By Bryan Harley - Cruiser Editor

Pricey, but worth every penny

I’m an anomaly among cruiser riders. I prefer a full-face helmet over a half-shell. Sure, I don’t mind rockin’ an open-face Bell three-quarters lid if I’m just running around town, but if I’m doing any serious riding, it’s full-face all the way. Right before my recent ride out to Sturgis this year, a Bell Star Carbon Race Day Helmet with a Transitions Shield arrived for me to sample. It’s served me during testing of the 2014 Victory tourers, the 2014 Indian Chiefs and the 2014 Can-Am Spyder and is now primed for review.

The first thing I noticed when picking up the helmet is how lightweight it is. According to our buddy JC, the Bell Star Carbon Race Day helmet weighs only 3.6 pounds. Wearing it on the ride to Sturgis, the light weight of the helmet is appreciated because it doesn’t become tiresome having it on your head all day. It has what Bell Helmets calls a TriMatrix shell made from Kevlar, carbon fiber and fiberglass – materials that are strong, durable, and resistant to some blunt force trauma to the head in case of the accidental get-off. It is also very comfortable. The cheek pads have a soft liner and are cushioned well, as is the inner liner at the base of the skull and in the forehead area. Both the liner and cheek pads unbutton or slide out for cleaning and are made from moisture-wicking material. The chin strap is padded, too, and cinches up with the standard D-ring closure. One bonus is, instead of having to blindly fiddle with a button to keep the excess strap from whipping around, the end of the strap has a small magnet that connects to one located on the D-ring when you get it close. Small conveniences like this are always appreciated.

And that’s just one of the small details Bell has paid attention to with this helmet. Remove the cheek pad and you’ll discover it’s got a small ear pocket sewn into the padding. We are testing the “Race Day” version of the Bell Star Carbon, and this pocket would serve perfectly for racers trying to communicate with their team. Removing the cheek pad also reveals small cutouts for speaker pockets. Rider-to-rider or passenger communication systems are popular these days, but sliding a helmet on over these isn’t always easy. Having a designated spot for a motorcycle communication system is another nifty selling point.

This theme of convenience continues with the visor. Bell has devised one of the simplest, quickest removal systems I’ve used. Push the small levers located at the point where the shield connects to the helmet back and it pops right off. Push it again, line up the tabs on the visor, and the shield clicks back into place. It’s one of the easiest and quickest systems around and makes swapping visors simple instead of a chore. Just below it is another small lever that operates the 3-mode face shield. Click it up and it locks the visor into place, ensuring it’s not going to pop open mid-race. The shield can still be pushed up, but you’ve got to push hard. The middle setting is standard, allowing riders to open and close the shield at will. Push it forward and it cracks the shield open just a tad to allow air flow in, something I’ve done plenty of times in the past on helmets that don’t have this feature. Depending on how broken in the visor is, usually the wind will either push it shut or lift it all the way open. Another nifty little twist by the Bell team.

After riding with the Bell Star Carbon Race Day Helmet on during sweltering August days, I’ve been grateful that it vents well. There’s three different ways for riders to control the flow of air. Two channels run along the top of the helmet with tabs that are small but click back easily enough with gloved hands. There’s another small button right above the eyebrows in the middle of the helmet that doesn’t slide as easily but allows for more air to rush over the forehead and around the temples. The final vent is centrally placed on the helmet right where a rider’s mouth is and allows air to rush over your face and cheeks. While the other two vents are either open or closed, this one has two positions to choose from. There’s also a chin curtain that helps keep wind out on cold mornings or can be removed to allow a bit more flow to come up from underneath when it’s torrid outside. Two small, grill-covered slits on the back allow hot air to channel out the back.

I’ve worn the Bell Star Carbon both sitting behind the safety of a tall windscreen and on bare-bones bikes with no protection, and I am impressed with the way its design minimizes buffeting. It’s designed for racers who tuck behind the smallest of windscreens to cut down on drag but serves the average everyday rider as well. My head doesn’t blow around near as much as with most lids. To boot, it’s relatively quiet inside the helmet, ambient noise channeling over and around instead of into it.

Along with the Bell Star Carbon Helmet, we’ve been testing the Transitions Photochromatic Shield as well. This visor automatically adjusts to light conditions, darkening in full sun while going clear at night. And even though Bell has made it quick and easy to swap out shields, the Transitions Shield eliminates the need to carry an extra visor for day and night riding. The shield is impressive. It works as described, constantly changing based on outside light to maintain just about the perfect clarity. Riders don’t notice it working so they can concentrate on the road. I’ve ridden with it in bright sunlight and the dark of night, and the Transitions Shield is always on point. If the sun is hitting you directly in the face, it could stand to darken up just a little bit more, but otherwise it is a boon for riders. I love not having to pack an extra shield or second pair of clear glasses. It’s one of those things you wonder how you got along without and, in my opinion, is something every motorcycle helmet should come with standard.

The Bell Star Carbon Race Day Helmet teamed with the Transitions Photochromatic Shield is top-notch. I understand why AMA Pro Racer Josh Herrin talked so highly about it when I interviewed him. It’s got a great design that limits head shake, vents extremely well, cuts down on ambient noise, and is comfortable and lightweight. All this along with the protection the Kevlar/carbon fiber shell provides while meeting Snell M2010 and DOT standards. Bell backs up its work with a five-year warranty. The helmet is pricey but worth every penny.