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Hands-on Gear Review
Bell Stoker Review
Cons: Visor not as adjustable as Super, lower edge of foam only partially protected by shell material
The Bell Stoker is the little brother of Bell's flagship dirt helmet, the Super. The Stoker retails for about 55% of the retail price the Super, but we found that it shares about 75% of the things we like about the Super. What it lacks is the Super's adjustable visor and GoPro mount, but the Stoker is lighter and better ventilated. We feel that the Stoker is an excellent helmet for the money and it narrowly missed winning our Best Buy Award. Instead, the award went to the Giro Feature which retails for $5 more than the Stoker, but has a much more adjustable visor that earned it a higher score in our features test.
The Stoker is available in eight different colorways. Likely to keep the cost down, the visors on all of the colorways are black with the exception of the silver and white print, which has a white visor. Though we think the Stoker is a slightly less attractive helmet than the Super, we like most of the color options better than the dated graphics of the Super. Currently the Stoker comes in five different solid matte colors, two slightly weird block prints, and one with a Mexican Unicorn on the back. Yes, we said Mexican Unicorn. It's part of Bell's artist series of helmets and the unicorn is designed by Taylor Reeve. The cost for this helmet is the same ,but it might be harder to find than some of the more tame colors.
Small and large headed folks should take note: the Stoker is available in four sizes which cover a larger range of head sizes than the Super's available three sizes.
RELATED: Our complete review of mountain bike helmets
Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings
The Bell Stoker is the least expensive half-shell helmet in our test and shares the same retention system as Bell's more expensive Super. Our tests also found it to be well ventilated, lightweight, and very comfortable.
The Stoker is one of the most comfortable helmets in our test. It tied the Giro Feature and Giro Xar with the second highest comfort score. The top score went to the Troy Lee A1, which fits like a glove and was the only lid to outscore these three other comfy options. We were a bit surprised to find the Stoker more comfortable than the Bell Super, which has more plentiful and slightly thicker padding. We feel that the Stoker is more comfortable because it is lighter and covers slightly less area of the head, which makes for less contact points.
The Stoker is padded in all the right places on the inside of the helmet to allow for all-day comfort. We especially like that the continuous brow pad does a better job than segmented pads of keeping sweat out of the eyes. The Speed Dial rear retention band is also well padded, which keeps it comfy even when the dial is cranked tight.
The Stoker shares the same Speed Dial Fit System as it's big brother the Bell Super. The retention system is one reason we like the Super so much, and it is equally awesome on the Stoker. This system consists of a semi-rigid rear retention band which is adjusted by a large dial covered in a rubbery material. We found this dial one of the easiest to operate especially, with full-finger gloves on. The chin strap is easily adjustable fore and aft via the same locking plastic hardware found on the Super as well. We prefer this type of locking yoke hardware because it keeps the straps in the same place ride after ride.
Our scales measured our size medium Stoker at 11.7 ounces, which makes it the second lightest helmet by a small margin over the Giro Xar, which was the lightest at 11.3 ounces. The Giro Feature weighed in just 0.1 ounces heavier than the Stoker. The heaviest helmet we tested was the Bell Super, which weighs a noticeable 2.9 ounces more than the Stoker.
Weight weenies often compare dollar to weight savings. The Stoker is both inexpensive and light, which makes it one of the unusual products where you can spend less AND save weight. In the mountain bike world, products are usually either light or cheap, but not both. The Stoker is a rare case and that makes us, um, stoked.
The Stoker has just thirteen vents through it's shell, which isn't an impressive number compared to the 25 on the Super, but what we found in our test was that the number of vents has little to do with how well a helmet moves air around your head to keep you cool. The size and shape of the vents as well as the overall shape of the lid has a lot more to do with air movement than number of vents. The Stoker's vents are very large and do an impressive job of moving air in and out of the helmet to keep it cool. The Stoker scored the same as the Troy Lee A1, Giro Feature, and POC Trabec in our ventilation test. Only the Giro Xar outscored these helmets and only by a narrow margin.
The Stoker's padding is covered with Coolmax instead of the X Static found on the Super. Bell claims that the Coolmax keeps the head cooler while the X Static fights funk. We found that the Stoker is a much cooler helmet than the Super, but we feel that this is more due to the size and shape of the vents rather than the material the padding is covered in.
One area in which the Stoker lacks is in the size and adjustability of the visor. The visor is short and lacks the adjustment range of other helmets. The Stoker's stubby visor is attached at either side of the helmet by flat horizontal snaps that only allow for a small range of motion. These snaps are very similar to the visor snaps found on the POC Trabec, Giro Xar, and Fox Flux. We prefer visors that are attached by screws rather than snaps because they allow for more precise visor adjustments. If a secure, well-articulating visor is high on your list of important helmet qualities, then we recommend either the Bell Super or the Troy Lee A1. The Giro Feature also has a great visor with an excellent thumb screw to lock it in place.
Like the Super, the lower edge of this brain bucket's polystyrene foam is not completely covered by the polycarbonate shell. Instead Bell uses what they call Lower Strap Anchor Shell on the Stoker. This consists of two strips of shell material which protect the four strap yoke anchor points on either side of the helmet. This design will likely increase day-to-day durability slightly over helmets like the Giro Feature which has exposed and possibly vulnerable yoke anchor points. We would prefer that the shell wrapped completely around the bottom edge of the foam to protect it from dents and dings. The Troy Lee A1, Giro Xar, Fox Flux, and POC Trabec all have a full wrap shell to protect the foam when the helmet is off your head.
The Stoker meets the CE 1078 and CPSC Bicycle standards.
Protecting your head from rocks, dirt, and trees when riding on trails.
This is tied as the least expensive mountain bike helmet in our test and just narrowly missed winning our Best Buy Award. Instead this award went to the Giro Feature, which scored just slightly higher than the Stoker because it has a superior visor, similar to those found on much more expensive helmets like the A1 or Super. The Stoker's visor and visor attachment are so-so, and more akin to the attachments commonly found on cheaper helmets. Both the Feature and Stoker are excellent bargains. If you appreciate well articulating visors then go with the Feature. If visors aren't important to you, then the Stoker weighs just about the same and has a slightly better retention system for the same price.
The Stoker is an excellent extended coverage mountain bike helmet that gets a lot of trickle down engineering from its big brother, the Bell Super. It is one of the lightest, best ventilated, and most secure helmets we tested. Its major detractor is its visor, which is small and lacks a thumbscrew to adjust the amount of friction needed to move it or lock it in place. It is also the least expensive helmet in our test at $70, which we think makes it one of the best values on the market.
Bell Super 2 MIPS
Bell Super 2R MIPS
— Luke Lydiard
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: August 19, 2014
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