Review: 2005 Bell Sprint "Wicked" Helmet
For most in our sport the word “Bell” is (or was) associated with helmets. The Bell name harkens back to the 1920’s when a former fish cannery worker ventured into the world of auto parts. This entrepreneurial adventure later hired an auto racing fanatic who would eventually purchase the company; Roy Richter. Richter’s avocation precipitated the need for safety gear particularly following the death of two close friends.
While Bell was focused on auto racing, it became clear that helmets would have tremendous value being employed in a multitude of uses. It would take nearly three decades from the formation of the small auto parts company to transform into the company we know today. The most notable early application of the Bell motorcycle helmet came in 1956 when the Los Angeles Police Department mandated its motorcycle officers don protective headgear.
Bell was synonymous with helmets all the way up to their heyday in the late 70’s. It was not until the introduction of inexpensive overseas imports did Bell start to fall off the radar. As the company exists in present day, it is but a skeleton of its former self. With so many product offerings from dozens of helmet manufacturers, it is doubtful Bell will ever regain the market share once it once enjoyed. However, Bell still offers a wide range of motorcycle helmets at prices common folk can stomach. And if you are the nostalgic type, then there is only company that will ring your “Bell”.
Craftsmanship, construction and materials
Since this was our first foray into the Bell product line, and considering the history behind the company, we were eager to get our hands on this helmet. Early Bell helmets were made in the U.S.A., but that era has long since passed; our Sprint helmet was crafted in China.
Unfortunately, while removing the helmet from the protective bag, we found the bottom edge of one of the cheek pads had a gap one side. The other side did not have a gap and upon further inspection we found these pieces are simply glued to the shell and the glue had detached itself. While disappointing for a brand new helmet, we don’t believe it will impact safety in any way and the quick touch of a hot glue gun quickly remedied our cosmetic falter.
The preceding flaw notwithstanding, the overall craftsmanship of the helmet was on par with other helmets in the same price point, if not better.
What we particularly liked was the installation of an actual metal screen or mesh on the helmet. The mesh almost screams, “Respect me” to anyone with the helmet under their curious eye. It’s a nice look. We also liked the headliner of the helmet, not the removable liner but the actual interior of the shell. It almost has a carbon-fiber like appearance.
A rubberized matte finish on any helmet has always invoked a modest degree of concern within our ranks. The slightest scratch on the surface can leave you with sagging feeling every time you see it; they just seem more susceptible scratches. While our Sprint helmet proudly flaunted a similar exterior we were pleased to note it held up considerably more favorable than we anticipated; particularly for a low-cost helmet. In fact, after closer inspection the final coat isn’t rubber at all. The long term durability remains to be determined, but we don’t anticipate any concerns. The solid and multicolored Sprint helmet do not have the matte finish.
Under the finish is a lightweight composite fiberglass shell that boasts both DOT and the newer SNELL M2005
The Sprint is not a particularly quiet helmet, despite the attempts of the engineers. If this helmet is going to be your primary riding gear for long trips, you’ll want to invest in some ear plugs. This is typical of many helmets advertising increased airflow, but in our opinion the noise to airflow ratio is bit on the uncomfortable side. We rate the airflow as average and the noise generated above average. This is somewhat puzzling considering the visor.
Past experience has shown our noisier helmets typically generate most of their noise from the visor, where the visor meets the helmet or exposed hardware to remove the visor. The visor has no exposed hardware and while the hinged ends of the visor rise above the helmet a millimeter or two, we don't believe this to be the cause for the wind noise. Despite the noise the helmet felt stable at speed with minimal buffeting.
The noise should not be a deal breaker if you're considering this helmet, just be aware since you can’t duplicate wind noise while standing in the showroom trying it on.
Removables – Visor and Lining
The visor gets thumbs up from our team. Its flush mount design adds to the sleek appearance. Removing the visor is on par with other helmets that we’ve run across and requires no tools. It did seem somewhat stiff initially but subsequent visor swaps felt easier each time. Maybe we were just getting used to it, or the plastic parts were wearing enough where it became easier. Either way, the design is effective and aesthetically pleasing. Naturally, Bell offers varying styles of visors should you decide the clear lens does not reflect your untamed personality.
