April is helmet safety awareness month, so it's time to check those brain buckets and make sure they’re up to snuff. Since I commute daily, rain or shine, my helmets take a beating. Add those long weekend rides and the odd road trip, and the end result is that I tend to wear them out pretty quick. Or at least that’s what I tell myself (and my wife) when it comes to feeding my gear addiction.

So, while I keep a few helmets on hand, my daily workhorse, a Bell Vortex, was getting a bit long in the tooth. It didn’t help that it had also Humpty Dumpty’d itself onto the floor of my garage a couple months ago, leaving some deep scratches in the Transitions shield. It wasn’t darkening well in that scratched area anymore, which was my cue to at least replace the shield. I took stock of the situation, and given that my Vortex, while solid, was a discontinued model, pushing three years old and a new Transitions shield is pretty pricey on its own, I decided on a full helmet replacement. One that included the Transitions shield out of the box.

Enter the Bell Qualifier DLX MIPS. While based around the same basic design, and thus superficially similar to the standard (OG) Qualifier and the Vortex, the DLX MIPS packs refinements and features its brethren lack, leading me to dub it the “Best Helmet for Commuting Ever Made. Period.”

It's a nice lookin' lid.

Let’s break down the reasons why, and compare it to the Vortex and the OG Qualifier while we're at it.

Style and build quality

It’s a sleek, modern, helmet with aggressive lines. The DLX MIPS comes in a variety of paint flavors to suit your style. For me, to paraphrase Henry Ford, any color is fine as long as it’s black. I like things subtle, y’know? I dig Bell’s matte black finish, so went with that. The paint is has no blemishes and a nice smooth finish. It’s solid and well-built, and all the hinges and latches for the shield and vents work great.

My only complaint is that Bell didn’t go as far as they could have with the chinstrap. They have better hardware and materials in their arsenal. A Magnefusion strap keeper, thicker, more padded strap material, and a heavier fabric pull tab on the D-ring would’ve made the DLX MIPS feel like a legit premium helmet, albeit at an incredible price.

Fit & comfort

No complaints. It’s good. Pretty darn good. The liner and padding are soft…on the verge of plush. The sizing based on Bell’s size chart is accurate. I have a big head, and the XXL fits spot-on. This is the case with all Bell helmets for me. Bell tends toward an intermediate oval shape, and I’ve found them to be pretty consistent with the shape and sizing of their helmets, so it should fit pretty much anyone without any surprises, as long as you have a fairly regular head shape. And no horns (sorry Horny Mike). The shell is reasonably light, coming in at 3 lbs. 10 oz. for the XXL.

Fits like a helmet should. Snug and secure, but no hotspots or pressure points.

It’s more comfortable than the Vortex and OG Qualifier, a benefit of years of refining this helmet design. I also noted that, unlike my Vortex, the breath deflector perched atop the chin bar didn’t press into my nose when riding at *undisclosed speeds* meaning that the fit was more secure, the breath deflector was positioned better, or both.

Airflow

Excellent. Ventilation is an improvement over the OG, adding a brow vent, making it basically the same set up as my old Vortex, with intake vents at the chin, brow, crown, along with four exhaust vents in back. All are easily opened and closed with a gloved hand; and four exhaust vents in back. It certainly feels as though more air is flowing through it than either the OG or the Vortex. It gets a bit stuffy when sitting still in traffic on a warm day, but that’s to be expected. Cracking the shield remedies this.

Bell worked some magic with the shield, and the combination of ventilation, breath deflection, and anti-fog coating means this sucker doesn’t fog up. It was 36 degrees (hey, thanks Texas, always love the second winter we get here in April!) the morning I wrote this, and the shield remained fog-free. Anti-fog usually just means “sort of doesn’t fog for the first five minutes before being blinded by a foggy haze.”

Noise

No one has ever accused Bell of making a quiet helmet. Noise is their weak point. The DLX MIPS is not loud, per se, but it’s not quiet in the way a premium brand, like a Shoei or Arai is. I usually have earplugs or earbuds in, which goes a long way toward mitigating wind noise . Regardless, it’s tolerable at higher speeds even without hearing protection.

Features & Safety

MIPS. ClickRelease. Transitions. BlueTooth comm ready. At $270, the Qualifier DLX MIPS packs 10 pounds of features into a 5 pound bag.

The shell is polycarbonate. Nothing fancy, but it definitely gets the job done. The OG has the same shell, and I’m alive to write this because of that helmet. The DLX MIPS gets an A+ on its shell construction in my book. State-of-the-art MIPS technology finds its way into the helmet. MIPS is a secondary slip liner that moves independent of the shell and EPS liner in an impact, displacing rotational forces transmitting to your head. As far as safety ratings go, it’s DOT and ECE rated, but not Snell, so it may not be track ready, depending on the requirements of your track. I’m not a track guy, and am approaching this from a commuting point of view, so DOT and ECE are fine.

The DLX MIPS includes a removable cover to allow select Sena and Cardo BlueTooth units (with an adapter clamp, sold separately) to be attached directly to the helmet, and the wiring for the speakers and mic routed through cutouts in the shell, for a streamlined setup. It also has integrated speaker pockets in the EPS liner as part of the package. It’s slick, and I’m looking forward to picking up a compatible BlueTooth unit and testing it out.

As rad as all that is, the best feature is the ClickRelease Transitions shield, hands down. Like everything else here, the ClickRelease mechanism has benefitted from years of Bell refining it. It’s close to perfect at this point. This is my third helmet featuring ClickRelease, and it’s the best yet. The detents in the hinge have a positive feel, and articulate smoothly and effortlessly between positions; fully-closed, fully open, cracked open (for some extra ventilation), or any point in between. Despite needing minimal effort, it locks into position securely, no flying open or slamming shut unexpectedly, regardless of speed. It also makes shield removal and installation tool-less and easy.

ClickRelease system makes opening and closing the shield; as well as removing it; insanely easy.

But you won’t need to remove the shield because the Transitions shield is so amazing it's basically life-changing. It should be a standard feature on all helmets. It’s not, though. It’s actually fairly uncommon, which makes the helmets that do feature it something akin to a unicorn. After using one for nearly five years now, I consider a Transitions shield a must for any helmet pulling regular commuting duty. If you're unfamiliar, Transitions is ancient sun magic that reacts with sunlight, and allows the shield to change from clear(ish) to dark (and back) in a matter of seconds. I’ve added one to both my OG Qualifier as well as my Vortex. The Transitions shield takes an otherwise mundane helmet and cranks it up to 11 (Nigel Tufnel would be proud). When commuting you have to be prepared for varied lighting and weather conditions, and a Transitions shield is far and away the best solution to the problem. Yes, there are drop down visors, but that's boring. You could pack an extra shield, but that's impractical. I prefer to solve the problem with Transitions magic (they claim to employ photochromic dyes and what-not, but I’m not buying it; it's totally magic).

The Bottom Line

It all adds up to a helmet that has everything a commuter could ask for. At $270 it offers unrivaled bang for the buck. Versatile and ready for any situation the ride to and from work might throw at you. It looks pretty good while doing it, too. Rain or shine. Going in early, or working late. Hot, cold, or anything in between. Hearing the thrilling rush of the wind or cranking some tunes from an integrated BlueTooth unit (or earbuds). And if things go sideways, it has a tough shell, MIPS, and Bell’s legendary reputation of keeping your head together to ride another day.