The new Bell Super DH looks like a traditional full face lid, but it can also do trail ride duty. Photo by Paris Gore
The original Bell Super was one of the first helmets designed specifically for enduro racing. It introduced a host of features which are now standard in this segment.
Bell captured lighting in a bottle for the second time with the Super 2R. That helmet shared the same profile as the original, but came equipped with a removable chinbar. Bell wasn't the first to develop this concept, but they were the first to make a convertible helmet that actually worked well.
But while the Super 2R (and subsequent Super 3R) were industry leading at launch, they weren't perfect. The biggest complaint was the lack of DH certification. There were also a host of minor issues that were livable, but could be improved.
To address these problems, Bell went back to the drawing board two years ago. The end result is the new Super DH. This new helmet shares the Super aesthetic, but introduces a myriad of new safety technologies and creature comforts.
With DH in the name, you better believe the new Super DH passes the ASTM 1952 DH certification test. The original Super helmet did not pass because it was always intended to be a trail helmet first.
The DH standard requires the helmet pass DH certification with and without the chinbar. Photo by Paris Gore
If you have a full face helmet at home, you might have noticed it doesn't have many vents. Part of the downhill certification process requires a helmet be dropped on a pointed anvil (called a curbstone), which replicates lawn darting into rocks. While Bell claims the Super 2R chinbar was strong enough to pass the DH test, the venting structure made it difficult to pass that curbstone test.
The key to a well-vented helmet isn't just the number of vents, but also the internal channeling and exhaust ports. Photo by Paris Gore
To bring the shell to the DH standard, Bell eliminated six vents (four helmet, two chinbar). That may sound ominous, but the vent reduction was offset by radical internal channeling. The key to keeping cool, says Bell, is the ability to pull air in and force it out, not the number of vents. So despite having less vents than the original Super, the new DH version breathes exceptionally well.
If you look closely, you'll notice the layers of foam nested together. In between are the yellow elastomers that allow the layers to rotate. Photo by Paris Gore
Our favorite feature of the new Super DH isn't the ability to pass a test, it's the new safety tech. For years, Bell has been a big advocate of MIPS, the low friction layer positioned between the head and helmet. In a crash, it's supposed to help reduce the transfer of rotational forces to the brain.
The basic theory is sound and the technology has been widely adopted. However, there are a number of brands who felt more could be done than what MIPS currently offers. Bell tacitly agrees, because the Super DH introduces a new spin on the concept.
Developed entirely in house with the blessing of MIPS, Bell's new Spherical MIPS concept utilizes two different layers of foam. The outer shell is your standard high density EPS foam that works best at mitigating high speed impacts. The second layer is a lower density EPP, which sits next to your head. This softer material works better for your more common low- to mid-speed impacts.
Sandwiched in between these two layers are elastomers, which allow the two shells to move independently. Bell likens it to a ball-and-socket. It's similar in many ways to the technology 6D uses, but more compact.
In addition to the new safety features, Bell has reworked the helmet to be more comfortable. With the 2R and 3R, some riders complained of hot spots. The Super DH receives a new head form, which seems to have alleviated those issues.
The Super DH uses a magnetic latch, which is easier to operate than either a D-link or clip. Photo by Paris Gore
The helmet also has a new fit system, which is integrated into the MIPS layer and wraps around the entire head. Bell revised the padding so it absorbs sweat and redirects moisture to the outside edge, letting it drip away from your field of vision.
Other minor updates include a new breakaway accessory mount, which is easier to install and sturdier than the previous Velcro solution. They also updated the latch system to make the chinbar easier to mount (and make the helmet look better when the chinbar is removed.)
On the Trail
The Bell Super DH won't be available until December, but Mtbr had the opportunity to meet with the engineering team and ride in some pre-production samples.
The first thing we noticed about the helmet is the fit. Many of our testers found the 2R and 3R to be uncomfortable due to pinch points, but Bell's new headform is more neutral. Even if the older Super and Super 2R/3R didn't work for you, we'd recommend giving the new DH lid a try.
While we didn't get much pedaling in without the chinbar, the new helmet is far better ventilated than its traditional DH counterparts. With the chinbar removed, the helmet felt similar to the regular Super. We were concerned that the Spherical MIPS might be noticeable on jarring descents, but that proved to be a non-issue. The entire package felt solid.
If you're considering a new helmet, the Super DH will be available in December. Photo by Paris Gore
If you can hold off on your next helmet purchase until Christmas, the new Super DH might just be the best convertible helmet on the market. With the chinbar removed, it looks and performs on par with many of the best deep coverage enduro helmets on the market. And while the chinbar is a bit bulky to carry, when clipped in, this new helmet delivers DH-level protection.
Add in the innovative safety technology and amenities (goggle storage, integrated camera mount) and you have a compelling package. We need more ride in a production sample before issuing a final verdict, so stay tuned for a long term review.
Sizes: S, M, L
Weight: 850 g (3R was 785)
Vents: 19 helmet, 4 chin, 2 brow
Colors: Six color options
For more info on the new Super DH, visit www.bellhelmets.com.