Stemming from a long lineage of mountain biking lids from the 64-year old helmet brand, Bell’s flagship Super DH helmet represents the 4th generation of the popular Super model.
The first generation Super debuted back in 2013, with its classic moto helmet-inspired looks and generous coverage winning it praise from trail and enduro riders the world over. Bell followed that up a year later with the Super 2R, which came with a removable chinbar that turned it from a regular half-face trail helmet, into a full-face helmet. Giro and MET had already had a crack at this idea over a decade ago, but it was Bell that reignited the convertible concept with the innovative and well-executed Super 2R. A couple of years later, that helmet then morphed into the Super 3R – a very popular MIPS-equipped helmet that still remains in the Bell lineup today, selling for just under 200 quid with the included chinbar.
And now we have this addition to the range; the Super DH.
Taking the convertible concept to the next level, the Super DH is the first of its kind to feature full DH-certification. As well as being useful for uplift days, that means you can use the Super DH for races where the rules specify that such a certification is required. There’s a whole host of other neat features that Bell has integrated into this high-end lid aside from DH-certification though, so let’s take a closer look eh?
Bell Super DH MIPS Helmet Features
Fusion in-mould polycarbonate shell
EPS foam core with Progressive Layering
MIPS Spherical dual-shell construction
360° wraparound removable chinbar
17 helmet vents, plus 4 chinbar vents
Removable X-Static padding with Sweat Guide
Float Fit DH fit system
Fidlock magnetic buckle
Integrated breakaway camera mount
Confirmed weight: 896g (Medium) = 408g (chin bar) + 487g (helmet)
Sizes: Small (52–56cm), Medium (55–59cm) & Large (58–62cm
Though the convertible chinbar may be the most eye-catching feature, the biggest innovation of the Super DH lies deeper inside. A technology codeveloped between MIPS and Bell, the MIPS Spherical system sees the the Super DH equipped with two separate foam shells. The outer is made from a firmer density EPS foam, while the inner shell is made from a softer EPP foam. The two shells fit together like a ball and socket, and they’re secured together with four yellow elastic bands. Because the surface between the two shells is polished smooth, they can freely slide against each other, creating a slip-plane that allows the helmet to rotate on the rider’s head in the event of a crash. According to MIPS, this reduces the chance of concussion and brain trauma by limiting how much the brain rotates inside the skull during impact.
Though the dual-shell design does create a much more complicated structure to manufacture to the necessary tolerances (and goes some way to explaining the high sticker price), the MIPS Spherical system does put soft-density foam where it’s needed – close to the rider’s skull, where it deforms more easily to absorb slow-speed impacts. By using a high-density outer shell, in theory the Super DH retains the high-impact strength required to better keep the structure in one piece during more violent and sharper impacts. Other helmet brands have been working on multi-density foam with varying degrees of complexity. In the case of the Super DH, Bell simply created two shells.
Fit & Fiddling
I’ve been testing a Medium-sized Bell Super DH, and in terms of fit I’ve found it to be consistent with other helmets I’ve been using lately like the Bontrager Rally MIPS, the Specialized Ambush, and the Troy Lee Designs A2. There are no quirks in the internal shaping, and compared to earlier Super helmets, the DH is free of any awkward pressure points. Bell has also used a liberal amount of padding inside the Super DH, and that helps to give it a really snug and comfortable feel. You still has the deep coverage of previous Super helmets with plenty of drop either side of the ears, but just like the 3R, the shell is a touch more open around the temples to provide more breathing space for fitting in sunglasses. I wouldn’t say that every pair of glasses will fit without interference, but all the ones I’ve used have slotted in fine.
The Super DH has the usual adjustments you’d expect of a modern trail helmet. There’s a rubber dial at the rear of the harness that allows you to easily tighten or loosen the helmet with one hand, while the vertical position of the rear basket can be adjusted via a four-point anchor up inside the shell. This allows you to get the basket right under the ‘wisdom bump’ at the back of your skull, which not only improves comfort, it also reduces how much the helmet can rock forward over your eyebrows.
