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Bell MAG-9 Helmet Review

Bell Mag-9 Helmet Review
Popular Helmet Integrates the Sena 10S or SMH10
by Bill C. for webBikeWorld.com
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Summary

The Bell MAG-9 has been very popular since it was first released back in...was it 2012?

It's an update on the original Bell MAG-8 reviewed on webBikeWorld way back in 2006.

The MAG-series was radical when first released but that "peak" is now enjoying great popularity.

The new MAG-9 has a built-in intercom port or recess, which fits the new Sena 10S (review) or the original Sena SMH10 (review).

That gives the helmet a huge boost for utility and the concept should be duplicated across many more helmets, regardless of brand.

The MAG-9 also includes a comfortable fully removable liner, a pull-down one-click internal sun visor and excellent ventilation.

And don't forget the unlimited viewport provided by the big clear face shield.

Other than a slightly creaky shell, the MAG-9 is an excellent choice for open-face touring or dual-sport use.

Bell Mag-9 Helmet
Background

The Bell MAG-series has been around since...well, it's difficult to know exactly. I believe this design came from the time when Bieffe owned the Bell name.

Remember Bieffe Helmets? I didn't think so...

webBikeWorld discovered the MAG-8 back in 2006, just after Bieffe died and Bell was reborn. The helmet was radical for the time; it was a European scooter touring thing that looked weird to American eyes, anyway.

After all, who ever heard of an open-face helmet with an off-road helmet peak?

That combination still isn't all that common, but the peak now shades eyes on everything from dual-sport helmets (another category that didn't exist back then) to...flip-ups?

Yes, like the Schuberth E1 (review) or the Scorpion EXO-AT950 (review), a couple of recent webBikeWorld helmet review additions.

Anyway, the MAG-9 isn't new -- it was released at the dealer shows in 2012 as a 2013 model, as far as I know. webBikeWorld readers have been bugging us to review it ever since and here we are, never too late I guess and probably just in time for a "MAG-10"?

Bell Mag-9 Helmet Sena Intercom Mount
The MAG-9 has a recess that fits the Sena 10S or SMH10 intercom.
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Bell MAG-9 Paint, Graphics and Overall Quality

The MAG-9 comes in black, yellow, white and the "titanium" color shown here. It looks more like a dark silver, which I guess is titanium.

The paint is very nicely applied, with a good clear coat and no obvious flaws.

The overall quality of the helmet is excellent, with just some slight rough edges on the peak and a "creaking" or "squeaking" noise when the shell is stretched, as it is when you put it on or take it off.

The MAG-9 looks a decade newer than the MAG-8 -- and that's a good thing. Where the MAG-8 was softly curved, the MAG-9 is sharply angular, in the modern idiom.

The MAG-9 has a (surprise!) fully removable and comfortable helmet liner and a one-touch drop-down sun visor. All of that and the rest of the moving parts on the helmet feel sturdy. Overall, the helmet seems like a quality piece considering the list price.

Score: I'll rate the Bell MAG-9 as having "Excellent" overall quality. See the Summary Table at the bottom of the page for a description of our rating system.

Bell MAG-9 Helmet Slide Show
  • Bell MAG-9 Front View
  • Bell MAG-9 Front Quarter View
  • Bell MAG-9 Sun Visor
  • Bell MAG-9 Right Side
  • Bell MAG-9 Left Side
  • Bell MAG-9 Rear View
  • Bell MAG-9 Top View
  • Bell MAG-9 Top Vent
  • Bell MAG-9 Label
  • Bell MAG-9 Liner Rear View
  • Bell MAG-9 Chin Strap
  • Rear View of Sena Helmet Mount Kit for the MAG-9
Helmet Fit, Sizing and Internal Shape

Most of the recent Bell helmets have an internal shape and fit that tends towards the "Slight Narrow" classification in webBikeWorld parlance.

The MAG-9 is no different, although as always, the open-face design somewhat masks the internal shape due to the flexibility of the helmet sides.

