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Review: Bell Super Air R offers extra protection without getting hot & heavy

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This summer at Crankworx Whistler, Bell slipped a few then-unreleased Super Air R enduro helmets into the hands of MTB media, including myself. Since Crankworx I’ve been riding the Super Air R, and in this article we’ll look at how it performs in its open and full-face modes.

Bikerumor covered the Super Air R’s official launch in early September, so check out that article for the technical info and specs. Bell has struck a new middle ground with this lightweight, convertible lid; with good ventilation, Flex Spherical MIPS protection and full facial coverage, the Super Air R caters to trail/enduro riders who like to push their limits.

Fit-wise, Bell’s head form lines up almost perfectly with my skull, but their sizing makes it fit rather snugly. Thankfully the shell and retention system are just large enough for me, and it’s only the interior padding that makes the helmet fit tight. I am very prone to migraines, but Bell’s 52-56cm size small helmets have never given me a headache.

Bell’s helmets feel a bit shallow compared to some other brands, but the shell coverage is still ample for an enduro-style helmet. FYI, my head is on the shallow and narrow side, and measures 56cm’s.

Bell put a reasonable amount of padding in this helmet. The front half and top of your head are coddled with medium-thick pads, and out back the retention system’s ‘gripper pads’ are quite comfortable. The Super Air R’s dial-operated Float retention system is easy to adjust with or without gloves.

Bell kept it simple with the straps and buckles. The Super Air R uses a traditional chin buckle and slim, basic side adjusters, which are all perfectly fine by me.

The visor has three positions, and in the lowest it’s just visible in my upper peripheral vision. The highest position is meant for stashing goggles on your forehead. I had a bit of an issue fitting my Oakley goggles under the visor. I could get them to sit up there for hanging at the trailside, but there isn’t enough room for them to stay put when my head was shaking around. As you can see in the photo, my visor also came right out of the box bent!

The Super Air R’s ventilation is excellent. I could feel plenty of air blowing over my skull, even at low speeds.  I did notice the generous interior padding will make your head sweat, but not enough to discount what the vents do for you. In open-face mode the Super Air R isn’t the lightest option at 402g (if you compare it to helmets without chin bars), but thanks to its solid fit I didn’t notice the extra grams.

Adding the chin bar to the Super Air R is pretty easy. Just line up the two front clips, then clamp in the rear buckles and you’re full-faced.  Removing it is even easier; simply reach back, flip the buckles forward, then pull the chin bar forward and it pops right off.  In full-face mode, my goggles fit into the Super Air R no problem.

The Super Air R’s chin bar is fairly compact – I couldn’t even see it below the frame of my goggles, so I doubt anyone will find it visually distracting. Luckily, the chin bar sits just far enough from my face that I can squeeze my hydration pack’s hose behind it to get a drink.

Adding the chin bar to the helmet doesn’t make it much warmer to wear at all. The small side pads only touch my upper cheeks, and air flows freely through the front and side vents. With the bar on, the overall weight of the helmet is impressive. Bell claims a size Small weighs 590g, but my scale showed it at 630g, which is still very light. Remember, this chin bar isn’t DH-rated, but I’m sure it’ll save you some damage if you crash face-first.

Bell’s Super Air R lives up to its name with great ventilation in either open or full-face modes, and for the level of protection it provides it is very lightweight. If you’re pushing it hard on the trails or racing enduro, I’d definitely recommend trying one on. The Super Air R retails for $275. Seven different paint schemes are available, in S/M/L sizes.