I particularly like Bell’s addition of the Fidlock magnetic buckle, which is starting to appear on more helmets. Bring the two clasps near one another, and the powerful magnets will automatically suck the clasps together and them lock into place. It’s plenty secure, though conveniently, only one hand is needed to slide them apart.
On The Trail
Since I’m no park rat or downhill shredder, the vast majority of the time I’ve used the Super DH has been in its open-face configuration, with the occasional uplift day drawing on the clip-on chinbar. In use it’s been a fantastic lid for trail riding, and I’d go so far to say that this is perhaps the comfiest full-coverage helmet I’ve ever used. It’s very steady too – unlike some other MIPS-equipped helmets, the Super DH doesn’t wobble on the head. You don’t notice that there are two shells there – it’s only when you physically grab the helmet on either side and twist it around your noggin that you can feel the shells sliding against one another.
Ventilation isn’t amazing, but it’s good for this type of helmet, and it is a slight improvement on the older Super models. I spent two boiling hot days at a Pivot launch in Moab back in May, and my head didn’t explode from heat expansion, so I’d say that’s a positive. One thing I will say about riding in summer is how effective Bell’s Sweat Guide is. This is a small extension to the front forehead padding, which folds up onto the underside of the helmet rim. The idea is that the Sweat Guide draws perspiration out from the inside of the helmet, and sticks it out in the breeze to dry. When it does get sodden though, it actually drops the sweat away from your sunglasses. Simple stuff, but surprisingly effective.
Included with the helmet is a quick-release GoPro mount, which uses a spring-loaded catch to clip into the primary central vent. During the 3-day Specialized Stumpjumper launch back in March, I made use of this mount regularly, where I removed it for the photo stops, before clipping it back in to film the next section of riding. Not having to unthread the thumb screw every time I wanted to take the camera on and off was nice, as was having the helmet devoid of any sticky-outy bits when you’re not filming. Despite being easy to remove, it’s nice and solid too.
Fitting the chinbar to the Super DH is also a straightforward job, with just three tool-free latches required to lock it down. Once on, the helmet feels solid. There’s no play between the two pieces, and the latches tuck in neatly enough that it doesn’t obviously look like a convertible helmet.
I spent a few days with the Super DH in full-face mode riding chairlift-assisted trails in Les Gets, and I’ve also used in on a few local trail rides, mostly to test out its breathability with the chinbar. The feedback on that one? It’s surprisingly good, with the four vents at the front of the chinbar helping to draw cool air in and over your face. It also doesn’t feel as claustrophobic as I was expecting, since the low-density EPP foam used to line the chinbar is thinner and less bulky than the EPS foam more commonly used in regular DH full-face helmets. That’s actually encouraged me to wear the helmet in full-face mode more regularly.
Initially the cheek pads do feel a bit tight, but this settles in over time as the padding compresses a little. For those with big rosy cheeks though, Bell includes a secondary set of cheek pads in the box with the helmet, which are 5mm thinner than the stock pads.
The large adjustable visor offers a good range, with a sufficiently high tilt that allows you to easily store goggles up top. Bell has also profiled the rim of the Super DH to integrate neatly with goggles, and the result is a clean fit with no interference. Of note is that goggles work equally well with the helmet in half-face mode too. Even though it still looks silly.
This is a superbly executed convertible helmet that offers very few compromises in either mode. It’s comfortable, decently ventilated, and it comes with quality features.
It certainly isn’t a cheap helmet. But (you could see this one coming), you’re really getting two helmets in one. And for the trail riders who do the occasional uplift day or alps trip each summer, being able to clip on a chinbar to your regular open-face helmet rather than having to invest in a whole other helmet (that you have to travel with too) is mighty appealing.
Is it worth £50 more than the Super 3R? In my opinion, yes it is. The MIPS Spherical system is not only a brilliant safety concept, it actually works without causing the helmet to feel wobbly or unstable. The tool-free latches are easier to use on the Super DH, and the GoPro bracket is much better. Add in the piece of mind of that DH-certification, and I reckon the choice is simple.
Would I recommend it? Absolutely, and I already have to a few of my riding mates.