Round-heads, narrow-heads and anyone else with a head shape way out on the ± 2σ and beyond tails, rejoice!
The impossible is possible and you too can have custom-fitted motorcycle helmet of your very own.
All you need is money -- lots of it -- and an appointment with the Bell Helmets laser scanner.
But for anyone like me who simply can't find a helmet that fits, this may be the only answer.
The modern version of the Bell Star was introduced to the world at the 2008 Dealer Expo and we published a Bell Star preview soon after.
That was followed up with another Bell Star helmet review in 2010, which outlined the updates to this popular helmet.
The 2008 version had a very "Narrow" internal shape, which was relaxed slightly to a more "Neutral" shape in the 2010 update.
(See the webBikeWorld Motorcycle Helmet FAQ and Motorcycle Helmet Shapes pages for more info on motorcycle helmet fit and internal shapes.)
Unfortunately, the Star was still too narrow for my "Round" head, which is widest at the temples. Regular webBikeWorld readers know that I have continuing problems finding a helmet with a perfect fit.
The Arai Quantum II (review) worked, but Arai has since discontinued their "Round Oval" shape, to the dismay of many round-heads like me.
Even with all the helmets that come through here for reviews -- over 265 so far -- I have not found one that fits without some sort of issues. Thus, I've had to compromise to find the least painful solution.
So when Bell announced their custom fit helmet program in 2014, I was on it like a fly on...sugar.
You can't (yet) just walk into a dealer and get your head scanned though; you have to schedule an appointment with a Bell Helmets specialist at one of the upcoming motorcycle shows (here's the 2015 schedule).
I had the opportunity to do just that at the 2014 AIMExpo show (Report) and on Christmas Eve 2014, the UPS driver delivered a nice present from Bell: the Bell Star carbon fiber custom fit helmet!
The custom-fit version of the Bell Star is nearly identical to the off-the-shelf versions and since we've already reviewed the helmet twice, this review will focus on the differences and the fit. For more details, please read the original Bell Star helmet review.
As soon as I learned about the new Bell custom fitted helmet program (described in this YouTube video), I hounded Bell to schedule a laser scan and get me a helmet asap.
I told them I'd even fly out from the east coast to California to get the scan; an indication of how much I wanted to find a motorcycle helmet that fits my apparently odd-shaped head.
One thing led to another and I was finally able to sit for the laser scan at the 2014 AIMExpo show. It's a simple process; you wear a tight-fitting head cap or skull cap and sit still on a rotating stool.
The technician uses a hand-held laser scanner that digitizes your head shape into a laptop as you revolve. It's all over in about 2 minutes and no, it doesn't hurt a bit!
The response to the Bell custom fit program, which used to be available only to motorcycle racers, has been phenomenal. Bell hinted that they're working out a way to have select dealers run the scanner and I think this is entirely possible, as it isn't really technically difficult.
The 3D digitized file is then used to custom mold the EPS liner, which is fitted to an appropriate shell size. The helmet is sent to the customer with what appears to be the full array of standard Bell Star liner options and cheek pads, from 6 mm to 16 mm thick.
I'm not sure how Bell decides to choose a shell size but I think mine was made with an XL shell (the Star comes in 3 shell sizes).
So far, there's been a bit of mystery in how Bell manufacturers the custom fit helmets and runs the program, but they said they have invested several hundred thousand dollars and have 5 patents filed for the system.
I also wonder how the individually-fitted helmets are homologated; the Bell Star custom meets the DOT standard in the U.S. and it's also certified to the new Snell M2015 standard (Report).
Like it or not, the custom fit version of the Bell Star is currently available in matte black carbon fiber "TriMatrix" composite shell only.
I'm not sure why this is, but I can guess; it probably makes it easier to manage the inventory for the custom fit program. I'm also guessing that if the program becomes really popular, more colors and versions will be made available.
By the way, the custom fit program is also available for the Bell Moto-9 (Info), also in the matte black carbon fiber shell.
