▪ 2016 Bell Star Preview
UPDATE (Dec. 12, 2016): Bell Star gets SHARP 5+ Rating
The new Bell Star now comes in three different versions:
The street/sport version (this review), the Race Star and the Pro Star.
Prices range from $449.95 for the street/sport version to (please make sure you're sitting down!) $1,199.95 for the Pro Star.
If you're not a racer or serious track day addict, forget the Race Star and the Pro Star. The regular ol' Bell Star is for you.
We call it the "Street Star".
The 2016 Star is completely revised from the 2008/2010 version and that's a good thing.
There are an amazing 5 helmet shell sizes and 6 EPS liners to span the head size range and the shell is a composite of aramid, carbon fiber and fiberglass.
The Star is Snell M2015 certified in addition to meeting the DOT standard in the U.S.A.
A completely new face shield design; a new eye port configuration; a new liner system and lots more result in a much improved helmet from the previous version of the Bell Star.
The internal shape hasn't changed much however -- it's definitely narrow and the opening at the bottom of the shell is very tight.
So round-heads will have to look elsewhere...or go for the Bell Star custom fit (review), which is still available.
The 2016 Bell Star comes in three different flavors: the street/sport Star shown here; the Race Star ($699.95+) and the Pro Star ($1,199.95+), which is identical to the Race Star but has a full carbon-fiber shell.
What's the diff?
The Race Star is all carbon fiber and the Race Star and Pro Star helmets both have the Bell "Flex" liner system, which provides some movement or shifting of the liner parts on impact.
This is claimed to help dissipate the energy and duration of an impact by converting direct impact energy into some movement.
Bell says that the Flex system consists of three layers, "designed to manage energy from three potential impact scenarios: low, mid and high-speed."
This type of energy dissipation technology is slowly finding its way into the general motorcycle helmet market, popularized (but not invented by) companies like 6D.
In fact, the first motorcycle helmet we know of that used a similar technology to dissipate some of the impact force was the Lazer Rider Superskin helmet we reviewed back in March of 2009.
The Superskin technology is applied to the outside of the helmet shell, while the Bell Flex and 6D technologies are on the inside of the helmet, probably a more practical solution.
And by the way, Bell Helmets just announced that a similar technology they call MIPS (Multi-Directional Impact Protection System) will be made standard on the Bell Qualifier DLX (review), MX-9 and MX-9 Adventure helmets for 2017.
This will bring the technology down to "entry level" low-priced mass-market helmets and that's a very good thing.
Good news, right?
Well, here's the bad news: Neither MIPS nor Flex technology is included in the street/sport version of the 2016 Bell Star we're reviewing here, which is a shame.
And the good news? The base street/sport version of the Bell Star has a list price of $449.95, significantly lower than the Race and Pro Stars.
If you're riding street, sport, sport-touring, touring, adventure or anywhere other than on a track, you're probably better off with the street/sport version (Street Star?) anyway.
That's because this helmet is optimized for the real world and the Race and Pro Stars are optimized for the track in both the sightlines and ventilation angles.
This Bell Star in the "Pace" graphics, which will set you back another 50 bucks over the base price, is a real stunner, definitely adding some impact over basic black.
The Pace graphic pattern is available in a couple of other color panels also.
Having handled, worn and reviewed many Bell Star helmets since the modern generation's 2008 release (and farther back than that, in the early 1970's), Burn and I can state without hesitation that the 2016 Star is much, much better when it comes to quality, feel and performance.
The last version of the Star had a little bit of that "hollow" feel and sound and the liner and padding felt "lumpy", like it had some edges.
This 2016 version is like comparing apples to oranges, it's that different.
The paint and graphics and overall build quality are outstanding and right up there with the best, although there is still something unique about the feel and heft of a Shoei and Arai helmet that can't be matched.
All of the moving parts on the new Star work positively with a solid feel and although there are a couple of loose thread areas in the liner of this early production sample (see the slide show below), the liner and padding is much more Shoei than it is old Bell Star.
The helmet also has several new and unique features and we'll describe those next.