Also typical of other recent Bell helmets, the internal sizing is about 1/2 smaller than expected. This MAG-9 in size large has a tight fit, it feels like it will best fit a 59 cm slightly narrow shaped head.

See the webBikeWorld Motorcycle Helmet FAQ page for more information on head shapes, along with all of our helmet reviews listed by shape on the Motorcycle Helmet Shapes page.

The helmet shape is slightly curved inward towards the bottom of the helmet, which provides a good snug fit around the ears. This also helps improve speaker sound volume if the Sena intercom is installed.

In another surprise, the MAG-9 is made in three shell sizes, very unusual for a helmet in this price range.

Bell Mag-9 Helmet Top Vent
The top vent has a convoluted path to the rider's head.
Bell Mag-9 Helmet Rear Exhaust Vent
Nice rear exhaust array is something not often found on open-face helmets.
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Liner, Fabric and Comfort

I was surprised to find that the MAG-9 has a fully removable helmet liner; usually, open-face helmets in this price range do not.

The liner is a bit thin but what's there feels comfortable, with a smooth-feeling fabric. I do think the foam in the padding is a bit "squishy" and not quite firm enough for my taste.

You apparently get a basic helmet liner at this price; there's no fancy description of special fabrics or moisture-wicking materials listed. But to be honest, that never seems to make much of a difference anyway in my experience.

Overall, the MAG-9 has a comfortable fit, as long as it matches your head shape. The cheek pads have a comfortable surround fit over the ears, with a deep recess or ear pocket/cavity that accommodate the speakers, if installed.

Bell Mag-9 Internal Shape

More information on helmet fit can be found in the webBikeWorld Motorcycle Helmet FAQ page.

Also reference the chart that lists the helmet weights of webBikeWorld reviewed helmets and also by shape on the webBikeWorld Motorcycle Helmet Shapes page.

Score: The Bell MAG-9 gets a "Very Good" rating for fit and comfort.

Bell Mag-9 Helmet Sena Intercom Mount Close-up
The MAG-9 Sena intercom helmet kit mount installed. Note M3 screw on left.
Sena Adapter for Bell Mag-9
For some reason, an M3 screw isn't included in the adapter kit.
Bell Mag-9 Helmet Sena Intercom Mount Installation
The section of EPS is removed and can't be used if the helmet mount kit is installed.
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Sena Intercom Compatibility

Probably the coolest feature of the MAG-9 is it's ready-to-rock Sena intercom compatibility.

This is a fantastic idea that hopefully will be implemented on other Bell helmets (it has on the Bell Qualifier DLX (review)) and other brands and models of helmets.

The MAG-9 -- like the Qualifier DLX -- has a blanking cover on the left side that hides a recess. You'll need to purchase the optional Bell Sena Helmet Clamp Kit ($39.95 at RevZilla or $35.96 at Amazon.com), which is simply a slightly different helmet clamp headset.

Pop off the blanking plate, remove the section of liner and insert the intercom clamp kit and then snap in your old Sena SMH10 or new 10S and you're done.

Well, not quite...

You will have to insert the speakers into the special hook-and-loop pockets that Bell has kindly installed in the MAG-9, then locate your boom mic in the groove along the left hand side of the liner.

One other tip: Sena mysteriously leaves out the M3 screw you'll need to secure the clamp kit to the MAG-9, so you'll have to bop down to the local hardware store and spend $0.20 on an M3x10 Phillips head screw, like I did.

All of this is illustrated in our video below.

OK, this all sounds great, right? Just one problem: the removable piece of liner isn't designed to be put back in the helmet once the clamp kit is installed.

This means there is no EPS between the outside of the helmet and your ear on the left side if you've installed the clamp kit.

It sure seems like Bell could have slightly changed the design of the removable EPS part so that it could be re-inserted after the clamp kit is installed; I'm not sure why they didn't.

Hopefully, this type of semi-factory intercom system will continue and maybe on the MAG-10 Bell will improve the design.

