The Bell Arrow is one of the best motorcycle helmet bargains to be found.
It has excellent build quality and it includes a few features either not found or poorly implemented on other helmets costing three or four times more.
Less than $100.00, outstanding comfort, low noise levels and a five-year warranty? Sign me up!
Bell has been on a tear lately, releasing so many new helmets it's hard to keep up.
For example, just as I ordered the Bell Arrow for this review, Bell released their first flip-up, the Revolver. And before the Revolver even arrived, the Bell RS-1 was announced.
The Arrow isn't a 2011 release, but it has the distinction of being the lowest price full-face helmet in the current Bell lineup.
The predecessor of the Arrow was the Bell Sprint (review), a helmet that was reviewed on webBikeWorld back in 2005.
The Arrow costs $40.00 less than the Sprint -- that's the type of progress I like to see!
The low end of the helmet market -- or shall we call it the "value" segment? -- is one of the toughest, most competitive arenas in the industry.
There are way too many no-name companies selling off-brand helmets through every retail channel you can think of, at prices that make a profit nearly impossible -- for a reputable company, that is.
Why anyone would buy an off-brand and end up saving only what amounts to less than the cost of a couple of Chipotle chicken fajita burritos, when you could buy a helmet from a name-brand manufacturer, with an international support network and -- get this -- a five-year warranty is beyond me.
The Bell Arrow has a list price that's a nickel shy of 100 dollars.
And although it doesn't have the fancy magnetic chin strap retainer or micro-lock ratcheting system of the Bell Star (review) or Bell Vortex (review), let's face it -- a hundred bucks is a hundred bucks.
It's analogous to buying a Ford Focus rather than a Taurus. The Taurus buys you a fancier interior and other interesting baubles, but the Focus gets you there just the same -- and I'd argue that it's trim size is even more fun.
And think of the smug look you can give those Taurus jockeys when you pass them by at the local Shell station.
What I am saying is that it's a dang good helmet for $100.00 and it gives me a bit of a twinge to know I wrangled every last drop of value out of that Benny I just forked over.
Spending less and getting surprising value always makes me feel better than spending more and wondering it was worth it.
Maybe it's the economy or the current state of world affairs, but I'm into "simpler is better" lately with a lot of things, and the Bell Arrow is right in line with that philosophy.
Motorcycle helmets in general have become much more refined in just the last year or so, to a point where you really have to search to find a bad example.
This causes the "rising tide raises all boats" effect and the Bell Arrow is a good example. By the way -- this portends a sunny future.
Things can only get better from here, because it would be impossible to go backwards in terms of quality and features and survive!
All of the recent Bell helmets come in a wide array of colors and graphics. I haven't counted, but I'd venture a guess that Bell has more helmets available in more colors than just about anyone else.
The "value" helmets are no exception.
While one might think that a 100-buck helmet would only come in your choice of white, black and silver, the Arrow is available in 8 different graphic or color combinations and 3 solid colors. Pick a color and pick a size. The price is the same!
The "Matrix Red" graphic on this example has outstanding quality with no faults that we've been able to see. The red color is vibrant and the contrast with the gray shadowed lines gives the finish a 3D-like depth that looks expensive.
The clear coat finish feels thick and it has a high-gloss finish.
It's better than we've seen on many other helmets costing a lot more -- a refrain you'll often hear when discussing the Arrow.
The overall shape of the polycarbonate shell is fairly basic, but then again so is the shell on many other helmets. All of the other parts, the liner and face shield removal mechanism are of excellent quality with tight tolerances and good finish.
Your Ben Franklin isn't enough to get you the very nice Bell micro-lock ratcheting face shield system on the Arrow, nor do does it bring the cool magnetic chin strap retainer system (Bell went to a stronger magnet for 2011, by the way).
You also won't get the composite helmet shell construction found on the Bell Star, but that also has its pros and cons and you can read more about it in my recent report on DOT vs. ECE and Snell helmet safety standards.
