Bell Race Star: Review

Bell brings us the latest iteration of the Star helmet line for 2016 with the Star, Race Star and Pro Star. I was able to snag a Race Star about a month ago and have had the pleasure of using it for a couple track days and weekend canyon carving sessions. Improving on the previous Star, the new Race Star is safer, more aerodynamic, quieter, and holds a slew of other improvements the Bell team has certainly gone to lengths to develop.

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The biggest change to the Star lineup is the shape. With a substantial rear spoiler and forward swept design, the 2016 Star has an entirely new aesthetic. Exclusive to the Race Star is the use of the tried and true 3K carbon that makes up the shell, and the introduction of the Flex Impact Liner.

The Flex Impact Liner, only found on the Race Star and Pro Star, is designed to absorb three different types of impacts: low, mid, and hi-speed. This is done with three distinct layers of foam in varying densities, all tested to Snell M2015 standards. The goal here is to manage collisions at all levels, not just the life-threatening ones.

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To help riders identify potential collisions before they happen, Bell has redesigned the face shield. By extending the height and incorporating a notch on either side, vertical and lateral visibility are increased. This aids in the rider’s vision while in full tuck, as well as for head checks to make sure nobody is diving into a corner on you from behind. These changes constitute what Bell likes to refer to as Panovision. The new Panovision shield that comes with the Race Star is clear with tear off posts, but all the usual suspects are available to purchase separately—transitions, Pinlock, and colors aplenty.

Adding further to the Panovision shield redesign is the attachment and hinge system. The new hinge allows three positions for the shield: open, down (but not locked), and locked. The down (but not locked) position holds the shield open slightly, to allow additional airflow.

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Once inside the helmet, the theme of safety continues with magnetic cheek pads. Snap-in cheek pads are the standard across the industry, and Bell has risen far above that standard with their Magnefusion system. The cheek pads can be pulled out with minimal effort, allowing emergency personnel to remove your helmet without causing harm. Make no mistake, the magnets are strong, and staying in place isn’t an issue.

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Lining the cheek pads and interior of the helmet is the Virus Liner. The Virus Liner has jade fibers woven into the fabric, resulting in a fabric that is always cool to the touch.The last feature, but certainly not the least, is the neck and chin roll. These two components help keep wind and noise at bay when the pace starts to pick up.

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Bell has made an impressive advance with the Race Star over the old Star. The air flow is incredible, which is what you would expect from a race-oriented helmet, but it’s how the airflow is used that’s noteworthy. By channeling the chin vent at the visor, there are virtually no issues with fogging. I’ve used the helmet in temperatures down to 35 degrees fahrenheit and had no fogging at city speeds. At higher velocities, the aerodynamics of the Race Star really start to shine. The first time I had the Race Star over the 130 mph mark, it all started to make sense. The Race Star’s ability to cut through the wind not only lets you enjoy a more a stable ride, but also helps with concentration by way of noise reduction.

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Higher speeds are where the visor’s improved design also deserves a fair bit of credit. The Panovision shield is, in a word, sturdy. The new shield is thicker than previous versions, and with hinges that literally pull the visor tight, it all comes together for an impressive bit of engineering. With no wobble or shake to this immoveable beast of a visor, and an improved range of visibility, full tuck never looked so good.

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Impartial to track or street use, the safety of the Flex System is a huge benefit. Apart from the safety though is the comfort this helmet offers. The Race Star provides a snugger than normal fit due to its race affiliations, but don’t let this fool you into thinking it’s uncomfortable. In the 1000 miles I’ve put on it so far, 400 of which are on track, I have yet to develop any hot spots or felt it was too tight in any way.

The components necessary for a great track helmet are all there: comfort, safety, aerodynamics and ventilation. Where I find the Race Star lacking is when I’m not at the track.

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At a $700 price point I have certain expectations of what a helmet should and shouldn’t be, with ‘fragile’ landing in the shouldn’t category. By fragile, I don’t mean that the Race Star is unsafe, just that in the day to day use I find myself being worried that I’m going to pull something apart. This is most evident with the chin vent plug, where if pulled without the proper support of the plastic bits around it, you may see the entirety of the interior chin wanting to come loose. Further loose things come in the way of the exterior portion of the chin vent. When opened, the helmet will rattle when shook due to the plastic air dams sitting loose when the chin vent is opened. So far I only hear this rattle when the helmet is off my head, but it’s a rattle nonetheless. Slightly fragile as well, is the matte finish. The Race Star gets huge points for looking mean and brutally beautiful, but the matte finish takes to scratches like a fat kid takes to cake.    

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Further on the price point complaints is the lack of material for the liner. The ear pockets have nothing, just the Flex foam that you can see with their bright red accents. Maybe this is part of the racing pedigree that bell is showing you, akin to the Porsche track car that you pay more for to get all the sound deadening and luxury pieces removed in the interest of saving weight. If this this is the intent, why didn’t bell save this for the Pro star? This sort of minimalist effort is wasted on me, because at the “pro-sumer” level I think of the race star being at, I still want the luxury touches. Especially when I think of this helmet as being on par with the Shoei X-Fourteen.

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If this were a helmet I only planned to use for track days, I wouldn’t have a single complaint. It checks all the necessary boxes, with above-average flourish for a track helmet. Where it falls short is the ability to withstand and anticipate the day-to-day abuse that a commuter will put it through. This standard may be unfair, because asking one helmet to do everything well is difficult. Considering the competition, though, it’s inevitable.

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The Race Star is purpose-built to be a race helmet first and everything else second. Depending on your point of view, this could be the answer you’re looking for. If you’re willing to forego a few comforts for innovation, safety, and a glorious visor, then the Race Star is for you. If a minimalist approach to headwear doesn’t appeal to you, I would still give the Race Star a look, if for no other reason than to see what the race helmet of the future looks like.

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Photos Via: Essential Moto

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