Bell Sprint Helmet
by Bill C. for webBikeWorld
| Owner Comments (Below)
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Bell Helmets used to own the industry in
a way that's hard to understand by anyone who doesn't
There are dozens of excellent helmets to
choose from today, manufactured to very high quality
standards and meeting the world's best safety standards.
I have no proof to back up this claim, but I'd guess
that just about any motorcycle helmet available today
will offer protection levels that are far superior to
anything back in the golden age of Bell Helmets.
The first real, honest-to-goodness
full-face helmet I owned was a Bell; I don't remember
the model name, but I do remember that it took seemingly
forever to save up enough money to buy it. My Bell
was about 5 times the cost of the Kresge $19.95 special
I was wearing at the time.
There isn't a single company that owned
the market and at the same time had the respect and
cache as Bell Helmets back in the late '70's. But
like many other American companies, once the competition
got smart and started their onslaught of innovative
products, Bell faltered and became a shell (pardon the
pun) of its former self.
Bell Helmets will probably never own the
market again, what with so many established brands
covering the world. But they do have a decent
selection of helmets at very reasonable prices, so
perhaps they'll carve out a niche, helped along by
nostalgia. Just don't expect the helmets to be
made in the U.S.A. like Bells of old; this one's made in
China to Bell specifications.
We reviewed the
Mag-8 about a year ago, and found it to be a
well-made helmet with a very unique style and it left us
with a good impression. Bell recently released the
full-face Sprint model shown here, so we decided to take
a look to see how it compares to its peers.
The Bell Sprint is the only full-face
motorcycle helmet offered by Bell as of this writing.
In addition to the Mag-8, the company also has a small
line of motocross helmets and two open-face models that
should be popular with the cruiser crowd. We also
purchased a cool-looking Bell Shorty with a flames motif
and will be reviewing that soon.
Helmet Fit and Comfort
We get an extra thrill when a motorcycle helmet
offers more value than its price would suggest.
The Sprint lists for $159.95, but it can be found for
around $139.00, making it a relative bargain. The
Sprint's removable liner is very nicely made, with a
higher quality appearance than some helmets we've used
costing much more.
In fact, the Sprint's liner compares
favorably with the $650.00
AGV TiTech Rossi replica we reviewed recently, in
our opinion. Everything fits tight and the snaps
are perfectly lined up, allowing the liner to be removed
and replaced with little fuss. This may sound like
a no-brainer, but many helmet manufacturers either get
it wrong or use cheap snaps that can literally crumble
during their first use.
Especially nice is the use of a
steel-colored mesh between the liner itself and a black
open-weave mesh that lines the brow of the helmet, just
under the eye opening. It gives the liner a very
finished, quality appearance.
The black open-weave mesh is also used
between the foam at the top of the helmet and the
rider's head. Many helmets leave this area
uncovered, which may improve air flow, albeit very
slightly. But peering into a helmet and looking at
Styrofoam always leaves me with the impression of
Sprint's liner is comfortable, but certainly not the
equal of the best, like the
Arai Quantum II
But helmet comfort isn't
necessarily a factor of cost; the Sprint's liner feels
very similar to the liner in the Suomy Extreme, for
If the Sprint had about 5 mm more
padding in the liner and if the material had just a bit
more nap, it would be equal to the best. Although
I suppose the same could be said for many helmet
The Sprint liner gets extra kudos though
for its appearance and for the care that was taken in
assembly. The bottom edge of the helmet shell is
also covered with a nice, thick vinyl bumper. This
also serves as a sort of molding to hide the edge of the
helmet's liner where it meets the shell.
A vinyl-backed, permanently attached
spoiler is fixed under the chin, and the vinyl is
embossed with a checkered pattern that is repeated in a
small crescent around the bottom of the neck.
All in all, an impressive job and way
more than expected on a low-priced helmet.
Our feeling is that the Sprint will fit round shaped
heads best and it fits true to size. See the
Motorcycle Helmet FAQ page for more information on
fitting a motorcycle helmet and a discussion on head
Our size XL Sprint has an almost-round
internal shape that is very slightly narrow at the
middle, just about at the rider's ears. We'd say
that the shape is about half-way between the fit of a
Vemar VSR and a
We've had some problems recently with helmet visors.
It's not clear if the manufacturers are specifying
tighter tolerances for the fit around the sides of the
helmet in the visor rotating mechanism, requiring more
force (thus more twisting action) to open the visor.
Or perhaps the visors themselves are becoming thinner to
save money or weight?
The problem is that some visors seem to
be way too flexible. This is most noticeable when
opening or closing the visor and the visor twists
dramatically as it's being opened.
The Bell Sprint has more visor twist
than we prefer, bending quite a bit before it actually
moves. If the grab tab was in the middle of the
visor, the flex might not be as noticeable. Other
than that, the visor seals nice and tight against the
helmet's eye opening, which is a plus.
The sides of the visor wrap around the
outside of the helmet's shell and cover the rotating
mechanism. Removal and replacement is easy and is
accomplished by raising the visor to its uppermost
setting and pulling on a lever on either side.