But again, we think this is a really nice feature and should be continued. The Qualifier DLX, by the way, can mount either the Sena or a Cardo Q3, as described in that review.

Wouldn't it be nice if all the intercom manufacturers got together and made at least one of their designs with a common footprint, so any of the intercom modules could be used in a standard opening like there is on the MAG-9?

Then, all helmets could have the same feature and it sure seems like it could have the potential of improving intercom sales. Dream on... 

Eye Port and Visibility

As an open-face design, the MAG-9 has virtually unlimited visibility for the rider. As we have noted before, this is a real safety factor, although of course you give up the chin protection.

The best of both worlds was the Schuberth J1 (review), with its removable chin guard.

Why Schuberth stopped making it and why other manufacturers don't pick up on the idea is yet another one of these mysteries.

Anyway, the MAG-9 has outstanding forward visibility for the rider. Motorcyclists from new to experienced will all appreciate the view and the added safety factor for over-the-shoulder head checks and the sight lines out in front of the bike.

Face Shield and Sun Visor Operation

The large face shield on the MAG-9 moves through 5 slightly soft detents as it's raised or lowered via a lift tab on the left-hand side. Actually, detents aren't as important in an open-face helmet, but they're included anyway.

The face shield covers nearly the entire face down below the chin, so it blocks a lot of air and overall provides a surprising amount of comfort and an equally surprising low noise level when riding.

There is no Pinlock included and the exactly 2.00 mm thick (measured) face shield on ours isn't anti-fog treated. But there's enough air flowing from underneath that an anti-fog system really isn't needed.

The internal sun visor is an on/off system that engages via a very large airplane propeller shaped lever on the left side of the helmet. It works well and about the same as the typical sun visor in terms of coverage.

Bell Mag-9 Visibility

Score: The Bell MAG-9 rates an "Outstanding" for forward visibility and the design and operation of the face shield and sun visor.

Bell Mag-9 Helmet Liner
Ventilation

As an open-face design, you'll get a lot of air flowing up from underneath the face shield with no way to control it really. But that's fine, especially for touring riders riding behind a big fairing.

In fact, the MAG-9 is very popular with the touring segment, in part due to that very feature and also the ease with which an intercom system can be installed for a near-factory look.

The MAG-9 design features two large vents on top, but the air has a convoluted path down to the rider's head.

The vent channels in the EPS are sloped forward and they enter the inside of the helmet behind the brow padding, so there's not a definite feeling of air on to your head.

There's a rear exhaust system -- also unusual on open-face helmets -- and altogether the system sort of works but it probably could be much more effective with a fairly simple redesign.

Again, hopefully we'll see that in a MAG-10?

Fortunately, due to the open-face design, you get a lot of fresh air in the front that sort of masks the weak ventilation on top.

Bell Mag-9 Ventilation

Score: The Bell MAG-9 gets a "Very Good" rating for ventilation.

Noise Levels

The open-face design of the MAG-9 is actually quieter than expected and quieter also than some full-face helmets we've reviewed through the years.

The peak doesn't seem to affect either the noise levels or air flow but the top vents can catch some air and make a little more added noise depending on the conditions.

For example, the air flowing off some windscreens can hit the top of the MAG-9 just right, causing some added noise, as I discovered during my evaluation of the helmet.

But when riding behind a large windscreen, the helmet is pretty quiet.

As a rule, intercom speakers must be located as close as possible to your ears for best result. There must be some geometric order of magnitude decibel reduction in volume as the speakers are moved away from the ears.

The deep ear pockets of the MAG-9 and the included "purse"-like pouch for the speakers (if installed) make it difficult to locate the speakers correctly for best results.

That, and the fact that there isn't a lot of EPS it seems on the sides of the helmet, mean that more outside noise than usual can be heard. This also affects the volume levels of the intercom.

Once more though, when riding behind a big fairing on a BMW RT touring bike, you won't have this problem. Which again is probably one more reason why the MAG-9 is popular with touring bike owners.

