Review: Helmet shootout Part 1 - Bell Super, POC Trabec Race, 661 EVO AM

When I go into most bike shops it's seldom I will see a helmet that is not suited to the road or XC purposes. There's countless options of them out there. It's not often you see something with some rear and side support – more focused on the trail and all mountain side of things. I set out to see what I could find that is readily available in South Africa.
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After much searching I found 6 helmets that suited the bill. I decided that – because they loosely fit two different categories – I would split the shootout in two. There was a significant difference between the trail oriented and the all mountain (dare I say, enduro) styled helmets. The all mountain (AM) helmets had more coverage on the back and sides and carried more of a heft. I also thought that there would be a distinctly different buyer of these helmets than the trail oriented ones. Here are the AM candidates.

The candidates


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Bell Super
So if you were to go into your local bike shop, the Super is the one AM styled helmet that you would probably see. Bell coins the Super as their all mountain offering, to “split the difference” between DH and XC. It is available in a variety of colours, from bright green to matte black with a white stripe.

Manufacturer's specs:
Fusion In-Mold Microshell
GoggleGuide
Integrated/Removable GoPro camera mount
Internal Reinforcement
Lightweight Buckle
Lightweight Cam-lock Levers
Lightweight webbing
Overbrow Ventilation
Speed Dial Fit System
X-Static Padding
Weight: 390g
Vents: 25, with 4 brow ports
RRP: R 2,100.00

POC-combo-2.jpg

POC Trabec Race
An unusual design out of Sweden, POC's Trabec is a design that you either love or hate. “The construction is similar to the trabecular bone structure that has excellent resistance and durability,” says the POC site. Depending which model you choose – the Trabec, Trabec Race or Trabec Race MIPS – the colour options vary.

Manufacturer's specs:
Size adjustment system
Adjustable visor
Aerodynamic ventilation channel system
EPS liner
Outer PC shell
Aramid fiber grip
Weight: 340g
Vents: 16
RRP: R 2,700.00

661-combo-2.jpg

661 EVO AM
I was lucky to snag a pre-production EVO AM for a small amount of time, it being one of two in the country. It came in black and cyan colour scheme, which isn't a production colour scheme unfortunately. It's 661's first venture into the AM/enduro helmet segment, with their previous Recon fitting better into the trail category.

Manufacturer's specs:
Contigo foam liner
MIPS option
BOA FS360 360° adjustment system
Adjustable visor with two mounting positions
Fidlock magnetic closure
Adjustable, anti-microbial padding
Colors: Black, four other color options coming later
Weight: 359 g
Vents: 15
RRP: R 2,000.00

Aesthetics

It goes to show how far helmet design has gone in the past few years, because these helmets vary greatly in their design and fit. But first, their design. Aesthetics come in two stages: 1) what it looks like on its own and 2) what it looks like on your head.

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On its own, the POC had a nice round look to it, having the cleanest and most solid look of the three. I personally found it attractive, but some find it odd looking. The paint scheme was a shouter, though you can get it in black with white on the back or reverse of the colours, and I would have gone for one of those options instead. I liked how it looked sitting there, but on a head it tends to sit a bit high, especially in the back. It's a smaller helmet to the others too, not giving as much coverage at the back.

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If you take the visor off of the Bell, it looks like a skating helmet with a bunch of holes. This clearly shows its heritage and purpose: as much protection without being full face and airy enough for long rides. Oh, and the visor to stop the sun. It's a good looking helmet, both on and off your head, and is the least obtrusive of the three. There is a variety of colour options and I went with the subtlest I could get. There is the option of an even more subtle matte black or if that's not your thing then you can look at the one with tattoo decals.

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In a way the 661 was the most unobtrusive looking of the three, but in a way the most aggressive. The visor has three vents in it to funnel air into the vents at the front of the helmet. The coverage does not go as far on the sides of back as the Bell, but like the Bell, it has heritage in skating helmets and it shows. The vents are much bigger and fewer than the Bell, and the sharper design of them gives a more traditional look to the EVO AM.

