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Hands-on Gear Review
Bell Super 2R MIPS Review
Cons: Not a substitute for a full-on downhill helmet, heavy, poorly-ventilated, GoPro mount inconsistently level
The Bell Super 2 R MIPS is a unique mountain bike helmet aimed at enduro races where you want the protection of a full-face helmet on the decent and the ventilation of a half-shell on the climbs. The Super accomplishes this by incorporating a detachable chin guard which locks onto the helmet with three clips. The chin guard can be quickly added or removed to adjust the amount of safety or ventilation you want. For mellow rides, the chin guard can be left behind to save weight. For up and down adventures, the chin guard can be secured to a hydration pack for the up and then clipped into place in less than 30 seconds to add some protection for the down.
The base helmet (which is sold minus the R as the Bell Super 2 MIPS) has significant updates from the original Super, which we tested a year ago. The original Super earned one of our Top Pick Awards for being the most feature laden helmet in our review. The new Super 2 models carry almost all of the features of the original, plus the most interesting feature of them all: the removable chin guard.
We've awarded the Super 2R a Top Pick Award for being the most versatile half-shell mountain bike helmet because of the chin guard feature. While the chin guard certainly adds a good deal of protection over a half-shell, we don't see this helmet as a replacement for a full-face in situations where maximum protection is needed. For this reason, we've placed this helmet in our Mountain Bike Helmet comparison rather than our Full-Face Downhill Helmet review. The Super 2R meets the same CPSC standard for cycling helmets as all of the other half-shell helmets we've tested. It does not meet the ASTM 1952 standard for full-face helmets designed for downhilling. If you need maximum protection you are going to want a true full-face. The Super 2R should be thought of as a super protective half-shell rather than a true full-face.
This is the first helmet we've tested that uses the M.I.P.S. (Multi-directional Impact Protection System) technology that is gaining popularity among major helmet manufacturers. MIPS is supposed to increase helmet safety by limiting axial loading on the brain. Many manufacturers, including Bell, are releasing both MIPS and non-MIPS versions of popular helmets. Bell is offering a MIPS version of the Super 2, Super 2R, Bell Stoker, and Event XC helmets for $20 more than the non-MIPS versions.
Possibly the best part about the Super 2, or at least the one that will make many finally get one of these great helmets, is that Bell has added some better colorways and has mostly done away with the tacky graphics. They still make a black helmet with a white skunk/racing stripe for those who are looking for that look from the movie Rad. The MIPS versions of the helmet both in the half-shell Super 2 and convertible Super 2R are available in three colorways. The non-MIPS is available in the same three colors as well as two more.
The Wraparound Chinbar can be purchased separately for $75 and added to any of the Super 2 models. The Chinbar cannot be added to the original Bell Super because it lacks the slots to allow the chin guard to be locked into place. Don't attempt to use the Chinbar with an original Super.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Mountain Bike Helmets Review
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Bell Super 2R MIPS is an interesting helmet that converts from an extended coverage half-shell to a light-duty full-face helmet for more aggressive riding. The main body of this quality lid is constructed from the usual polystyrene and polycarbonate. The Super 2 is part of the latest trend in half-shell mountain bike helmets to offer more coverage, especially in the occipital (the back of yer head) area. This helmet also has a bit more temporal coverage (the side of your head in front and above your ear) than other helmets in this category. The R in Super 2R indicates that the helmet includes the detachable chin guard, which can be quickly added or removed to suit the terrain and riding style. The Super 2R MIPS also includes the MIPS layer which is supposed to reduce rotational forces to the brain in an impact.
As was the case with the original Bell Super, our testers scored the Super 2R MIPS towards the bottom of the field in terms of comfort. While this isn't a horribly uncomfortable helmet, there is room for improvement. Our testers pointed out that this helmet fits round heads a little bit better than oval heads. If you know you have an extremely oval head, you may want to think about another helmet. The Giro Feature would be one place to start.
Despite having a lot more interior padding than other helmets, many of our testers still found that the Super has some pressure points. One thing we noticed when comparing the original Super to the Super 2 is that small closed cell foam pads have been added to the temporal area, likely to help with the function of the MIPS layer. One of our testers found that the new pads made the helmet very uncomfortable compared to the original, which was a decently comfortable. Other testers could not feel the difference. Surprisingly, the addition of the MIPS layer didn't seem to affect comfort one way of the other.