I'm not a big fan of black motorcycle helmets, but I have to say, this one looks fantastic.
The matte finish has just enough of a sheen to catch various colors in the ambient light -- from blue to orange and red -- which gives it a subtle aura. It looks pretty darn stealthy and completely opposite the high-viz look.
I'll probably investigate whether or not the shell can be painted but honestly, it would be a shame to ruin the effect, now that it's grown on me.
So the overall shell quality and the carbon fiber finish is super on this example.
I am a little let down, however, in the quality of the moving parts, which seem to be not as robustly made as other Bell Star helmets I've worn.
The chin vent, brow vent and top vent sliders just seem a bit low-rent to me, without that secure "click-lock" feel of, say, a Shoei or Arai helmet.
On the other hand, they function very nicely indeed and the helmet has outstanding ventilation. It's just that a thousand-buck helmet should probably have better/thicker/more solid fittings.
Also, the split lines around the brow vent are pretty large, although this is probably due to the issues with bending carbon fiber cloth in sharp angles.
The bottom line here though is that the beauty of the dark charcoal-colored carbon fiber shell trumps the the vent parts that feel like they came from the Bell Vortex (review) parts bin.
The one other quality issue I have is that the liner feels thin (noted on all Bell Star helmets I've tried).
The custom fit version comes with several headliners and cheek pads in different thicknesses, so the owner can fine-tune the fit even further if necessary.
Fortunately, the custom fitted EPS comes to the rescue here, so the thin liner isn't the problem it is for me with the standard off-the-shelf Star with its more narrow internal shape.
Score: The Bell Star custom fit version gets an "Outstanding" rating from me for overall for quality and design. See the Summary Table at the end of this page for a description of our rating system.
OK, so everyone wants to know: how does it fit?
I have to say, when I first put it on, it felt...strange. That's because I never really had a helmet that fit me correctly, believe it or not.
Just about every helmet I've owned and the 250+ that have come through here for a review have one compromise or another.
My "Round" head is widest at the temples and I have a wide, flat forehead.
This head shape of mine is nearly impossible to fit in a modern motorcycle helmet, most of which are "Neutral" or variants of "Narrow".
Adding to the difficulty is my head circumference, which measures 60.5 cm, splitting the difference between a large and extra-large. Most of the time, a standard large is too small, while the XL is too big.
So when I first slipped the Bell Star custom over this odd-shaped skull, it just felt different than any other helmet I've worn. I thought "Is this really how a helmet is supposed to fit?" and "Is my head really that shape?"
The proof is in the pudding, as the saying goes, so I jumped on the bike and gave it a go and I can say this: it feels like I could wear this for hours at a clip with no problems at all -- something I can not say about any other helmet I've tried.
I can't say it "feels like it floats on my head", as I read in a print magazine review describing the Bell Star custom. The thin liner doesn't quite mask the feel of the EPS coming through in some places.
But, the internal shape matches my "round/square" head, which seems to have "corners" on either side of my "flat" forehead and "points" at the top of my cheek bones!
All of that is no doubt an artifact, compliments of my distant forebears from the Korchak culture!
The Bell Star custom is supplied with the full selection of Star liners and cheek pads, from 6 to 16 mm thick.
When my helmet arrived, it had the 6 mm thick head liner installed which gave just a little too much room at my forehead.
I first tried the 10 mm thick liner and settled on the 12 mm version but again, I'd have to say that the liners do feel a bit thin -- nothing like a thick, plush Shoei or Arai liner.
The custom fit shape includes normal-sized ear pockets with a recess for intercom speakers and the ear pockets are covered by a soft foam-backed fabric.
It's interesting to note that although I can fit a pair of the straight-temple Randolph Engineering Aviator (review) sunglasses, the fit is pretty tight.
So the conclusion here is that yes, the Bell Star custom fits my head better than any other helmet I've worn. It's not 100% perfect -- I'll call it 95% perfect -- because there's just a touch more room in the forehead than I'd like and I wish the liner padding was a bit thicker.
