Review by Johan Hjord // Photos by Tal Rozow and Johan Hjord
2012 saw the introduction of a flurry of new high-end helmets, among them the Full-9 from Bell. Built from exotic materials and featuring all the innovation Bell could muster, it was certainly an impressive piece of equipment, but as such, it came with a fairly impressive price tag too. Fast-forward a few months to the arrival of the Transfer-9, the Full-9’s little brother. Offering many of the features found on the Full-9, it checks in at exactly half the price, which should put it right near the top of the old value for money pyramid. We were lucky to lay our hands on one of the very first samples available, and we wasted no time getting it out on the trails to see what it’s made of.
Bell Transfer-9 Highlights
- 3D-Formed Quick Snap Cheekpads
- Breakaway Camera Mount Attachment
- Flying Bridge Visor™ with Breakaway Screws
- Integrated Compatibility with Eject® Helmet Removal System
- Overbrow Ventilation
- Padded chin strap with D-ring closure
- Washable XT-2® Extended Wear Interior
- Velocity Flow Ventilation
- Weight: 1200 grams
- Includes helmet bag
- 6 sizes: XS to XXL
- MSRP: US $200.00
Pulling the Transfer-9 out of the box gets you stoked to ride already. The helmet is fairly big, with an aggressive design and impeccable finish. The paintjob is of the highest quality, and everything seems to have been put together with great care. The Transfer-9 takes styling cues from its bigger brother the Full-9, but it appears a little more rounded in shape.
Diving into the features, the outer shell is made from composite materials as opposed to the carbon employed on the Full-9. This adds 150 grams to the Transfer-9, but at 1200 grams, it still feels fairly light to handle, especially given its sizeable bulk. The Transfer-9 features the Overbrow ventilation system, which uses 3 large ducts situated at the front of the helmet to direct air through internal channels and back out through vents in the rear. Much like big brother, it is also Eject System Compatible, although it replaces the “Magnefusion” magnetic cheek pads found on the Full-9 with Quick Snap versions. For those unfamiliar with how it works, the Eject System allows the rider to place an inflatable bladder in a specially designed space at the top of the helmet, which can then be inflated by paramedics via a small hose to push the helmet off the head after a crash, reducing the risk of further aggravating potential neck injuries when removing the helmet. On the subject of crashing, the Transfer-9 is certified to the following standards: ASTM F1952-00, ASTM F2032-06, CE EN1078, and CPSC Bicycle. ASTM F1952-00 is a standard that applies specifically to helmets for DH mountain biking, which is far more stringent that the general use CPSC Bicycle standard. Reassuring.
The padding inside the helmet is fairly thick, and once again, the craftsmanship is excellent. All the seams are well finished off, with no loose threads or skewed stitching. The chin strap is of the D-ring variety and includes a nifty little quick snap feature to catch excess strap once attached and secured. The visor is attached via two large knobs that offer a good range of adjustability (and that are designed to break away in case of a crash, a good safety feature).
For the multi-media addicts out there, the Transfer-9 features a break-away camera mount just like the Full-9, although here, it is not directly built into the shell. You have to attach it yourself before first use, via the included double-side adhesive. The helmet comes with mounts for GoPro and Contour (the mounts snap into the base which remains stuck to the helmet once you install it). The helmet also features Soundtrax ports with built-in cable routing, which allow you to lodge earbuds directly in the helmet if you enjoy getting groovy on the trail. And speaking of trails, it is time for us to take the Transfer-9 out to get dirty.
On The Trail
The fit of the Transfer-9 is on the snug side. Measuring our head at 59cms, we opted for a size large (indicated for 57-59), which turned out OK but definitely on the tight side. If you are between sizes, make sure you try one on before buying. As previously mentioned, the padding is thick, which gives a very isolated and secure feeling when wearing the helmet – moto-like, pretty much. The D-strap is easy to tighten up, and there is no unwarranted movement of the helmet in action.
The ventilation system works well enough. It is a big and thick helmet, and as such, is clearly intended for DH use and not much more. We never felt like we’d overheat in it, but then again, testing took place after summer, so we’ll reserve judgment on this point until we can test that aspect properly as well. The mouth guard also sits fairly close to the chin, and you can feel the air swooshing around in the grill when breathing heavily. Not the best choice for Enduro racing, in other words (although removing the black foam that covers the inside of the mouth guard can help here).
We tested the helmet with several pairs of goggles, with no apparent problems. The cut of the front opening is wide and provides excellent field of vision. We did not get to test it with a neck brace, but given how close it is to the Full-9 in shape and our experience with that helmet, we feel the Transfer-9 should be a good choice for those of you who ride with a brace too. As for putting the protection to the test, we have thankfully avoided faceplanting during our time with the helmet so far, but we have faith in Bell’s considerable experience and in the standards this helmet meets. All in all, riding with the Transfer-9 proved to be everything we hoped for and more – it is comfortable, secure, and looks pretty awesome too!
Things That Could Be Improved
The only issue we’ve come across that we feel might warrant a little improvement on the Transfer-9 is how close the mouth guard sits to the chin and mouth. It is not claustrophobic, but it makes its presence felt. Giving it a few more millimeters would provide better breathing room. Also, including a GoPro and a Contour mount is nice (the future is still uncertain for the latter brand, but there are many Contours out there), but perhaps a standard camera screw mount should also be included, to cater to other brands as well.
Long Term Durability
We’ve ridden our Transfer-9 for two and a half months or so. The finish appears very durable. After attempting to put our head through low hanging branches and assorted foilage on more than one occasion, and unceremoniously dropping the helmet on the ground a few times too, there is not much if any damage to show for it. We’ve self-shuttled with the helmet on the handlebars or strapped to a pack, and we’ve also thrown it around on the shuttle truck a bit. It still looks great, with very little cosmetic damage to note. Big ups to Bell here. The padding has also held up well, and is easy to remove for washing.
There are no signs of any loose threads, nor are any of the glued-on parts showing any signs of coming unstuck. Based on evidence to date, the Transfer-9 should be up for seasons of riding, as long as you don’t write off the shell or the EPS liner in a crash of course. Note that if you do, Bell offers a crash replacement program to US customers.
What’s The Bottom Line?
Bell started from a great place in designing the Transfer-9. It has inherited all of the most useful features of big brother the Full-9, and at exactly half the price it hits the sweet spot in terms of value for money dead on. We’d even argue that in light of the feature list, the Transfer-9 is a bargain. It looks good, the build quality is high, the safety features are as good as it gets with certification to boot, and it appears to be up for much abuse. It may be a bit restrictive in terms of airflow for Enduro racing, but if DH and/or park riding is your game, and you want a top-flight helmet without breaking the bank, the Transfer-9 ticks all the boxes.
More information at www.bellhelmets.com
About The Reviewer
Johan Hjord loves bikes, which strangely doesn’t make him any better at riding them. After many years spent practicing falling off cliffs with his snowboard, he took up mountain biking in 2005. Ever since, he’s mostly been riding bikes with too much suspension travel to cover up his many flaws as a rider. His 200-pound body weight coupled with unique skill for poor line choice and clumsy landings make him an expert on durability - if parts survive Johan, they’re pretty much okay for anybody. Johan rides flat pedals with a riding style that he describes as "none" (when in actuality he rips!). Having found most trail features to be not to his liking, Johan uses much of his spare time building his own. Johan’s other accomplishments include surviving this far and helping keep the Vital Media Machine’s stoke dial firmly on 11.