Bell’s top of the range carbon composite sportsbike helmet
The Bell Star Carbon is Bell’s out-and-out sports helmet, designed for track use and tucked-in, chin-down sportsbike riding.
But the thing about top of the range helmets is that’s where all the manufacturers put most of their R&D money (the tech trickles down to their other models later to cover costs), so it’s a particularly competitive sector. So let’s look at how the Bell Star Carbon stacks up
Made for the track or sporty road riding, the Bell Star Carbon combines all-day comfort and outstanding ventilation with modern and aggressive styling. The only cons, like many sportsbike and track helmets, are that it’s noisy and that glasses wearers might struggle. If those aren’t an issue for you and you want a helmet for sportsbike riding that looks super cool, then the Bell Star Carbon is worth checking out.
- Now discontinued – though good deals are still to be found
- Check out the new Bell Star range here
- Snell certified
- Not yet SHARP safety tested
- Composite of carbon, kevlar and fiberglass
- Weighs about 3.3Lbs (1.5kg) – about avg for a composite
- Comfortable and great ventilation
- Size XS – XXL
- Expect to pay between $600-$700
The Bell Star Carbon has been Snell certified but hasn’t been SHARP tested, so we know it’s probably safe, but don’t really know how comparably safe it is. It’s both ECE approved for sale in Europe and DOT certified in the US.
So in terms of safety, the Bell Star Carbon looks promising, and this top model is constructed from three layers of kevlar, fiberglass, and with a top layer of carbon fiber to give it that nice carbon fiber weave finish (in the models it’s not covered by paint).
That makes for a helmet that should be tough, and at around 3.3Lbs (Bell’s own figure) it is just a smidge over the average weight of a composite helmet (3.4Lbs or 1.46Kg according to our research). Most owners feel that it’s a really light helmet though so they seem to be happy with the weight!
Another useful safety, and convenience, feature, is that the shield has a locking mechanism. If you’re on track and want to be 100% sure your shield isn’t going to flip up and break your concentration going into that high speed right-hander, then that’s going to be useful – and safer. It’s also going to help stop the shield opening during an accident too – again, very nice to know!
Looking to buy a Bell?We recommend either Revzilla (PA) or Bike Bandit (CA) for outstanding service. Please click the links to see their full range and latest prices or see here for more info on these retailers.
Of course, the Bell Star Carbon is a racing helmet. And like lots of other top of the range, racing-focused helmets, the Star Carbon suffers from being noisy. As you’ll read further down, it’s got great ventilation, but in this case, that creates lots of holes in the shell to allow noise into the helmet.
Most owners agree that it’s somewhere between noisy and very noisy (depending on how noisy their previous helmets were) and that you really need some decent ear plugs in to keep things bearable.
The Star Carbon comes in sizes XS (54/55 cms) to XXL (62/63 cms). For the exact sizes in between, click the link to our recommended retailer right at the bottom of the page, and you’ll be able to see sizing, availability and latest prices.
This is one of the Bell Star Carbon’s really strong points.
As you can see from the photo above, there’s a plethora of front vents – a chin vent that’s adjustable to direct air onto the face or visor, then lower and upper forehead vents. All these are easy to operate using sliders – even with gloves – and owners universally agree they can let in a ton of air.
As usual, the forehead and crown vents pull air through channels in the shock-absorbing EPS liner inside the shell, and cut-aways inside the comfort liner allow heat and moisture to be pulled from your scalp and out of the rear exhaust vents (there’s four of those – see right).
In the Star Carbon, it’s a particularly effective configuration and is ideal for sweaty track days and races.
Even though pretty well all the promo shots of the Bell Star Carbon show smoked shields (because it makes it look cool and moody!), it comes with a standard clear shield in the box.
It’s coated with what Bell call their NutraFog 2 coating which is OK but not the best if you’re riding in cold weather.
The shield has two positions, closed and open but will sit at any point in between – there’s a friction connection that keeps it open until you reach reasonably high speeds.
Once nice feature is their really simple and quick to operate shield removal mechanism. It really is very fast – possibly the fastest around. Just open up the shield, pull down on a trigger and the shield pops out. Couldn’t be easier and very useful for whipping off your shield to give it a good clean.
