First shown off to the public last Autumn, the Sixer is a fresh top-of-the-line lid from Bell Helmets. Designed as a replacement for the venerable Super – one of the original (and most popular) half-face trail helmets on the market – the Sixer aims to provide similar amounts of coverage and protection, but in a lighter, sleeker and better ventilated package.
The Sixer has recently become available in the UK for the not-inconsiderable price of £149.99, and I’ve been using one for the past few months to find out just how improved this lid is over the original classic.
Bell Sixer MIPS Helmet Features
- Fusion in-moulded polycarbonate shell
- Exposed polycarbonate roll cage
- EPS foam core with Progressive Layering
- 26 vents (including 4 brow ports)
- Removable X-Static padding with Sweat Guide
- 4-Position adjustable visor
- Goggle Gripper
- Float Fit Race fit system with integrated MIPS
- No-twist Tri-Glides
- Integrated breakaway camera mount
- Claimed weight: 395g
- Sizes: Small (52–56cm), Medium (55–59cm), Large (58–62cm) & X-Large (61-65cm)
- Colours: All of them
- RRP: £149.99
Though it’s pitched as a trail helmet, the Sixer hides its bulk well. This is exacerbated when it’s placed side-by-side with the current Super 3, which looks positively celestial in comparison. The Super has always been a stubby helmet with love or hate looks, but you don’t realise how comically huge it is until it’s next to the new Sixer.
With a more streamlined look front-to-back, the Sixer is equipped with Bell’s new ‘Progressive Layering’ multi-density EPS foam core. The general thrust of Progressive Layering is that it aims to put softer density foam closer to your skull where it can more easily deform and absorb slower-speed impacts, with firmer density foam on the outside that provides the necessary strength and rigidity to cope with harder and faster hits. It’s a construction technique that we’ve seen in other high-end helmets from the likes of Kali Protectives and Troy Lee Designs, and it’s one that makes a load of sense.
Overall the Sixer’s shape is much narrower and less blobby than the Super, though while the Sixer is indeed lighter, it isn’t as much as claimed. Our medium-sized test lid tipped the scales at 400g, which is only 20g lighter than the equivalent Super 3.
As you’d expect at the asking price, the Sixer is finished well. The copper/black colour might not please the fluoro brigade, but I think it looks quite classy. And if it isn’t to your taste, you’ll be happy to know that other colours such as ‘Cheery Fibers’, ‘Hibiscus’ and ‘Retina Sear’ are also available.
There’s a full in-mould polycarbonate shell that splits into two main sections; the copper-coloured section on top of the helmet, and the matte-black section that covers the base and the underside of the helmet’s rim. I’ve spent a load of time travelling on planes, trains and in shuttle vans lately, and despite being banged about with the utmost lack of care, the Sixer is still looking good.
Tidy, colour-matched visor hardware provides you with four indexed tilt positions. The lowest might be a little unfashionable, but I appreciated it recently while riding on some bright and sunny Santa Cruz trails. In the visor’s highest position, you could probably land light aircraft on it. However, it is a functional position that’ll suit those who subscribe to the often controversial goggle-and-half-face helmet look.
Speaking of goggles, Bell has added some textured rubber around the rear of the helmet that should help to hold onto straps a little more securely. A light ridge is also used to stop the strap from sliding down the back of the helmet. Another neat feature is the inclusion of a removable mount for attaching a GoPro or other such POV cameras, which is easy to clip in and out thanks to a spring-loaded catch. This mount is engineered with a breakaway feature, so in the event of a crash, the camera will jettison away safely. The mount on my preproduction helmet was a bit wobbly, but this has been rectified on production lids.
Aside from a small sticker on the back of the helmet, it isn’t immediately obvious that the Sixer comes with a MIPS liner, partially because on the helmet we’ve got, the MIPS liner isn’t bright red or yellow, but matte black instead.
In terms of fit, the MIPS liner is equally unnoticeable. I sometimes find MIPS-equipped helmets to feel overly wobbly atop of my head, but the Sixer doesn’t. The liner is quite low profile, so it doesn’t take up a lot of room inside the helmet, and that gives a snug fit. There are four yellow elastomers that hold the MIPS liner to the helmet, and while these will allow the helmet to rotate over your skull in the event of a crash, they aren’t so flexible as to be noticeable under normal riding conditions.
Bell is using its latest Float Fit Race harness for the Sixer, which features a small adjustable rubber dial at the back (excellent for one-handed adjustments while riding), and a four-position vertical adjustment for getting the cradle of the harness in the right position around the back of your noggin. The straps are quite thin and unnoticeable, and I found the plastic guides to be easily adjustable for directing the straps on either side of my ears.
The adjustment range is totally sufficient, and it’s all very easy to use while riding. In fact, for extended downhills, I can actually reach back with one hand to lower the cradle of the harness and wind up the tension a couple of notches, which provides just a little bit more security if the trail gets bouncy. When the trail turns flat or goes up again, it’s easy to return the harness back to its original position.
Aside from aesthetics, ventilation is no doubt the biggest improvement on the Sixer over the old Super 3 – a helmet that could dehydrate your noggin like a piece of beef jerky if the conditions were warm enough.
There are more vents on the Sixer, which helps, but it’s the orientation of the vents that helps to bring cool air inside the helmet. Whereas the Super just has small vents seemingly randomly dotted around the shell, the Sixer uses longer vents that combine with internal channels through the foam core that keep air recirculating. And while I initially thought they were just decorative, the four black plastic spoilers on top of the helmet are surprisingly effective at catching passing air and pushing it down towards your sweaty head.
Given I received the Sixer just before Christmas, its cooling properties have been especially noticeable over the colder winter months. Aside from superlight XC helmets, the Sixer is easily the most ventilated helmet in my collection. That means for those who reside in colder climates, you’ll want to ensure that you’ve got a nice thin skullcap for use on icier days.
If you do manage to warm up enough to get a sweat on, Bell has designed the padding inside the Sixer to soak up sweat on your brow, and draw it away from your eyes and glasses. And it actually works! Rather than sweat rolling down your face, it tends to drop off the small section of padding away from you. Additional vents over the brow of the helmet also work to dry out the padding before it gets saturated in the first place.
I’ve very little to complain about with the Bell Sixer. This is a top quality helmet that fits well with minimal MIPS-induced wobble, and for the amount of coverage and protection on offer, it is supremely well ventilated. With a well thought-out visor and clever camera and goggle compatibility, it’s well finished too.
If the price is too high – and it is very high for a half-face lid – you could consider Bell’s 4Forty helmet, which features less ventilation but similar coverage and a MIPS liner for £89.99. Alternatively, Bell is still offering the current Super 3 for ten quid less than the Sixer. Personally though, I think the Sixer is such an improvement in terms of fit, ventilation, size and comfort, that it’s a bit of a no-brainer (pun intended…) upgrade for existing Super owners.
|Tested:||by Wil Barrett for 4 months|