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

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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

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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

Iwan Kemp, Jul 26 2014 02:57

My professional opinion is that everyone should get one!


The alternative
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Omega Man, Jul 30 2014 10:26

the Met looks nice not cheap tho 200 Euro in Morz. Looks like it might actually work if you crash.

Kenny Trail lids going cheap here. 30 Euro. Look Great.

Iwan Kemp, Dec 15 2014 09:03

How are things going over here? Everyone still happy with their lids?

Captain Fastbastard Mayhem, Dec 15 2014 09:39

How are things going over here? Everyone still happy with their lids?

I'd love the Super 2R, but I'd also love to be able to afford it. That removable chinpiece is a solid alternative to lugging a full face up the mountain... 

Robodog, Dec 15 2014 09:47

Could you add this one for your next shootout?

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

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The IXS are fantastic helmets and can't be beat for the R1300 they retail at. They have been by far the best selling product at the shop.

Burner, Aug 24 2015 10:50

the prices are actually ridiculous and just shows how well marketing gets used. I don't see how any helmet should be more than R1500. I am in the design/manufacturing industry, and wonder how the heck these products get sold for this much....maybe a proudly SA helmet will be worth supporting

Robodog, Aug 25 2015 06:30

the prices are actually ridiculous and just shows how well marketing gets used. I don't see how any helmet should be more than R1500. I am in the design/manufacturing industry, and wonder how the heck these products get sold for this much....maybe a proudly SA helmet will be worth supporting


Which is why the IXS has been so popular...

mazambaan, Aug 25 2015 06:52

My 2c; from reading the motor cycling world I would be a little wary of the removable chin piece. It may remove itself when you need it most.

MarcBurger, Aug 25 2015 07:46

It's meant to be a little extra protection. Not put it in the category of full-face ones.

My head tends to gravitate towards trees, so I'm liking this direction of enduro helmets. Not liking the price of them though.