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Bell “Shorty” Helmet

Bell Shorty Helmet

Bell “Shorty” Helmet
Bell “Shorty” Helmet Review Summary
Review Summary

I was only about 100 feet from the driveway when the bugs attacked.

Or rather, I attacked them at about 30 MPH.

Bell Shorty helmet liner.

A quick access of the little gray cells made me realize that this was the first time I had ever ridden a motorcycle without at least some type of visor that protected my face.  Now I knew why…

Early fall brings an outbreak of tiny gnats where I live, and they swarm around in great clouds, preferring the cool shadows of trees.  They seem to love hanging around by the side of the road, making a motorcycle ride a true adventure in nature.

It doesn’t take much to squash their meager bodies on a fairing, clothing or visor, and hitting them at speed is like riding through needles.

So my first and overwhelming take on wearing the shorty helmet look is this: don’t do it unless you’re riding behind a full fairing.  I have no idea how anyone can ride a motorcycle without at least a minimal amount of protection against bugs, wind, dirt and dust.

Chin strap has no retainer.

The curious thing is, I see them all the time.  Motorcycle riders without visors, that is.  The de rigueur riding apparel around here seems to be shorts, a T-shirt and what I call a Tupperware helmet — a helmet about as small as a Tupperware bowl and offering as much protection.

I know what happens when these riders hit the ground, even at 0 MPH when they fall over at a stop light.  I know this because my wife is a Registered Nurse and worked in an intensive care facility.

But please tell me what happens when bugs, bees, birds or — and this happened to me once — black walnuts hit them in the face, arms and legs?  Not only is it painful, it’s potentially dangerous to both rider and traffic.

So forget about using a shorty helmet, Bell or otherwise, on an unfaired bike.  The Bell Shorty has a removable shade, and I have a clear visor from an old 3/4 HJC helmet that will fit, but I have never seen a rider using a shorty helmet with a clear face visor, so I guess that’s out of the question.

I’m very fortunate to live in a small neighborhood on a cul-de-sac way out in the sticks that has, believe it or not, 13 motorcycles distributed among only 20 homes.  I ended up borrowing my neighbor’s Harley Davidson Ultra Classic Electra Glide to accurately evaluate the Bell Shorty behind a full (or nearly so) fairing.

Two front vents slide open or closed.

In this regard, it works very well, and, in fact, I can understand why the shorty configuration is so popular.  It feels very light in weight and my head feels almost completely unencumbered and free.  It’s a good feeling, but I still wouldn’t want to crash whilst wearing it…

However, the Bell Shorty is U.S. DOT approved, and it reaffirms our opinions on the “new” Bell helmet offerings.  We recently reviewed the Bell Sprint and found it to have excellent quality, especially considering the very low price.

The Bell Shorty helmet is cut from the same cloth, as it were.  The quality seems very good and everyone loves the flame graphics.  In fact, we had a hard time deciding which Shorty design to buy for this review.  I wish they had a red/orange flame model with a gloss finish, but our flat (matte) black with it’s 18% dark gray to silver flames is also very cool and, as you can see, it photographs beautifully.

Ours is a size XL, and it fits size large and extra-large near-round heads with comfort.  There seems to be more flexibility in the fit of a shorty or half-helmet because of the decreased contact area between the helmet’s liner and the rider’s head.  The Bell Shorty is very slightly tight at the top, and the fit up top feels similar to a Vemar VSR or Shoei X-11, if you’ve ever tried one.

Chin straps are located outside of curtain.

The liner is comfortable and the cloth that is used to line the brow is fleece-like soft.  Curiously, there is more padding in the liner on top of the rider’s head than at the brow.

There isn’t much padding at all in the brow, and we discovered that depending upon the rider’s head shape, some untoward pressure can be felt on the forehead, causing some pain or redness for some.

My round head shape apparently fits the Bell mold for the Shorty, because I had no problems in this regard.

The Bell Shorty is made in China, and we suspect that the entire Bell helmet line is made under contract in the same geographic location.

The size XL Shorty weighs in at 2 lbs., 8-3/8 ounces (1143 grams), which is, as expected, at least 1/3 less than the weight of most full-face helmets.  See the wBW Motorcycle Helmet Weights page for more information and for a table showing the weights of every helmet we’ve reviewed.

Curtain is removable with a zipper.

The Shorty has an interesting feature.  The vinyl side “curtain” that provides minimal protection against the elements for the rider’s ears can be removed.  The curtain is attached to the helmet liner by a full-length zipper.

The straps that secure the Shorty on the rider’s head are located outside of the curtain.  They are attached to the helmet shell with stainless steel rivets, and the nylon webbed straps come down on either side of the rider’s ear, where one of the straps is sewn on to the other, which then continues down under the rider’s chin to secure via a D-ring system.

This is all well and good, with one exception.  We cannot fathom the reason why Bell did not provide for a snap or a piece of Velcro to secure the extra section of chin strap.

Unless it is tucked up under the rider’s chin, the extra piece of loose strap flies around in the wind, slapping the rider’s face in a regular and very annoying rhythm.  In fact, you can hear the strap hitting the rider’s face and helmet in the MP3 sound file we recorded for the Bell Shorty (see below).

The helmet also has two sliding air vents on the brow, but with a helmet of this style, brow vents are superfluous.  After all, without a visor, how much more air could possibly flow through the helmet than isn’t already flowing over the rider’s face?

The Shorty is named thus for a reason — it’s short.  So the rider’s ears are out in the air stream, and the noise levels are about as high as we’ve ever experienced.  This can be somewhat mitigated with earplugs, and as always, we strongly recommend wearing correctly fitted earplugs whenever you ride a motorcycle.

This is especially important with the Bell Shorty and, we expect, with any other helmet of this configuration.  See the wBW Earplugs and Hearing Protection page for more information on choosing and fitting earplugs.


Other than that, the Bell Shorty is a very nice helmet for this style lid.  It would also make a good scooter helmet, although why a scooter rider should have less protection than any other two-wheeled rider isn’t obvious.

So there you have it: the Bell is a DOT-approved shorty helmet with nice styling, good quality and a comfortable fit.  And the price is right!

MP3 Sound Files

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 the wBW 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 we’re not sure if these are useful or not in helping you make a helmet purchasing decision.  More files are posted on thewBW Motorcycle Helmet Noise page.  Bell Shorty MP3. Time = 0:0:53 (818kb)

Product Review:  Bell Shorty Helmet
Available From:  Bell Powersports Suggested Retail Price:  $69.95
Colors:  Gloss Black or Black with Red, Blue or Silver flames. Made in:  China
Product Comments:  Comfortable, well made, DOT approved.  Light weight (compared to full-face helmets).  Strap does not have a keeper.  Minimal padding in brow.
More:  650×550 pixel photo of the Bell Shorty

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From “S.”:  “I got a Bell Shorty helmet when I bought my bike in April and the chinstrap has a snap on it to secure the slack.  Thought you might want to know they apparently figured out their mistake and corrected it.  I rarely wear it since I have the Bell Mag-8 with comms installed, but if I’m just going down the street to pick up my daughter it’s a nice alternative.”