Score: The 2016 Bell Star has outstanding quality all around, in both design and execution.
One thing (and about the only thing) that hasn't changed is the fit of the 2016 Bell Star compared to the previous version.
The 2008 Bell Star had a blade-like internal shape that was well out at the narrow end of the helmet fit distribution graph.
The 2010 version normalized that narrow fit slightly and this 2016 version is about the same.
So for all of you narrow-heads who have written recently asking "What happened to narrow helmets?", rejoice.
The narrow internal shape becomes amplified due to the very tight helmet opening at the bottom. The new Bell Star doesn't appear to have a lot of curvature when you look at it, but it's very narrow at the bottom.
This probably comes from its racing heritage.
When slipping on the helmet, the size XL shown here is a very tight fit at the entry, although once on, it feels normal along the top on the inside. But the sides are very tight, even for an XL.
It feels more like a 59 cm on the sides and a 61 cm up top.
Despite the narrow fit, I (Rick) am able to get the new Star over my bulb-shaped head and I can even insert my Randolph Engineering Aviator sunglasses (review) with their straight temples and ride for an hour without discomfort.
And that's a big surprise...to me anyway.
Bottom line? We'll call this a "Narrow" to "Slightly Narrow" fit in webBikeWorld parlance.
It's unknown why Bell is staying with the narrow fit profile while most of the industry has been moving to more of a "Neutral" fit over the last few years. But again, all of you narrow-heads should be very pleased.
Note also the sizing for this helmet with its 5 shell sizes to span the relatively narrow head size range of XS to 2XL.
The size L is rated for 59-60 cm head and that's probably right, although we both tried a size large and couldn't fit it over our head to get into it.
The XL and 2XL use the same shell size, with the XL rated for 61-62 cm and the 2XL for 63-64. Again, seems quite accurate based on our experience.
Liners and cheek pads in different thicknesses will be available soon for the 2016 Bell Star, so some customization will be possible.
And by the way, if you want a Star but the fit doesn't fit, then you can always go for a Bell Star custom fit (review). That program, unique to Bell Helmets, does a laser scan of your head and then manufactures a helmet and liner to match.
My (Rick) Bell Star custom fit helmet is the only helmet that truly fits my "Earth" shaped head, which is widest at the temples.
The liner and padding in the new Star is way better than the previous version.
It's thick and comfortable and the "X-Static" liner with silver threads really does a good job at both moisture wicking and -- hopefully -- bacteria control.
Bell said that the X-Static fabric is "clinically-proven to provide bacteria and odor protection throughout the life of the liner."
It's interesting to note that the crown liner has a "floating" pad above it that can be easily removed -- it's not attached to anything. It sits above the normal liner, apparently to add some cushioning on top?
When it's removed, the upper ventilation system seems to have more air flow, so depending on how the Star fits, you may want to either leave it in place or remove it.
The cheek pads are very easy to remove; they're held by a single snap in the center towards the front on the inside and also by the Bell Magnefusion magnet system, pioneered in the chin strap retainer on the earlier version of the Bell Star.
The Magnefusion cheek pads release so they can be pulled down and out of the helmet by emergency personnel to help remove the helmet faster and easier and without cutting.
However, we did notice an issue with this system, however. The cheek pad snap is designed to release when the cheek pad is pulled downwards, but the snap releases more easily than we'd like.
This seems to be more of a problem on the right side cheek pad than the left.
Because the bottom of the helmet along the neck roll is narrow, it takes a healthy squeeze to put the helmet on and this sometimes forces the cheek pads inward, enough to release.
The shape of the helmet at the chin bar is narrow also, so the bottom front corner of the cheek pads form a point that can cause interference as you pull on the helmet. You can see this in one of our photos below.
Some owners have complained that the cheek pads feel too tight at the front but this hasn't bothered either of us once the helmet is on.
One more thing: there's a built-in gap between the top of the cheek pads and the crown section of the liner, which forms a channel to make it easier to wear eyeglasses. The functionality will vary depending on the individual's head shape, however.
