Stand out while keeping your look classic, understated, comfy, and safe. The DOT- and ECE-approved Bell Bullitt full face is a benchmark among retro helmets and features real leather and suede, interchangeable cheek pads and face shields, tons of colorways, and some basic ventilation. Riders looking for a retro-vibe helmet with excellent build quality should check out the
Materials & Build Quality
Sizing & Fit
Value for Money
Three shell sizes
Built-in flip-up face shield included and is easily removed
Interchangeable face shields and replacement parts widely available
Let’s get this out of the way now: I’m seated firmly on the retro helmet bandwagon. Visually, they seem more at home on my dome than the likes of most other helmets out there.
Take a look at the back wall of any motorcycle gear shop and you’ll see what I mean. 90% or more of the full-face helmets available have the exact same shape. If you’re into those, good on you! No haters here.
But what I see lacking from that wall of helmets are more options in this retro styling category, and although it’s been out since 2014, the Bell Bullitt has had my eye for a while. Luckily, I was finally able to get my hands on one recently and give it a go.
There are a few other players in the space right now, with most comparisons of the Bullitt being stacked against more affordable Biltwell helmets. There’s also the AGV X3000, Shoei Glamster (Europe-only), Arai Defiant, Hedon Heroine, and the absurdly expensive (they start at $1250) Ruby Full Face.
At $429.95, the Bullitt isn’t what I’d call a cheaper helmet, but you’re getting your money’s worth here. It has great build quality, superior materials, some ventilation, optional accessories, and the real reason you’re here: an excellent look.
Since you’re already looking at it, check out how the faux-chrome trim winds around the face opening and lower portion of the helmet. This might be a feature one would overlook, but this contrast of dark color and chrome is a huge part of what contributes to the retro vibe.
I opted for the Gloss Black; not every colorway will have the chrome color trim. Those that don’t have black instead.
Further contributing to its retro definition is the lack of any additional exterior sculpting or character lines in the shell. Aside from a very understated vent on the rear of the helmet, what you get here is essentially a classic bubble shape that makes a bold design statement without being obnoxious.
Bell Bullitt Helmet Colorways
You can flavor your Bullitt with a bunch of color options, most of them involving some subtle graphics. The Bolt variant zaps a snazzy circular lightning bolt design around the face shield mount and comes as either a gloss black shell with a white graphic or a yellow/black option.
The Flow variant exudes a 70s and 80s vibe with a triple stripe running around the front and profile. There are two options there: a gloss gray shell with black graphic and a gloss light blue shell with dark blue graphic.
The Reverb variant nods to 60s and 70s sparkle with a gloss black front shuttering its way to silver flake at the rear.
It’s somewhat strange that our only solid color options are gloss black and gloss white—but hey, we wanted classic, right?
Looking for something a bit more unique? Bell’s collaboration with Helmade is baked into the Bell website, loading up a great interactive experience allowing you to choose from a bevy of colors, script, and face shield options.
I clicked around a bunch and found that the custom paint price didn’t change from $200 no matter what I did. Bell knocks off $30 from the base helmet price, presumably as a carrot for you to spend another $160 and stare at your watch for the 6-week lead time on a custom job. All snark aside though, this a slick option if you’re ready to ball out on your helmet buy.
Bell Bullitt Helmet Finishing Quality
I opted for the Gloss Black colorway, and found that the paint quality is top-notch and uniformly executed. The interior comes in tasteful brown leather and suede, which is simply gorgeous and very well put together. The suede is perforated for breathability and the leather sections are supple. The colors of both materials match each other well, and each feels great to the touch.
All of this provides some motivation for keeping the interior dirt- and oil-free. We’ll see how long that motivation lasts. Something for all of us to keep in mind, though—Bell claims the liner is “anti-bacterial,” and that it’s washable and quick-drying.
As I continue to use this as my primary helmet, it’ll most certainly accrue some grit and grime. Once I achieve a needs-to-be-washed status, I’ll be sure to update this article with how it fared after a run in the wash.
Bell Bullitt Helmet Fit & Comfort
For some reason, my head decided to grow 0.8cm this summer (perhaps due to zero haircuts during the pandemic?), and while my trusty Bell Custom 500 is a Small and still fits great, my most recent measurement is 56.7cm—which falls in between Bell’s S (55-56cm) and M (57-58cm) according to their size chart.