The visor is available in an array of colors (not all shown). A clear visor is standard.
The washable headliner is removable and snaps into and out of place. We would have preferred a more plush liner, it seemed a little on the thin side in regard to size and comfort. The liner serves its purpose and appears to be quality constructed. There is nothing dramatic here, but it is nice to see a low-cost helmet integrate the removable liner.
Fit and Comfort
We found the overall comfort of the helmet to be average, hurt mostly by the amount of noise we experienced. At lower speeds the noise is less apparent and we’d raise the comfort level up a notch.
Our Sprint fit well and we could find no other major complaints. The Sprint has a more spherical internal shape than the rear spoiler suggests. If you fit well in oblong shaped helmets such as an Arai Signet, make sure you try the Sprint on several times before making your decision.
It is important to note that a properly fitting helmet can make or break not only its effectiveness in the event of a crash, but also the comfort the rider enjoys.
The chin strap on the Sprint is padded, which adds to to the rider comfort level. And there is a "strap keeper" so the excess strap isn't blowing in the wind and hitting you in the neck.
One feature of particular value for cold weather riding is the permanent insertion of a chin spoiler. This spoiler disrupts the airflow coming from the under the helmet and helps bridge the gap where the helmet meets your chin. Some manufacturers offer this an option, but the Sprint integrates this feature out of the box.
There are two slides on the helmet to allow leading edge air to flow into the helmet. The top slide, placed on the forehead, moves three valves simultaneously for upper air flow. The middle valve slides straight back and the two side valves actually pivot on their inner edges out of the way.
The front slide provides anti-fogging properties by ramming air onto the inside of the visor and through two dime-sized chin vents on the inside lower front. It is also here where you can see another application of the screen mesh material we like so well.
There are two posterior exit vents aft of the rider’s ear, also sporting the mesh and covered with translucent gray plastic. There is a top vent to expel the air rammed through the front vents used to cool the top of your head.
Style, Design and Weight
Without question, the graphics of our Sprint “Wicked” helmet were eye-catching. Bell did a nice job designing the graphics with flames on the side and spider web visual on the front. The oval Bell logo is emblazoned all over the helmet; apparently the PR people didn’t want anyone to forget that Bell was still in the game when it comes to helmets that are not uninspiring.
The "Wicked" design incorporates unique graphics and a
matte finish but has the same shell shape as the rest of
the Sprint line.
The shape of the helmet is not your old-school fishbowl contour. The rear of the helmet jets out, which is part of the overall aerodynamic design. This characteristic is intended to generate more efficient aerodynamic stability and reduce wind noise.
The Sprint is listed at 1600 grams, or a little over three and a half pounds. This is only slightly heavier than the more popular but much pricier Arai and Shoei competition. The weight of this helmet should not be an issue for anyone as it falls in the mid-range of helmets available on the market.
Here are a couple of samples of what Bell offers in the Sprint line. Shown are solid black and the multi-colored shown in blue.
If you're considering using your Sprint for winter powersports, Bell makes a heated shield for the Sprint. It's a neat feature for a helmet should you participate in snowmobiling and use your helmet year-round.
The heated shield kit available for the Sprint.
Also, if you're on the cutting edge of technology and you need to take phone calls while riding, Bell has a solution for you. With Single-touch, hands-free operation and the ability to use this as a rider to rider intercom, you may consider the Motorola Bluetooth Helmet Headset.
The Sprint "Wicked" helmet in red shown with
optional Motorola Bluetooth Headset.
Value and Synopsis
Perhaps one of the most admirable elements Bell offers with the Sprint helmet is a five year warranty. The SNELL Foundation recommends that all helmets have a maximum lifespan of five years
, so it’s nice to know that Bell will have you covered for the duration. That is, of course, assuming nothing happens to the helmet during this time that would reduce its lifespan, i.e. dropping it, wrecks etc.
While the Sprint retails for around $159, the street price hovers about $20 below the MSRP price. Considering the overall materials, craftsmanship and track record of Bell we believe this is a great value for those in the name-brand entry level helmet market with only minimal sacrifices.
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