Hands-on Gear Review

Bell Volt Review

Bell Volt in Red White Script.
By: Luke Lydiard ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Feb 20, 2015
Price:  $155 List  |  $76.99 at MooseJaw - 50% Off
Pros:  Available in many colors, visor makes it more versatile for mountain biking, cyclocross, or commuting
Cons:  Heavy, rear retention band is overkill for road cycling, thick harness webbing
Manufacturer:   Bell
59
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 20% 6
  • Adjustability - 20% 6
  • Weight - 25% 5
  • Ventilation - 25% 7
  • Durability - 10% 5
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Our Verdict

The Bell Volt is a popular road biking helmet which has been around for some time. Its swooping lines aren't super unique, but we guarantee you've seen this helmet before. Cadel wore a Volt on the way to winning the Tour de France in 2011. Since then, most Bell sponsored riders have switched over to the lighter Bell Gage, which seems a lot more on par with our Editors' Choice Giro Aeon.

The Volt is the only helmet in our Road Bike Helmet Review which has a visor. Normally we consider the presence or lack of a visor to be a defining difference between a road helmet and a mountain helmet. Most roadies prefer a cotton cycling cap rather than a rigid visor to shield the eyes during inclement weather or when the sun is low on the horizon. The Volt's visor can be easily removed from the helmet if you don't want it, and the attachment holes filled with included plugs for a cleaner look.

Despite not being one of our favorite road helmets, the Volt would be a good option for riders looking for a single helmet for a range of uses because of the removable visor. The visor makes this helmet a decent option for muddy cyclocross races or cross-country mountain biking.

The Volt is available in three sizes and a multitude of colors and patterns, so finding one to match your kit or bike should be easy, if you are into that sort of thing.


Our Analysis and Test Results

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The Bell Volt is an in-molded polystyrene cycling helmet. This helmet is aimed at a slightly wider range of cycling than most road cycling helmets since it has a small removable visor that makes it more functional for mountain biking or commuting.

Performance Comparison


Peter Chapman shreds some freshly laid pavement in the Bell Volt.
Peter Chapman shreds some freshly laid pavement in the Bell Volt.

Comfort


The Volt did not score any top marks in our comfort test. It, along with the Bell Array, Giro Savant, and POC Octal tied with the lowest scores in this test. None of these helmets are particularly uncomfortable, they just aren't as comfortable as some of the others we tested.

Our testers found that the Volt's interior padding was not thick or plentiful enough to prevent pressure points between the head and polystyrene on long rides. The main thing that makes the Volt less comfortable than other helmets is the weight. Even with the visor removed, the Volt is one of the heaviest road helmets we evaluated. Our testers were never able to completely forget they were wearing the Volt like they were able to do with other lighter helmets.

The most comfortable helmet we tested is the Kask Vertigo, which we awarded the rare perfect ten in our comfort test. The plush Vertigo uses plentiful interior padding to cushion between the helmet's dense polystyrene foam and the head.

Adjustments


The Volt uses Bell's Twin Axis Gear (TAG) retention system. This is the same system found on the Bell Array. This system employs a large rubber coated click wheel to tighten the band. The wheel can be manipulated with a single thumb. Tightening the band requires a simple clockwise turn while the wheel is pushed upwards to loosen. Our testers found that pushing the wheel up often resulted in a quick and uncontrolled loosening of the band. They also found that they would end up pulling their own hair while attempting to manipulate the wheel because it lays nearly flat against the head. This was true even for testers with very short hair. Our testers came to greatly prefer Giro's RocLoc5 retention system, which allows for easy and accurate micro adjustments, even with full finger gloves on.

