Helmets are the key safety feature for people riding a bike. Bell is a common brand that’s sold pretty much everywhere, but it’s always a good idea to do your research before choosing a helmet.
So, are Bell bike helmets good?
Bell is a trusted brand for bicycle helmets. Their helmets meet CPSC standards, and their testing goes much further. Bell invented modern bicycle helmets in the 1970s, they were the first brand to make helmets with “MIPS” (Multi-directional Impact Protection System), and they continue to be a popular brand today.
Of course, we know you’ll need more details than that. So we’re going to cover the following topics next:
Are Bell Bike Helmets Safe?
Bell bicycle helmets are safe as a whole, they all pass the CPSC standards and score moderately high in other systems. Every helmet should be evaluated on it’s own, of course, but as a whole the brand is safe.
That’s not to say that issues don’t crop up. There have been a few incidents of Bell helmets getting negative reviews based on safety.
The Bell 4Forty failed a Consumer Reports test in 2018 for instance. In this case, it appears the chin strap failed during the test, so it wasn’t a matter of the helmet not being protective enough, but rather the strap malfunctioning. The company responded that it was an industry-standard buckle and their own testing showed it was safe.
To summarize, it’s best to review every helmet individually. That said, Bell helmets are be considered safe as a general rule.
Is Bell a Reputable Brand?
Bell helmets have been around for decades, and they produced the first modern bike helmets in 1975. They’ve been around for a long time and they’re trusted by motorsports enthusiasts as well as those riding bicycles.
It’s hard to accuse the company that invented a product of not being reputable.
Of course, companies change over time. Bell Sports, the producers of Bell’s bicycle helmets, are currently owned by Vista Outdoor. Vista Outdoor is a collection of outdoor brands, also owning reputable manufacturers like Bushnell. It’s in their best interest that Bell remain a standard.
Bell was the original gold standard of modern bicycle helmets. They’re still on track and you’re not straying off the beaten path by purchasing your helmet from Bell. It mostly comes down to comfort, individual fit, price, and your specific preferences.
Where Are Bell Helmets Made?
Bell Sports produces their helmets in China, in the same factories as Giro helmets, as Vista Outdoor currently owns both of these major bicycle helmet brands. The majority of bicycle helmets (across brands) are manufactured in China today. That said, some of Bell’s products are assembled in the USA.
The tag will usually differ based on the manufacturing location, but functionally there’s really no difference. They’re solid helmets. Some brands may lose quality when manufacturing overseas, but that doesn’t appear to be the case with Bell.
How Long Do Bell Helmets Last?
Bell recommends replacing their helmets every three years, which is standard. It’s just to get in front of any degradation in the plastic long before it becomes a problem.
Over time the foam shell inside the helmet begins to break down. As it dries out and cracks it becomes less protective. Storage conditions matter a lot for real-world use, heat and light are your helmet’s natural enemies.
Keep in mind that bicycle helmets are only rated for a single crash. Your helmet should be replaced after any significant accident on your bike.
How Does Bell Compare to Other Brands?
Bell bicycle helmets can be considered standard, and you’re not going to go wrong with them. I’d consider them in the middle range of cycle helmets if you consider the brand as a whole.
But let’s get more specific by comparing Bell helmets with other brands on 5 specific features:
1. Safety Ratings
All of Bell’s helmets pass the basic Consumer Product Safety Commission standards, which is required for bicycle helmets in the United States.
Some helmets are safer than others, and Virginia Tech has outlined a more complete system than the one used for the CPSC certifications.
Bell’s bicycle helmets performed well. Ten Bell helmets are currently rated, with four 5-star helmets, four 4-star helmets, and only two rated at 3-stars. Overall, Bell helmets score well under the Virginia Tech safety ratings, with none of their helmets on the lower end of the scale.
Their results were similar to brands like Giro and Specialized, with most of their helmets being 4 or 5-star in the results and a few trailing into the 3-star range.