More information on helmet fit can be found in the webBikeWorld Motorcycle Helmet FAQ page.
Score: The 2016 Bell Star gets an "Excellent" rating for fit with a thick and comfortable padding, noting the fit differences related above.
Bell calls the new eye port design "Panovision"; it has a 5 mm lowered cutout on either side, along the bottom of the eye port on both sides.
It's a nice feature and we appreciate the gesture but to be honest, I'm not sure how much it really improves the horizontal sight lines or adds to visibility.
This may be due to the fact that the XL and 2XL use the same shell size, which is the largest of the five.
The shell is big enough that the front and sides of the helmet have a lot of padding and EPS and that thickness brings the outer part of the shell farther away from the head and this can reduce the angles of sight out the sides, top and bottom.
This may not be a factor in the smaller shell sizes, just with the XL head size in the largest shell. Note that the Race Star and Pro Star have a different configuration to allow better vertical sight lines when the rider is leaned forward in the race tuck position.
Otherwise, the sight lines from the eye port are slightly better than average in the vertical and horizontal planes.
The face shield system is new, with a centrally located lift tab on the Street Star (our name) that's easy to find and operate with either hand when wearing gloves.
The system doesn't have any detents, just lowered and fully raised. In the lowered position, the face shield can rest on top of the bottom part of the eye port to act as a city defogging position.
There's a friction lock under the center lift tab and again, this makes it really easy to lock the face shield and release it without having to fumble on the left side like the Arai or Shoei (and other) systems.
There is no Pinlock included with the Street Star but there's an interesting chin vent system that helps make up for this.
Score: The 2016 Bell Star rates an "Excellent" for the design and operation of the eye port and face shield.
The new Star has a new venting system and it is very efficient. While it doesn't look like anything out of the ordinary, it really does work well.
Note that the "Street Star" is designed for a more upright riding position and, in fact, the vents work better when the rider is upright than when leaned forward.
The chin vent is very easy to find and operate when wearing gloves; it's centrally located, just under the face shield lift tab and the near location of both turns out to be a clever plus.
The chin vent opens four horizontal slots that flow air into a large plenum behind the plastic chin vent assembly.
Here's the clever part: inside the chin bar are two large vent channels. They're covered with a removable rubber/vinyl plug, and that's a first as far as we know.
If you leave the plug in place, like you might during winter, the air from the chin vent is shunted towards the top of the chin bar and up on to the back of the face shield for defogging.
If you remove the plug (don't lose it!), most of the air flows directly through the chin bar and some up on to the back of the face shield.
This system provides outstanding ventilation and the only thing better might be to make the plug a slider so it could be operated by the rider.
Most of the Bell full-face helmets -- even the less expensive helmets -- have a brow vent. Brow vents don't always work successfully however, because some of the air flow is usually blocked by the helmet liner.
That's pretty much the case here. There are direct channels behind the brow vent that you can see, but they flow air on to the back of the crown liner, so it's difficult to tell how much the vent affects ventilation.
The top vent on the Bell Star looks small but it somehow works. It flows air directly through channels down into the helmet, but make sure the helmet liner isn't blocking the two vent holes above the forehead.
The vent channels in our helmet are blocked slightly but even before we discovered this (and the removable liner top described in the liner section above), the new Star has excellent ventilation up top.
It's actually rather surprising that such a narrow top vent can provide this amount of air flow; it's all in the design apparently...
Score: The 2016 Bell Star gets an "Excellent" rating for ventilation.
The design of the helmet shell and EPS liner make it very difficult to fit a standard intercom mount in the new Bell Star, so you'll probably have to depend on the stick-on type.
But using the stickies mean that smaller intercoms will fit better than larger intercoms, due to the molding on the outside of the helmet at the point where you'd mount an intercom.
The ear pockets aren't very deep and there is no molded section for speakers, plus the EPS forms a sort of ceiling in the ear pocket.
Some owners have complained that the ear pockets aren't big enough, with some even resorting to carving away a section of the EPS to fit (not recommended).
Bottom line here is that the new Bell Star isn't really intercom-friendly unfortunately.