You do get a top vent and chin vent system that works very nicely, thank you, with positive-snap sliders that feel solid. In addition, the Arrow has 6 screen-backed slit vents on the chin bar that push air through vent passages in the chin bar itself. There are way too many helmets at all price points that don't have vents directly through the chin bar, so this is a real plus.
The four rear exhaust vents actually work -- not like those faux vents on other helmets at this price point.
The vents on the Arrow are molded into the helmet shell, which actually looks pretty cool...and eliminates the possibility of breaking a vent cover.
Two more mesh-backed vents live at the bottom of the helmet in the rear, and they work also.
The liner is well-fitted and comfortably padded. And by the way, it's removable. The Arrow is missing a chin curtain that it could really use, but you may be able to scrounge one off an old helmet or from the Bell spare parts bin. I think it would make a difference.
The full-surround eye port gasket seals perfectly against the face shield, keeping the rain at bay.
And another hidden "value" helmet bonus reveals itself in the basic rubber gasket around the bottom of the helmet, which makes fitting a clip-type intercom system a snap -- literally!
Let's see...what else did that Benny get us? How about deep ear pockets well suited for speakers, in a helmet that controls noise surprisingly well.
Enough? I thought so...
Score: I'll give the Bell Arrow an "Outstanding" rating for graphics and overall quality, considering its price point. But do I really need that qualifier? See the Summary Table at the end of this page for a description of our rating system.
We have a new Bell RS-1 currently in the review process, so I can compare the fit of the Bell Arrow with the RS-1 and the Arai Vector 2 (review), also on hand.
I'm calling the Arrow a medium round fit, because anything that fits my round-shaped head as comfortably as this can't be anything else.
There is a caveat to that conclusion though -- I think the Arrow runs about 1/2 size big, so the size large shown here fits closer to an XL and that extra room can mask the true feel for the internal shape.
My head is 60.5 cm and widest at the temples and the Arrow feels just about like the RX-Q and perhaps slightly more round than the Vector 2.
That helmet actually fits me rather well, a surprise considering that it's Arai's "intermediate oval" shape and the original Vector was too narrow for my head shape.
The Arrow should fit a 60.0 cm head on the low end and a 61.0 head on the high side, give or take 5 mm or so either way.
The Arrow's internal shape isn't radical enough that most owners should worry though; I'd expect that it will comfortably fit an array of head shapes.
I have changed the example helmet in the Internal Shape Estimator matrix (below) from the Shoei RF-1000 to the Bell Arrow though, as I think the Arrow is a better example.
I'd appreciate it if Bell Arrow owners will provide feedback on their head shape and how this helmet fits.
I think the Arrow has a slightly rounder internal shape than the Bell Vortex (review) and although the Arrow does run slightly large, it feels a lot like the old OGK FF-3 (review) that I still have and wear on occasion (due to its excellent venting) or the HJC CL-14 (review).
The Arrow's liner is removable and the EPS underneath is fairly basic, with no ridges or channels to direct the air flow.
But this provides a smoother surface with the potential for greater comfort, as there are no hard corners that might press on the scalp.
The liner is well-padded and comfortable, although it isn't as plush as the liner used in the Arai Vector 2. But what is?
The liner has no special provisions for eyeglass wearers and the deep and well-padded ear pockets make hooking the temples around my ears problematic. My solution is to use a spare pair of eyeglasses with cut down frames.
More information on helmet fit can be found in the webBikeWorld Motorcycle Helmet FAQ page, along with the chart that lists the helmet weights of webBikeWorld reviewed helmets and also by shape on the webBikeWorld Motorcycle Helmet Shapes page.
Score: I'll give the Bell Arrow another "Outstanding" rating for comfort and liner materials and padding.
The Arrow has a basic face shield attachment that forgoes the excellent "micro-click" raising and lowering system and easy removal of the Bell Star and Vortex.
But the system used on the Arrow works well. It had only four detents to hold the face shield and the first opening is larger than we'd like to see for useful defogging.
Although the chin vent provides excellent ventilation, so not having a defogging position when opening the face shield isn't as important.
The face shield removes easily by moving a release lever and pulling the shield out of its receiver. This is illustrated in the video below.
