At one time Bell Helmets were the best lids in the world, bar none. For a number of reasons, that hasn’t been true in a very long while, but they’re working hard to improve their market position and it shows in the new Mag-9, which by any measurable standard is a good helmet, and quite frankly, much improved over the last new Bell I tested.
Overall the DOT-rated Mag-9 is a well-constructed and nicely finished 3/4 face helmet that features a lightweight polycarbonate shell which incorporates a removable clear shield over the front and a spring-loaded, retractable tinted sun screen within, along with replaceable cheek pads to customize the fit, and integrated speaker pockets for those of you that just can’t live without the sound of music. It also features a flow-through ventilation system, and just in case it’s not flowing quite enough, the soft interior liner is antibacterial and washable.
The top-mounted intake vents and anti-scratch, drop-down sun shade are easy to operate, though I have to qualify that by saying the sun shade didn’t always retract the first time I pushed the lever. Removing the visor and external shield is probably fairly easy, but since no instructions were provided and I didn’t want to break anything I didn’t press the issue. Apparently the helmet can be configured eight different ways. I did try some alternative cheek pads, and they’re very easy to R&R.
Unfortunately for me, the Mag-9 didn’t work particularly well on my head. The main problem was my eyeglasses; try as I might I just couldn’t get the Bell to fit well while wearing them. Without them the fit was as good as it gets, on par with anything I’ve worn, so I doubt switching to another size would have helped much. I was also put off by the squared-off design of the helmet, which gives it a vaguely Roman gladiator-ish look. I realize appearance is entirely subjective but let’s be realistic; an awful lot of helmets get sold because the buyer finds them attractive. I also feel that the Mag-9 at $169.95 is somewhat overpriced, though to mitigate that, there is a five-year warranty, and like I said earlier, the helmet boasts eight possible configurations.
For me the cost, fit and styling are deal breakers, and when added to the small niggles I’ve mentioned, drops the helmet from a borderline four-star to a solid three-star rating. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad helmet; it isn’t. It just isn’t the right one for me. —