The Bell Moto-3 places style above substance, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to love here. This helmet feels of high quality, and its shortcomings stem from its overall style and design. As a helmet designed for a retro and unique look, this helmet delivers.
Following the nostalgia craze and riding the waves of the retro and cafe racer surge all across the motorcycling industry, Bell Helmets crafted the Moto-3 to have simple, clean, retro lines. It’s actually a rebirth of a helmet of the same name and style from the 1970s, but now it’s updated for the modern age.
When I showed a buddy the helmet he said, “Ah! That old MX vibe. I dig it.” It’s a brain bucket that provides more protection than the classic three-quarter helmets—Bell Custom 500 and Biltwell Bonanza I’m looking at you—but not too much more.
You get a chin bar that should protect your jaw a bit if you take a tumble off your bike. Otherwise, this helmet is a three-quarter lid at heart. The Moto-3 has some old-school motocross-style to it, and you could wear it off-road no problem. The design supports and even encourages the use of goggles because it lacks any eye protection whatsoever.
While the styling is the most notable aspect of this helmet, that doesn’t mean it comes without some serious content. The Bell Moto-3 is a premium lid, and it comes with modern construction filtered through a retro design.
Just look at the photos. It’s black, it’s smooth, and dare I say sexy. Even folks who don’t ride notice this helmet. I get more looks wearing this lid than I have when wearing any other helmet ever.
The retro styling and sleek lines of the helmet are eye-catching but not obnoxious. It grabs attention in the same way a resto-mod Porsche does, albeit a whole heck of a lot less warranted. People can tell right away it’s a well-made item, and the person wearing it automatically garners some sense of respect. Or at least that’s what I gathered while wearing it. Older guys ask you about it, and younger folks give you the nod of approval.
The helmet isn’t all style, though. It’s a modern helmet with a fiberglass composite shell, EPS construction, and an anti-bacterial liner. A fantastic blend of modern materials and construction and retro style that a lot of folks seem to crave right now. Good on Bell for putting it together and getting it out there. It has been out for a couple of years now and appeals to a very specific kind of rider, one who values retro or cafe racer styling. I’ve even seen some Harley Sportster riders rocking this lid.
Design, Fitment, & Shape
As I mentioned, the Moto-3 design is nothing new. It dates back to the 1970s. Bell claims the helmet design was then ahead of its time and became the industry standard. I wasn’t around then, so I can’t speak to that. What I can say is that this helmet is certainly not ahead of its time today. It’s an old-school design with modern features, construction, and amenities.
The design has a large eye port so you can easily fit goggles, an EPS-lined chin bar to protect your face, and a smooth round shell with a five snap patter for a peak. The peak is long, and there are some others out there you can snap on if you want to.
The helmet fits snugly. I have a large and any tighter, it would be uncomfortable. I chose the right size exactly. Follow the sizing chart and you should be good. I actually flex the helmet a bit when pulling over my ears. I appreciate the snug fit. The head shape on this helmet is intermediate oval.
Bell makes three different shell sizes up and down the sizing lineup. There are four different EPS sizes. From there, Bell manages the differences between sizes with the padding in the liner. Overall, I’m thrilled with the way this helmet fits and how it feels once it’s on.
Key Features & First Impressions
In terms of key features of the Bell Moto-3, you don’t really get much. The helmet is simple—no internal sun visors, no face shield, hardly any real venting. The big ass eye-port is your vent (also the little vents in the chin bar) and the goggles or glasses you don will serve as your eye protection.
With all that said, the Moto-3 isn’t void of features. Here’s a quick rundown of what it offers:
Fiberglass composite shell
EPS-lined chin bar
Removable and washable anti-microbial terrycloth liner
5-snap visor (visor included in the box)
DOT and ECE certification.
While the list is rather small, what the helmet does have is done very well. The shell is immaculate, and the paint on that shell (more on that later) is nothing short of beautiful. The terrycloth liner is extremely comfortable and removing it and re-inserting it into the helmet is easy-peasy.