Many of the owners of the Bell Star Carbon are raving about Bell’s transition shield too. It’s a photo-reactive shield that darkens in bright sunlight – and takes just a few seconds to go from clear to smoked. It’s about $150 (depending on retailer). If swapping shield or forgetting sun glasses is an issue for you though, it might be worth it.
Another really strong point for the Bell Star Carbon is comfort.
Like any helmet, you have to make sure you go through the basics to get the right fitting (see our guide to fitting). Assuming you buy the right size, the Star Carbon’s internals are of high quality and owners say they quickly bed-in and are comfortable enough for all day in the saddle.
The liner is contoured and the cheek pads are swappable to tune the fit. It’s made from what Bell call their X-Static XT2; that’s a silver ion treated, anti bacterial and removable/washable liner. What that means in practice though is that people comment on how (very) soft it is (aaah!) when you put it on – and it has mesh and padding in all the right places.
One fly in the ointment is that it’s broadly regarded as poor for glasses wearers. If the stems of your glasses aren’t thinner than average, it might be worth avoiding – or at least buying from a retailer who will accept returns with no quibbles (such as our recommended sellers) – so you can try with your own glasses.
Looks & Graphics
I think it’s safe to say the Bell is one of the coolest looking full face lids around. It’s sleek and aggressive, with nice lines ending in that swept back spoiler. The graphic options are mostly very tastefully worked too, with lots of classy paint schemes and designs and most showing off that carbon fiber weave to varying degrees too.
At the darker end, there’s the matt black, the Union and the special edition Roland Sands Design (RSD) version (right). Adding a bit more color, there’s the Pinned designs and another special edition, the Tagger Trouble. Then there’s the Michael Dunlop replica (an Irish racer who last time I looked was wearing a Shoei hat!) and then there’s the colorful (and I have to say very very nice!) special edition Chris Fillmore Replica that you can see at the top of the page.
Here’s Revzilla to take you through some of the Bell Carbon’s finer points!
The aero on the Bell Carbon is very impressive. It’s been designed to make it as slippery as possible, and to minimise buffeting – and owners say it works incredibly well. It’s not perfect as one or two owners reckon there can be buffeting if you turn your head at (moderately) high speeds. But overall, it performs well.
It’s been designed to work with Sena audio kits and there are cutaways in the liner to accommodate speakers – and these line up with meshes in the lining to allow sound to travel through unimpeded. Obviously, the helmet’s loud though so it may be a bit tricky to hear above the wind rush if you go too fast.
There’s also a nice touch on the double d-ring fastener as it has a magnetic end which allows the free end to attach itself to another magnet and stop it from flapping around. It works well and is a great little feature.
And finally, track riders say there’s a nice wide field of vision with only the very extremes of the shield aperture coming into view. That’s good for track and for road use.
Crash Helmet Buying GuidesFor (hopefully!) other useful information to help you when buying your next helmet, check our various guides - or have a look at our top helmet lists where we've got the top 10 rated helmets overall and best budget/safest/full face/flip-up helmets.
We’ll be checking out sportsbike/track helmets such as the Arai RX-7V and Shoei’s X-Spirit III when they’ve been around for a while (launch date set for early 2016). In the meantime, you might want to check out Schuberth’s track helmet, the SR1. It’s a composite shelled SHARP 4 star rated helmet, got great ventilation, an excellent visor and it’s a tad cheaper than the Bell. Shark’s Race R Pro range are terrifically light SHARP 5 star safety rated composite helmets that are known for comfort and ventilation too and are also worth a good look. Check our Sportsbike crash helmets section for more sports/track focused helmets.
Best places to buy a Bell crash helmet?We've chosen two of the best places to buy from - whether it's a Bell or any other helmet/gear.
Revzilla is based in Philadelphia and offers outstanding service (at the time of writing 4.9/5 on Shopper Approved) 30 day refunds and free shipping on orders over $39.99 to 48 states.
Bike Banditare in San Diego, score 9.1 on Bizrate, offer free shipping to 48 states on orders over $99 and 60 day returns.
Both are recommended retailers for quality of service and if you buy from either, we get a small sum from the sale at no extra cost to you - a massive THANKS! (it's how we finance the site).