If comfort is your top priority, then we recommend you check out our Editors' Choice Award winner, theTroy Lee A1. The A1 took the highest score in the comfort department, with almost every one of our testers agreeing that it is the most comfortable half-shell mountain bike helmet they've ever worn.
Bell gave all of the new Super models a slightly updated version of their TAG retention system. This system consists of a semi rigid rear retention band adjusted with an indexed wheel. The updated version is overall smaller than it's predecessor, with a smaller band and a smaller click wheel. Despite the smaller size, we found the new click wheel to be slightly easier to use than the previous version found on the original Bell Super.
All of the Super 2 models have a retention harness constructed of tubular webbing that is adjusted with locking plastic hardware to allow for fore/aft positioning of the chin strap. We think fore/aft positioning is imperative to getting a secure fit with any half-shell helmet, and the hardware used on the Super is some of the best. We didn't have any major complaint with the tubular webbing used in the harness, but we normally prefer flat webbing because it is less bulky and sits flat against the face.
Our size medium test helmet tipped the OutdoorGearLab scale at 26.5 ounces (752 grams) with the chin guard attached. Without the chin guard, the helmet weighed 14.9 ounces (422 grams). While you can't really compare the weight of a full-face helmet with a half-shell, the Super is still the heaviest helmet in our test even without the chin guard. The next heaviest half-shell is the Fox Flux, which weighs a barely perceptible 0.5 ounces less than the Super 2R MIPS (in half-shell mode).
The Super 2R and the half-shelled Super 2 are aimed at aggressive riders who value a little extra protection over saving a few ounces. The gram-counting crowd will want to look elsewhere. The lightest mountain bike specific helmet we've tested is the Smith Forefront, which weighs a scant 10.8 ounces, though we'd recommend the Giro Xar over the Forefront for most applications. Cross-country racers who value light weight over all else may even want to consider a road bike helmet, which can weigh considerably less than mountain bike specific lids.
Compared to other full-face helmets we've tested, the Super 2R is by far the lightest, though we don't think the amount of protection is comparable to a full-time full-face helmet, especially the ones that meet the ASTM 1952 standard for downhill mountain biking. The six downhill oriented helmets we recently tested in our Full-Face Downhill Mountain Bike Helmet Review ranged in weight from 34.0 ounces to a hefty 45.12 ounces, with the average of the six being 39.1 ounces. If you are looking for the lightest full-face for aggressive riding, we recommend you try the Fox Rampage, which is the lightest model we've tested that meets the ASTM F1952 standard, weighing in at 36.8 ounces.
The Super 2R took the lowest score in our ventilation test. We scored the helmet with the chin bar attached, so you can't really compare the poor ventilation to any of the other helmets which don't have a chin guard. A full-face style helmet is never going to breathe as well as a half-shell simply because there is much more coverage around your head and something in close proximity to your main blow hole. However, compared to any of the helmets in our Full-Face Review, the Super 2R is considerably better ventilated. With the chin bar removed, the Super 2R is essentially the same as the Super 2. The Super 2 also scored fairly low in our ventilation test because of its generous coverage with relatively low percentage of vent-to-shell ratio.
The Super 2R MIPS is jam-packed with features, which is the main reason it won our Top Pick Award. The obvious feature, which no other helmet in our test and few other helmets on the market have, is a detachable chin guard that allows it to transform from a half-shell to a light-duty full-face. This is the feature that separates the Super 2R from every other cycling helmet we've ever tested and is the main reason to consider this helmet. Whether you call it "enduro" or just mountain biking, if you pedal your bike up and speed back down, you will appreciate this helmet's ability to transform from a breathable half-shell to a more protective helmet. The hard part is figuring out where to carry the chin guard if you aren't wearing a hydration pack.
In addition to the chin guard, the Super 2R (and Super 2) have a bunch of other features that make it an even better helmet. Our favorite feature on the original Bell Super was the absolutely massive, highly articulating visor to shield the eyes from sun, mud, and rain. Bell left the visor alone on all of the new Super 2 models and this visor continues to be our favorite among the field.