To me, the five-snap peak looked a little silly, and as I expected, it caught the wind on my rides. The peak didn’t grab much air at city speeds, but as the needle on the speedo climbs, so does the amount of sail. However, I do have to note it didn’t come off even when it caught the worst of the wind and feels sturdy overall. If you like the look and keep your chin down while riding, you’ll be fine. I took it off and don’t plan on putting it back on.
Bell designed the helmet to be worn with goggles, but I found myself putting on a pair of sunglasses and calling it good. It’s not the greatest level of protection, but it was so easy to do. Wearing sunglasses with this helmet also allows plenty of wind to make it through to your head. There are no real vents on the helmet other than the chin bar vents, and even having a single exhaust vent at the back could be a major benefit.
Let’s get focused on specifics now. The exterior of the helmet looks fantastic. I’ve already discussed the overall shape and design, so I won’t rehash that here, but I’ll get a little more granular.
The exterior of the helmet I had featured a flat black paint. The flat black is accompanied by gloss black accent paint that spells out Bell Moto III on either side of the helmet’s chin bar. There’s also a gloss black stripe across the back of the helmet and a gloss black Bell logo at the top of the helmet above the eye-port.
The only vents on the helmet are in the chin bar. They feature a metal mesh to help keep the bugs and debris out of your teeth, but otherwise, you’re relying on the large eye port for airflow.
The five-snap system at the brow of the helmet ensures the visor snaps securely. The snaps themselves are silver in color, so if you remove the peak visor as I did, you have an all-black helmet with five shiny snaps at the top. If you keep the peak on, there are black snap covers, completing the blacked-out look.
Around the eye-port and at the bottom of the helmet, there’s a rubber gasket rim. This serves as a soft point for what would otherwise be a hard edge. This trim ensures you have soft gripping points when pulling the helmet on, and the rubber around the eye-port won’t rub and fray your goggles’ strap.
The chin strap is a soft nylon strap with a double-D ring retention system. It’s nothing fancy, but then, it doesn’t have to be. There is a snap to help you control the excess strap once the helmet is on and secured.
Paint & Color Selection
My helmet was all black, but that’s far from the only color Bell offers. Bell calls the helmet I had the Moto-3 Blackout Classic Helmet for obvious reasons. The company also sells four other paint schemes and graphics offerings.
Here’s a full list of the helmet offerings in terms of colors and graphics:
Fasthouse Checkers Matte/Gloss Black/White/Red
Gloss Flo Orange Classic
Gloss Red Classic
Matte/Gloss Blackout Classic
Reverb Gloss White/Black
If none of these offerings tickle your fancy, then you’re in luck. Bell partnered with a company called helmade. This company allows you to design your own helmet. There are 23 base designs to choose from. From there, you can customize and design your own.
There are a ton of helmet offerings from helmade. I’ve included some of them below, but for an exhaustive list, check out the helmade Bell Moto-3 product page:
It’s worth noting these special colors and designs are much more expensive than the options sold by Bell, sometimes more than twice as much and the only difference is the way the helmet looks. You can check out helmade’s website or Bell’s own website to learn more.
These designs are cool but not anywhere worth the massive markup. Bell does a fantastic job with the paint already, and if you find any of the five styles the company offers appealing, you’re better off saving your money and going with that. If you’re looking specifically for a cool helmet, check out this post on helmets with insane graphics.
The interior of the helmet is honestly my favorite part. More helmet companies should do an anti-microbial terrycloth liner. It’s soft and comfortable. It also wicks away sweat and moisture well. The fact that it’s removable and washable is another major plus—not that that is a unique feature at all. Most good helmets offer this.
The padding accompanying the liner is also good. It’s thick and supportive. It will likely break in a little more over time, but I wore this lid for several weeks and it still feels brand new inside.
The terrycloth liner extends down and provides a little bit of coverage around the chinstrap, too. This adds some nice additional padding. It would have been fine without it because the chinstrap itself is soft nylon, but the added terrycloth coverage is a welcomed addition.
Removing the liner in the helmet is very easy. The 35mm cheek pads have a three-snap attachment system and removing them is as easy as pulling on them. The rest of the interior has a system of velcro and snaps.
The only trouble I had was replacing the interior. I had to work the rubber trim around the eye-port a fair amount. I can’t imagine this rubber would hold up well if you did this often. Retailers do sell new interior pieces, but I don’t see a replacement rubber trim piece available.