Definitely want a Bell?Here you'll find all our Bell crash helmet reviews and previews including full face, flip-up and open face helmets.
The Star Pro is Bell's brand new aero helmet and what sets it apart from most aero helmets is a slider that opens and closes the side and top vents. With the vents closed, Bell reckon the Star Pro is faster than the fastest aero helmets currently available, while with the vents open, they claim ventilation as good as any regular helmet.
For this new helmet Bell developed what it calls Active-Aero Technology. Quite simply, there's a plastic slider at the back of the helmet that can move an internal liner to open or close the top and side vents. The rear vents remain open at all times.
When you want maximum aerodynamics you close the vents, when you need some refreshing air over your scalp, simply open them up. It's a simple concept, and well executed. The Kask Infinity has a similar sliding vent but that's at the front.
The slider functions well, and is easy to do on the move WITH just one hand. It doesn't have the premium feel you'd expect of a helmet costing £200 in its most expensive incarnation however, instead it feels a bit cheap and plasticky. I'd expect better at this price.
In its own testing at the Faster wind tunnel in Arizona, USA, Bell reckons the Star Pro with vents closed is faster than any of its competitors such as the Giro Air Attack and Specialized Evade. With the vents open, the company claims it's as effective at keeping your head cool as a traditional road helmet.
"A full range of competing aero helmets were tested at the Faster wind tunnel facility [in Scottsdale, Arizona, USA] utilising the industry-adopted wind-averaged drag (WAD), a wind velocity of 25mph (40kph), and a 30° head angle for all helmets," says Bell. "Tests proved that the Star Pro, with vents closed, is the fastest helmet on the market when compared to other very well-known aero competitors."
These are impressive claims. They're also claims that, along with most aero products, are impossible to verify without access to a wind tunnel. One day the industry might develop a standardised testing protocol for aero products but until that day happens, you can only take the company's claims at face value.
I did attempt to gather some comparative data against several regular vented helmets using a PowerTap to monitor the power requirements at different speeds, but wasn't able to get any meaningful results, which demonstrates how marginal the gains are with such a product.
If you want even more aero, the Star Pro can be bought with an optional visor (£30) that clips into place with a magnet, offering an extra aero advantage to those seeking every performance gain they can spend their money on.
I ditched it after one ride; it might be fine for racing but I didn't half feel a tit on a spin around the lanes. Let's just remember that this helmet has been designed for racing; it was developed in partnership with the Belkin team, so it's really aimed at those wanting the highest performance product.
A bit hot in here
What the Star Pro helmet does prove is that providing an aero helmet with adequate ventilation is a tricky compromise, despite Bell's best efforts to offer the best of both worlds.
There are vents underneath the front of the helmet, dubbed 'Overbrow Ventilation' which in combination with the side and top vents when the slider is open, does provide reasonablE cooling. It's nothing like the ventilation a Specialized Prevail or POC Octal provides though, but it's not bad. Even during this unseasonably warm weather, I never experienced an uncomfortable increase in temperature when riding around with the vents open.
With the vents closed, and if you're racing you'll be wanting to make the most of the aero benefits, it's another story. Those small 'Overbrow' vents simply don't provide enough airflow and my sweat rate increased massively, and it has nowhere to go but all over your face.
Even before half distance on a brisk one hour ride the other day, I was dealing with such an excessive amount of sweat pouring down from my brow into my face that I was ready to just ditch the helmet right there. There's simply inadequate venting that on a remotely warm day, you're going to struggle to prevent the extreme buildup of sweat.
You can partially combat this by leaving the vents open all of the time, but then you're compromising the aerodynamics, and thus defeating the point of buying an aero road helmet. Once you've reached the point of becoming a sweaty mess, opening the vents is too little too late.
Good fit and comfort
What of the rest of the helmet? Well it's a comfortable place to put your head for a ride, with the size medium fitting my head very well. There's a good range of adjustment and the retention system, though sitting a little high, is easy to operate and clasps the head with just the right degree of pressure. There is a good smattering of soft pads inside as well.
The helmet is constructed from a two-layer EPS, with lower density foam in the interior and high density EPS foam for the outer layer. The Star Pro will be available in three sizes and is CPSC and CE EN1078 certified, and there is a choice of six colours.
