By Seb Kemp
Photos by Paris Gore
Hopefully you didn’t miss our exclusive Blueprint video detailing how Bell Helmets is radically reshaping itself. I mean, come on, our video even features a Camaro, a girl sculpting a helmet from clay, tattoos, and anvil head-banging.
In our Blueprint video we tried to convey the idea that Bell once fueled heroes, somehow slipped into bargain-basement mundanity and is now charging back with innovative products once again.
Bell helmets has a deep history and its helmets are iconic forms in their own right. Roy Richter produced the first Bell helmet in 1954 – the 500 – after seeing too many of his friends getting killed in auto racing. Bell helmets became immensely popular, but when the 500 failed to pass the first-ever Snell Memorial Foundation test, Richter immediately suspended production and instigated a redesign.
The 500-TX became the first Snell-approved racing helmet. Roy Richter made high-performance Bell helmets accessible to everyone, which made racing safer and allowed daredevils a bit more margin for error in their quests to push the limits and redefine what was possible. Bell was the helmet of choice for Evel Knievel, Craig Breedlove, Matt Hoffman, Richard Petty, John Tomac, Steve McQueen, Bob Haro, Barry Sheen, and many other idols of the ride hard, ride fast scene.
It’s quite a legacy, and now that Bell has is waking up from its less dignified period of sluggardness there are some truly interesting products on the horizon. Bell is, in a word, back.
THE BELL SUPER
When we visited Bell’s headquarters in Santa Cruz, California, we had a chance to meet the people responsible for designing and engineering the three helmets that Bell recently launched: the Faction, Full-9 and Super. We had a close look at what goes into making a helmet safe, smart and cool. However, we didn’t get much of a chance to try those lids out on the trails. Which is why Bell recently invited us out to Sedona to try the new gear.
Our main focus was to ride and experience the Bell Super, a modern trail helmet that has features specifically suited to riders who wear goggles and like to film their ride.
Bell Super Highlights
• Removable camera mount
• Goggle management, not just goggle compatible
The visor has 30-degrees of adjustability, which allows for goggles to be stashed on the helmet in between runs. There are also goggle guides for riders who don’t wish to use the visor, but want to run goggles. I don’t know what kind of person would use this feature, but hey, it takes all sorts to make the world go around.
• Overbrow venting
A venting bridge allows active airflow into the channels throughout the helmet, and perforated pads allow airflow onto the forehead.
• Twenty-five vents and four brow ports
• Breakaway screws on the visor reduce rotational forces in the event of a crash.
• 390 grams
• Six colors
• Available May of 2013
The Bell Super’s Overbrow venting (and, for that matter, the generous number of vents) helped keep my head cool in the spring desert heat. After a long winter I was sweating profusely, but there was no wet build up on the forehead pads, which meant I didn’t get the ‘brow dribble’, not once.
I found the retention system ratcheted well and held my head securely, but it is a big, blocky system and rather conspicuous. I’d prefer to see something a little more refined on an otherwise high-caliber helmet.
The Bell Super also has a huge amount of coverage, which, when you consider that a lot of us are riding trail bikes as aggressively as downhill bikes, makes a lot of sense. Then again, the focus with many helmets being released these days seems to center on increasing coverage at the back of the head when perhaps we should be protecting our faces as well.
Bell’s resuscitation isn’t just a marketing exercise. Bell, after years of producing decent but unremarkable product, is back on form. The Super is a good example of that.