Apparel & Accessories

Reviewed: Bolle 6th Sense prescription sunglasses

Bolle is back in the cycling game, sponsoring several major teams and offering improved lens technology, which we put to the test

Bolle is back. After enjoying some popularity during the 1980s, even gracing the face of five-time Tour de France champ Miguel Indurain at one point, the French brand seemingly went into hibernation. Up until recently, Oakley, Smith, and a passel of obscure European brands dominated the pro peloton.

But now, Bolle sunglasses are seen on the faces of Orica-GreenEdge and Ag2r La Mondiale’s riders, so we thought it was time to give the 6th Sense sport shield a go.

In late 2014, Bolle announced a new prescription lens option for the 6th Sense, which was our primary test subject.

Many riders who require corrective lenses resort to contact lenses. This gives you the freedom to wear any kind of sunglasses, take them off at will, or even opt for no eye protection at all.

However, there are a few situations where having a dedicated pair of Rx shades makes sense.

Some people simply can’t wear contacts — due to discomfort or dry eyes, for example — in which case, Rx sunglasses are the only viable option.

Those who do wear contact lenses might value prescription lenses for times when they are camping or traveling. The grit and grime of a mountain bike trip in the desert is a recipe for gross contacts, and we know that firsthand.

In the long run, prescription glasses could actually save you money as well. In our case, the eye exam required to obtain a new contact lens prescription cost $219. A year’s supply of contacts set us back $220 (Oaysis astigmatism). So that’s an annual cost of $439 in this example.

At first, the $600 price tag for a pair of Rx Bolle 6th Sense sunglasses seems steep, but in that context, provided your eyesight doesn’t deteriorate rapidly, it pays off in a couple years. For comparison, a pair of Oakley Radarlock Path prescription sunglasses can be ordered online for about $575 with standard, non-photochromic, non-progressive lenses.

As for the Bolle sunglasses themselves, the frames are lightweight — on par with most sport shields, but not quite as feathery as the Smith Pivlocks. Fit was good, although we had to fiddle with the adjustable temples a bit to get it right. The rubber on the nose bridge and temples could stand to be a bit softer and more grippy.

The removable plastic side shields that clip to the temples offer a sporty aesthetic that is a bit too much for some tastes, but they do help provide greater protection from wind.

The optics were particularly crisp, which seemed to be one of the 6th Sense’s strongest suits. We did perceive a bit of distortion at the very edges of our field of vision. It’s noticeable when you look to the side of the prescription insert. That said, we grew accustomed to the glasses — as one does to any new pair of Rx lenses — and the periphery became less noticeable.

For versatility’s sake, we chose the “photo clear grey” photochromic lens, which has a remarkable range, going from clear to quite dark in minutes of sunny exposure. Bolle claims the light transmission ranges from 76 to 20 percent with this lens.

If you’re the type that frequently scratches or loses your sunglasses and other personal items, it’s probably not wise to invest in a pair of $600 prescription glasses.

However, the 6th Sense is a solid alternative for someone who can’t abide by contact lenses and wants a look that’s a little different than the Oakley Radars or Smith Pivlocks that are more common on the Sunday group ride.

Price: $600 (Rx lens and frame, single vision); $775 (Rx lens and frame, progressive vision)
We like: Clear optics, great photochromic lens functionality, reasonable price, relative to the cost of contacts plus a non-Rx pair of sunglasses.
We don’t like: Slight distortion in periphery, fit requires a bit of fiddling to get right, rubberized parts could be softer.
The bottom line: If you don’t like sticking your finger into your eyes, but you need a high-performance sport shield to wear while riding, the 6th Sense is a good option.