Bell Star MIPS Helmet Review | Street and Track Tested
Track riding is arguably the most intense seat-time a motorcyclist will partake in. High speeds, coupled with high levels of stress—and in California, typically even higher temperatures—means that your gear needs to be up for the task.
Bell invited Ultimate Motorcycling out to Thunderhill Raceway Park in Northern California, a perfect proving grounds to evaluate the new Bell Star MIPS helmet.
The Bell Star MIPS is the entry point into the Bell Star family of helmets, which includes the Bell Race Star Flex and Bell Pro Star Flex. Visually, the changes between the now outgoing Bell Star helmet and the Bell Star MIPS are subtle, though it still boasts DOT, SNELL and ECE certifications.
However, just as your mother has always assured you, it’s what inside that counts.
The new Bell Star MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System) utilizes slip-plane technology, in conjunction with the industry-standard foam EPS liner, to provide a greater range of protection for riders. The EPS liner deals with the main impact forces, while the MIPS system specifically addresses the problem of brain injuries, alleviating things like concussions.
MIPS adds protective elements that help reduce rotational forces during a crash. According to Bell engineers, they’ve seen a 30 percent reduction in stress delivered to the brain with MIPS employed over a non-MIPS style helmet.
MIPS relies on a low-friction layer to allow the helmet a small range of movement during an angled impact. In this case, the slip-plane or low-friction layer is a crown piece that rests between the EPS liner and interior padding.
In a fall, the rider is typically carrying forward momentum. Once the ground is hit, the helmet shifts to alleviate some of those rotational forces. This kind of technology helps reduce concussions and other common brain injuries that have lifelong reprocussions.
Bell also updated its TriMatrix Composite shell (aramid, carbon fiber, and fiberglass) by shaving off a few ounces, extending the rear spoiler slightly, and giving a bit more room in the ear cavities.
Having your ears boxed in is especially important for me, as I wear prescription glasses. Tight ear cavities in a helmet can create hotspots around the sides of my head. When glasses are added in, it can make the situation much worse. Fortunately, I didn’t experience this a bit.
Additionally, Bell took the comfort of me and my four-eyed brethren into consideration by creating channels in the padding for glasses. While it certainly takes a bit of doing to get the glasses in—this is a race-fit helmet—my glasses stay put and don’t cause discomfort. Kudos, Bell.
The EPS liner and cheek padding are also designed to accommodate helmet communication devices.
Though Bell describes the Bell Star MIPS as an Intermediate Oval headshape, fitment and comfort is highly personal—get fitted professionally for the best results. We can speak to the interior padding and its feel. Inside the Bell Star MIPS, you can expect relatively plush accommodations, with washable sweat-wicking, anti-microbial materials.
All pads can be snapped in easily and the cheek-pads have an emergency removal system as well. Bell has done a great job of keeping the securing buttons away from any areas that might cause pressure points. For example, the front section wraps around the upper portion of the EPS liner and snaps in above your eyebrows, instead of against your forehead.
Should you be in-between sizes, Bell does offer thicker cheek and crown options. If you need to do fine tuning elsewhere and need to beef up certain areas of the helmet, Bell offers a free-floating pad in the box that can be folded, cut and placed under areas of the padding to create a proper fit.
Those sections of additional padding are held in place with Velcro. In my case, I needed a hair more padding in the front and was completely set after that.
Oddly, there is a large tag on crown of the padding. In just about any position, it negatively impacts the ventilation of the helmet.
Looking at the profile of the shell, this is a sporting helmet. Aggressive aerodynamics suggest that the Bell Star MIPS will be home on the track, and it is. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a track only helmet, not in the least.
The massively wide viewport makes for stellar peripheral vision and is aided by the small cutouts towards the rear of the chinbar. When in full tuck on the track, spotting your apex is a breeze without having to crane your neck as if you’re poorly imitating a giraffe. That reduces strain and fatigue, keeping you focused for longer periods of time.
Whether you’re looking up, down, left or right, your vision is unimpeded. I ran 45-minute sessions on-track and I was usually brought in by a lack of fuel, above anything else. So, this helmet can certainly go the distance.
At high speeds, the Bell Star MIPS performs admirably. As I became comfortable at Thunderhill, I managed to get up to speeds of roughly 140 mph down the front straight on a 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 test bike (I know, I know, you’re all faster). I experienced zero buffeting when sitting up out of the bubble, nor did I experience any headshake. Once my fitment was right, it was rock solid.
On the street, the same benefits remain. Quick head checks when changing lanes take less effort and allow you to keep focused on what’s ahead, while the great peripherals offer a bit more situational awareness than helmets with a narrower field of view.
The Bell Star MIPS is equipped with seven vents. There are intake vents located on the chin, brow, top and rear-quarter of the helmet, as well as three exhaust ports in the rear. This creates a Venturi effect; hot air is naturally drawn out as cool air flows in.
Ventilation in the Bell Star MIPS is adequate, offering a fair amount of cooling. Bell staff did make me aware that the MIPS crown does slightly conflict with the heavy amount of vent channeling in the EPS liner.
I rode in temperatures that pushed into the 90s during my two days on-track and, while I didn’t feel a rush of air when opening the upper vents, I was comfortable. If you move from the closed to open positions, you will feel a temperature difference within a few seconds.
At no point was I uncomfortable, even in scorching weather while running long sessions on track. On the street, I had the same experience.
The chin vent block is an essential part of the Bell Star MIPS ventilations system. With the block installed, you will receive no ventilation through the chinbar onto your face.
Instead, all the airflow will be directed up to the Panovision face shield. This dramatically improves its ability to defog, something I didn’t experience at all, even when huffing and puffing my way around Thunderhill. Consequently, it also helped my glasses stay clear of condensation.
With the chin block removed, you do feel a good bit of air coming through, which some riders prefer. For street riding, I’d keep the block in to ensure defogging and when on track, I’d pull it out for maximum ventilation.
The faceshield and locking mechanism on the Bell Star MIPS is the same the entire Star helmet series. Changing out faceshields is quick and, even without instruction, can be figured out in short order. However, should you need some help, here is this handy-dandy video.
The action of the faceshield is completely smooth when actuating up and down, allowing you to leave the shield in an up position, a cracked position for defogging, or snapped fully closed. The stock faceshield is not Pinlock ready, so a Pinlock-compatible shield must be purchased separately. Also offered are photochromatic faceshields and darkened faceshields, all of which are available with or without tear-off posts.
To hold the Bell Star MIPS on, there is a standard metal double D-ring fastener with one cool feature. The magnetic fastener on the D-ring won’t have you fumbling around for a snap that’s too close to the helmet padding. Once you’ve pulled the strap through, you need only get one end near the other and it snaps closed with no issues. Science!
Bell has upped the ante when it comes to keeping riders safe, offering something more than basic impact protection, without causing a dramatic increase in price. With the addition of MIPS and a few other tweaks, Bell has expanded upon what the latest Star series has aimed to do—provide a versatile, sporty helmet for the masses. Hitting the track, canyons or just cruising to work, the Bell Star MIPS fits the bill.
Bell Star MIPS Fast Facts
- Sizes: XS-XXL
- Colors: Matte Black; Gloss White; six graphics styles, including Isle of Man and RSD.
- Bell Star MIPS Price: Starting at $470 MSRP
Photography by: Bell Helmets and Josh Sawyer.
For a photo gallery, click to page 2