I ended up securing both sizes to test their fit. The S was a bit too snug and caused some ear pain when donning/removing so I focused on the M. It shipped with the 30mm cheek pads and while they did contact my face, there was still a little bit more side-to-side travel than I wanted, so I snatched up the 35mm cheek pads, installed those, and everything rang true—great contact with even pressure on all sides.
Moving the helmet from side-to-side grabbed my skin as I moved it. The helmet also passed the forward and backward roll-off tests referenced in Bell’s generic user guide as well as Snell’s and the MSF’s documentation.
I’ve worn this helmet on long days in the saddle on multi-day trips as well as shorter city errands and haven’t experienced any discomfort.
Bell Bullitt Helmet Strap & Padding
The same material from the liner continues onto the strap padding, which provides some good protection from the thick and sturdy webbing of the chin strap. I feel confident that the strap isn’t going to self-loosen.
Similarly, the double-D ring is made of thicker steel, keeping the strap snugly tight where you want it. There’s a genuine leather pull tab on the D-ring, which makes an easy job of undoing the buckle with gloves on.
Bell Bullitt Helmet Performance
The majority of my riding has been with a 3/4 helmet. I love the wind in my face and I don’t get mad about a little rain or taking a stray cicada to the chin. That said, I was looking for a little more protection out of my next helmet.
Part of what drew me to the Bullitt was the fact that I could get a full-face helmet with proper chin protection that also had a massive face opening and wide field of view. In practice, I didn’t notice any reduction in visibility with the Bullitt vs my Custom 500.
Then I got curious and put the ol’ tape measure to them both. I was surprised to find the Bullitt actually has a larger field of view than my Custom 500. I measured the Bullitt’s opening as 30.5cm, vs. 29.5cm for the Custom 500.
Bell Bullitt Helmet Noise
The biggest area of opportunity for Bell here is when it comes to mitigating wind noise. This is not a quiet helmet. However, there are a few ways you can dial it in to make it work for you.
I liked the option of having the face shield installed but not always in use. This caused the most wind noise at highway speeds (or really anything north of 35-40mph).
Obviously, the helmet wasn’t designed to be used with the face shield always flipped up, but I enjoy having the wind in my face with the option in my back pocket of flipping the shield down if it starts to rain or I end up behind a dump truck spewing gravel at me.
I ride with wireless earbuds most of the time, so I managed the noise with that shield configuration by simply turning up the tunes. However, we recommend earplugs for all riders who want to keep their hearing safe from wind noise.
Flipping the shield down largely takes care of that problem, but you still have wind ripping around the seams of the plastic shield and the face opening. I also tested noise with the shield completely removed—this allowed for an open-face experience with a very significant reduction in wind noise.
Bell Bullitt Helmet Face Shield
The face shield is anti-fog, anti-scratch, and UV-protected. No complaints here on its performance. I didn’t experience any fogging issues, perhaps due to the Nutra-Fog II coating, the small chin vent, or a combination of the two, but it never fogged up on me.
The optics are quite good, and there were more than a few times I went to scratch my face and bonked my hand into the shield, thinking it wasn’t there. Score one for the face shield, I guess?
I do have two minor issues with the shield, though. In sunny weather, I ride with polarized sunglasses, and with the face shield down, there’s some optical phenomena that happens—a rainbowing of sorts in angles. My guess is it’s the combination of polarized lenses plus the shield’s coatings.
Still, this issue isn’t enough to cause alarm or affect safety, and although it was noticeable at first, I kind of got used to it.
The second issue is that the shield does not like thicker microfiber towels—especially when they’re dry, and especially when used on the interior of the shield. The lint will stick and you’ll need to go back with a damp (water only) cloth to get it clean again.
I recommend using truly lint-free microfiber camera lens cloths (the kind that feel like silk) with a little bit of water and then air-drying. Again, this isn’t a huge deal, but it was irritating enough to remember the workaround for the next clean.
A clear, flat shield ships with the helmet, and there’s some affordable customizing to be had. Bell offers four different flat shields and five bubble shields, each for $39.95.
Final Thoughts on the Bell Bullitt Helmet
If you’re willing to shell out just shy of $450 in your quest for classic, the Bullitt checks all the boxes. It’s damn sexy, a solid build, and has a ton of color/customization options to make it your own.
The wind noise factor is a bit of a ding, but there are ways around that. If you’re after that retro look and don’t want to compromise on quality, features, or accessories, then you need to check out the Bullitt.