As I went over another bump on Philadelphia’s terrible roads, I heard, yet again, the styrofoam-against-styrofoam squeak that I had gotten so accustomed to. The good news is that ear plugs muffle the noise dramatically. The bad news is that it never goes away entirely. But more on that in a bit.
What is it?
The new Bell Star is the entry-level model in Bell’s revised-for-2016 Star model line. The Star is intended to be the road going of the three helmet options, with the Race Star as the track option, and the Pro Star as the flagship. The Star has a composite shell construction, and uses 5 shell sizes combined with 6 EPS liners. This Star model is profiled so that the helmet is rotated forward on the head for road riding, so you are not forced into a full tuck riding position.
Does it work?
Definitely. As befits a street helmet, I rode around on a mixture of city streets, back roads, and highways. I was on a Suzuki SV650 which has an upright riding position with a slight forward lean. The helmet was comfortable in the upright position, in a ¾ forward lean, and in a full tuck with my chin on the tank. Stability was great in all three positions, and the airflow felt similar across the board.
So it’s well ventilated?
Yes. The vents don’t look like much, but they are well placed and effective. My daily helmet is a Scorpion EXO-R2000, and the ventilation with this Star is much better. I could actually feel the wind flowing through my hair.
That airflow makes it loud then?
It depends on what you are used to now. Coming from a touring helmet, yes the Bell Star is loud. Compared to other track helmets though, this is one of the quietest I have used. There is a whistle when riding at city speeds with the face shield open (to be expected), but with it closed, the Star is noticeably quieter than my Scorpion, for example. This is all with earplugs in, which is recommended with any helmet.
How light it is?
The Bell Star comes in around 3 pounds for a Medium, but the really impressive thing is the physical size. The Medium I was riding in is closer in size to a Small in most other full face helmets. Most other helmets around this price point come in 3 shell sizes compared to the Bell’s 5, so that is a major factor. That small shell size also contributes to the stability at speed and the low noise.
Is is comfortable?
Besides the squeak, yes. The fit is right in the middle of the intermediate oval head shape, and the Star runs true to size. This results in a comfortably snug squeeze all around the head, and the interior lining is very plush. Bell carried over the X-Static material from the previous Star, so the lining is antibacterial and removable/washable. For those wearing glasses, eye wear arm pockets are woven right into the interior liner, so that’s a huge plus.
Any other standout features?
Yes, the new face shield! The big news is a revised eyeport, which is wider to increase peripheral vision, and features cutouts at the bottom edges of your field of view. The highest praise I can give is that it works without you noticing it. I was on the road for at least 20 minutes wondering what looks so different before I realized I could not see the edge of the eyeport in my peripheral vision. This was designed to increase the field of view for track riders, but will also be a godsend for riders who get claustrophobic in other full face helmets. The cutouts ended up being right where my bar-end mirrors are, so an added benefit was being able to check my mirrors without having to move my head. The view you get when doing head checks is also much larger compared to other helmets.
With this new eyeport comes a new face shield and a new face shield mechanism. This brings up two gripes I have with the face shield. The latch is located in the middle, which takes some getting used to, but there is no physical lock, which would be nice on an aggressive helmet like this. The second gripe is the lack of detents or even a de-fog position for the face shield. You have two options - closed, or completely open. Besides that though, the new mounting system is the simplest I have seen yet. You just press a release button on each side and rotate the face shield forward to remove it. Installation is just as simple. It’ll be interesting to see who else follows with this design.
So how bad is that squeak?
It’s not bad, but it’s also something I didn’t expect from a helmet at this price point. My less expensive helmet doesn’t squeak and other comparably priced options don’t either. The thing is that the noise is persistent, showing up at every bump and jostle. With time it does fade into the background, and earplugs help with that. At highway speeds you don’t really hear it either, but it is one of the big cons of an otherwise glowing review.
So would you buy one?
All things considered, and knowing what I was getting into, yes. While I am a huge fan of the Race Star, with its new Flex multiple-density impact liner, for the money, you get everything else that Race Star has here. The field of view and ventilation is amazing, and the small size and low weight make all-day use a no-brainer. Throw a pair of sunglasses in and you have one helmet that you can tour in and take to the track. Just make sure you bring those earplugs.