In lean economic times, riders need to get some bang for their buck when it comes to riding gear. After a summer of testing, Motorcycle USA has found a quality lid at an affordable price in the Bell Vortex Striker Helmet.
The Vortex is Bell’s mid-priced lid, ringing in at hundreds less than its swanky Star sibling but more than the budget Arrow. The full-face design sources a polycarbonate shell covering the life-saving EPS liner, with the Vortex meeting the latest Snell M2010 standard. An interior comfort liner is removable and washable, as are the cheek pads. The liners are comfortable, with a snug neck roll delivering a secure feel.
Bell’s Velocity Flow Ventilation system, with FlowAdjust, features air intakes at the brow and below the visor, as well as two vents at the crown. A pair of symmetrical exhaust vents are at the rear crown, as well as behind the ears. The effectiveness of the ventilation system is average. We broke a sweat at times in the warmer months, but rode in relative comfort. It’s not bad, but not the best we’ve ever had.
The Vortex handles wind well, with less buffeting than we expected. The padded neck roll does an admirable job of keeping out road and wind noise. One caveat in the sound department is the wind noise that does make it in seems to reverberate in the helmet’s large ear cavities. The empty space is meant to accommodate speakers for aftermarket communication systems. The trait isn’t a deal breaker though, as once you cram in some ear plugs it’s pretty tranquil in there.
We get a lot of damp/chilly weather here in the Northwest, so a fogging visor is a fact of life and early morning rides with the Bell yields foggy shields. However, cracking open to the lowest setting netted immediate relief for the spec-sheet touted NutraFog II shield.
There’s no need for shield swaps with the Transitions Photochromatic visor, which changes tint dependent on lighting conditions.
Speaking of visors, the Bell Vortex’s ClickRelease system is the easiest visor swap system we’ve ever sampled. A smooth lever press and it’s off. A simple snap and it’s back in place. Considering the consternation some shield systems create, Bell deserves high praise for such an idiot-proof design. (Designer of the Icon Airframe, please take note!)
Ironically, the easiest visor replacement system is one that I never use, as Bell sent its Transitions Photochromatic Visor for testing as well, which changes shades depending on the light conditions. (Check out our original Bell Transitions Photochromatic Visor Review by our Road Test Editor, Adam Waheed for details). It’s a perfect visor for a lazy sot such as myself, who will ride those extra miles in the dark with a tinted visor rather than pull off to rummage through bags and swap out shields (writing it out makes it sounds even worse!). Instead, I’ve slapped on the Photochromatic visor, and there it has stayed ever since. In bright conditions the Photochromatic design may not be as effective as a traditional tinted visor, but excepting for Helen Keller-like sun-staring bouts, it works perfect. Did I mention it’s convenient?
Helmet fit and finish remains pretty solid after a full summer of testing, with the Vortex featuring a five-year warranty. One gripe we do have is that the removable liner and cheek pads felt a little loose after being taken out and snapped back into place a couple times. Also, the Vortex’s D-Ring chinstrap closure uses a magnet to retain the extra slack once cinched down. Works fine, until it doesn’t, and then you have a small strip of cloth with a metal weight at the end flapping around! That design flaw simply must go. Just give us a simple snap please.
Roland Sands lends his artistic chops to the RSD Apocalypse version of the Bell Vortex, the graphics costing an extra $30.
As far as styling is concerned, the Vortex rates above average to us. We felt rather partial to the red, white and black configuration of our test unit but we also have been wearing the Roland Sands Designs “Apocalypse” Vortex. It sports a grey and red color scheme, with typical RSD flair – the graphics incorporating a winged Pegasus and Angel motif and the tagline “Forever a Servant to the Gods of Speed.” It’s striking in a way that’s far too cool for a hayseed such as us to fully own it… But we do our best. The extra RSD inspiration will cost an extra 30 bucks to look extra cool.
And all this talk of money brings us to perhaps the Vortex’s best feature, its quite reasonable MSRP at $169.95 (non-Striker versions retail for $179.95). It’s a fair price for a competent, comfortable design. It’s not a whisper-quiet, top-tier premium design, but the Bell Vortex helmet delivers quality performance at a palatable price point.