As we wrote in the original Bell Star helmet review, the Bell face shield system is about the best in the business. It really should be used as a model for other helmet manufacturers to emulate.
I won't duplicate everything we said about the face shield from that 2010 review, but the Star custom comes with a Transitions photochromic face shield (review), which has outstanding optical properties and, of course, darkens when exposed to UV light (daylight).
One difference between the newer Bell Star helmets and the original is the face shield lift/lock lever on the left (alliteration!) is now plastic instead of metal. It would have been nicer to have a black anodized metal lever on this helmet, considering the price.
I usually don't care for photochromic or tinted face shields, feeling that the darkness isolates the rider from other traffic, but this one is changing my mind.
The combination of the outstanding optical quality and the tint really works.
The face shield also has the Bell "NutraFog II" anti-fog, anti-scratch and UV protection and it works. In sub-40 F degree temperatures, I had no fogging issues.
The 2008 and 2010 versions of the Bell Star had outstanding ventilation and the Bell Star custom is no different, as would be expected.
One difference is that the custom version has two openings in the EPS at the lower rear (photo below), which help pull air out the rear of the helmet in the low-pressure zone.
The helmet also has two vertical vent channels through the chin bar. Overall, combined with the large brow vent, the Bell Star has a class-leading ventilation system.
The custom fit must help decrease sound levels, which makes sense if the helmet fits more closely around the head.
As we wrote in the 2010 review, "Even though the Bell Star can flow large volumes of air through the venting system, the vents are actually pretty quiet compared to other helmets...some of which flow only a fraction of the air that comes through the Star."
That still holds true and this newest Star seems relatively quiet, even when riding behind the low windscreens on the BMW F800S (Blog) or the Suzuki V-Strom 1000 ABS (Blog), the most recent webBikeWorld project bikes.
I assume this custom-fitted Star is equivalent to a size XL. It weighs 1649 grams (3 lbs., 10-1/8 oz.). The 2010 size XL Bell Star weighed 1696 grams, while the size L, with the mid-sized shell, weighs 1628 grams (3 lbs., 9-3/8 oz.).
The Bell Star custom meets the DOT standard in the U.S. and it's Snell M2015 certified. The shell feels super-stiff and meeting the Snell rating probably adds a few ounces.
But another benefit of the custom fit is that the weight more or less disappears when riding.
The big D-rings used on the Bell Star feel solid and hold the the unique "Magnafusion" magnetic chin strap end retainer.
Bell Powersports, Inc. gives an excellent 5-year warranty on the helmet, which means that it's pretty much covered for the expected life of the product.
The helmet also comes with a fantastic storage/carry bag that could probably fetch at least something like $49.95 if sold separately.
Fit Guarantee: I asked Bell what would happen if the helmet didn't fit the customer. They said "All Custom Fit helmets from Bell bear a 100% fit guarantee.
If the customer is not satisfied, we�ll either fully refund their purchase, or if they�re willing, make another helmet with their input.
Engraving on the Plaque: Customers can specify what the engraved plaque reads whenever they place their order.
Digital Scan Files: Bell said "We plan to keep the scans on file permanently unless a customer asks us to delete them. That way if someone wants one down the line, we can immediately get it out to them instead of scheduling a re-scan."
The Bell Star custom helmet has one thing no other helmet has: it fits like it was custom made. Because it was!
It also includes all of the features of the standard Bell Star, including the outstanding ventilation system, the Transitions photochromic face shield, the excellent storage/carry bag and the super-stiff shell with Snell M2015 certification.
All of this will cost you though; a standard carbon fiber Bell Star has a list price of $649.95 and that price is rarely/never discounted.
The custom fitted version costs $999.95, which is reasonable, considering the effort involved and the fact that you're getting what is essentially a custom-made helmet.
For serious motorcycle riders who -- like me -- have problems finding an off-the-shelf helmet that fits, the price is reasonable.
