With the Stratus, Bell does us all an excellent service by offering the performance of premium models like the Z20 and Zephyr, but at a fraction of the price. For those of us with the torrential perspiration, the sweat guide pad over the brow was pretty handy and very much appreciated. It adjusted well, with the rear wheel allowing you to dial right in to fit the edges and oddities of your head while the front straps were free from tangle with the No-Twist Tri-Glides system. We also think it's a pretty sweet looking helmet. This is one of the more comfortable mid-range offerings with great ventilation. It will be fine in the winter, especially with a cycling cap or something heavier, but its natural environment is really the hot weather and long rides (maybe not the black version).
Bell Stratus MIPS Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Lightweight, cool, moves sweat away from eyes, uses MIPS
Cons: Buckles might break, straps could loosen, less aerodynamic
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Bell Stratus MIPS
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|Pros||Lightweight, cool, moves sweat away from eyes, uses MIPS||Lightweight, comfortable, low profile, good ventilation||Great ventilation, elegant style, advanced MIPS liner design||Well ventilated, affordable, comfortable, uses CES protection||Lightweight, well-ventilated, very affordable|
|Cons||Buckles might break, straps could loosen, less aerodynamic||Expensive||Expensive, heavier than other high-end helmets||Forehead padding requires visor, bulky, doesn’t use MIPS||Not as durable or adjustable as high-end models|
|Bottom Line||A comfortable, dependable road helmet that will keep you safe out on the road.||A high-end road biking helmet with a semi aerodynamic profile, that is lightweight and well-ventilated.||A high-end road biking helmet with excellent ventilation and a unique MIPS liner design.||A playfully designed offering with plenty of features for casual and serious riders alike.||A low-cost, lightweight helmet with many of the same features as higher priced competitors.|
|Rating Categories||Bell Stratus MIPS||Giro Synthe MIPS||Giro Aether MIPS||Catlike Kompact'o Urban||Giro Foray MIPS|
|Specs||Bell Stratus MIPS||Giro Synthe MIPS||Giro Aether MIPS||Catlike Kompact'o...||Giro Foray MIPS|
|Weight (grams)||296 g (size M)||312 g (size L)||330 g (size L)||291 g (size M)||312 g (size L)|
|Number of vents||18||19||11||21||21|
|Sizes||S, M, L||S, M, L||S, M, L||S, M, L||S, M, L|
|Size Range (cm)||52-62 cm (size M)||59-63 cm (size L)||59-63 cm (size L)||51-61 cm (size M)||59-63 cm (size L)|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Bell Stratus sits right in the middle of the pack, which means it has pretty steady performance over each of our scoring measures.
This lid does a great job of covering the major contact points. It uses thick Sweat Guide padding across the forehead, temples, and rear occipital region to help move sweat away from the eyes, and it does make a difference, especially for those of us that don't so much sweat as they deluge. If anything, the poor riders in the paceline behind you will appreciate the reduction in salty precipitation hitting their face. The FloatFit System also does a good job of cradling the head while allowing good movement, adding to the secure feel and snug fit.
If you want even more comfort than this and you're willing to pay a bit of a premium, we suggest looking at the Giro Synthe MIPS, which uses a similar floating cradle system and good padding coverage to deliver top comfort. If you are looking for near-complete padding coverage, we suggest looking at the Kask Infinity.
The Stratus uses an integrated Float Fit™ retention system to secure the head and improve fit. This includes an oversized two-way dial to loosen and tighten, easily adjusted on the road. It also employs its No-Twist Tri-Glide adjustable Y-straps, which seemed to be fairly standard straps - maybe a bit stiffer than regular straps. There were also reports that the fasteners might loosen after tightening, requiring more frequent adjustment.
While the Bell does pretty well in ventilation, it seems to sacrifice a bit of durability. To achieve its great aeration, it opens up the front vents and removes some of the supporting bridges to allow increased in-flow, which could potentially reduce its ability to withstand or redistribute shock and make it vulnerable to cracks from lesser blows or normal wear and tear.
For those willing to pay a bit more to get a bit more, there are a few stronger options out there. The Smith Overtake uses highly engineered inner layers to improve protection while adding strong internal support structures and a hard outer layer. The Kask Protone uses a strong inner framing and a tough polycarbonate outer shell.
The Bell has a thin, wispy design with a nice appeal. Its profile is especially striking while the front and rear are fairly average. It has ten color options with a few primary colors and a few mix-matches. For those looking for something with a little more pizazz in its design, we suggest looking to the smooth Kask Infinity or the wild Catlike Kompact'o.
With 18 vents, this appears like it might be one of the less-ventilated helmets, but its vents are large and well designed. It uses the Overbrow Ventilation system to draw air into the front vents and circulate it about the rear of the helmet. Granted, that's the idea behind all vented helmets, this one does a good job of it.
Should you decide it's just not enough ventilation and you need tops for this measure, you'll want to check out the Catlike Kompact'o with its large porthole vents. If you want to go a step higher, we suggest looking at the Specialized Airnet.
The Stratus comes in at a reasonable 296 g in a men's size Medium, putting it right around the median weight for good road helmets. It ekes out the grams by using lightweight materials like polycarbonate for its internal protective structures. It also benefits from its open, aerated design, which cuts down on the extra support material - granted, there's a potential durability penalty. If you want a lighter offering, try out the Giro Synthe MIPS, our Editors' Choice Award Winner.
Outperformance in comfort, adjustability, style, ventilation, and durability. What more could you want for this list price? It's as good asking price and chances are, you'll find it somewhere for a good deal cheaper.
The Stratus MIPS was one of the simplest helmets in the bunch and performed among the best. It excelled in comfort, making long, bouncy rides through rough aggregate more bearable. The extra Overbrow Ventilation™ improved some of those rides on the hotter days and the Sweat Guide padding made a noticeable difference that there wasn't sweat pouring down the glasses, eyes, and face on those days. It was well-padding and pleasing to have on the head, improved by the Float Fit™ retention system with its convenient two-way tension adjustment dial. There are certainly superior road bike helmets out there, but for a traditional model, this is a solid option.
— Nick Bruckbauer & Ryan Baham