Bell deserves credit for ushering in the new wave of convertible helmets when they introduced the Super 2R back in 2014. Although that helmet wasn't DH certified, it did attract the attention of riders looking for more protection than a half shell, and who didn't want the bulk and lack of ventilation that typically accompany a traditional full face.
The Super DH is the evolution of that original design, with notable improvements including ASTM 1952 DH certification, and a new version of MIPS called MIPS Spherical. When it becomes available in mid-December the Super DH will retail for $300. Claimed weight for a size medium is 850 grams.
Bell Super DH Details
• MIPS Spherical
• Removable chinbar
• ASTM 1952-DH certified
• Size: S, M, L
• Colors: Six color options
• Weight: 850 grams (size M, claimed)
• MSRP: $300 USD
The Super DH is constructed like a sandwich, with two different densities of foam stacked on top of each other, and a MIPS slip plane in between, a design called MIPS Spherical. The harder foam is found immediately under the shell, and the softer foam sits closer to the rider's head.
That inner layer of foam, which has the MIPS slip plane on top of it, 'floats' on elastomers, which allows the two layers of the helmet to move independently. The idea is that during a crash the outer layer is able to rotate enough to help dissipate a portion of the impact force, reducing the amount of stress that reaches the brain.
There are helmets out there from other brands that are designed to achieve a similar goal – 6D comes to mind – but on the Super DH it feels like takes less effort for the two layers to move independently. Put the helmet on, crank up some Pantera, and when you're headbanging you can actually feel the outer shell move a little bit while the inner portion stays securely around your head.
All the safety features in the world don't mean anything if a helmet is uncomfortable to wear, which is why Bell created a new head form to design the Super DH around, with the goal of creating a helmet that would fit a wide range of head shapes. There's also a new retention system called the Float Fit DH, which uses a ratcheting dial at the back of the helmet to fine tune the fit. Other niceties include an adjustable visor that can be raised enough to fit goggles underneath, an integrated breakaway camera mount, and a section of padding over the forehead that's meant to help keep sweat from dripping into your eyes or goggles.
Three latches hold the chin bar on – one at each side, and one at the back of the helmet. It's not hard to remove or install the chin bar, but it does take a little practice, and sometimes it can be hard to tell if everything is done up correctly without taking the helmet off. I'd say the Giro Switchblade is slightly easier to operate, but the advantage with the Super DH is that the resulting half shell has much better ventilation, largely due to the fact that it doesn't cover a rider's ears.Ride Impressions
I only have a few days of riding with the Super DH so far, but those days include multiple long, hot climbs, and descents down trails some of Whistler's roughest trails, trails that are even more jarring than usual due to a dry, hot summer. As far as fit goes, the Super DH felt much more comfortable on my head than the Super ever did. On my oval-shaped dome the Super always seemed to push in just a little too much for my liking at two points on each side of my forehead, but with the Super DH this wasn't the case – it wraps around much more comfortably. Even when it's configured as a full face, the ventilation provided by the Super DH is impressive - I was able to feel the air flow over the back of my head, and the opening on the chin bar is large enough that even it doesn't feel like your hot breath if being directed straight back at you.
Did I notice the two portions of the helmet moving independently when I was riding? Nope – everything felt snug and secure. Remember, in most instances, no matter how choppy the trail, your head remains amazingly still as you're plummeting down the fall line. That's why helmet cam footage looks so much smoother than a chest mounted camera – your neck serves as a gimbal to keep your head from flopping from side to side.
Overall, the Super DH is an impressive addition to the convertible helmet category, with an excellent fit and cutting edge impact protection. I'll be putting more time in on it over the next few months, but so far my first impressions are very positive. Bell Sixer and 4Forty
Along with the Super DH, Bell also introduced two other helmets, the Sixer and the 4Forty. The Sixer is a completely new helmet, and will be replacing the Super that Bell debuted back in 2013. It has the extended rear coverage that's become near-standard on most all-mountain helmets these days, and has a grand total of 26 vents. Although the number of vents is a metric that's often used to compare one helmet to another, according to Bell, just because a helmet has a large number of vents doesn't always mean that it will have good ventilation. There needs to be a clear path for the air to enter and
exit – it's that airflow that helps keep things cool.
The $150 Sixer is equipped with MIPS, but the system has been integrated into the fit system, which helps the helmet to sit closer to a rider's head. A strip of rubber at the back of the helmet helps keep goggle straps from slipping out of place, and the integrated breakaway camera mount means that if your YouTube antics take a sudden turn towards the '10 Worst Crashes' side of things the camera will pop off, rather than acting like a lever and potentially causing additional injuries.
The 4 Forty isn't quite as full-featured as the Sixer – it doesn't have as many vents, and there's no integrated camera mount, but it also has a more wallet friendly price of $95 for the MIPS-equipped version. There's an adjustable visor, which is a feature that often gets scrapped in less-expensive lids, and uses Bell's Float Fit retention system. Weight for the MIPS-version is a claimed 380 grams for a size medium.
Photos: Bell / Paris Gore