Thursday, July 25, 2013

Crash and Burn (Part 2)

Bell Star Carbon Reviewed

Photo borrowed from Bell Powersports

After using Shoei helmets for most of my riding career, this year I decided to try something different, and bought the Bell Star Carbon.  I loved the carbon look, and the helmet was getting great reviews.  Once I got to see it in person and try it on, I understood why.  Bell helmets were the leader for many years, but when I started riding, they had fallen far behind.  Recently though, Bell has returned as a serious competitor...every bit of a match for Shoei and Arai, widely regarded to be the best.

Riding Impressions

This became my favorite bit of gear after the first ride!  I was always satisfied with my Shoei RF-900, but what a difference 10 years of design makes!  The Star Carbon was better in almost every way.

Here's why I like it:

  • Aerodynamics:  The helmet cuts through the wind so easily, it is stable at any speed.
  • Ventilation:  The Star Carbon felt air-conditioned compared to anything else I've worn.  This was the most striking observation from my first ride.
  • Visibility:  Great in every direction, comparable to my old RF-900.
  • Looks: High-tech and understated.  I'm getting too old for flashy lids! :)
  • Comfort:  After wearing it for a few rides, perfect.  The interior of this helmet is beautiful.
  • Fit and Finish:  Everything about it looks and feels like a super-premium helmet. It even comes with a sweet carry bag.
  • Gizmos!:  Magnetic strap retention and the optional Transitions shield are phenomenal.  I cannot imagine not having these on every helmet I own from now on.

Here's what I don't like quite as much:

  • Noise:  Earplugs are a must.  This is the price you pay for spectacular ventilation, and I think it's a fine trade off.
  • Price:  This is a premium helmet at a premium price.  $649 for the helmet plus $120 for the Transitions shield is a big spend!  That said, I still think it's a fair price for what you get.
  • I'm really reaching for cons here.  It was hard to find one in-stock anywhere in Charlotte to try on. 

After the Crash

After the crash
Now for the part of the review you don't normally get.  When I went down, the brunt of the impact was borne by my left shoulder and the left side of my head.  Without a helmet, I wouldn't be here.  It's really that simple.  No matter what you ride or where, a high-quality helmet should never be regarded as optional, regardless of the laws of your state.

How I Fared

I was a bit dazed immediately following the crash, but I was conscious.  I understood what happened, where I was injured, and was able to communicate immediately and effectively with my friends and emergency personnel.  Aside from some light bruising on the left side of my forehead and cheekbone, there was no visible injury.  A head CT scan came back negative for problems.  In short, my head was nearly unscathed.  The Star Carbon did its job flawlessly as far as I'm concerned.  The visor even stayed attached and in the down position in spite of the impact striking right at the attachment point.  This is a common point of failure.

How the Helmet Fared

Needless to say, helmets are a one-use item.  This one gave its life to save mine.  That said, upon inspection, some interesting details emerge.  The pictures will do most of the talking here.

The vertical line is where the carbon fiber shell broke along the ridge at the rear of the helmet.  I suspect this is a designed point of failure, allowing the energy of the impact to dissipate.

The chin curtain was the only thing out of place, and I left it as it was after the crash.  It is flexible and did not interfere in removing the helmet.

With the interior padding removed, cracks in the hard foam inner shell are visible.  More energy dissipated.

A few more faint cracks and deformations are visible in the interior, well-spread across the helmet.


I can't sum it up any better than this: my next helmet will be another Bell Star Carbon.  I hope that I never need it like I did this one, but if I do, I know I'm well protected.

This review might sound a bit gushy, but it's honest.  There were some letdowns from my gear, but none from my helmet.  Thanks Bell, well done!

Thanks for reading, and safe riding to you all!

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