The Bell Variant Bike Helmet deviates from the standard helmet, delivering a host of high-end features in a lightweight, comfortable package. Thanks to Bell?s Fusion Microshell construction throughout, the Variant offers a high degree of durability and safety. Internal reinforcements also allow Bell to take off some weight and build in more groovy-looking vents to keep your noggin cool while you?re climbing towards the ridge. Dial in the fit of the helmet with the Geared Positioning System, cam-lock strap levers, and adjustable visor.
Strengths: This helmet has a perfect snug fit on my head, almost as if it was custom-made for me. The head-band piece on the inside is rubberized plastic, so it is thin, light, and strong. The adjustment wheel is rubberized too. The buckles and straps show quality over cheap Bell helmets. The one-piece padding is of an excellent quality, and it never comes un-velcroed from the inside if the helmet. I also like the removable visor, it's a neat feature!
Weaknesses: It's not the absolute best in the styling category, compared to a POC Trabec, Fox Flux, or 661 Recon XC, but hey, for around $10-25 less, it's not that big of a deal for me. The only other complaint I have is about the removable visor, it is fixed onto the helmet in two points on either side. I think Bell should at least put one more point in the middle where the helmet and visor connect, so the visor seems less flimsy and wobbly when you hold it. The visor doesn't bend or rattle when riding though, so it's another minuscule detail.
Okay, I'll admit it, I'm amazed by this helmet. I used to be paranoid of crashing badly, and completely shattering my helmet, so I always wore a heavy fullface and body armour. Now that I have a few of my first cross-country races coming up soon, I realized that I need to be a weight weenie, and how my downhill gear was big time overkill for cross-country. So I walked into my LBS, skeptical about finding a decently priced helmet that felt "solid" on my head. I tried on several Giro helmets, a few Bontrager ones, and also a Specialized helmet too, but none fit my head as perfectly as the Bell Variant. The helmet fit over my ears well, and also the forehead sat at a great level. I liked the design too, it looked like more of an aggressive All-Mountain trail riding helmet, which is perfect for what I do, a mixture of long XC rides and some fun All-Mountain singletrack trails. Along with that, it didn't break the bank at only $65 at my LBS. I highy reccomend getting this helmet instead of a more "high-end-brand" like Fox or 661 or POC, because it gives you a better bang for your buck, and it feels the same as a high-end helmet, but for only $60-80!
a Weekend Warrior
from Rockville, MD
Date Reviewed: June 28, 2011
Strengths: The Bell Variant feels solid, fits like a glove and and is comfortable enough to be worn all day.
The airflow through the helmet feels cooler than not wearing a helmet and the shade effect beats a hat.
Weaknesses: No weaknesses have shown up so far. It took some adjusting to get the fastenings just right but nothing has come undone.
I hope to be wearing the Variant for a long long time.
Similar Products Used: Giro Xen, an awesome helmet - it took a terrible hit and broke when I crashed at about 25 mph, but I was only dazed. Given that the protection provided is equal the difference is comfort. The Xen came off whenever I dismounted; the Variant comes off when I'm headed indoors.
Bike Setup: Ellsworth Truth with Cane Creek AD-12 rear shock and Marzocchi Bomber front suspension.
Uncle Six Pack
a Weekend Warrior
from Bloomsburg, PA, USA
Date Reviewed: June 24, 2010
Strengths: light, good ventilation, looks pretty good
Weaknesses: the size adjuster on the back seems cheesy, but hasn't failed on me yet
I got this helmet for about $50 and the price was definitely right. I didn't want to spend too much on a helmet because I think a lot of the more expensive helmets are good marketing, but not necessarily better protection. I plan on tossing it as soon as it takes a bad hit. For $50, I can replace it anytime without too much worry.... a $100 (or more) helmet is a lot harder to throw away when its time comes.
a Weekend Warrior
from Oceanside, CA
Date Reviewed: August 3, 2009
Strengths: Lightweight, good ventilation, easy adjust straps, easy adjust fit.
Weaknesses: None yet.
Overall I like this helmet. It is light and vents very well. I don't really notice it much when I'm riding which tells me its prety comfortable. I wear an Underarmor Skull Cap under helmets to keep sweat out of my eyes and to keep from getting a helmet vent shaped sunburn pattern on my bald head. This practice helps make any helmet feel better, but even when I've worn the Variant without the skull cap its comfortable. Its easy to adjust the fit with the dial in the back. Helmet fit is very personal, its important to get a helmet that fits so you'll wear it all the time.
Bike Setup: Pitch Pro, WTB Seed V Comp, Ourys, Easton Flatboys
a Cross Country Rider
from Tempe, AZ
Date Reviewed: February 27, 2009
Strengths: This helmet *would* get 5 stars.
1) It fits solid; the ratcheting system fits snugly (although we'll get back to this in the next section).
2) Sexy graphics. Bell moves beyond monochrome and race graphics (shiny stripes!) to give the Variant a worthy, all-mountain look.
3) I was also impressed with the venting on hot days.
Weaknesses: 1) Minor problem: The roc-lock system is awkward with a pony tail and may need to be adjusted several times during a ride for comfort.
2) Major problem: The ratcheting system has a fatal flaw. 'Fatal' because the flaw renders it completely unusable. The roc-lock system is anchored into a triangular piece nested in the top of the helmet. The length of the anchoring line can be adjusted by popping the triangular piece out the top and fitting it lower. Most owners wouldn't know about this since when you first buy the helmet the triangular piece doesn't seem to budge. But, eventually this piece can pop up, and if it does then it might pop OFF. If this happens it is NOT REPLACEABLE (not available through Bell) and the helmet is NOT USABLE.
