Forget what you know about Bell helmets. Bell is back and hitting the ground running. The company is banking its revival to the motorcycle street scene on the new Bell Star. The Star is a no-compromise helmet-and it's also priced as such. We featured it briefly in the May issue, but since then we've lived with it for a few months to really see what it's all about.
Perhaps what is most impressive about the Star is the attention to detail. Obviously Bell had a huge mountain to climb when deciding to jump back into top-tier motorcycle helmets. The reputation it received in recent years of making a cheap, no-frills helmet has been ingrained in the minds of the public and was-still is-its biggest challenge to overcome.
You can read about the technical details and see our initial impressions of the Star in the May issue. This time around we focused on its performance. For starters, Bell utilizes three different shells. In theory this should provide a greater range of sizes for heads of all shapes. In reality we found that the Star is sized rather large-this medium-sized tester fits best in a small . . . with medium pads. Once on, however, you notice the attention to detail. The inner liner is removable, washable, antibacterial and antimicrobial. It's soft to the touch and very gentle on the skin. Even careful attention has been placed on the double-D-ring closure system; the mechanism on the Star is the smoothest-operating D-ring in recent memory. The straps don't snag anywhere, and the motion to tighten it is fluid. It's not something you notice on most helmets, but once you try adjusting the Star you'll wonder why other helmets aren't designed this way.
Bell's design goal for the Star focused on aerodynamics and ventilation. After numerous miles with the helmet it's fair to say that Bell succeeded on both fronts. Riding everything from naked bikes to sport-tourers, the Star proved to be one of the most aerodynamic lids we've ever worn. And though it's not the lightest helmet in the world, weighing in at just over three pounds, it slices through the air so well it's hard to feel the weight. Even head turns don't cause too much turbulence. Included with each Star is a Track Strip that sticks to the rear spoiler and is claimed to provide greater aerodynamic stability at speeds over 130 mph. Truthfully, if there was any difference with or without the strip, it was negligible.
The Star's Velocity Flow Ventilation...
The Star's Velocity Flow Ventilation System does a remarkable job of cooling the rider's head. This drawing depicts the 10 front vents and six exhaust vents channeling cool air into the helmet, over the head and out the back.
The Star's Velocity Flow Ventilation System is the real deal. Each of the 10 vents is easy to manipulate with gloved hands and provides a reaffirming click when put into place. With all 10 vents open a considerable amount of cool air makes its way to the rider's head. But even with some closed, the remaining vents still deliver a noticeable amount of air.
The last area that really impressed was the shield mechanism. It glides effortlessly along the guides, and changing the shield is a snap. Simply push the tabs and the shield pops right out. To reinstall, just align the shield with the guides on the baseplate and push the sides in place. It's an amazingly simple process that takes seconds, but the design team worked with 21 different versions of the prototype before settling on the current version.
As a whole the Bell Star is a quality helmet that breaks away from the stigma attached to the brand. But it doesn't come without its downfalls. The odd sizing can be confusing, the antifog shield still fogs slightly on the coldest of mornings and some may argue that the graphics are on the dull side. Fortunately the extra padding should cure the sizing issue, and the fogging is minimal. As for graphics, Roland Sands is working with Bell to create some exciting designs that'll bring the company back to its former glory. Available in sizes ranging from XS to XXL and with solid designs starting at just under $530, one thing is for sure: You won't be finding the Star at your local auto-parts store.