The face shield is said to be treated with an scratch-resistant coating but Bell says nothing about an anti-fog coating.
Bell also offers an electric heated shield kit designed for snowmobile riding and the Nutrafog anti-fog treated face shield in a variety of colors as options for the Arrow helmet.
The eye port provides slightly less than average horizontal visibility, with just a smidgen of liner visible in my peripheral vision. This may be due to the slightly oversized fit of the helmet and also the relatively thick padding used in the liner.
It's not a problem, but the Arrow doesn't have the visibility of the Nexx XR1R (review), for example.
The vertical plane provides excellent visibility out the top of the eye port, important for sportbike owners. The visibility over the chin bar is about average with the breath guard installed.
The eye port gasket is thin but fully contacts the face shield and it runs full length in circumference.
The tight fit prevents water from entering the helmet and the tight fit of the top vents when closed, along with the shuttered chin vent, prevent water from entering through those ports also.
It might be possible for water to enter through the open slots on the chin bar, but that's theoretical and, if possible, might only happen in very extreme circumstances.
Score: I'll give the Bell Arrow an "Excellent" rating for the overall quality and operation of the face shield and the visibility out the eye port.
The top vent system on the Bell Arrow operates with a solid feel.
The single slider tab clicks the dual vents open and closed, which is easier than working two independent vents, neither of which would be opened and closed without the other anyway.
The air from the top vents is directed through two small holes in the EPS, but because of the full-length liner and absence of air channels in the EPS, the airflow is somewhat limited.
But it can be felt, although the noise levels increase slightly when the top vents are open and the rider is sitting upright.
The chin venting system provides a strong volume of air through the front of the helmet and for defogging the back of the face shield.
In fact, I have experienced no problems with fogging in winter weather, once the bike starts moving over 15 MPH or so.
The only issue here is that the Arrow could really use a chin curtain. This once-rare feature is becoming almost standard on every helmet sold today, because it can help to control air flow by preventing air from flowing up on to the rider's face from under the chin bar.
The inability to control this air flow is missing from the Arrow, making it difficult to notice any difference when the chin vent is open or closed under some conditions.
It may be possible to fit a chin curtain from another helmet or possibly to buy one as a Bell spare part from another Bell helmet, I'm not sure.
The rear exhaust vents on the Arrow are functional. Four slots in the back of the helmet work to pull out air and two additional screen-covered mesh vents at the lower rear edge of the helmet do the same.
So overall, the Bell Arrow has excellent ventilation, although the ability to control the amount of air flowing up from under the chin bar is an issue.
Score: A tough call; I'll rate the ventilation of the Bell Arrow as "Excellent", with an average for the top vents and above average for the chin vent system, although I wish the helmet came with a chin curtain.
Besides all the other goodness you get for your $100.00, the Bell Arrow is actually a relatively quiet helmet.
The top vents do make some whistling noise if they're open and you're sitting upright, but close the vent or tilt the head slightly forward and this disappears.
The noise is well controlled around the bottom of the helmet, perhaps due to the smooth helmet shell profile, the tight fit of the face shield and the relatively thick liner padding.
I remain surprised that a helmet at this price range is relatively quiet. This was confirmed by two riders and on a sport bike, dual-sport and touring bike with full fairing.
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: I'll give the Bell Arrow an "Excellent" rating for better than average noise control.
The size large Bell Arrow shown here weighs 1568 grams (3lbs., 7-3/8 oz.). This is a very good showing, currently placing it at number 40 out of 158 motorcycle helmet weights from webBikeWorld.com motorcycle helmet reviews. It's also 216 grams lighter than the Bell Vortex (review); a substantial amount. This could be due to the fact that the Arrow meets DOT specs only, while the Vortex is also Snell 2010 approved.
For comparison, this puts the Arrow in company with the Shark RSI (XL) at 1565 grams; the Shark S900 (L) at 1565 grams; the SparX S-07 (XL) 1569 grams and the Suomy Extreme Spec-1R (XL) at 1570 grams.
The Arrow feels well balanced and I haven't noticed any unusual buffeting or head-tossing issues.