And for those lucky few who fit perfectly into a standard Bell Star, the carbon fiber version is one more option to consider in the extensive Bell Star lineup.
From "K.W." (August 2015): "The Bell Custom Fit helmet is the most comfortable helmet I have worn since I started riding in 1967.
I have a long oval head and a closet full of helmets, including an Arai, which don't fit !! I have one half helmet that I could wear all day, but, even that one was way to big on the sides, and it's 3XL and fifteen years old.
Because the manufacturers have limited the larger sizes, the past few years, I haven't been able to find an acceptable helmet replacement.
When I saw the Bell Custom Fit reviews, I knew I had to try it, even with it's steep price tag. It was a last resort, and for me money well spent, it really is comfortable!! I am throwing all those other helmets away.
The helmet comes with a "Transition" face shield. I haven't worn sunglasses since I started wearing this helmet, and it is perfectly suitable at night. You forget it's there, and think it's not dark enough, until you open it up and start squinting in the sun. I like it !!"
From "E.Z." (January 2015): " 'It�s available in any color as long as it�s black.' Henry Ford would love this. I own a 2010 Bell Star in Rally Red, which I really love. I picked this particular color (no longer available) because I thought it was more visible.
I was recently scanned at the Miami Motorcycle Show, but I would not buy a black helmet. I hope Bell�s color offerings will open up in the future, as I think the price is worth it. I assume Bell reads these reviews! Thanks Rick for your great reviews on motorcycle products."
Rick's Reply: I was disappointed at first about the black also, I don't like to wear black helmets. But I have to say, this one looks pretty cool. I'm debating whether to paint some yellow or orange or white or something colors on it, but not sure if I will or not.
From "S.S." (January 2015): "I found your review to be most interesting. It made me recall reading that Land's End clothing company had introduced full body scans back in 2000 to better fit their customers.
I'm not sure how successful this was for them, but I don't believe they still do it.
You are probably aware of the personal carved busts which have been produced using scanning technology.
With the rapid improvement and expansion of 3D printing, I would imagine it will eventually become fairly easy to scan a person's head and make an exact model in the privacy of one's own home (and in my case, maybe Photoshop back in some missing hair!).
The point is that the technology is clearly here for the scanning portion of the custom helmet process, but unfortunately, the major costs will likely remain in the materials and the labor of the assembly process, so I don't imagine the price can come down much, if at all.
As a preliminary step for those with difficult to fit head shapes, I would suggest going to a dealer that has a custom fitter who knows his/her product line, and who stocks a large inventory of helmets.
It costs nothing to have it done, and you may be fortunate as I was and walk out with a great fitting helmet.
The other advantage is there may be a broader selection of graphics available to you.
Your review obviously demonstrates that this suggestion will not work for everyone, but I think it is worth the attempt before dropping $1000 on a new lid.
I wouldn't be surprised if a very large percentage of riders are currently riding in helmets which are poorly fitted, and simply endure it because they have never experienced a helmet which fits correctly, or more likely, having gotten a great deal they are determined to use it regardless of the fit.
We spend much time discussing Dot and Snell testing, etc., but perhaps the conscious or unconscious distraction that a poorly fitted helmet creates is actually a much greater safety issue than the integrity of the helmet itself?
Thanks as always for your great reviews!"
Rick's Reply: I'm with you on the poor fit vs. safety issues. I have owned 3 Arai helmets, a local shop who has an Arai "specialist" helped me swap out the liners to get a more custom fit on a Quantum II, RX-Q and Signet-Q.
I use the RX-Q occasionally but the size L is too small and the XL too big, even with liner changes.
An RX-Q with the extra liners/cheek pads cost me a little over $700.00 for a plain solid color, and the helmet still doesn't really fit correctly, so it's not much more of a stretch to get an actual custom fit for $300.00 extra.
Couple of other things: I need to check with Bell to see what would happen if the custom helmet didn't fit correctly after the owner took delivery.