Replacement and tinted visors, cheekpads, chin curtains
and other parts are available through Bell Helmets.
This is the one area where the Sprint really suffers, in
our opinion. We found the Sprint to be very noisy,
and we're not sure why. Most helmet noises can be
traced to air rushing over the vents or turbulence under
the neck, but the Sprint just seems to be generally
noisy in all dimensions.
The Sprint's noise seems to be caused by
air rushing around the entire helmet in a loud mid-level
tone. We've been experimenting with a couple of
NOJ Quiet Rider helmet wind blockers lately and we tried
one on the Sprint to see if would reduce the noise
levels, but it had only a minimal effect.
The bottom line here is that we think
the Sprint is one of the more uncomfortable helmets
we've tried with respect to noise levels.
Normally, a helmet will transmit less noise when the
rider's head is out in the open air flow, but the Sprint
seems noisy anywhere except behind a full fairing.
Note that we always wear correctly
fitted, high quality earplugs and an extra helmet liner
when riding, and we strongly recommend that you always
wear hearing protection also. See the
Earplugs and Hearing Protection page for more
information on choosing and wearing earplugs. Note that
your experience with this helmet's noise levels may be
different, depending upon many factors, including your
head shape, motorcycle configuration, prevailing winds
Bell Sprint Sound MP3 Files
UPDATE: We've been experimenting with live
recordings of helmet sounds during a short (< 2 minute)
ride, with sound checks at 40, 50 and 60 MPH. See
Motorcycle Helmet Noise page for more information.
The MP3 files do not accurately record
the noise levels, and we haven't settled on recording
levels, so the Bell Sprint MP3's can not be compared to
the Suomy Extreme and AGV TiTech MP3 files posted on the
Motorcycle Helmet Noise page. Nevertheless,
we're posting the files for your information. When
we complete the evaluation of the NOJ Wind Block, we'll
add an MP3 file comparing the Bell Sprint with and
without the device.
Venting and Air Flow
The Bell Sprint has a unique top venting system that
works well. It's narrower in height from top to
bottom than other vents and the vent assembly is
positioned farther forward (i.e., towards the brow) than
It's possible that the forward placement
of the vent allows larger volumes of air to flow through
a smaller opening when compared to other helmets.
A single flat lever in the back of the
vent opens or closes three slits in the front. The
vent has a positive seal and the lever is simple and
intuitive to use.
The chin vent has a narrow tab that is
easy to locate with gloved hands. The vent opens
by pushing the lever down and closes by pushing it up.
There's some mesh in back of the vent
that appears to be the same type used in the helmet
liner. It's similar to the nylon mesh found in
screen doors, perhaps with a slightly tighter weave.
Both vents are well made and add to the
quality feel and appearance of the helmet. The
Sprint also has two exhaust vents that are permanently
open on the back of the helmet. They're covered
with plastic trim and the vent holes underneath are also
covered by the same steel-colored mesh, again adding to
the overall feeling of quality.
Both sets of vents work well and flow a
good quantity of air on to the rider's face and head.
The top vents channel the air through the liner and down
on to the rider's brow and head. The chin vent
flows air through two holes on either side of the back
of the chin bar and on to the rider's face.
We've noticed a trend with several
helmets we've reviewed recently: manufacturers are
adding vent openings on the back of the chin bar to flow
air on to the rider's face. This is good news for
overheated riders and all we can say is that it's about
Our size XL Sprint weighs in at 1688 grams, or 3 pounds,
11-1/2 ounces. This is a very reasonable weight
and it puts the Sprint in good company, bracketed by the
slightly heavier HJC CL-14 (a direct competitor) and the
Shoei X-11 and Arai Quantum II a couple of ounces
lighter. Good company indeed!
Motorcycle Helmet Weights page for a chart comparing
the weights of every helmet we've ever reviewed.
Paint and Graphics
Here's another category where the Sprint really stands
out. Bell offers the Sprint in a variety of solid
colors and patterns, and our "Red Multi" is very similar
to the first Bell full-face helmet I purchased those
many years ago. It has a nice pattern and the
finish has a thick clearcoat. I don't anticipate
any unforeseen problems with chipping or cracking.
The Bell Sprint meets both U.S. DOT and Snell approval;
it has a composite fiberglass shell. Bell
offers a five-year warranty on the helmet, which is
commendable. The Sprint also uses a D-ring
attachment system and the strap includes a snap that
keeps the loose end secure.
The Sprint is a very good helmet at a great price,
let down only by high noise levels. If the helmet
was quieter, it would certainly be one of the helmet
bargains of the year. It has very good to
excellent quality and features that are unexpected at
this price level.
Review: Bell Sprint Helmet
Retail Price: $139.95 - $159.95
|Colors: Various solids and
Sizes: XS to XXL.
|Review Date: September 2005
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►Your Comments and
Please send comments to
Comments are ordered from most recent to oldest.
Not all comments will be published (details
). Comments may be edited for
clarity prior to publication.