The new Star is generally slightly quieter than average, but as usual, it all depends.
When riding behind a large windscreen, the helmet is very quiet and it's also quieter than average when riding with no windscreen at all.
The top vent does create some noise however, especially if a shorter or mid-chest windscreen directs air and turbulence towards the top of the helmet.
In that case, when the top vent is blocked, the noise decreases dramatically, which demonstrates that the vent is the biggest contributor to volume.
But if your windscreen directs the air so that it does not focus on the helmet, then the Star is very quiet.
It's a tradeoff, because the outstanding ventilation probably wouldn't be if the vent system and vent channels were smaller.
So overall, we'd say that the noise levels for the new Star are generally lower than average for a full-face helmet.
Note that our helmet evaluations are a combined effort of several riders over time on different types of motorcycles with and without windscreens.
Evaluators wear correctly fitted, high quality ear plugs (even when evaluating motorcycle intercom systems).
Always protect your hearing when riding a motorcycle. See the wBW Earplug Reviews for more information on choosing and wearing earplugs.
Note also that perceived noise levels will vary, depending on the individual.
Noise can be caused by many factors, including helmet fit, the type of motorcycle and windscreen, wind speed and direction and even the rider's clothing.
For more information on helmet noise, visit the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Noise page.
Score: We'll give the Star an "Excellent" rating for noise control.
There's no getting around it, the 2016 Bell Star in size XL is heavy. This one weighs 1901 grams (4 lbs., 3.0 oz.), which is very heavy and one of the heaviest helmets we have reviewed.
Certainly the Snell M2015 certification accounts for some of this, but still...
Without an internal sun visor and without the Bell Flex liner system, there's really nothing else to account for the weight, especially since this is a composite shell, supposedly designed to reduce weight.
The previous 2010 version of the Bell Star weighed just 1628 grams. The Schuberth S2 (review), for example, weighed 1712 grams in size XL.
The Shoei X-Fourteen (review), probably the closest competitor to the Bell Star, weighed 1750 grams.
In fairness, we were surprised to find that the 2016 Bell Star was this heavy, because it doesn't feel it on the road.
All of these weights for full-face, flip-up and open-face helmets are available on the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Weights page.
Also see the chart that lists the helmets by weight and shape on the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Shapes page.
Score: The 2016 Bell Star gets a "Poor" rating for weight.
The Star has the Magnefusion magnetic chin strap retainer that works well. This version has a plastic pin that fits a hole to help keep it secured.
The 2016 Bell Star meets the DOT standard in the U.S. and it's Snell M2015 certified.
The new Bell Star is an improvement over the previous generation in every way -- except its weight, which is mysteriously much greater than expected.
The helmet will surely be considered a less expensive alternative to something like the Shoei RF-1200 or various Arai helmets and that's a valid comparison.
It's very well made and feels more solid than the previous Star generation. It's also comfortable and relatively quiet and it has outstanding ventilation.
The price is right also, even without a discount.
The only real issues are that the fit is very specific for narrower heads, so the new Star may not be for you if you have a round or even neutral shaped head.
From "D.L." (September 2016): "I recently purchased a Bell Star (the "Street Star") from (a local store).
Though I was dismayed to read your 2016 review and learn that they "normalized" the internal shape of the helmet, it still proved my best option short of a custom made lid.
I am the long oval; a straight "narrow" fit in webBikeWorld parlance. I wanted to take a moment and review my purchase decision and my experience with the helmet so far.
First, I want to talk briefly about my experience as a rider and with helmets in general. I am a sport bike rider that spends most all my time on public roads, as many do. My previous helmet was a much loved, much worn Arai Profile.
My collection of helmets also includes a Shark RSI. The Shark fit adequately around the top of my head, but my nose was pressed against the front of the shell. Naturally, it didn't see a lot of seat time.
The Arai Profile was "IT" and it was apparent even while I was still in the store. If I had one criticism of the Profile, it would be the external fixtures were not supremely durable.
However, no good thing lasts forever it seems, and I realized that my Arai needed to be replaced.