Bell Mag-9 Noise Levels

Note that our helmet evaluations are normally 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 type of clothing that is being worn. For more information on helmet noise, visit the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Noise page.

Score: Overall, I'll give the MAG-9 a "Very Good" rating for noise control.

wBW Video: Bell MAG-9 Helmet
MAG-9 Helmet Weight

The MAG-9 is heavier than we expected at 1510 grams (3 lbs., 5-1/4 oz.) for this size large without the intercom mount kit installed.

It doesn't feel that heavy when you first pick it up and the snug fit also masks the weight.

Probably the internal sun visor and the peak add a few grams; we wish the polycarbonate shell was maybe something like the tri-composite used in other Bell helmets. 

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 Bell MAG-9 gets a "Very Good" rating for weight.

Miscellaneous

The MAG-9 has an impressive five-year warranty. The chin strap uses a double D-ring system and the padding is adequate.

The MAG-9 meets the DOT standard in the U.S.

wBW Opinionator: Bell MAG-9
Picks...
  • Sena intercom integration.
  • Internal sun visor.
  • Comfortable.
  • Unlimited visibility
  • Style.
Pans...
  • Shell could be sturdier.
  • Sizing runs small.
  • Intercom removes EPS.
  • Top vents inefficient.
Conclusion

The concept of the Bell MAG-9 is excellent and it is actually a unique and different type of design that isn't very common and that's puzzling, because it works.

We really hope that Bell continues the evolution of the MAG-series and perhaps even brings the intercom integration to other helmets beyond the Qualifier DLX.

It's no wonder the MAG-9 is so popular with touring and adventure-touring riders alike; it has a lot going for it at a very reasonable price.

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wBW Review: Bell MAG-9
Manufacturer: Bell Helmets
List Price (2016): $179.95
Made In: China
Colors: Solids
Sizes: XS-2XL Shell Sizes: 3
Review Date: July 2016

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Your Comments and Feedback

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From "M.P." (July 2016): "My wife and l have had both the Mag 8 and now the 9 since 2007. We do not have the Sena versions, but have original SM10 units mounted on the shell. We think they are great.

I particularly like the huge crystal clear visor that provides complete facial protection from flying objects and wind.

The helmet is so comfortable I don't even think about it, even when it's roasting outside. For long distance riding on the RT1200, it seems just about perfect."


From "H.B.C." (July 2016): "I purchased two of (the MAG-9 helmets) directly from the Canadian distributor when released, mainly for testing headsets and as an around town helmet.

We got two, my original in Black and a Titanium (Large and Medium respectively).

These helmets have been featured or photographed in many of the Bluetooth reviews I’ve done -- they are one of the best ‘test’ environments you can get for a three-quarter visored helmet.

In having installed a few headsets on other MAG-9 helmets, the favourite seems to be the SMH5-FM, and in related trials the pop-out panel can be easily modified to accommodate the SMH5 system, but most users just mount it on the outside of the pop-out.

And as noted , one or two of the modular systems would work fine. And in wearing out the first one, I am looking at getting a new one, in Pearl White -- it has a few minor changes over the original version.

The helmet still has some weak points, all pretty much pointed out in the review, along with the strong points; overall it is a very good option.

And regarding the feedback comment posted, seems to me the flip-down assembly can be fixed, I’ve had it apart to look at it. I know the plastic parts wear fast and typically a factor is due to dirt/grime build-up.

I’ve found some small applications of the light silicone (such as Arai used/uses) keeps things moving."


From "T.G." (July 2016): "I have this helmet, titanium version. Overall this is a fantastic helmet, you can even purchase thinner or thicker cheek pads -- big plus.

The SENA adaptability is a huge reason I got this helmet, with the drop down sun shade.

I do have a gripe though and it is with the sunshade itself. I am on my second season with this helmet and the sunshade no longer properly ratchets down.

The issue is there is no way to access the mechanism for the sunshade to correct the problem.

If I use 2 hands I can hold the shade down and it will lock in place, but the lever will not lock it anymore. For the price and all the features this is a small issue, but is frustrating."

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