There's no point calling a winner here, everyone will have their own aesthetic preferences. For me, though, I'd say the Trabec looks best off the head. I'd give the nod to the EVO by a small margin over the Super for on-head attractiveness. The 661 just has a purposeful look to it, perhaps because of the more aggressive design.

Comfort

Everyone may have different ideas on comfort, but between these lids, there was a clear winner. Trying on a helmet in the office is a completely different animal to riding all day with it. But when you put on a helmet and immediately say, “It's like little marshmallows on my head,” like one of our testers, you know it's got something special good going for it. This was the 661.

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The POC Trabec Race on the left had minimal padding; The 661 EVO AM was superbly comfortable; The Bell Super's X-Static Padding was great too

The EVO AM slotted onto your head so softly and solidly that it was in a different ball park to the others. There is no shortage of padding and because of the way it has been setup, your head doesn't touch any hard bits on the inside. The BOA 360° adjustment system was the most comfortable too, tightening around your head evenly.

[blockquote]It's like little marshmallows on my head[/blockquote]
The Bell Super was comfortable, no doubt, but there were some issues here and there. It was mostly just highlighted by how good the 661 felt. But in isolation, it was certainly a good fitting helmet. One particular niggle I found after long rides was the front padding. It was great initially, but tended to flatten and expose the hard parts of the helmet.

The POC was the hardest of the three, with the least padding but also the lightest. It's a lot simpler looking inside and out and in some ways it works for it. When you first put it on it isn't the epitome of comfort but I found that on longer rides I tended to forget about the Trabec completely. This is a good sign for any helmet. I think it was down to its simplicity that it was easy to live with on the trail. One weird drawback of the padding was that it made a side-parting in my hair that was perfectly straight.

Features

The basic features of the three contestants are this: adjustable straps (you'd hope so), adjustable tensioners at the back, adjustable visors and removable padding. A lot of adjusting then - it's what you want in a helmet. We all have different shaped heads after all.

The Bell Super takes the cake here, with more bells and whistles than the others. It comes with a dedicated GoPro mount on top, hooks that attach to the visor mounts to hold onto your goggles and a properly adjustable visor, where the other two are not quite up to scratch.

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POC Trabec's pinch ratchet system; 661 EVO AM's BOA system; Bell Super's Speed Dial Fit system

The BOA system on the EVO AM wins for the tensioners, with distinct, little clicks. Bell also have a twist system called Speed Dial Fit System on the Super. It doesn't quite measure up in accuracy or overall adjustability. The Trabec's size adjustment system is a ratchet type, which you use two fingers to pinch together to adjust. While it works fine, it's also not as accurate as either of the twist type systems.

The BOA system allows far greater tightening and doesn't just secure the back of your head, but your entire head. I have heard of people complaining about the knob catching on backpacks while riding, and 661 are apparently making it smaller for production.

The Super and the Trabec both have the standard clip on their straps, but 661 have decided to opt out of that practice. Instead, the EVO AM has a magnetic connector that snaps together. They say it is easier to use with one hand. After some fiddling I was able to use one hand, but it takes some practice. I'm not sure if it's any better than a clip, but if you forget to strap your helmet on and need to mid-trail, it is easier to do while moving.

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The 661 EVO AM had a magnetic clip, easier for one handed moves

Again, I don't see a clear winner. It comes down to your preferences. If you are going to move the visor, use goggles a lot and are always recording your rides then the Super is made for you. If, on the other hand you like fancier systems of adjustment to get the helmet strapped on then the EVO AM is the right choice. If simplicity is your game then get the Trabec.

In the end

There's certain products that are known to be industry standards as it were. They may not be the best in the industry, but they are the standards, and are there for a reason. The Bell Super is the industry standard for AM helmets. The reasons being that it is the most readily available, Bell being a big brand. It is also a very capable helmet. The POC is the fancy exotic stuff. It's not the best, but by no means a bad helmet. Would I buy one? Probably. Would I buy one over the other two? No. If I were to choose it would be the 661 EVO AM. It is all around the better package. More comfortable, better looking (in my opinion) and the cheapest. How does that work? There seems to be a glitch in the system somewhere.






