How does Bell's mid-range helmet stack up?

On a regular basis, boxes of the newest and flashiest gear that can be bought, borrowed or stolen roll into the doors of the MotoUSA office. With so much bitchin’ gear flowing like water, it doesn’t take long to become jaded by even the coolest of the cool. I know; I know. We are serious gear snobs, but at least we can admit we have a problem. A few weeks ago, a box from Bell Helmets arrived, and I got excited. I had been eying the Bell Star RSD Speed Freak LE Helmet that Waheed had sitting on his desk, and I was hopeful that my very own Star waited inside the box. But instead the labeling said, “Bell RS-1.”

My heart sank for just a moment. I’m not good enough for the top-shelf stuff? Why does Waheed get all the hot gear? Then I opened the box, and my frown turned upside down. This thing was cool! A flat black base coat with a design resembling a bandana wrapped the sharp lines of the RS-1. On top of the helmet was a Day of the Dead Skull graphic that resembled the tattoo on my left arm. I conceded I could wear this and not be embarrassed. Actually, I couldn’t wait.

The RS-1 is the newest street lid in the Bell lineup, bridging the gap between the high-dollar Star and the budget-friendly Vortex. While it is not cheap by any means ($349.95 – $399.95), this helmet packs in the features at this price point. Touted as a worthy adversary for the gold standard Shoei RF-1100, the RS-1 looks to further increase Bell’s market share in the highly competitive helmet arena.

The shell of the RS-1 is a combination of Kevlar and fiberglass for a strong but lightweight helmet. The RS-1 carries Snell M2010 and DOT certifications. Weighing in at 3 pounds 8 ounces (1575 grams) the newest Bell is just one ounce heavier than the Star and is the same weight as the RF-1100. The helmet feels light, just not feather light like some of the higher-priced race-bred lids out there. Honestly, once on my head, I couldn’t feel a difference between the lighter, high-dollar helmets and the RS-1.

Three intake zones and two exhaust zones handle the cooling duties on the RS-1. Chin, brow and top vents allow the air to enter the shell as it leaves via vents under the spoiler and just above the bottom-rear. I spent several 80-degree days during a short Californian heat wave in the flat black Bell. The vents worked well, and air movement was noticeable once on the move, after the sweat had time to form at the stoplights. A forward click on the three-position shield latch cracks the shield open slightly to infuse an extra bit of air on a sweltering day. I used this shield position quite a bit while motoring on our long-term 2010 Honda Gold Wing, as the windshield robbed the vents of all their cooling airflow.

The only thing the RS-1 struggled with on the Gold Wing was buffeting from the windshield. The swirling air off the top of the windshield came crashing down on the spoiler, buffeting the Bell badly. Granted this isn’t the most likely choice for a Gold Wing, but I feel you should be apprised of my experience. On a sportbike where the flow is more direct to the RS-1, it is smooth as silk. I didn’t experience any helmet lift even at triple-digit speeds. For the budget-minded trackday rider, the Bell RS-1 is an option that should be considered.

Inside the helmet, the fit is snug yet comfortable. The moisture-wicking padding is soft and velvety. All the pads minus the neck roll are removable and washable. A useful feature is a recessed space in the ear cup area for intercom speakers. I installed a SENA SMH10 Bluetooth Headset to test this feature, and was completely satisfied. The large ear cups do add a bit of noise, as there is less padding around the ear to dampen wind noise. I’ll gladly trade the extra dB’s for the space as some other lids smash the top or bottom of my ears. After a few hours some of those helmets become almost unbearable – not the case with the RS-1.

Shield changes on the RS-1 are some of the easiest in the biz. Just flip the shield up and press the release on both sides. In less time than it takes to read this sentence, the shield is off. Installation is even quicker: Just push the pivot into its holder, and it snaps right in. Why can’t they all be this easy? Only once did I change the shield when I installed Bell’s Transitions SOLFX Shield. With the ability to automatically adjust from light to dark depending on the level of sunlight, the photochromatic shield is the only one you’ll ever need.

Even though I was bummed at first that I didn’t get the top-of-the-line Bell to review, I couldn’t have been more satisfied with the RS-1. It could actually be Bell’s best helmet yet, and if Waheed offered to trade his pimped out Star for my RS-1, I would decline. Not only does it look badass, it really is a great helmet for the price. Comfortable and well thought out, the Bell RS-1 should be on your radar if you are looking for a mid-priced full-face helmet.