Only a small portion of the wheel of the Volt's TAG retention system is exposed through the bottom of its housing. This makes it harder to locate than a fully exposed wheel. Spinning the wheel clockwise with a thumb tightens the retention band. To loosen the band the wheel is depressed upwards into the housing which makes for a less controlled release if the band is under a lot of tension.
Only a small portion of the wheel of the Volt's TAG retention system is exposed through the bottom of its housing. This makes it harder to locate than a fully exposed wheel. Spinning the wheel clockwise with a thumb tightens the retention band. To loosen the band the wheel is depressed upwards into the housing which makes for a less controlled release if the band is under a lot of tension.

The Volt uses a locking buckle to adjust the position of the harness yoke. Rather than flat webbing, the Volt's harness is constructed from tubular webbing. The locking plastic buckle works well, but the tubular webbing has a tendency to twist and prevent the harness from laying flat against the face. Our testers found this type of webbing to be much more noticeable against the face and we came to prefer harnesses made from flat webbing. Flat webbing would also probably save a small amount of weight.

The Volt uses a locking buckle to adjust the position of the harness yoke.
The Volt uses a locking buckle to adjust the position of the harness yoke.

Weight


At 12.38 ounces, the Volt is the second heaviest helmet in our test. The Volt is a pretty tubby helmet compared to helmets like the Editors' Choice winning Giro Aeon which only weighs 7.94 ounces.

Ventilation


The Volt is a decently ventilated helmet cycling helmet, but it is not as well ventilated as most of the others in our field of road helmets. However, if if was compared to any of the extended coverage lids in our half-shell Mountain Bike Helmet Review, it would likely take the top score.

The Volt has 22 vents spread evenly across the entire helmet. Bell covered the Volt's interior padding in X Static material which is supposed to help with heat and moisture transfer.

Top view of the Bell Volt showing the majority of its vents. The Volt is not as well ventilated as some of the other road bike helmets we tested but compared to most mountain bike helmets it has much more cooling airflow.
Top view of the Bell Volt showing the majority of its vents. The Volt is not as well ventilated as some of the other road bike helmets we tested but compared to most mountain bike helmets it has much more cooling airflow.

Durability


The Volt tied the Bell Array with the second lowest score in durability. Only the Giro Atmos, with its overly exposed foam bits, scored lower than these two helmets. The problem with the Volt, along with those two other helmets, is the amount of polystyrene left exposed to bumps and bruises while the helmet is off your head. Keep in mind that this durability test is not a measure of how well a helmet will hold up in a crash, but more of an evaluation of how well the helmet will survive day-to-day use. Since road biking doesn't typically involve a lot of crashing when compared to mountain biking, a helmet will likely last a roadie a lot longer before a crash worthy of replacing a helmet takes place. For this reason, we recommend selecting a road helmet which you really like so you will be happy with it for a while.

Best Application


This helmet works well for road biking, and because of the addition of a removable visor, it also translates well into cross-country mountain biking and commuting.

Side view of the Bell Volt with the visor attached. This visor is much shorter than the visors found on the most of the half shell mountain bike helmets we tested.
Side view of the Bell Volt with the visor attached. This visor is much shorter than the visors found on the most of the half shell mountain bike helmets we tested.

Value


We don't think the Volt is a very good value at $155. Since the release of the updated Volt RL, we've seen the version of the Volt we tested for as little as $65 using our price finder.

This helmet comes with a visor, unlike all other road bike helmets tested. If you think you want a visored helmet, we recommend you check out the helmets in our Mountain Bike Helmet Review, which all have visors. In general, mountain bike specific helmets retail for a lot less than road bike dome covers.

Conclusion


This is the second lowest scoring helmet we reviewed. We see little reason to go with this helmet over others considering it retails for $155. There are lighter, more comfortable, better ventilated, more durable, and much less expensive helmets in our test. We recommend you figure out which of those features are most important to you and pick a helmet that does well in that area. It won't be the Volt since it did not take a top score in any of our tests and is not nearly the least expensive.

Luke Lydiard

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Most recent review: February 20, 2015
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
  • 1
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  • 5
 (2.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
 (0.0)
Rating Distribution
1 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 100%  (1)
1 star: 0%  (0)


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