I tried on helmets from Icon, AGV, Shoei, Bilt, Schuberth -- really, anything the store had on hand. Yes, that's a bit limiting, but (ironically) I am not a fan of buying helmets sight unseen.
I will provide a little insight into what it's like for a narrow headed individual to try on helmets.
Shoei are like torture devices; virtually any shell size close to my 59 cm head compresses my forehead strongly enough to cause a lightheaded feeling combined with that of a migraine. That's too bad, because I really wanted an X-14 or a GT-Air.
Trying to lay a hand on a helmet with enough front to back space, as I did with the Icon Airmada and AGV K3 (as an example) leaves me with a sensation of nothing but air next to the sides of my head inside the helmet.
What about the Arai Signet-Q?
Well, naturally, I also tried on the successor to the Profile. I can comment that, without doubt, the normalization of the shell shape has created a much looser fit around the sides and temples.
While the Signet-Q was the best fitting helmet of any I tried in the store, it did not fit as well as my Profile.
It was about that time that I noticed the "narrow" section of wBW review helmets included the Bell Star. I ordered it, sight unseen(!), in size Large through my local shop with assurance that I would not be required to purchase the helmet if it did not fit.
The bright side is that the "Street Star" offers much, much better graphics options than the Arai Signet-Q and is slightly cheaper (though neither is inexpensive).
Upon its arrival, I knew from your review that the helmet should be well put together and a bit heftier than its competitors.
I saw nothing in the box that disputes your assessment that this helmet is well finished; I cannot comment on the improvement in their quality, but I can say that I didn't feel like I was taking a step from Arai by going with the Bell, and that's fairly high praise.
That just leaves how it fits and functions.
The fit is, to my head, slightly narrower than the Arai Signet-Q. The size Large is snug at the front and back of my 59 cm head, slightly less snug around the sides and snug against the ears.
Overall, this means a more secure, comfortable fit on my head.
I note that the reason this helmet weighs more is because it is physically larger. Trotting about the store, I got it in my head to stand it next to a few other helmets for comparison. One that stands out: my "L" Star is larger than a "XL" Shoei GT-Air.
The silver lining there is that my head isn't just long oval front to back, but also top to bottom.
The larger external dimension means that the chin skirt on this helmet is actually positioned at my chin; that's something my Profile could never claim.
It also means that the inside of the helmet in front of my face feels spacious. That's a hard thing to quantify, but it's almost like a little greenhouse in there.
I still prefer Arai's snap to the magnetic retention on my Star's chin strap...but, that's more an emotional thing.
The weather afforded an opportunity to actually get this lid on the road and, having logged some miles, here are my impressions.
The field of view is reminiscent of a good pair of ski-goggles. The peripheral vision is good, I can head check to my rear easily. The "street" view angles work as intended; I have a better field of view downwards than my Profile by a considerable margin.
It is far easier to keep the instrument cluster in view on my 899 Panigale, so that's a big win for street riding.
The field of view is very clear and distortion free with the exception of a very narrow band the runs the circumference of the whole shield.
The shield itself is easy to operate with its center tab. You get "slightly cracked open" closed and open as your option. No detents, friction or anything else and no intermediate positions.
That's probably adequate, since I have never ridden in any other position (even with an Arai that, essentially, infinite variable), but it still feels a little like you're giving something up.
The helmet is a little quieter than my Arai, so that's good.
The best part for riding in hot weather (90+ here in NC) is that this helmet does a great job of moving a LOT of air.
At speeds up to 85 mph, the helmet is stable and doesn't require you to fight the wind when you turn your head (haven't ridden any faster than that).
Overall, I am quite pleased with the helmet and do not intend to use (the store's) 7-day, no hassle exchange policy.
Part of me is sad not to be adding another Arai to the family because they do carry a certain emotional weight for me at this point, but the Bell Star is absolutely a competitive helmet and one of the only real options for us narrow headed folks.
Between the quality, custom fit option, and great graphics, I definitely think that potential Signet-Q shoppers should give this helmet a look."