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MD Product Review: Bell RS-1 Motorcycle Helmet and Transitions Faceshield

“If you have a $10 head, wear a $10 helmet.”  That 70s-era advertising slogan for a Bell motorcycle helmet made an impression on my young mind. Despite my dad occasionally claiming there was nothing inside my head (provoked by what he termed “noncompous-mentus” behavior), I still felt it was worth way more than $10. However, with the family budget being what it was at the time, the price of a Bell helmet was beyond our reach, but I coveted it. After all, my racer idol , Kenny Roberts Sr., wore a Bell helmet while he collected race wins and championships in America and in Europe.

As time marched on, and I got into my own motorcycle career, Bell faded from the motorcycle industry, and so I wore other manufacturers’ products on my noggin. Fast forward to just a few months ago, when Dirck calls me to see if I would test a Bell helmet. Instantly, my mind flashed back to those 500cc GP seasons, when all I wanted was a Bell helmet like Kenny’s, with that dark visor to complete the cool, fast guy look. The obvious (only?) answer was yes….

A few days later, the helmet arrives, and although the current lid bears little resemblance to King Kenny’s lid, it is evident the same Bell DNA that created it is still there.

First of all, it’s light. 1613.7 grams (3.5 lbs), (Bell claims 1575 grams, which probably is accurate for their size small helmet.) In hand, it feels easily on par in terms of heft, compared to its competition. Compared to my Arai Astral X, it’s only slightly heavier (82.2 grams / .18 lbs), a negligible difference.

Looking at the interior, I see a material I’m not familiar with. Looks like suede, feels like suede, but is instead a synthetic version of suede. It feels nice against the skin, and feels a bit grippy. The interior is removable, washable, and has recesses for speakers. The retention system is secure and durable, so multiple removals will not wear out the various snaps and such, leaving the interior off-kilter.

Sliding the helmet on, the bottom opening feels snug on its way over my head. This is the neck roll causing the slight resistance. Once on, the neck roll conforms nicely to my contours, creating a supportive and noise-quieting seal. Contour cut cheek pads give a custom fit feel. The padding feels slightly more firm than other helmets, but isn’t stiff. It does break in a little, but there hasn’t been a bedding in to the degree that helmet size has changed. Extended periods between haircuts also reveals the padding to be accommodating to the thicker mop without packing down and being loose after the shearing. A removable breathe guard helps control fogging while you eyeball the beauty in the crosswalk, and a noise reducing chin curtain round out the interior niceties. Fit of the helmet is very good. I’m an ‘intermediate oval’, and this helmet seems to mimic that shape.

The shield Bell sent with this helmet is their transitions shield that adjusts for light levels. As was noted by Gabe in our review of Bell’s top-of-the-line Star model, there are times when you wish for it to darken further, like around sunset, but that is nitpicking. Unlike his observation, at night, there was no issue with it being clear enough. It’s quite an amazing shield, yet at the same time I wonder why this hasn’t been done sooner.

Not having to change shields seems like a small issue, but daily use, especially during fall / winter season, when the day’s ride starts before sunrise and easily can end after sunset, not having to carry a clear shield, or stop to change it becomes a more notable and desirable, even necessary feature. As the shield went through cycles of light to dark and clear again, I noticed the transition time seemed to shorten. By the time you’ve started your bike in the parking lot, put the helmet on and your gloves, it’s darkened fully.

The shield has an anti-fog coating, but I managed to wipe it out with a spray cleaner / polish. Now I occasionally treat the inside of the shield with an anti-fog product. So far, it has been as scratch resistant as any other shield I’ve used, but I don’t use windex and truck stop paper towels to clean the shield, either.

Removing the shield to clean and treat the inside of it is ridiculously easy, thanks to Bell’s 3 mode shield retention mechanism, which uses a left mounted lever to put it in lock mode, friction mode (open / close normally), or crack mode, which moves the shield about 1/4” off the seal to help with fogging / ventilation. Arai, please take notes here….  At $120 for this shield, it’s a pricey pill to swallow, but I must impress upon you, dear reader, it is definitely worth it.

