Calling it the most advanced road helmet it’s ever made, longtime brain protector Bell Helmets rolled out the new Zephyr at a press event on the lead-up to the Eurobike cycling industry trade show in Germany. Ironically the new $230 lid, which replaces the outgoing Gage, is not supremely aero or ultra light. Instead, comfort and safety were the primary design drivers.
Of course that means incorporating MIPS into the helmet. But instead of the usual “bolt-on” strategy, the added safety layer has been incorporated directly into the helmet’s fit system, which is a first as far as we know. By melding in MIPS, overall weight is reduced and the helmet takes on a smaller shape, meaning if you’re between sizes you wont have to automatically size up to wear the MIPS equipped Zephyr.
Bell has also used what it calls progressive layering, where two EPS foam segments with different densities are attached together in an effort to better manage impact energy. The softer lower density material is placed closer to the head, while the harder higher density material resides on the exterior. This eliminates the need for the roll cage, which in part helps save weight. Claimed weight for a size medium is 263 grams.
Also new is Bell’s Float Fit Race retention system, which has three points of adjustability. Along with a traditional dial, there are 22mm of height maneuverability via four (instead of the usual three) click points, and you can laterally adjust the lobe cradles in the rear of the helmet. The net effect is a better overall fit and a lower profile.
Other features include integrated reflective accents, eyewear ports front and rear, no-twist straps, X-static anti-funk padding, 18 total vents, and an interesting sweat management system where the padding in the front-center of the helmet extends outward in an effort to channel perspiration away from your face and sunglasses.
The CPSC certified helmet comes in five colors, or for a $20 upcharge you can get the silver hued Zephyr Ghost, which has a special reflective coating that lights up at night when struck by light.
Bell also rolled out the Stratus, a similar helmet with a lower price point. For $130-$160 you get the same general shape, but with the step down Float Fit retention system and no MIPS integration. Pricing varies on whether you choose MIPS or a reflective accent model. Claimed weight is $295 grams and it too comes in five colors, plus a handful of special women’s Joyride designs.
First ride impressions
With two solid rides in the new Zephyr we are already quite impressed. The multi-point adjustment allows the helmet to almost float on the head, giving it more of a cap-like feel. And once adjusted, the straps lay flat on the cheeks, which enhances comfort, and according to Bell, can save up to 9 watts. We also really like clean lines and lower profile, which suits our oval shaped head better than some more bulbous helmets.
Neither test ride was particularly hot, but with nearly 20 vents, the Zephyr did a reasonable job of keeping us cool. And some (but definitely not all) of our sweat indeed dripped away in front of — and not onto — our sunglasses thanks to the extended padding. The lone niggle is that the helmet had a tendency to snag a little hair when being taken off.
Bottom line, Bell looks to have produced a smartly designed, well thought out helmet that can capably compete with the other high end road helmets in this price range. And while Bell wouldn’t say it outright, it’s a reasonable to believe that the progressive layer design, reflective accents, and incorporation of MIPS places the Zephyr in the upper tier when it comes to safety.
Availability is set for October. For more info please visit www.bellhelmets.com.