There Used To Be A Time When helmets were synonymous with one name: Bell. Yeah, remember them? In 1966 the Bell Star was the first full-face motorcycle helmet, which was a revolution in motorcycle protection. By today's standards the Star appears remarkably simple, but remember that famous clip of the late Evel Knievel jumping the fountains at Caesars Palace and tumbling end over end? Guess what was on his head: a Bell Star, which he credits with saving his life that day. After that Bell expanded into the auto racing and bicycle-helmet arenas-the latter growing so far beyond expectations that in 1991 Bell licensed its motorcycle brand to Bieffe, and its steady downfall started almost immediately.
Fast-forward to 2002. Bell reacquires the brand and begins the rebuilding process. The result? The '08 Bell Star. Three years in the making, the new Bell Star marks the company's reemergence into the high-dollar, luxury-helmet playing field -one that, as many of you know, has some distinguished company.
On the aerodynamic front the Bell team worked with racers such as Aaron Gobert and performed extensive wind-tunnel (and water-tunnel) tests to develop a shape that would remain stable at speeds approaching the two-century mark. That shape- essentially a truncated teardrop- also provides the basis for Bell's Velocity Flow Ventilation System. Utilizing the low-pressure system in the rear of the helmet, the 10 intake vents (four in the chinbar, four in the brow and two top vents) force cool air in while forcing warm air out.
This mumbo-jumbo sounds impressive, but does it work? Simply put, yes. And it works well. After logging some miles at the track and on the street it's apparent the Star delivers on its claim. At racetrack speeds it slices through the wind and with the vents open flows a considerable amount of air. That said, it still doesn't beat the Shoei X-11 for allout ventilation supremacy.
Bell claims the Star is composed of 75 custom parts and components with multiple patents pending. Its most innovative feature-the tool-free shield-changing mechanism-is also deceptively simple. With the shield in the full open position, just push the levers on either end of the mechanism and it pops right off. To reinstall, line the shield with the grooves on the mechanism and push the bobbins back into place. A reaffirming click lets you know you've done it right. Despite its simplicity the Bell team produced 21 prototypes before perfecting the final version.
Bell's attention to detail in this helmet extends beyond the shield; R&D; teams tested five different prototype shells in the company's own million-dollar lab before deciding on a production model. All the vent tabs are easy to reach with gloved hands and provide positive resistance when being manipulated, and even the double D-ring straps are made from titanium and glide effortlessly when strapping on. Furthermore the lab is used regularly to test beyond the Snell or DOT standards-a sign that Bell is serious about the Star.
As impressive as the Star is, there is one area where the R&D; team (oddly) missed out-fit and sizing. It's available in sizes from XS to XXL, with three different shell and EPS liners, which is all well and good until you try one. Sizing runs larger than usual- meaning if you normally wear a medium you might want to spring for a small in the Star. Personally, the small shell (I normally wear medium) equipped with the pads from a medium fit my long-oval shaped dome best. In fact most of the journalists in attendance wound up with different sizes than usual with another size of cheek pads for a perfect fit. Fortunately Bell includes an extra set of varying thicknesses (depending on size) with each purchase.
Bell is back with the new Star, and though it took some time to get it to fit to my liking, initial impressions are positive. It provides all-day comfort and great ventilation coupled with an antifog visor that even some of its more distinguished competitors don't have. It's Snell approved and meets DOT standards, and it comes with its own nifty helmet bag. Unfortunately finding the right size is a chore, and for a lid that costs anywhere from $524.99 (solids) to $599.99 (graphics) you expect it to fit right the first time. -T.S.