Riding down the road, the helmet feels slippery in the wind. Cross-winds, turning the head, etc. don’t upset helmet stability at all. With the vents closed, in urban environs, it is pretty quiet, and they seal well, as does the shield against its rubber seal. Wind noise volume goes up a bit with the vents open, as expected, but it isn’t significant. The vents move quite a bit of air, which is welcome on these warmer days. On the freeways, and during extended rides, I wear earplugs, so in that scenario, all helmets are quiet. One other cool feature of this helmet is a nifty magnet at the end of the strap and on the d-ring that holds the loose end securely. No tucking the excess strap against the neck, and no fumbling to align a snap. Simple and effective.

I recently rode to Salt Lake City, Utah, for the World Superbike event at Miller Motorsports Park from SoCal. Spending in excess of 10 hours one way wearing a helmet will bring any issues to the fore. There were none. No news is good news in this case.

From an aesthetics standpoint, I chose the company’s ‘Steampunk’ design. I normally go for more mainstream graphics, but wanted something different this time, and this fills the bill. The matte finish is durable, cleans up nicely, and the design gets a lot of positive attention. I always referred to it as ‘gearhead’, and now I see that Bell has that named design in their 2012 lineup.

MSRP for this helmet (with standard clear shield) is $399.95. At this price point, taking into consideration its performance and features, it punches well above its weight class, providing a lot of bang for the buck. I have a new favorite helmet.

In regard to ‘racing improves the breed’, a number of front running racers are currently wearing Bell helmets while chasing race wins and championships. Josh Herrin, J.D. Beach, Jake Gagne, Hayden Gillim, etc., all are wearing Bell. I know there’s a kid somewhere looking to score the same helmet that one of these racers wears…..

Check out Bell’s website here:  http://www.bellsports.com/

32 Comments

  1. Yamasarus says:

    I have used Arai helmets exclusively since 1980, but just recently bought an RS1. My main need was a racheting shield and better ventilation but I still wanted the protection and comfort of my Arai. I think I found it in the RS1. It certainly filled my needs and feels great on my head! As the author said….I think I have a new favorite helmet. I would buy another in a skinny minute!

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  2. Todd says:

    I have a transitions shield on my Akuma helmet. Greatest invention since sliced bread. I’ve had helmets with internal sun shields and helmets with dark tinted shields. Nothing beats the transition shield for ease of use and flexibility.

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  3. Ayk says:

    $120 for a face shield? I already own sunglasses.

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  4. Mark J says:

    Note to helmet mfgs: no high-viz (e.g., yellow) helmet – no sale for me.

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  5. mark says:

    How about fit? Long oval, etc?

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  6. Kedosto says:

    I have a Transition visor on my Bell Star and I love it. I bought it years go when it was first available for $65 bucks. Now they’re twice as much, but in so many ways they’re still worth it. Not having to carry and change visors is a nice convenience you only appreciate once you live it. The transition gets faster the more you use it, and it’s plenty dark enough except when the sun is low (eye level) on the horizon. In the dark it’s so clear you can’t tell it from a clear visor. The one and only weak point with the transition visor is when riding in and out of the sun and shade, like roads found in heavily forested areas. The visor can’t change as quickly as I move in and out of the sun/shade so it ends up mildly tinted somewhere in the middle. Not a big deal but if you have sun sensitive eyes it might be important.

    Bell makes great helmets with quality similar to the biggest names but at realistic prices. I’ve always found Bell helmets to be a great value. I recently bought a Bell Pit Boss half helmet for my cruiser rides and it’s fantastic.

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    • kjazz says:

      Kedosto,

      I love that you mentioned wearing a full face on your (presumably) sport bike, but wear a half helmet when riding your cruiser.

      In light of so much bickering on the previous MD forum post about helmet usage… why do you wear what is considered by most to be better protection while riding one bike and not the other? Not picking on you, I know plenty who do that. Is it just fashion? Or what?

      Cheers!

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  7. daveA says:

    I had a chance to try one of these out myself, and it wasn’t bad. In fact, I’d say it was only a little ways behind my 4 year old Scorpion EXO700…and it’s only twice as expensive, so it has that going for it.