One thing to note: while Bell helmets scored well on the safety system, they weren’t topping the list when you look further into the statistics. The best-rated Bell helmet was actually 31st on the list. Bontrager appears to produce a safer helmet on average, but anything with a four-or-five star rating is still much safer than average.
Bell helmets are reasonably priced. The Virginia Tech standards recorded the MSRP of the tested helmets at their time of purchase. 5 of the 10 Bell helmets tested were under $100.
Like most of the big names in the bike helmet game, Bell’s helmets range from cheap to expensive. They have a wide range of prices, from budget models in the $10-25 range to high-end helmets. They top out at around $250, although a few creep higher. If you want to learn more about helmet pricing, check out our helmet pricing guide.
The good news is that Bell’s middle-of-the-line helmets (in the $60 to 150 range) all score well in safety. Unless you go for the cheapest model available, the helmets perform well in testing, the price difference is more about comfort than extra safety.
3. Product Selection and Availability
Bell Sports makes helmets for pretty much everything. Their line of bicycle helmets is incredibly diverse, ranging from basic and inexpensive road helmets to high-end full-face mountain biking helmets.
Whatever your type of cycling, there’s something in their lineup that will work.
With a quick check on common retail sites, it appears that Bell has more product selection than the majority of brands. Bontrager and Specialized should be noted as having a similar number of products.
The far range of products makes Bell a favorite for novices, especially since they also have reasonable pricing.
However, it’s important to note that not every retailer offers Bell in their product line. REI, for instance, offers no helmets from Bell in their lineup.
4. Proprietary Technology
Bell’s helmets were the first to begin using MIPS, or Multi-directional Impact Protection System. This system involves a low friction layer in the helmet that allows movement between your head and the polystyrene that forms most of the protection.
MIPS helmets top the list of safest helmets for a reason. That said, this technology is no longer exclusive to Bell helmets and most of their innovation seems to be focused in the motorsports arena.
5. User Reception
Bell’s helmets are well-received by most buyers. You can’t even find a low-rated Bell helmet on the biggest online retailer, and most have at least a few hundred reviews. They’re virtually all rated above four stars (out of five).
However, an in-depth analysis of negative reviews across retailers reveals a few complaints that are recurring:
- Chinstrap failures are mentioned in most negative reviews, including the Consumer Reports guide we mentioned above.
- Bell has switched to Universal sizing for their helmets rather than offering size variations. A lot of folks with larger craniums have found that they don’t work, including a few who are near the theoretical top-end of the universal sizing.
- The hooks for MIPS systems aren’t as robust as they could be. This appears to be more of a longevity problem than a safety problem as users complain they wear out quickly.
- The paint on Bell helmets seems to start peeling often. It’s particularly prominent among their painted matte helmets.
While these complaints echoed across the background, they’re in the minority. Most people who used Bell helmets were quite satisfied.
Overall Impression Compared to Other Brands
Bell stacks up favorably against their competition in most respects. They’re a reputable brand with a long history and a proven safety record. Add in lower-than-average pricing and you can see why they’re a clear favorite for many novice cyclists.
Bell doesn’t have a sole claim to the market, of course. As noted above, while Bell helmets are quite safe they’re not top of the line in that regard.
Their pricing is about average, possibly a bit less. Every major brand of bicycle helmet has models available across the board, but Bell’s helmets scored well for their price in the Virginia Tech rating system.
Their selection is great as well. Bell makes everything from decorated children’s helmets to full mountain bike helmets. You’re not going to find yourself short of choices if you choose to use their brand.
When it comes to comfort, it’s hard to say. Most brands of helmets have slight differences in their sizing and fit, which is often what leads to a cyclist’s preferred brand. With their current Universal sizing, it may be best to avoid Bell if you have a particularly large head.
On the face of it, Bell helmets won’t let you down and are more than acceptable where it matters. That said, other brands do some things a bit better and they’re always worth a look.