I was ready to love the Star Pro helmet. As it is, wearing it in warm to hot temperatures is just asking to become a horrible sweaty mess. Given most people looking to buy an aero helmet are probably racers, and most races are in the summer, that does limit its usefulness quite a bit.
It just goes to show you can't have an aero helmet without sacrificing decent ventilation. The rising popularity of aero helmets does show that this is a compromise many are happy to make, but for most people the potential gains are so small that you're probably better off sticking with a well ventilated helmet.
Comfortable aero helmet with adjustable air vents attempts to offer best of both worlds, but ventilation is lacking
road.cc test report
Make and model: Bell Star Pro helmet
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Star Pro is equipped with first-of-its-kind Active-Aero™ Technology, which gives cyclists the ability to regulate airflow, temperature and aero efficiency on the fly with a simple slider mechanism that opens or closes its vents. This ensures riders are able to adapt to situations and gain optimal performance benefits throughout the course of a race. The Star Pro and its Active-Aero™ Technology was developed to address a long-standing gap in the market where riders previously had to sacrifice one for the other when it came to aerodynamics and ventilation. While other manufacturers may promise the same, never before has a cyclist been able to control the ventilation or aerodynamic capabilities with a simple flip of a switch in the middle of a race.
Extensive research and testing was conducted on the Star Pro to validate its abilities and to back up its performance claims. A full range of competing aero helmets were tested at the FASTER wind tunnel facility utilizing the industry-adopted wind-averaged drag (WAD), a wind velocity of 25 mph (40 kph), and a 30-degree head angle for all helmets. Tests proved that the Star Pro, with vents closed, is the fastest helmet on the market when compared to other very well-known aero competitors. And when measuring the Star Pro's cooling efficiency, with vents open, it proved to be near equal to a traditional road helmet over a 30-minute period, but more importantly, cooled faster than a bare head during the initial five-minute period giving the cyclist the ability to cool their head mid-ride.
Beyond its Active-Aero™ Technology, the Star Pro is packed with innovative design features, providing riders with Overbrow Ventilation, multi-density Progressive Layering, and a Magnetic Zeiss Shield for integrated eyewear on select models. Overbrow Ventilation regulates temperature by drawing cool air into the intake ports and circulating it through a matrix of air channels that push out warm air through the exhaust ports. The Progressive Layering includes a two-layer liner that has softer density EPS foam on interior sections and stiffer EPS foam on exterior zones. A Magnetic Zeiss Shield provides optimal protection and visibility, but removes and stores easily on the helmet exterior when not in use. Additionally, the Star Pro will come with an all-new Float Fit System that has optimal adjustment to ensure it sits comfortably on the head.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Gives you the ability to regulate airflow, temperature and aero efficiency on the fly with a simple slider mechanism
Regulates temperature by drawing cool air into the intake ports and circulating it through a matrix of air channels pushing out warm air through the exhaust ports
Two-layer liner has softer density EPS foam on interior sections and stiffer EPS foam on exterior zones
MAGNETIC ZEISS SHIELD
Integrated eyewear for optimal protection and visibility; removes and stores easily on helmet when not in use
Rate the product for quality of construction:
Well constructed generally but the slider operating the vent is seriously lacking a premium feel you'd expect of a £200 product.
Rate the product for performance:
Fast if you believe the aero claims, but lacking in ventilation does limit its practical usefulness.
Rate the product for weight, if applicable:
It's not particularly heavy, nor is it particularly light.
Rate the product for comfort, if applicable:
No problems with comfort on the head, a nice fit with good adjustment. The retention system does sit a bit high at the back of the head though.
Rate the product for value:
A tricky one this, some will be sold on the aero benefits but unless you're looking for every performance gain you can lay your hands on, there are better ventilated helmets that are more practical in the real world.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Doesn't quite live up to Bell's claims to offer the best of both worlds, ventilation is seriously compromised.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The potential aero gains.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Looks like a bowling ball; very sweaty on hot and fast rides.
Did you enjoy using the product? Not when it got sweaty.
Would you consider buying the product? No.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Probably not.
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
Unless you're seeking every performance percentage increase, there's too little to be gained for the serious lack of ventilation provided by this helmet.
Age: 31 Height: 180 Weight: 67
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, mtb,