Review by Sean "Griz" McClendon // Photos by Brandon Turman
Inspired by their award-winning Moto-9 and developed with Aaron Gwin, the Bell Full-9 is purpose built helmet for biking with features you'll find nowhere else on the market. At a price tag of $400, Bell caters to the penny-pincher who wants the best performance enhanced gear money can buy at food stamp pricing. With its carbon shell, magnetic cheek pads, integrated POV camera mounts, Overbrow Ventilation system and Soundtrax speaker pockets – you get more than what you pay for.
Bell Full-9 Highlights
- ASTM F1952 DH Certified, F2032-06 BMX, CPSC, CE EN 1078
- Carbon Fiber Shell
- 10 Vents with 3 Brow Ports
- Magnefusion Cheek Pads
- Padded Chinstrap
- Soundtrax: Built-In Speaker Pockets and Audio Cable Routing
- Eject Helmet Removal System Compatible
- 1-Year Warranty
- Integrated and Removable Camera Mount forGoPro or Contour
- Six Sizes Ranging from XS to XXL
- Weight: 1050 Grams
- Includes Helmet Bag
- $400 MSRP
- Available March 2013
Equipped with more functional features than any other purpose-built full-face bike helmet on the market, the Bell Full-9 looks cool too. Gone are the days of looking like a Ninja Turtle - or worse - with skeptical protective qualities. The Bell Full-9 won’t make you look like a squid and offers great protection incase you spike your POV capturing dome-piece into planet Earth.
On The Trail
When you first slide the Full-9 onto your melon, you’ll notice it really covers your brain from forehead to neck with complete jaw coverage. There’s a noticeable amount of freedom for your ears even with these large lobes of mine.
The Magnefusion cheek pads are so simple to remove and install that one can literally change the pads with a blindfold over their eyes. Each cheek pad has three magnets in place of a button or Velcro. In the event of a crash, the removable pads are one of two means on the Full-9 that allows emergency personnel to safety remove it without doing any damage to your spine.
To access the Soundtrax speaker pockets, you’ll have to remove the cheek pads and place your ear buds into the speaker pocket with self-explanatory cable routing that guide cables cleanly behind the cheek pad.
The helmet also has a design feature to allow the use an Eject removal bladder. In the center of the helmet under the padded liner, there is a removable foam block where the Eject removal bladder can be installed. In the case of trauma, medics can inflate the bladder and safely remove the helmet, theoretically preventing further trauma to the head and spine.
The visor can be up and out of your peripheral or it can come down to block that bright orange sun when you’re riding into it. Even with the visor pushed down as far as she goes, the adjustable range makes it so you still won’t look like a goon.
We also were able to test the Full-9 while using an Atlas neck brace and feel like this helmet is one to consider if you ride with neck protection. There is enough freedom of movement to make it more than useable on even the steepest downhill runs.
Confidence is inspired with its plush feel, protection capabilities and sharp look – I always feel like I ride better knowing I look damn good doing it and am prepared for anything that could potentially go wrong. This helmet feels like the fastest man on the planet left his stamp of approval on it. Could this be another reason why Troy Lee wanted Aaron Gwin on the team?
Things That Could Be Improved
There’s one characteristic of the helmet that some may or may not like and that’s how close the jaw guard comes to your mouth. When our breath rate speeds up, it kind of feels like you’re exhaling into a microphone.
Despite having three intake vents at the mouth guard, this helmet could breathe better – and does so if you remove the foam from the mouth vent. After removing the mouth vent foam, we noticed a lot better air flow and really couldn’t complain after doing this slight modification.
Lastly, we tested the integrated camera mount and recommend adding some material under the mount to dampen the chatter and smooth out that POV footage. Our footage was a little shaky with the stock mount and no support.
Long Term Durability
We didn’t get any crash testing in (always a plus), but this helmet is built to last as long as headfirst spikes into earth are avoided. At that rate, any helmet should be evaluated and in case you do smash your grape, Bell offers a one-year warranty on the Full-9 and a "Crash Credit" replacement program for US customers.
The finish has proven to be very durable. We haven’t scratched ours yet and we’ve seen last year’s ODI/Trek Development Team riders in seasoned Full-9 helmets that still look fresh.
What’s The Bottom Line?
Bell has been in the business of making quality helmets for a very long time. The Full-9 is hands down the best full-face bike specific helmet Bell has ever produced. With its comfortable fit providing complete protection for our cranium, our confidence was at a high and the product geek in us was satisfied with the technical features of the Full-9. We couldn’t help but feel faster knowing Aaron Gwin’s feedback was directly involved with this helmet.If you have a $100 head, buy a $100 helmet, but for those of you who value your melon, the Bell Full-9 is the best bike helmet money can buy at $400.
The Full-9 drops March 2013. Keep an eye on www.bellhelmets.com for details.