Great helmet - except I will NEVER buy it again.
The triangular anchor popped out and disappeared within 1 month of owning the helmet. Bell doesn't sell/carry replacement parts...so if you lose this 2 cent piece then your $100 helmet is rendered useless. The fabulous Bell rep recognized a lemon, and immediately replaced the helmet with a new one. 5 months later...the SAME thing happened. Once again the Bell rep is great and offered to replace the helmet, but this time I'm taking a credit and buying another helmet. Maybe the Giro Xen (another great helmet with a different fatal flaw according to the MTBR reviews).
If you don't have a hook up at a shop, you might be out of luck when the piece breaks. If you buy this helmet, I would recommend you pop the triangular piece out, fit the helmet the way you want it, and then superglue that sucker back. I won't buy this helmet again until the manufacturer fixes this problem.
a Cross Country Rider
from 3rd planet from the sun
Date Reviewed: October 13, 2008
Strengths: The one piece padding makes this helmet very comfortable Their gps locking system provides a good fit. Even with a headlight and battery mounted to the helmet it never feels wobbly. One year warranty. Thumbs ups
Weaknesses: The V shaped clip (on the top of the helmet)that holds the gps straps to the helmet fell off. The helmet is useless without this critical piece. I was able zip tie it together to get the ride in.
It is really a good helmet aside from the critical piece falling off.
Bell has one year warranty policy and are making good on it. Repair time is seven to ten business days.
I would recommend the Varient to cyclist looking for a comfortable helmet. Also those that night ride with helmet mounted lights.
Similar Products Used: Giro, Bell Xray(what a bad name for a helmet)
Bike Setup: Plush
a Cross Country Rider
from San Dimas
Date Reviewed: September 4, 2008
Strengths: Fit, fit, fit. I thought my old (now destroyed) helmet fit well. This thing fits great.
Weaknesses: None yet.
If you're not into having to have the latest and greatest then this will work well. The only reason I switched was because I got off hard and broke my old one, complete with minor concussion, but the old helmet did its job and absorbed the shock. Hopefully this one will last a while (knock on wood). :)
Great helmet. Found this on Amazon cheap and with free shipping. I thought my 5 yr old X-Ray was comfortable but the Variant is a much better fit for me. The one piece pad is also an improvement over the smaller individual pads of the X-Ray. Highly recommended.
a Weekend Warrior
from League City, Texas, USA
Date Reviewed: August 24, 2007
Strengths: Fit and finish. It's a fine helmet that fits me like they made the mold from my own head (and I tried bunches of others). Interesting ability to move the visor up and down a bit to help with light/glare. Cool design, not too over the top as I see many helmets. Slightly smoother and rounder (and possibly a bit safer because of it).
Weaknesses: 'Twas a bit on the high side (for me) at $100 since there were other helmets I thought would serve just as well at lower prices.
As mentioned, I tried on lots of helmets (mostly focusing on Giro and Bell and focusing on those with good reviews that I had done careful research on). I didn't buy this one blindly but did several days worth of off-and-on research before carefully checking out the 8 to 10 helmets on my list (and trying one a few others as well). Never found a Giro quite as comfortable as I would have liked and I really wanted to like them. The Bells generally seemed to fit me better, but it wasn't until I tried on the Variant that I found the best fit for me. For some reason, from the comfort standpoint, this one stood out and felt like it belonged on my head. (But remember, we're talking about my head here and not yours. Your mileage may vary.) At $80, it was the helmet for me.
Side Note, Not Helmet Related but Purchase Related: I was originally going to purchase this helmet at Performance Bicycle, who had an outstanding sale going on at the time with this relatively new model helmet on sale for $80 (no one else, as far as I could tell, had yet offered any "sale" prices on this helmet, I think since it was a relatively newly released model). But, Performance Bicycle had it in only gray and I wanted a bit different color for both safety and aesthetic reasons. I had seen that Sun and Ski Sports had the model in a color I liked, after asking them about it Sun and Ski agreed to price match the Performance Bicycle price. But I have to say that the particular manager at Sun and Ski made the price match a rather difficult process and I came away from the experience of asking if they would price match with a slight sour taste (and an extra 20 minute of standing around the register area while he made verification phone calls, etc., to make sure Performance Bike actually had the helmet on sale). He even went so far as to tell me that if Performance Bike did not have the helmet in the exact same color that they could not price match (he later gave in on this point and allowed me the different color helmet for the same price). But his stand seemed a really dubious and non-customer friendly approach to me. Maybe the manager in question was just being moody or having a bad day, since everyone else there was exceptionally nice dealing with me as a customer, but I found his approach kind of a put-off. Thought I should comment on that as part of my "purchase experience." (Not trying to make a soapbox complaint out of this review, since this is about the helmet and not the store, but telling it like it was in terms of the buying experience.)
Favorite Trail: Whichever one I get to ride with my daughter.
Duration Product Used: Less than 1 month
Purchased At: Sun and Ski Sports
Similar Products Used: None.
Bike Setup: 2003 Raleigh F500 Mountain Bike (Police Patrol Bike)
a Weekend Warrior
from Omaha, NE, USA
Date Reviewed: April 4, 2007
Strengths: Comfortable, precise adjustment system, good looks.
Weaknesses: Relatively expensive.
I tried on almost every helmet out there, but this was the one that fit me the best. Padding inside is extensive and the low-profile back looks cool. Great ventilation. Seems durable. Adjustment system is great. The bottom line with any helmet is that it fits well enough that you'll wear it.
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It's a cross bike, but thought you folks looking at the belt drive concept might enjoy. Travis Brown has created another monster. Must be nice to be able to design your own prototype bikes and have them fab em up.
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