Cost: 170 MSRP ($100 online)
Source: Online, retail
How obtained: sample from company
RBR advertiser: no
Tested: 35+ hours
I’ve worn contact lenses for many years, and I’ve worn sunglasses as much for their wind-blocking ability as anything else. I find them especially beneficial on cooler morning commutes into work, when the air can really dry out my eyes. But finding a pair with optics that really stand out, too, is a welcome bonus.
I’ve worn a pair of Smith glasses with clear lenses for a couple of seasons and have found that they do a great job of blocking the elements. I was eager to see how the Bolle Vortex sunglasses compared. As background, they were one of Outside Magazine‘s Gear of the Year picks. They are available in six different styles; the ones supplied for this review were called “Shiny White.” They have a rose – blue lens and are designed to fit medium to large faces.
They come in well-designed case and have a nice microfiber cover inside, which can also be used for cleaning the lenses. As with most high-end sunspecs these days, Bolle makes a lot of claims for these glasses — clear lens technology, supportive of prescription inserts, interchangeable lenses, protective lens coating, adjustable fit, lightweight 1-oz. (28g) nylon frames plus nose and temple pads that are designed to keep the glasses in place on your head. Only one set of lenses were provided, so I was not able to check on lens changes or the prescription inserts.
Opening the package, my first impression was of how very white these glasses are. I tried them on in the house, dressed in regular street clothes and modeled them for my 11-year-old son. He was singularly unimpressed, even going so far as to not want me to wear them on my Thursday night group ride for fear that I would embarrass myself.
At the ride, it was a different story, though. Dressed in my bike gear — with plenty of flashy color — the sunglasses didn’t seem out of place at all. My riding buddies had some very positive opinions, from “looking sharp” to commenting about the solid fit. These are cycling-specific sunglasses, to be sure. And while white’s not for everyone, even this brightest of colors passes for appropriate in our world. (Note that there is an array of both frame and lens colors available.)
How do they perform?
The short answer is, remarkably well. In fact, these are probably the best performing glasses I’ve ever used, including the two pairs of Oakleys I’ve had, the Smith and Tifosi and the Performance brands I’ve tried. Initially, the lenses were brushing against my eyelashes, but a quick adjustment of the user-configurable nose piece changed that. By moving it to sit lower on my nose I was able to set the fit exactly right to the shape of my face. With such a great fit and with ultra-light frames, at times I almost forgot I was wearing sunglasses.
The lenses are outstanding, too. At one point during the testing period, my eldest son tried them on and said it gave everything he looked at extra “pop.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. I never noticed any distortion, evenat the periphery of the wide lenses.
The wrap-around coverage of the lenses was especially beneficial on windy rides. The air was readily blocked and kept my eyes from feeling the effects of the weather. I compared the Bolles to my Smith glasses in terms of wind and weather protection; my eyes felt noticeably better in the Bolles, with no tearing or watering.
The rose – blue lenses worked very well for most light conditions, apart from dark morning commutes. The color of the lenses added extra contrast on cloudy days and worked very well in bright sunshine, removing all glare.
On warmer days, sweat did accumulate on the glasses, but it was solved with a quick wipe. The sunglasses always stayed in position, even after such an on-the-fly cleanup. The sunglasses cleaned up easily at home with a quick rinse under water and a wipe-down with the supplied microfiber carrying bag.
These proved to be some of the best riding sunglasses I’ve ever used. I found the Bolle Vortex sunglasses extremely comfortable, especially in cooler weather. The wind blocking is outstanding, and the optical quality is first-rate, with a cycling-specific style that works well.
If you’re looking for high-end cycling-specific sunglasses, these should be on your short list.
Paul Smith regularly reviews products for RBR. He’s an avid recreational roadie who lives in thePiedmont area of North Carolina. He commutes often, and his car is worth less than any of his bikes. Click to read Paul’s full bio.