59 Comments

decibel, Jul 17 2014 09:40

We are looking at 3 more helmets in Part two of the Shootout and it includes a Fox Flux

What date you are aiming at to have Part Two published? Thanks!

madmarc, Jul 17 2014 07:09

Is the 661 available in SA, and where do we get one

patches, Jul 17 2014 07:13

Well this arrived today, so I can give my review after this weekend :lol:

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patches, Jul 17 2014 07:18

Is the 661 available in SA, and where do we get one

Yup, available from diald

http://dialdbikes.co...-helmet-en.html

madmarc, Jul 17 2014 09:09

thanx, will def. be investing in one as soon as they arrive

Nofearnofun, Jul 18 2014 09:11

Well this arrived today, so I can give my review after this weekend :lol:

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There goes that colour scheme off the top of my list... :mellow:

Bizkit031, Jul 18 2014 07:44

Well this arrived today, so I can give my review after this weekend :lol:

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Where you get it from?

Iwan Kemp, Jul 21 2014 07:55

Wore the 661 on a couple of runs this weekend. I am very impressed with overall fit and feel and attention to detail. The magnetic chin strap works as advertised, helmet provides good cover and looks the business.

patches, Jul 21 2014 09:01

Where you get it from?


I got it from BTO sports in the US. My sister lives there, so she sent it to me.

As for the lid... after my first ride, and compared to 2 other trail helmets I own (Fox Flux and MET Terra) this is what I can say...

Likes:
  • Very comfy (I found the flux rather uncomfortable on my knoggin)
  • Sits sturdy on the head (doesn't move around, when with straps undone)
  • good head coverage. (better than both the flux and Terra)
  • looks awesome (well I think so)
Dislikes:

Hard to say after just 1 ride, but these are things I noticed:
  • heavier than MET Terra (but it is a full on AM lid, vs a light trail lid, so expected)
  • could get a bit warm (but again, comparing a light trail lid to an AM lid. The A1 covers way more on the forehead so I think that's where it felt "warmer", but it probably just takes getting used to)
  • No built-in GoPro mount (which seems to be a standard feature on today's upper end AM lids. It does however have a central area where a 3M slicky mount could be placed).
But all in all, I'm very happy. Lets just hope that I don't have to test its potective properties anytime soon :ph34r:

Omega Man, Jul 21 2014 09:38

I've got a Bell Super and I've got to say for the price there are some things that could be done better. I'm on my 2nd one. On the first one the velcro mounts for the gopro peeled off in weeks. When the same thing started happening on the 2nd one i drilled some holes in the mounts and bust out the cable ties.

patches, Jul 22 2014 07:05

I've got a Bell Super and I've got to say for the price there are some things that could be done better. I'm on my 2nd one. On the first one the velcro mounts for the gopro peeled off in weeks. When the same thing started happening on the 2nd one i drilled some holes in the mounts and bust out the cable ties.


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I find it hard enough to put my trust in those super sticky 3M mounts. But velcro... even if it doesn't fall off, surely it develops some play over time, creating the need to retension the velcro inner strapping periodically?!

I jimmied my full face a bit to fit a GoPro under the peak (saw a pic of Aaron Chase with a GoPro under a D3 peak on the POTD thread), I figured that if possible, that is the best place for a helmet mount GoPro. Lowers the centre of gravity. more protected from overhead obstacles. More accurate filming angle. And in my opinion, less of an eyesore.

I still have the top mount I placed on the helmet way back when... and it may come in handy when filming reverse angles... but it's unlikely I'll use both at once... my neck is nowhere near strong enough :lol:

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Omega Man, Jul 22 2014 09:27

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I find it hard enough to put my trust in those super sticky 3M mounts. But velcro... even if it doesn't fall off, surely it develops some play over time, creating the need to retension the velcro inner strapping periodically?!

I jimmied my full face a bit to fit a GoPro under the peak (saw a pic of Aaron Chase with a GoPro under a D3 peak on the POTD thread), I figured that if possible, that is the best place for a helmet mount GoPro. Lowers the centre of gravity. more protected from overhead obstacles. More accurate filming angle. And in my opinion, less of an eyesore.

