Bell Super Air R MIPS Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Extremely light, versatile, comfortable
Cons: Not the most protective, mud can clog up the chin bar bar attachment system
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Super Air R MIPS is a new addition to the Bell lineup. It borrows most of its features from the Bell Super DH MIPS that we tested a couple of years ago. The differences include the weight and ventilation ports. Both helmets exist in the Bell lineup for 2020.
The ventilation and weight are obvious strengths and the versatility is impressive. While it carries some remarkable safety certifications, it doesn't feel as robust as dedicated full-face helmets that weigh about twice as much.
The Super Air R is a comfortable helmet. It is breezy in both full-face and half shell modes, and there are no pressure or squeeze points on your head.
In half-shell mode, the helmet is super light and airy. It feels like a normal trail helmet. When the rear Float dial is tightened to the appropriate tension, there are no pressure points. The retention band distributes the pressure evenly and appropriately around the head. The closure band/buckle is pleasant against the chin. One quirk is that the helmet doesn't sit particularly deep on your head. It feels like the helmet is perched slightly on the top portion of your head rather than your head feeling in the helmet. We won't dwell on this fact too much as all heads are different shapes and sizes. What might be true for one person's head may not be the case for another. Still, it doesn't provide the highest level of confidence that it would stay put in the event of a jarring crash. This does not have an effect on the comfort of the helmet, but fit is related to comfort so it is worth touching upon.
In full-face mode, the helmet is exceptionally comfortable. In fact, it is striking how pleasant it is. The line of vision is excellent with and without goggles. There is no pressure on the jaw or cheeks and it feels incredibly lightweight. The quirky fit issue we mentioned above is non-existent in full-face mode as it naturally feels more secure. Folks with exceptionally pronounced jaws may have a little bit of contact with the inside of the chin bar when the helmet is slightly bouncing around on the trail. This isn't unpleasant. The chin bar is definitely significantly closer to the face compared to the competition. Our tester had less than an inch from his upper lip to the inside of the chin bar.
The Super Air R has a three-position visor. It clicks into one of three positions with just a little bit of pushing or pulling force. There are no dials or screws to loosen. The visor is on the shorter end of the spectrum compared to other full-face helmets. It is stout and feels secure and you can't significantly twist or bend the visor with your hand.
In half-shell mode, the visor looks great. It can blend in with the crowd if you wear it for a normal trail ride. If we were to get picky, it might be a touch longer than the majority of trail helmets. That said, it doesn't look huge or awkward. The three visor positions are sensibly placed and offer a huge field of vision.
In full-face mode, the visor is certainly shorter than the competition. You can position it where you want, and it is totally functional. If a robust and wide visor is important to you, we suggest looking elsewhere.
If there is one thing that stands out about this helmet, it is the strikingly low weight. This lid weighs a feathery 23.8-ounces in full-face mode and 14.9-ounces in half-shell mode. It is the lightest helmet in our test.
The difference between a helmet that is in the middle-of-the-pack in weight and a super-light one may seem minuscule. We can tell you that it is entirely noticeable on the trail. The Super Air R is incredibly lightweight. If you are hauling this convertible helmet around on an epic trail ride, the 9-ounce chin bar is super light and easy to stow in your backpack or tuck into the band of your hip pack.
It should be noted that wearing the lightest possible full-face helmet may not be everybody's cup of tea. A heavier and bulkier helmet feels safer and more durable when things get gnarly. This helmet is definitely designed for the trail or enduro rider who will bring it along on a gnarly trail ride or to a race. This lid is not what we would choose or recommend for long days at the bike park.
Ventilation was another standout metric for the Super Air R. This thing was quite breezy and offers splendid airflow in half-shell mode and above-average ventilation in full-face mode.
As a half-shell, this helmet has plenty of large vent ports. In fact, there are 22 ventilation points including brow ports. This lid is as airy as any trail helmet on the market. Mix in the exceptionally low weight and you have yourself a pleasantly cool and well ventilated helmet. Even on the hottest summer ride, we found it to breathe quite well.
In full-face mode, there are an additional eight vents. While this helmet is still impressively breezy, the chin area isn't as stunning as the half-shell portion. Other enduro-oriented helmets have a much more open design on the chin bar that lets much larger amounts of air in faster. This could be quite important if you are planning on enduro racing with this lid. While it breathes well, it can't match some of the competition. The proximity of the chin bar too your mouth along with the comparatively smaller vent ports on the chin don't allow this helmet to breathe the same way some other models do.
The Super Air R carries the CPSC and the CE EN1078 safety certifications. It does not have the ASTM safety certifications.
This helmet comes equipped with a MIPS liner. This is a floating yellow plane within the helmet between the foam protection and the pads that contact your head. MIPS is intended to allow the helmet to rotate slightly on your head in the event of an angled impact. This slight rotation is designed to reduce those rotational forces that would, in theory, have reached your brain. When you are wearing the helmet, you can wiggle it back and forth and feel that rotational plane moving. There has been some debate in recent years about how effective the MIPS system really is, but most major manufacturers have adopted it or a similar system.
If protection is your top priority, we recommend going for a more burly and heavier helmet. The low weight and airy feel of this helmet don't feel as sturdy as the beefy, downhill-oriented, helmets. We are aware that this helmet carries some important certifications, but this isn't the right tool for those who value the highest level of protection at the bike park. This lid is for the trail and enduro riders who spend the majority of the ride climbing for a few minutes of raucous downhill.
We have no serious durability concerns with this helmet. After substantial amounts of time messing around with the visor, it is still sturdy and hasn't developed any play.
We also spent a lot of time transitioning this helmet between trail mode and full-face mode. The closure system still feels as secure as ever. We tested this helmet in some exceptionally muddy conditions. If the rear of the helmet gets muddy in half-shell mode, this can be a problem when it comes time to attach the chin bar. Any mud near the two rear clamping slots can cause the mechanism to seize up and you won't be able to close the lever that secures the chin bar. Making sure that the rear clmaping slots and mechanism remain clean will go a long way for the durability of the system.
The Super Air R comes with a helmet bag, some replacement pads, and a camera mount that attaches to the top of the helmet.
The Super Air R is a strong value. We feel this is a high-quality helmet that does its job exceptionally well. While it carries a substantial price tag, we feel it is a sensible piece of gear that could be a viable option for a huge number of riders. This helmet is essentially two helmets in one, and a sensible choice for riders who value versatility.
The Bell Super Air R MIPS is a high-quality helmet that is exceptionally versatile and boasts a high level of comfort and ventilation. Riders who like to pedal their way up to nasty downhills or enduro riders will love this top-of-the-line lid.
— Pat Donahue