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4 years ago

I received my super air R few days ago… design is indeed more modern than the super 3R, it’s very light, chin guard is easier to snap on and off, but I see two issues that make me hesitate to send it back and go for something else :
-MIPS… well I feel the outer part moving on chaotic trails, which makes it noisier than a standard jet, and makes the gopro mount totally useless, as all videos are shaking much more that with my non-mips helmets. I still think this is marketing bs (as if the helmet couldn’t rotate around your head in the event of a crash?!), but I could have lived with it if there wasn’t this additional shake. I hope they will propose a non-mips version in the near future, that would also make it more affordable.
-the cheek pads…. well something’s missing there : even the thickest of the two pairs included in the box don’t even touch my cheeks! And this, while the top (jet) part of the helmet fits me perfectly, and I have a pretty standard face. Some friends tried it and got the same result. This “fantom” chin guard that you don’t feel at all is, in my opinion, the main contributor to the feeling of being much less protected than you would expect from a full face helmet, which I see as a frequent comment on reviews of this super air R. Personally I’m a bit nervous about this chinguard hurting my cheeks in the event of a crash. I tried to switch the cheek pads for thicker ones from my other full face, and the result was great, …and unexpectedly, this even eliminated the shaking noise from the MIPS, so double benefit!! I guess I’ll have to do some DIY with adhesive velcro and the sewing machine…

I hope Bell will sell replacement cheek pads with various (bigger) thicknesses, and ideally covering a bit more surface on the front, as there is at least 2 cm margin there before it can be visible via the vent, and still providing ample ventilation.

3 years ago
Reply to  Mathieu

Howsit Mathieu. I am so glad that i am not the only person who was worried when my helmet came and the cheek pads didn’t touch my face as well. Feels totally unprotected. Besides this i love the helmet, but yes i am concerned about the space between ones face and the cheek pads.

Irawan Johan
Irawan Johan
2 years ago

I’m 58cm, which size should I choose M or L because 58cm is in between those sizes. Thank you.

2 years ago
Reply to  Irawan Johan

I would get the M. I’m 56cm and got the S (52-56cm): A tight fit the first week (slight headache on long days) then snug (w/o headaches or even feeling the helmet). On helmets i prefer tight fit and I find the way the fit adjusted over time pretty usual for my better fitting helmets.

Nicholas Heilweil
Nicholas Heilweil
2 years ago

I called Bell and the sent me a thicker set of pads at no charge. The thickest set that came with my Super Air R had made contact with my cheeks but just barely. The thicker pads that Bell sent definitely make contact now.

I still worry a lot about the pads very small footprint though because if I grab the front of the chin bar and move it around, I can easily contact with my jaw since the pad is too small to prevent it which is a scary thought if I were to crash. I ended up recently buying a traditional full-face helmet which feels way more protective although it lacks the flexibility.

2 years ago

Looks great and chin bar holds up to face first smash into rocks.

Love this helmet. Crashed face first into a rock garden. Can confirm the chin bar works! It saved me from eating from a straw and re-assembling my jaw. The chin bar did crack but it all held up and saved me as it should. The way the mips works is interesting, as it does not feel like it slides as much as other helmets do. With Bell’s “spherical technology” you are sort of strapped into a helmet inside a helmet… Can’t really explain but it makes the helmet feel more secure and wobble less. Just keep in mind this is not a DH helmet and never will be, it’s for people like me that want something light weight that is capable of protecting your face on those gnarly decents during a long trek. And with a 10 second clip in time for the jaw they do just that: Keep the jaw in you pack and attache when needed.

My scalp in 65cm and I chose S (52-56cm). Fitted tight the first few rides then perfectly snug after a week or so use (It left groves in my forehead when used, but that’s how all my helmets are). The chin pads run small, not a fan of the way the helmet moves sideways even with the largest pads. It’s a notable change from a full face where the pads clamps you in, smushing you tight – but considering it saved my face I can’t really complain. Also, the more airy feel makes it so that I didn’t mind having the chin bar on for a full day either. Others have mentioned they got thicker pads sent from Bell, the two that came with my helmet looked identical so I would definitely do this for a more snug fit, if only for the feeling of safety.

This is the best looking full face on the planet. Period. I love the sharpe angles to the design, just like they did for tie-fighters in Star Wars or to some extent Darth Vaders helmet. Very brutalist and clean. Compared to the DHR or the 3R which looks more like egg shaped blobs with chin bar glued on this is an aggressive and functional fashion statement, which looks equally good as a lid or a full face (I’ve gotten compliments on how this helmet looks). If you don’t agree you are probably not wrong but if that is the case your taste is not something I would trust in any case 😉

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