I still have the top mount I placed on the helmet way back when... and it may come in handy when filming reverse angles... but it's unlikely I'll use both at once... my neck is nowhere near strong enough :lol:

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I've tried the same with my Airoh but connected to the peak. Without success.

Ja with the Super you can feel it clicking around on the top of your scone when the gopro works its way loose. Then you've got to re tension it. The zip tie solution sorted that all out but now the mount is a permanent feature on the helmet meaning i've lost some airflow.

For a helmet at that price point it's a pretty shitty solution IMO.

Nofearnofun, Jul 22 2014 09:52

I've tried the same with my Airoh but connected to the peak. Without success.

Ja with the Super you can feel it clicking around on the top of your scone when the gopro works its way loose. Then you've got to re tension it. The zip tie solution sorted that all out but now the mount is a permanent feature on the helmet meaning i've lost some airflow.

For a helmet at that price point it's a pretty shitty solution IMO.


I had the same thing on all three of my Super's I have had this year, I found the little bits of velcro that hold the padding in also dont stay where they should for very long... I have given up on the helmet mount on the Super, poor form for something they list as a feature!

patches, Jul 22 2014 10:02

I had the same thing on all three of my Super's I have had this year, I found the little bits of velcro that hold the padding in also dont stay where they should for very long... I have given up on the helmet mount on the Super, poor form for something they list as a feature!


I think until you can stop crashing on your head, this might be more your style :P

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Nofearnofun, Jul 22 2014 10:10

I think until you can stop crashing on your head, this might be more your style :P

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In my defence, two of the three lids were replaced due to issues with the lids and only the third one is due for a crash replacement after the Giba enduro almost two weeks ago.

I will be using my full face lid until I can warranty my Super on payday, I might just keep using the full face when I have a new AM lid tho :ph34r:

patches, Jul 22 2014 10:12

In my defence, two of the three lids were replaced due to issues with the lids and only the third one is due for a crash replacement after the Giba enduro almost two weeks ago.

I will be using my full face lid until I can warranty my Super on payday, I might just keep using the full face when I have a new AM lid tho :ph34r:


aaah ok...

but in that case, not a good advert for Bell.

Omega Man, Jul 22 2014 10:15

I had the same thing on all three of my Super's I have had this year, I found the little bits of velcro that hold the padding in also dont stay where they should for very long... I have given up on the helmet mount on the Super, poor form for something they list as a feature!

Ja. I ONE MILLION percent agree with you. The most annoying thing about the helmet is marketed as a feature. The Bell Full 9 DH lid has a mount that clips in just behind the peak. Much better solution.

gummibear, Jul 22 2014 11:06

Could you add this one for your next shootout?

http://products.ixs-...s/trail-rs.html

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Robodog, Jul 22 2014 12:18

In my defence, two of the three lids were replaced due to issues with the lids and only the third one is due for a crash replacement after the Giba enduro almost two weeks ago.


But the 3 Bell Supers aren't the only lids you've had to replace in the short time I've known you...

Nofearnofun, Jul 22 2014 01:17

But the 3 Bell Supers aren't the only lids you've had to replace in the short time I've known you...


Yet I have two fully functioning arms :whistling:

Robodog, Jul 22 2014 02:46

Yet I have two fully functioning arms :whistling:


Haha. Ja, it's getting there.

Are you implying that your head isn't functioning properly? :ph34r:

Iwan Kemp, Jul 26 2014 02:33

Could you add this one for your next shootout?

http://products.ixs-...s/trail-rs.html

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Would be great, yes!

Iwan Kemp, Jul 26 2014 02:34

Looks like Bell will be rolling out a full face Enduro lid with a removable chin bar.
http://www.vitalmtb....79475/sspomer,2

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DJR, Jul 26 2014 02:52

Looks like Bell will be rolling out a full face Enduro lid with a removable chin bar.
http://www.vitalmtb....79475/sspomer,2

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My professional opinion is that everyone should get one!

Iwan Kemp, Jul 26 2014 02:53

My professional opinion is that everyone should get one!


I'll tell the wife you've spoken. I will of course need a new bike to match. What is one to do?!