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  8. Reinhart says:

    This review sounds waaaay to positive for a Bell helmet. I think the writer is a little too enthusiastic about this brand or he doesn’t get out much.

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    • Dirck Edge says:

      …or the helmet really is that good.

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    • Dave says:

      Bell has been reviewing very positively in the last few years. Seems they want to regain the leadership in the business that they had some years ago.

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    • MGNorge says:

      As with so many other consumer items, people get locked into brand loyalty. So greatly so at times that it doesn’t matter how good the competition is, in their minds they’ll never be as good. I used to wear a top name brand helmet and they were good until they got stuck on themselves and their pricing went through the roof. Since then, and seeing testing results, I now wear something more reasonably priced and feel secure and I’m happy with my choice. Give Bell a chance to prove themselves.

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  9. kjazz says:

    Great looking helmet, wish they would build the latest features into their helmets.

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  10. Tom says:

    Now they regulate the quality of the helmet, too? When will the government quit? next thing you know I’ll be required to have a valid license and drive on the right side of the road, and use turn signals. Takin my freedoms

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  11. Gene says:

    Nice looking helmet but hanging a helmet like that over a mirror is a good way to compress the padding. That not good since the helmet is designed to protect you only once. I had a friend of mine fail tech inspection because of that. He had to get a replacement helmet so he could race.

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    • Babbit says:

      Gene,

      The helmet was hung on the mirror for the photo only. It normally hangs on the passenger peg from the chin bar. Hopefully, the tech inspection was as thorough for the bikes on the track as it was for your friend’s helmet. I’ve never seen padding permanently compressed in a modern helmet if it were less than 5 years old.

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      • Gene says:

        Babbit,

        Nice article. I don’t think you could have hurt the helmet for quick picture. I was talking to the folks who regularly use their mirror as helmet stand. In the case of my friend his helmet was about a year old before he tried to use it for racing. All that time before trying to use that helmet it was placed on his mirror when not in use. Oh by the way that happened in 1986 or 87. One other thing that makes a difference is the shape of the mirror. My friend’s street bike at the time was an Eddie Lawson Replica so if you remember what the mirror looked like it would make much more of an impact on the padding than the mirror you used for taking pictures. Keep up the great work.

        Later,
        Gene

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  12. Kirk says:

    Call Bell customer service and tell them your issue with the magnet. They send a kit with some heat shrink tubing and another magnet. Worked fine on mine.

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  13. zrx4me says:

    babbit,you might want to change that last name.

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  14. Donkeymansteve says:

    Don’t count on that magnet staying on the chin strap for long. The one on my Bell Revolver came off after 3 months and I’ve heard of other people with the same problem. But I’d still buy a Bell in the future.

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    • Kirk says:

      I called Bell customer service and they sent out a magnet kit (heat shrink tubing and another magnet) that won’t fall off.

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    • Babbit says:

      I’m going on 4 months with this helmet, and nothing is out of place, or threatening to go south. Could be luck of the draw. Perhaps Bell is reading the comments section & could chime in. Their customer service is excellent, according to a couple of my Bell helmet-wearing friends.

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  15. goose says:

    Babbit Thrustface?

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  16. rick says:

    Its good to see a positive review, as I also remember Bell “in the day.” But I read several plus reports on the Revolver before buying via internet. What I got is so LOUD and that’s with earplugs its LOUD (and that’s with the Bell “quiet kit”) that it just sits ’cause my ears ring after using it. So understandably, I’m a tad sceptical about anything that says BELL.

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    • Babbit says:

      Rick,

      I’ve not had any experience with the Revolver model. It could be an inherent issue with that particular (modular) helmet design. Some are quieter than others, for various reasons, and the positive reviews you read could have been more heavily based on other criteria besides noise. Add in the subjectivity, your own expectations and you have a recipe for possible disappointment.

      Other helmet brands with this design may not perform any better (perhaps worse) than the Bell unit in the noise control department. The other reality is based in price. A $200 (selling for $80) helmet is not going to perform as well in certain categories as a $400 or $700 helmet.

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    • soi cowboy says:

      I tried using a chin curtain, forget the name. Basically stretchy fabric to seal the chin bar to your chin. Made a big noise reduction.

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