From "C.L." (8/10): "My first Bell helmet was a Star that
saved my face from the bars after a tree jumped out and bit my bike on a narrow
rocky narrow trail… well it almost saved my face, as I still broke my nose on
impact, but imagine the same crash with an open face helmet, which was pretty
much the norm at the time It was a great helmet for sure.
I have the Sprint now and keep a good coat of wax on it to quiet it down at
freeway speeds. I also wax the shield to help light rain bead up and clear
off to the sides."
From "J.O." (5/10): "I bought a Bell Sprint helmet at the
same time as my first bike, not wanting to drop a thousand dollars on gear as
well in addition to the 3 grand for the machine. I was quite happy with it
for a couple of months. Then time and experience showed up the flaws.
The first was evident from the start: Noise. Really loud no matter
what. The second didn't show up right away, but I came to be disappointed
with the air flow. Far too much with the chin vent closed (makes for a
cold face at 50 F) and not enough with everything open in warm weather (pretty
sweaty at 8 F).
The final straw was the lining. The helmet fit great when I tried it on
and for the first few months of ownership. Then the padding began to
collapse, and the helmet was soon almost rattling around on my head. Game
The TZ-R I replaced it with served me well, but after two crashes and a pavement
drop, an RF-1000 is on the way to take its place."
From "R.A.": "I read your report on this helmet today.
I have used this helmet for two summers and two winters. I ride all year
round. Here is my opinion of the helmet.
I purchased my helmet at Trev Deely HD in Vancouver,BC. They were
having a test ride day and they had a nice yellow BMW 1100S in the used bikes
that I fancied.
I bought the helmet, not the bike. I ride an '89 Honda PC 800.
Not ideal, but it was what I could afford and it has grown on me. Totally
reliable, practical and great in all weather other than black ice (then what
I have found the helmet to fit my head reasonably well, but a little
discomfort around my ears. My size is small, hat size is 6 7/8 -7.
Comparing fit to a Arai Quantum II, I found the Arai to fit my head considerably
better. Of course you are talking three times the price as well. I
preferred the fit on the Arai to that of the Shoei that I tried on as well.
The color of my helmet is a flat white which I like with a spider web on the
chin bar and flames along the sides. This is accomplished by light grey
stenciling. It is different from all the other high gloss helmets, and
gets lots of comments. Here I thought it was rather conservative, and
still affording better visibility awareness to the drivers around me than the
standard black issue.
As for visibility, I find the shield opening a little small as my peripheral
vision has a larger capacity than the helmet allows. I do wear sunglasses
most of the time and I have no issue once I enter then into the helmet, but I
would love a drop down as you wrote about in the new
I have found the helmet to be extremely noisy, changing the face shield has
reduced the noise somewhat, but I believe it is caused by the flexing of the
shield from the torquing it under goes from frequent opening and closing which
is the case as my visor fogs up terribly.
I ride mostly with the chin vent open to help reduce the fogging and always
keep the nose guard in place to cut down on fogging. Fogging is not a
problem at speed. Only at stop and idle. Summer riding is hot and
venting is just adequate in my humble opinion.
The liner works well, but as you stated could be so much better with 5mm
more. The helmet strap shed its locking feature about two months into
daily use. The helmet has been good in the rain as in not pouring in, but
the seal around the shield was losing effect, I think because of the constant
torquing it under went. Lots of tiny stress lines in the shield as well.
The liner has worn from my 5 o'clock shadow showing up early as is the case for
It has worn well considering the daily wear and tear. I know it has a
five year warranty, but I cannot see beyond this summer for this helmet.
Too hot, too noisy, I do wear custom moulded ear plugs while riding, and the
hold down strap is fraying.
The chin bar vent system remains open as the pin assembly holding the flap
mechanism has dislodged itself and now remains permanently 3/4 open. Had
to tape over in the bitter cold riding conditions. Although the helmet is
warm in summer, it was cold during near freezing and below. I used a
balaclava to keep the cold from penetrating.
The top vents are closed, but in those temperatures cold air pours down over
your face and to the point that my
contact lenses were drying out.
It is true that you get what you pay for and although the helmet does have
many features, they are not well executed for the long haul. I wore a Bell
back in the mid sixties when I started riding, as you say they have improved for
safety but not necessarily durability. I am looking into a new helmet so
that is what got me here in the first place.
How would I recommend this helmet? 6 / 10. It is sustainable for
less than average use. Maybe I'm critical, but that's what I'm spending my
money on, and I don't think the product holds up. And no I don't want to
find out if it does its job in an accident, DOT and Snell have approved it.
Me , I'll take they're word for it. I just want to be comfortable while
wearing it. I don't think I'll be spending my money on Bell in the future
unless they improve substantially.
Oh one last comment. There are virtually no dealers in Vancouver for
Bell. Trev Deely HD I think is the only shop carrying them. This was
what I encountered when looking for a shield replacement. However the
great people at Deely's were kind enough to take a shield off a new helmet to
bail me out. Although I don't ride a HD, they have always been very
helpful to me. Great customer service and support even for an old guy on a