaner appearance than those.

My test pair came with the Volt+ high-contrast lens which, as well as doing the job of protecting your eyes, enhances colors and works like a polarising filter. It’s great for spotting details such as potholes in tricky light conditions that the naked eye struggles with and, if you can take your eyes off the road and enjoy your surroundings, the sky looks bluer and the clouds sharper.

There are different frame colors and lens options available, including a photochromic Phantom lens and the more basic Classic lens.

The Bollé C-Shifter frame - or rather half frame - is made from Grilamid TR90, a type of nylon ideal for sports glasses thanks to its low weight, toughness and resistance to fatigue (it can flex without losing its springiness).

The nosepiece is adjustable via little hinges on each side, with a decent amount of adjustability. If, for example, you want the glasses to sit higher up so that you don’t see the top of the frame when in a low-headed aero position or sprinting, you can squeeze the sides closer together and they’ll sit higher. Or if you have a wonky conk, you can let one side out so the glasses sit straight.

Bollé says the Volt+ is the first lens to have been designed by AI, but don’t let that put you off. AI might not be very good at writing pop songs or commentating at Wimbledon, but it can test millions of combinations of tints faster and more accurately humans, and the result is, according to Bollé, “30% superior colour enhancement to help you see colors you’ve never perceived before while maintaining white balance. In addition to enhancing all colors, Volt+ offers high contrast vision, improved depth perception and high performance polarization.”

The lens isn’t replaceable, and that’s a pity. For really gloomy conditions the Volt+ lens is on the dark side and it would be nice to be able to pop in a clear lens for winter rides.

I’ve already mostly given the game away: I like the Bollé C-Shifters a lot.

The things not covered so far – which you only discover when you ride in them – are the compatibility with various helmets, whether they fog up/get sweat streaked and how comfortable they are.

My favourite helmet is the Abus Gamechanger (original version), which seems made for the Bollé C-Shifters. The top of the frame follows the brow of the helmet as if they were made for each other, and that pleases me.

But other helmets I’ve been wearing, such as the HJC Furion, work well with it too, as do the Giro Helios and Giro Synthe MIPS II. Additionally, the arms don’t get in the way of retention systems since they point slightly downwards behind the ears rather than straight back like Oakley's.

Venting is fine but only as good as you’d expect of 1mm-wide vents cut out of the top of the lens on either side. If it’s hot or you’re riding hard, sweat will always run down the inside of your glasses, but it hasn’t been too offputting with the Bollés and is more a spray of sweat than a line, so I’m concluding that a jet of air is getting through and dissipating it.

As for the grip of the arms, the glasses are held well in position without undue pressure on the sides of the head with the help of Thermogrip temple tips (grippy bits on the insides of the arms, not as sticky as Oakley Unobtainium).

I didn’t deliberately crash test them, but I have had a low-speed tumble while wearing them, and they didn’t end up broken in the middle of the road like Fabio Jakobsen’s bike on Tour stage four. In fact, I stood up still wearing them, salvaging a bit of cool, I like to think. OK, maybe not.

The C-Shifters are slightly lower priced at $140 / £145 for this Volt version than most glasses from the more established cycling eyewear brands such as Oakley. The Oakley EV Zero Blades, for example, are some of the more affordable Oakley glasses but the C-Shifters undercut them. The Oakley Sutro Lite Sweep, probably the current Oakley model that’s most similar to the C-Shifters, is also priced a little higher.

The 100% S3 basic model is also slightly higher priced, but we’re only talking $20 / £15.

So the the Bollés are competitively priced but not a total steal. I was very impressed with the Salice 022 glasses, which are sub-$120 / £100 and not only have a replaceable lens but also come with a spare clear one.

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Simon Smythe is a hugely experienced cycling tech writer, who has been writing for Cycling Weekly since 2003. Until recently he was our senior tech writer. In his cycling career Simon has mostly focused on time trialling with a national medal, a few open wins and his club's 30-mile record in his palmares. These days he spends most of his time testing road bikes, or on a tandem doing the school run with his younger son.

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