The MIPS option is now available in both the full-face Super 2R and half-shell Super 2 for an additional cost of $20. M.I.P.S. stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System and is supposed to add safety to a helmet by limiting certain types of forces to the brain in an impact. The system essentially consists of a slippery plastic layer and pads which slide during an impact. We were surprised to find that the addition of the MIPS layer didn't change the fit of the helmet very much. We don't do crash testing, so we can't offer a valid opinion about whether MIPS truly adds safety, but spending $20 more for a potentially safer helmet doesn't sound like a bad idea to us.
All of the Super 2 models also sport a redesigned GoPro attachment which uses velcro and a small molded plug to attach the camera to the top of the helmet. The updated mount no longer takes up an entire vent, so your head will stay cooler while you film hours of footage of yourself getting gnarly. Unfortunately, we couldn't get the mount to sit level because it relies on tension between hooks on the mount and bare polystyrene inside one of the vents. The critical bit of the polystyrene in our test lid quickly became deformed, making the mount pretty much worthless, much like 99% of the GoPro footage we've ever filmed.
Bell also included an ICE dot emergency medical identification sticker on the back of the Super 2R. Ice dot is a system designed to give medical professionals potentially pertinent information about a victim should they be unable to answer questions. The system relies on a code printed on the back of the helmet which links to info stored online. We think this is a nice thought, but we feel that the system is unlikely to be utilized by medical teams in a true emergency. If you have a severe allergy or pertinent medical history, you'd be better off writing the info out somewhere on your person and keeping your riding buddies informed.
The Super 2R held up well during our test which is a measure of how well a helmet stands up to daily abuse. Like any polystyrene cycling helmet, the Super should be replaced after a major crash.
One of our testers commented that the polystyrene used in the Super 2R seemed to be more resistant to nicks and dings than other helmets we tested. When it comes to helmet durability, one thing we always look at is whether or not the lower edge of the polystyrene is covered in shell material. With the Super 2, Bell continued the polycarbonate shell all the way to the lower edge of the helmet, but didn't quite give it the full protective wrap we'd like to see, but snapping the chin guard in place adds a good amount of protection to the vulnerable lower edge of the polystyrene.
We experienced no durability concerns with either the chin guard, buckle, or rear retention system. The three clips used to attach the chin guard are very sturdy and we would expect them to last the life of the helmet.
This helmet is designed for enduro races where you pedal up, take a quick break, and then bomb back down as fast as possible. (Wait a second, that's just called mountain biking!) This helmet covers the spectrum between XC racing and riding requiring a full-face, which it the spectrum where 95% of mountain bikers fall.
At a retail price of $220, the Super 2R MIPS ties the Smith Forefront as the most expensive in our test. Of course, the Super 2R is both a half-shell and lightweight full-face, while the Forefront is just a lightweight half-shell which disappointed many of our testers. Certainly, the Super 2R is a better value than the Smith at the top of the price range.
Comparing the Super 2R with its detachable chin guard to other half-shell helmets is a bit like comparing apples to oranges since the Super 2R is a bit like two helmets in one. If the full-face mode was protective enough to fully replace the need for a full-face helmet, then it would be the deal of the century. Unfortunately, it is not. If you want both a half-shell and a full-face for the full gamut of mountain riding, we recommend that you get two separate helmets. For $275 you could have a full-face Bell Transfer 9 and a Bell Stoker or Giro Feature. Better yet, using our price finder tool you could likely get one of those combos for under $200!
The Super 2R MIPS is a welcome update and improvement on the original Bell Super, which previously earned one of our Top Pick Awards. Just like how the latest generation of enduro bikes can handle smashing to the top and then slay the downhill, the 2R is a chameleon of a helmet.
With the chin guard attached, the Super 2R certainly provides more protection than any half-shell helmet on the market. Neither we nor Bell see the 2R as a replacement for full-blown dedicated full-face. The bottom line is, if you just spent $6000 on a bike that can pedal up and hammer back down, maybe you should consider a helmet that can do the same.
— Luke Lydiard
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