Review: Bell Star Pro aero road helmet

Innovative design allows rider to open or close vents depending on need

Helmets
Bell Star Pro Aero Road Helmet

This helmet does well in the cold when a lack of venting has dual benefits.

The Lowdown: Bell Star Pro aero road helmet

Bell’s Star Pro aero road helmet delivers on its promise of being both aero and well vented, just not at the same time. With vents open, the Star Pro does a reasonable job of keeping its wearer cool. Close the vents and it’s claimed to be the most aero road helmet on the market, a really good thing on a hot day, because you’ll want to get to the finish line as fast as possible to cool off.

As an added bonus we found the Bell Star Pro to be a good option for cool or cold-weather riding and cyclocross races, when being able to close up the vents helped keep Old Man Winter at bay, while leaving the option to open up when things started to hot up.

Bottom line, we see this as a niche product targeted at riders who are truly focused on marginal gains. But you can say the same thing for all the aero road helmets on the market (Specialized Evade, Giro Air Attack, etc). And when judged in that company we think the Bell Star Pro comes out on top simply because of its versatility. Vents closed for speed. Vents open for cooling.

Stat Box
Vents: 13 closable, plus two fixed Padding: X-static
Shield: Magnetic Zeiss and shield interface Sizes: Three (S, M, L)
Weight: 280g (303g w/ shield) size medium Certification: CPSC and CE EN
Shell: In-mold polycarbonate MSRP: $280
Colors: Six Rating: 3.5 Stars 3.5 out of 5 stars

Pluses
Minuses
  • 13 retractable vents, plus two fixed vents
  • Lack of frontal venting
  • Magnetic shield and shield interface
  • Aggressive styling (if that’s not your thing)
  • Cold weather protection
  • Weight
  • CPSC and CE EN certified
  • Two-layer liner
  • Easy-to-use adjustable retention system
  • Float Fit
  • Aggressive styling (if that’s your thing)

Full Review: Bell Star Pro Helmet with shield

Before deciding whether or not to buy the Bell Star Pro aero road helmet, start by asking yourself if you really need an aero road helmet in the first place. If your target goals for the upcoming cycling season include winning criteriums, crushing your friends during group rides, ruling Strava, and/or having a great cold weather option, then this helmet may well be for you.

But if you’re simply a casual rider and/or racer, we’d suggest you opt for a more traditional road cycling helmet that will likely be lighter, have better venting, and not make you look like you’re on your way to a Star Wars themed costume party (if you wear this helmet with its magnetic shield).

Bell Star Pro Aero Road Helmet

The magnetic Zeiss shield is a pretty bold statement.

Indeed, Bell’s new Star Pro aero road helmet delivers on its promise of being both aero and vented, just not at the same time. With vents open, the Star Pro does a reasonable job of keeping its wearer cool. We had no issues on a number of 3-4 hour rides when temps were in the 70s and 80s. Close the vents and Bell claims the Star Pro is the most aero road helmet on the market. Without delving too deep into PR minutiae, Bell says the difference between the new helmet and its more traditional Gauge model is about a bike length in a 300-meter sprint. That’s the difference between a spot on the podium and thanks for playing please come again.

We don’t have budget to verify Bell’s wind tunnel testing, but given our basic understanding of how air moves, with vents closed the Star Pro will certainly slice through the wind more efficiently than a traditional road helmet (Bell’s or otherwise). The helmet maker also says it takes top spot against the other aero road lids, but the gaps are smaller, about a half bike length. And all this is based on a rider averaging 1150 watts during that final mad dash to the finish, which isn’t exactly easy. Or put another way, your results may vary.

Bell Star Pro Aero Road Helmet

The Active Aero slider mechanism is easy to reach and operate.

The helmet’s vents open and close thanks to what Bell dubs Active Aero, which is simply an easy-to-reach sliding mechanism at the rear of the helmet that manipulates the 13 vents. (There are two rear exhaust vents remain open at all times.) When vents are closed, very little air moves through the helmet, a good thing from an aerodynamic standpoint, but not so good on a steamy day. Of course you can always open back up for climbs, or whenever aero isn’t everything.

Bell also trumpets what it calls overbrow ventilation, where temperature is regulated via a pair of ports in the front of the helmet. They are supposed to help move air across your head before it exits out the rear exhaust ports. Frankly, though, what we noticed most was the amount of sweat dripping down our forehead when the vents were closed.

On a positive note, this lack of airflow was welcomed during a number of cold weather rides and even a cyclocross race when being able to close vents helped keep Old Man Winter at bay, while retaining the option to open up when things started to hot up. The ’cross race course was also the lone occasion we felt compelled to rock the shield, which otherwise is a pretty large fashion statement for such marginal gains. On a bitter cold day when other racer’s sunglasses were frosting up, the shield stayed clear and even protected our skin.

Bell Star Pro Aero Road Helmet

Getting in some winter base miles made easier with the Bell Star Pro.

The Bell Star Pro’s Float Fit system did its job, providing a snug but comfortable interface between brain and brain protector. Straps are easy to adjust and lay flat on the side of the face. The shield pops in and out of place easily, and will stow on the helmet’s frontal area when not in use thanks to the built in magnets.

Bottom line, as noted above, we see this as primarily a niche product targeted at riders who are seriously focused on marginal gains. Of course you can say the same thing about the other aero road helmets on the market (Specialized Evade, Giro Air Attack, etc). And when judged alongside that company we think the Bell Star Pro comes out on top simply because of its versatility. Vents closed for speed. Vents open for cooling.

To learn more about the design of this helmet, check out this video produced by Bell and have a look at the photo gallery below.

For more information visit www.bellhelmets.com.

Photo Thumbnails (click to enlarge)
About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Tour de France, the Olympic Games, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures all over the globe. Sumner, who joined the RoadBikeReview.com / Mtbr.com staff in 2013, has also done extensive gear testing and is the author of the cycling guide book "75 Classic Rides: Colorado." When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying time with his wife Lisa and daughter Cora.


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