Bell Z20 MIPS Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Well-ventilated, adjustable and comfortable, sleek and classy style
Cons: Slightly heavy for a high-end helmet
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Bell Z20 MIPS earns consistently high scores in every rating metric with its reliable high-end performance and no apparent weaknesses. The Z20 stands out with its high-quality headband system and excellent ventilation, making it extremely comfortable for a variety of head shapes and sizes in a variety of riding conditions. While it tips the scales at a few grams heavier than other top-end flagship helmets, the Z20 makes a great pick for any type of rider looking for stylish comfort and performance.
We recognize that heads come in all different shapes and sizes, which makes a helmet's fit and comfort a potentially very subjective metric that is very much dependent on individual rider anatomies and preferences. However, the Z20 MIPS has several standout features that will help achieve a comfortable fit for almost any rider out there.
The Z20 comes with Bell's innovative Float Fit Race headband retention system that cleverly integrates the helmet's MIPS crash protection liner into the headband. This system includes well-cushioned cradles for the rear of the head that are width-adjustable and includes both height and width adjustment features for the headband itself. The headband provides a full circumference fit around the entire head and does an excellent job of cradling the head away from the EPS foam liner without any uncomfortable pressure points.
To top it all off, the Z20 comes with two large patches of perfectly placed X-Static pads that gently cushion and absorb sweat from the head. The front padding runs across the front brim of the helmet in what is called a sweat guide pad, which helps pull moisture away from your forehead and eyewear. Overall, the combination of the comfortable, well-placed padding and one of the best headband systems that we've seen makes the Z20 incredibly comfortable and one of the highest-rated helmets that we've tested.
Many of the same features that give the Z20 its high-end comfort are highly adjustable to fit a wide variety of riders. The previously mentioned Float Fit Race headband system can be adjusted for both height and width and includes cushioned cradles at the rear of the head that can be adjusted for width. The headband cradle system is one of the most comfortable and most adjustable headbands that we've tested, providing a full circumference wrap around the entire head.
The Z20 also includes adjustable Y-buckles on each side of the chin strap system which allow the straps to lay comfortably against your face and includes an adjustable chin strap buckle for an easy fit. The chin strap webbing material is soft and supple, and the contrasting red color in the model we tested stands out nicely from the helmet and makes locating and manipulating the strap system a breeze. This contrasting color scheme may not seem very notable, but compared to a black helmet with a black liner, black padding, and blackstrap material, some contrasting colors that allow each feature to stand out are a welcome change.
One potential minor drawback is that the strap system is permanently anchored to the rear of the helmet. Some other models in our lineup have webbing straps that can be fed through a slot in the rear of the headband system or the foam liner, which allows for easy side to side adjustment of the straps and convenient centering of the chin strap buckle.
We measured our size Large Z20 MIPS at 336 grams, placing it near the middle of our lineup in terms of weight. While there are several helmets lighter than the Z20, most are only 20-30 grams lighter in the same size, which is hardly noticeable out in the real world.
When considering all of the high-end features packed into the Z20, its weight starts appearing more and more impressive. With one of the best headband systems we've ever tested, a generous amount of padding, and a variable density EPS foam liner, the Z20 packs every feature you would likely want in a helmet and does so at a very reasonable weight.
With a sleek and modern style and casually cool color schemes, we think that the Z20 MIPS is a great looking helmet. Its large vents and smoothly flowing profile are accented with contrasting modern color schemes that are not too loud and not too bland.
In addition to its highly functional headband system that ensures a comfortable fit, the Z20 also includes several bonus features. Rubberized sunglass holders in the front vents help keep your shades in place, and thoughtful extras like an extra set of X-Static pads and an included soft carrying case add to the overall value.
The Z20 MIPS is very well-ventilated with 18 large and well-placed vents that promote airflow within the helmet, a design that is very effective at both faster and slower speeds and in all kinds of weather conditions. The Float Fit Race headband system is designed to cradle the head away from the EPS foam liner, a noticeable high-end feature that does enhance comfort and ventilation.
Besides the vents themselves, the standout feature that improves ventilation is that the helmet's MIPS liner is integrated into the high-quality Float Fit Race adjustable headband system. By integrating the MIPS liner into the headband cradle, the surface area of the MIPS liner is greatly reduced, eliminating a thin plastic layer that is present on most other helmets that sits between your head and the flow of air. The MIPS-integrated headband cradle is cut perfectly to align with the ridges of the helmet, eliminating any interference with the vents.
With an abundance of high-end features, and excellent materials and craftsmanship, we would expect the Z20 MIPS to provide durable use for many many years. We did not experience any durability issues during our testing period and are very impressed with the overall quality and finish of the helmet. The chinstrap webbing material and the buckle hardware are of good quality, and the X-Static padding is some of the best in the business, with special built-in fibers to reduce odors and resist the buildup of bacteria.
The only notable potential drawback with the Z20, like with many other similar helmets, is that there is a good deal of exposed EPS foam around the brim of the helmet. This EPS foam is somewhat delicate and is vulnerable to bumps or scratches if left exposed during transport or storage. The most durable helmets that we've tested completely encase this foam liner in a protective polycarbonate shell material. Since the polycarbonate shell material is slightly heavier than the EPS foam, most helmets strike a compromise between providing protection and shedding some weight. The soft carrying case that is included with the helmet will help protect it during transport and reduces the risk of damage to the small amount of exposed EPS foam.
While it is certainly not an inexpensive helmet, the Z20 MIPS provides excellent value for riders looking for an abundance of high-end features including supreme comfort, excellent adjustability, great ventilation, and a sleek and modern design. Since it is definitely on the more expensive end of the lineup, riders willing to sacrifice the high-end features to save some money will find several other suitable options to choose from that may provide a better overall bang for the buck. Riders intent on having the best features and performance will find the Z20 to be a surprisingly good value.
The Bell Z20 MIPS is an impressive helmet that packs some of the best high-end features we've seen into a very comfortable and stylish package. With excellent ventilation, an impressively comfortable and adjustable headband system with an integrated MIPS liner, and a reasonable weight and a reasonable price tag, the Z20 is tough to beat and deservedly earns one of our Editors' Choice Awards.
— Nick Bruckbauer