Second best Bell or Star in its own right?
Bell, the company that taught America to wear helmets, has a new offering suitable for racetrack riding. This lid is priced below the Star, which is Bell's flagship model. So how do the two compare?
Last summer, we tested the Bell Star helmet and gave it a rave review. Our conclusion was that this new lid totally lived up to the legacy of its iconic predecessors and was a premium helmet, priced at two-thirds the cost of its competition. We then continued to use our test helmet for a season and a half, never finding any reason not to love it. Now, the Star has a younger brother in the new RS-1. Would it impress us as much as the Star had?
First, let’s consider what’s familiar with this new offering. Most importantly of all, the RS-1’s visor and attaching mechanism are carried over straight from the Star. This is fantastic news, since Bell’s quick release system is our personal favorite for its simplicity of operation and the speed with which you can change visors. The wide range of optically correct, 99% UV blocking shields available for this setup is about as perfect as a product line could be; featuring an array of colors, tints, mirrors and even a Transitions model that automatically adjusts to light conditions. No joke: You could develop a serious visor fetish if you own a Bell Star or RS-1. They really are that good and that easy to change.
There are other things we liked about the Star which also feature in the RS-1’s design. The removable, washable, antibacterial/antimicrobial interior comfort liner is soft on your skin, wicks away moisture as you ride and is a high-end place to put your head. Fastening the RS-1 is easy with its wide chin strap, which has a magnet to secure the loose end, rather than the fussy, inconvenient clip you find on most lids. Both items are direct carryovers from the Star line and lend the RS-1 a very high-quality feel.
Due to differences in the materials used to form each helmet’s composite shell, the RS-1 weighs in at 1575 grams, which is 25 grams more than the Star. Honestly, we couldn’t feel the extra weight while riding. The general shape of the RS-1’s shell and the size and placement of its ventilation ducts is very similar but not identical to its big brother Star. This may be a case of Bell trying to make a deferential design change while hoping to obtain the same effect. Back-to-back testing shows that they have succeeded. In our opinion, the RS-1 may be slightly more stable at speed, although a bit noisier and perhaps a bit less well ventilated overall than the Star. Really, we’re just splitting hairs here. Bell may not like to hear this but their mid-priced helmet is essentially every bit as good as their top of the line model!
Priced from $349.95 in solid colors to $399.95 for graphics, (our test lid sports the “Shattered” graphic) the RS-1 is $200 less expensive than its big brother Star. What are you giving up? From what we can see, the Star weighs a bit less, comes with the coolest helmet bag ever and has absolutely outstanding detail in its available graphics packages. The RS-1 hasn’t had quite so much attention spent on making it pretty, comes with a simple cloth bag and due to its less-exotic shell composite, carries a minimal 25g of extra heft. Both lids are DOT and Snell approved, with the new-for-2011 RS-1 conforming to the most recent Snell 2010 standard. Both helmets fit and perform equally well. Comparing the two initially causes you to wonder what Bell was thinking. The RS-1 is essentially a Star for two-thirds the money. Why would they do that?
We here at TrackdayMag.com speculate that it’s all about evolution. The venerable, current-generation Star, one of our all-time favorite helmets, is now an aging platform. Even so, it is an excellent lid, which uses paid-for technology. Essentially, the RS-1 is an updated version of the most recent Star, built to the very latest test specs and offered at a really attractive price. How attractive? We can’t think of a better lid that you can buy for $350. So if Bell’s second-tier RS-1 helmet is now offering a more attractive performance/cost ratio than their top offering, where does that leave big brother Star? Our guess: Redesign in progress.