If you think about it, one of the most compelling endorsements a helmet can receive is to be worn by a racer who competes in “real roads” events like the Isle of Man TT. Roadracers compete among curbs, trees, fences, rocks, and countless other objects—they depend on their helmets to protect them from the same roadside hazards we all encounter every day. It’s hard to say whether their experiences at incomprehensible speeds can translate into a helmet being protective in the conditions you and I ride in. But when a roadracer chooses to rely on a particular helmet, it’s a serious vote of confidence.
In 2013, William Dunlop chose Bell and began wearing the Star Carbon Special Edition helmet you see here. If you’re not familiar with him, William is the nephew of the late roadracing superstar, Joey Dunlop. William’s father Robert (Joey’s brother) was also a roadracing legend who won six Isle of Man TT races, as well as others at Ireland’s premiere roadrace, the Northwest 200. Of course, there is also William’s younger brother, Michael Dunlop, a raging bull of roadracing talent who has already won 12 Isle of Man TT races. Suffice to say, the Dunlop family has racing in its blood. “It’s just something you’re born into,” William has said.
One way that William and Michael pay tribute to their roadracing lineage is through their helmet designs. Their father Robert was known for his striking black & white helmets with scallop patterns. William and Michael have continued this tradition, both wearing helmets that are variations on Robert’s theme. William’s Bell Star Carbon is among the best-looking of the bunch. Like all good design, its simplicity gives it a timeless quality. The white areas are the only painted surfaces. They contrast with the satin black of the raw carbon fiber to produce a design that is eye-catching from a distance. It is even more intriguing the closer you look; the woven carbon fibers appear as though you could reach in and touch them.
Fit-wise, we all have different brands or models that work with our heads. For me, Bell’s Star Carbon has a positive, totally-engaged feel all around. There are zero hot spots or pressure points. In fact, I recently competed in a 6-hour endurance race wearing the helmet in complete comfort.
The Star Carbon Special Edition boasts significant features, as you’d expect for its $699 MSRP. For starters, there’s the light weight of 1500 grams. Just looking at that figure might not be meaningful (it wasn’t for me), but picking up a Star Carbon speaks volumes. When I first picked up the helmet it was packed inside its shipping box with accessory bag and other bits and, even then, I thought “holy crap, this thing feels light.” It’s that noticeable. Other key features of the helmet are its exceptional air vents. In fact, they work so well that they create a healthy amount of noise. But, if you’re a warm weather rider, it’s likely a worthwhile tradeoff for the ventilation. The “bang for the buck” award of the helmet’s features goes to the little magnet at the tip of the chinstrap. Unlike the cumbersome snap or clip that most manufacturers use to keep the chinstrap from dangling, the magnet almost literally fastens itself. It’s a simple innovation that really adds value.
Hands down though, the best comfort/convenience feature of the helmet is the Transitions SolFX photochromic faceshield. While it doesn’t come standard with the helmet, this self-darkening shield is worth every penny of its $120 price tag. On a recent 2000 mile tour I wore the helmet in conditions ranging from blinding sunsets to ink-black nights on middle-of-nowhere roads. Grey skies, rain, and fog also made a few cameos. Through it all, the Transitions shield was perfect for any condition. It darkens to nearly the degree of a traditional tinted visor, yet in low light or night it’s nearly clear. This eliminates the need for two faceshields or the painful sunglasses-inside helmet trick. I never squinted in the sun, nor strained to see at night. It is a seamless solution.
If you are in the market for a top-rated (Snell M2015) helmet with clean, timeless good looks, and a slew of practical non-gimmicky features, then consider the Bell Star Carbon Special Edition William Dunlop replica. Visit Bell’s web site for additional details and color options.