Reviewed: Bell Transfer-9
A lower-cost version of its Full-9 big brother
• 3D-Formed Quick Snap Cheekpads
• Breakaway Camera Mount Attachment
• Flying Bridge Visor with Breakaway Screws
• Integrated Compatibility with Eject Helmet Removal System
• Overbrow Ventilation
• Padded chin strap with D-ring closure
• Washable XT-2 Extended Wear Interior
• Velocity Flow Ventilation
• Certification: ASTM F1952-00, ASTM F2032-06, CE EN1078, CPSC Bicycle
• Weight: 1200 grams
A year ago we visited Bell Helmets Dome’ laboratory to find out about how the company was back on the high-end helmet scene, making big waves with a range of feature-packed lids.
In this episode of “Blueprint,” we tried to convey the idea that Bell once fueled heroes and then somehow slipped into bargain basement mundanity, but that is all changing. We used some pretty strong visual metaphors like a murderously black Camaro SS, a girl sculpting clay, tattoos and anvil head-banging. You know, the obvious stuff.
We did this not to give our editor a heart attack and the accountants a reason to tool up (although that did happen), but because that’s what Bell has always stood for: iron, gasoline, grease and thinking years ahead of its time. Last spring, Bell was about to release the Full-9 and the Super, two stunningly progressive helmets that challenged the status quo of the minimum standard of safety while also thinking through all the features modern helmets should have.
The Transfer-9 is a trickle down of the Full-9, which benefits from technology afforded by its older motocross brother, the Moto-9, but was designed exclusively for downhill and BMX, and is compliant all bicycle helmet safety standards. Actually, ‘trickle down’ isn’t entirely telling the whole story. This helmet is very feature-packed at just half the cost of Bell’s own Full-9 or other high-end full-face helmets.
The Transfer-9 has a very similar silhouette to its bigger brother. The helmet has a lot of meat around the back and top and with a very sturdy looking chin piece. The vents are placed similarly and it shares the same visor. In fact, from a distance it would be very hard to tell them apart.
The finish of the helmet is superb; the paint isn’t going to flake off after a few rough rides in the back of the shuttle vehicle or bumps along the trail. The helmet screams quality.
The Transfer-9 is made of composite materials whereas the Full-9 is carbon, and in terms of features, this is the big difference between the two. What this equates to in safety I couldn’t possibly begin to work the science, but if both can pass the same safety certifications, what that means is that for you and I on the trail is likely only in terms of weight. The Transfer-9 comes in at 1,200 grams—versus 1,050 grams for the Full-9—, which is still very light for a full coverage and full feature helmet like this. On the head it feels like something you can trust and don’t get tired from holding your head straight on your neck like a bobble head.
The Transfer-9 features the Overbrow ventilation system, which uses three large ducts situated at the front of the helmet to direct air through internal channels and exhaust air back out through vents in the rear. I’ve only managed to use the Transfer-9 in cold weather, but after a hot summer in the Full-9 riding bike park trails and enduro racing, I can confidently say it’s a very cool venting system.
The Transfer-9 also integrates the Eject Helmet Removal System, which allows first responders to gently remove the helmet from a down rider’s head, reducing the potential for secondary injuries.
The pads are all removable so washing the helmet after muddy runs or a season of sweating is very easy. The overall feel of the pads on my head was snug and reassuring. Bell offers this helmet in three shell sizes with only two pad sizing differences in each shell so that means it’s not a case of a huge helmet shell being padded out, like some other brands.
More than a bucket
Two other big features that might attract some people are the breakaway camera mounts and the Soundtrax speaker pockets. When designing the Moto-9 and Full-9, Bell designers recognized that more riders are strapping POV cameras to their helmets, something that might actually create a safety hazard. Designers realized that if you are tumbling to the ground, a lump like a camera on your helmet could change how your head impacts the ground and how forces are transferred to your body. What they set out to do was create a new standard of integrated mounts that could breakaway upon impact. They went through a lot of testing for this feature and there’s a chance that in the future a new certificate standard might arise for all manufacturers. Whereas the mounts are integrated into the Full-9, on the Transfer-9 there are two parts, one that riders can choose to stick to the helmet and then the breakaway clamp that pops into the stuck-on mount. So, it’s not just about making it easier to record your run down the mountain, but making sure that the risks of doing so are mitigated.
The Soundtrax speaker pockets are Bell’s own system for integrating speaker and audio cable routing. Simply pop out the inserts, slide in your own headphones and off you go.
I’ve spent a lot of time comparing the Transfer-9 against the Full-9, but that’s because that helmet, along with a few others (like the Troy Lee Designs’ D3) really set the bar for protection, quality and overall bitchin’-ness. As far as affordable helmets go, this one really sets a gold standard. If you can’t reach the price tag of the top-of-the-line models then the Transfer-9 makes safety and looking rad a much simpler buying decision.