I’ve touched on build quality already, and it should come as no surprise thanks to Bell Helmet’s reputation, but the Moto-3 is of high quality. The fiberglass composite shell is smooth and without defects, the vents in the chin bar are well crafted and look beautiful, and the interior of the helmet features some really nice materials and details.
Also, the Moto-3 just feels well made. It feels solid and like an item that was crafted with very little margin for error. The tolerances all seem to be very low, meaning everything fits together tightly. There’s no rattling or looseness to anything about this helmet, which is what you want from any helmet.
Comfort, Noise, & Airflow
I have worn and reviewed plenty of helmets from several manufacturers—full-face, three-quarter, half helmets, and modular helmets. Some are certainly more comfortable than others. The Bell Moto-3 is one of the more comfortable helmets out there.
It’s lightweight at about 3.09 pounds, puts no pressure points on your head, and provides good airflow. Just wearing the helmet you feel free and comfortable, whereas some helmets feel restricting or claustrophobic. The Moto-3 has a very open-air, open-face feel to it with the added benefit of an EPS-lined chin bar.
So, I would initially rate comfort very high for this lid. Then you get on the bike. First up, the visor has some sail to it. This knocked the comfort level down for me. But hey, you can remove that visor. Problem solved.
Then there’s the noise. As you can imagine, the Moto-3 is not a quiet helmet. It does a decent job thanks to those 35 mm cheek pads, which provide some protection to your ears from wind noise, but beyond that, you might as well be wearing an open-face lid.
That large eye-port doesn’t protect your face much from rain or bugs either. If you fill that space with some goggles, you get far more protection, but if you like to don the helmet with a pair of sunglasses (as I did most of the time) then you’re leaving a good portion of your face open to the assault of rain, grasshoppers, flys, mosquitos, and all sorts of road grime and dirt. I didn’t mind so much, but some folks will.
The Bell Moto-3 helmet is a fantastic helmet for what it is. But, and it’s a big but, it has some shortcomings. The biggest one for me was that the helmet comes with no eye protection. The large eye-port looks cool and functions well with some goggles, but know that if you don’t have goggles, you’ll need to purchase those too or wear some glasses.
That large eye-port also contributes to a lot of wind noise. This is somewhat mitigated if you get some goggles that fill the space, but there’s still no seal as there is with a regular full-face helmet, so you have to keep that in mind. In other words, bust out your earplugs.
Third, I was not thrilled with the snap-on visor. I ended up taking it off and leaving it off. I think it would be significantly better if it were about an inch shorter than it is. It would reduce sail and personally I think it would look better.
Fourth, the opening for your head is sorta narrow. I have cauliflower ears from years of wrestling, so they don’t really bend like normal ears, but the narrow opening made getting the helmet on and off a little tougher than expected. Once on though, it was very comfortable, and taking the lid off, isn’t an issue.
Lastly, and this may be an issue for the particular helmet color I had, the flat black paint picks up scuffs super easily. To be clear the paint itself doesn’t scratch, but rather other stuff rubs off on it, and it’s not easy to get off.
For example, I rode my bike to meet up with my wife for lunch. Heading into the cafe, I bumped the Moto-3 into the yellow front door of the cafe and there was a yellow scuff on the helmet. Try as I might I couldn’t get it off. I tried a few different mild cleaners, and then realized I could just scratch it off with my fingernail. Still, it took forever.
The black paint acts as a chalkboard and picks up all sorts of things. Flat paint in general is kind of a pain in the butt. I’d say to go with one of the gloss finishes. The fact that Bell doesn’t offer a gloss black option is a serious miss on their part.
If you follow the size chart that bell provides you should be just fine. I was right between 58 and 59 cm when I measured my head, and I chose the large. Because of the snug fit, I’d say if you’re between sizes to go up.
Another thing to note is that the cheek pads are interchangeable, so you could potentially buy a large helmet and then size down to a different cheek pad. Also, worth noting, Bell utilizes three shell sizes and four EPS sizes. This helps keep the bobblehead look in check, but you should think about shell size and how that matches up to the six sizes offered.