Note also that all of the helmets reviewed on webBikeWorld have been weighed and the weights are available on the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Weights page, along with a chart that lists the helmets by weight and shape on the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Shapes page.
Score: I'll give the Bell Arrow an "Excellent" rating for its relatively low weight.
The Bell Arrow has a five-year warranty. This is outstanding for a sub-$100 helmet. The helmet meets the DOT safety standard. The chin strap uses the double D-ring system and has a plastic snap for a retainer.
I'm waiting for confirmation on the number of shell sizes (UPDATE: The Arrow has two shell sizes, one for XS to S and the other for M to XL.
No doubt about it, the Bell Arrow is real bargain and a lot of helmet for $100.00.
You can spend more -- a lot more -- and get a few extra goodies that may coddle your noggin with a bit more luxury, but it's nice to know that good quality and performance is still available for less.
In fact, I like the Bell Arrow better than the Bell Vortex (review), which is definitely a nice helmet and has some of the upscale features missing on the Arrow.
The Arrow fits my head shape better and just gives me the warm 'n' fuzzies about getting more bang for the buck.
It's quieter than the Vortex and 216 grams lighter. Those are three major differences right there.
I'm a big believer in name brands, and Bell is right up there with the best.
The five-year warranty and support for the brand helps seal the deal. In these tough economic times, it's nice to know you don't have to offer an arm and a leg for a decent helmet and the Bell Arrow has to be one of the best sub-$150 helmets available.
|wBW Product Review: Bell Arrow Helmet|
|Available From: Bell Powersports||List Price: $99.95|
|Colors: Solids and graphics.||Made In: China|
|Sizes: XS-2XL Shell Sizes: 2||Review Date: March 2011|
Rating Scale is subjective: Unacceptable, Poor, Neutral, Very Good, Excellent, Outstanding.
From "T.M." (September 2012): "When deciding which new helmet to buy recently I found your reviews extremely helpful. Based largely on that information I purchased a Bell Arrow helmet in metallic silver and am very pleased so far.
"C.J." (below) writes "After my first ride, I only had one complaint. There was no chin curtain.
It was 48 degrees and the wind was coming up thru the bottom of the helmet pretty bad. So, I bought a Shoei RF1100 chin curtain and installed it. What a difference."
I would like to make the same addition to my own helmet but cannot see how to fit the chin curtain successfully.
Unlike the RF-1100 in which the plastic edge of the curtain can be slid between the shell and the EPS liner, in the Arrow the two parts seem to be bonded together in some way." (Does anyone know how to install the chin curtain?)
From "C.J." (January 2012): "After reading your review I bought a Bell Arrow Air Raid helmet from RevZilla. I actually love this helmet. I have had several helmets before, and for the money this by far is one of the best helmets that I have ever bought.
After my first ride, I only had one complaint. There was no chin curtain. It was 48 degrees and the wind was coming up thru the bottom of the helmet pretty bad. So, I bought a Shoei RF1100 chin curtain and installed it. What a difference.
It's too bad that this is the one thing Bell missed on this helmet. The next thing that I am installing on this helmet is the SENA SMH-10 communicator. Thanks for yet another great review."
From "J.F." (May 2011): "I purchased the Arrow strictly because I needed a new helmet and money was tight. My initial impression was very positive. Great finish, solid build quality, etc.
However, it whistles unbearably at any speed. Adjusting vents and head tilt made zero difference.
I returned the product for a refund. Sorry Bell, the whistling was a deal breaker. I was riding my 1978 CB 750 with no windshield. I was really disappointed. It's a sharp looking helmet..."
From "M.W." (March 2011): "I enjoyed reading your review, and feel exactly the same about getting such a nice helmet for under $100.
I have a medium/narrow head shape and find the Arrow fits me well. I also have an '08 Bell Star and feel they both fit about the same.
The Arrow I purchased was the snow version that comes with the double pane snow shield and a breath mask that plugs into the vent holes in the back of the chin bar. I'll probably get a summer shield for it and try it out on my ST1300.
It will be interesting to compare the noise levels to the Star, which I find a bit loud."