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The visor works well with the vents to maximize function and style.

The visor works well with the vents to maximize function and style.

For most, choosing a stylish and affordable mountain bike helmet is usually limited by the number of Benjamins in your bank account. And who needs a fancy helmet anyway? Chances are, you’re probably going to crack it one day, and then you have to replace it. The problem is, most mountain biking helmets under $100 are uncomfortable, don’t adjust easily, or make you look like a Mario Brothers mushroom head.

Does this helmet make my butt look big?

Does this helmet make my butt look big?

I’ll be honest: I probably wouldn’t have taken a second look at the Bell Stoker if I were in a shop being lured by the siren’s call of helmets with fancy graphics that are Enduro(tm)-approved. But I am really glad that Bell sent this little dude over for review, because *spoiler alert* I think it is probably the most comfortable helmet I’ve ever tried, and it is arguably the best bang-for-the-buck in the noggin-protecting industry right now.

The Deets: 

  • MSRP: $70
  • Vents: 13 with 4 brow ports
  • Weight: 316g (claimed)
  • Sizing: S (51-55), M (55-59), L (59-63), XL (61-65)
  • Certification: CE 1078, CPSC Bicycle
  • Colors:  Matte Black, Matte Titanium, Matte Glow Green, White/Silver Haze, Matte Safety Orange, Black/Red Haze, and Matte Blue (tested)
The coverage is great and there is excellent ventilation.

The coverage is great and there is excellent ventilation.

Features:

  • Airflow Brow Band: Keeps the forehead ventilated at speed.
  • Blade Visor: similar to its big brother, the Bell Super.
  • Cam-lock Levers: for secure fit and no-fuss adjustment with gloves on.
  • Channeled Ventilation: ventilation channels on the interior of the helmet’s liner brings cool air in through the front, passes it over the head, and flushes warm air out of the rear ports.
  • Coolmax® Padding: moves perspiration away from your forehead, where it evaporates quickly, allowing the rider to feel cooler and more comfortable.
  • Fusion™ In-Mold Microshell w/Lower Strap Anchor Shell: proprietary wizardry to keep your noodle safe.
  • Goggle Compatible: if you’re cool enough to pull that off.
  • SpeedDial™ Fit System: specially designed to be compatible with helmets that have lower coverage in the rear, protecting your occiput in the event of a crash. With a twist of the dial, the easily-accessible Speed Dial adjusts to a glove-like fit. It really does.

    Coolmax absorbs moisture and is very comfortable and the SpeedDial is simple and effective

    Coolmax absorbs moisture and is very comfortable, and the SpeedDial is simple and effective

Out on the Trail

Now, you’re probably thinking: “hey, if Bell sent me a mountain bike helmet for review, of course I’d say nice things about it too.” Wrong, bucko. I’ve tried on dozens and dozens of lids from different manufacturers, and am usually very critical about the vast majority of them, due to fit, graphics, weight, sizing, price, and a whole list of things I find pleasure in complaining about. It is a process for me, like a woman trying on a wedding dress… and I’m contemplating therapy considering both my vanity and transparency about this issue.

I digress, but you see, part of my sensitivity stems from growing up in the deep South and not being a “hat guy,” meaning that most of the hats I try on make me look like (more of) a doofus. That goes double for me and helmets. But the Bell Stoker delivers…

Definitely a more dapper lid than some of the others I’ve tried on…

Definitely a more dapper lid than some of the others I’ve tried on…

Now that you know that I think this helmet is awesome and it should be the next thing you put on your head, you probably want to know if it works. It does. I tested it during the winter and spring in Colorado, riding on frozen Green Mountain with my fatbike, down technical front range trails, and recently in hot, sunny Fruita/Grand Junction. It stayed relatively warm with temps in the 30-40s F with a thin beanie, and ventilated well in the 80-degree desert heat. I have no doubt that it will ventilate well in the thick of summer.

I’ve also bumped my head a few times while ducking under rock features, and even landed on my head/face once during a violent crash that sent me flying over the bars at 15-20mph (I barely scratched the helmet, though, so it doesn’t need replacing… yet).

Several friends have also told me that it will probably be the next helmet that they buy–since you can easily find one below the suggested $70 retail price–which is a steal. Interestingly, I get a lot of compliments on it too from strangers I meet on the trail, and I’m not sure if it is because it matches my bike, or because for the first time, it actually makes me a “hat guy”. Either way, I’m stoked with the Stoker.

Ample protection for the back of the noggin.

Ample protection for the back of the noggin.

A friend of mine has been using the Bell Super for the past season, too, and he has been really pleased with it. We compared notes and these two are, not surprisingly, very similar in craftsmanship. The Stoker lacks the longer Enduro-style visor and the camera mount of the Super, but it’s also 74g lighter. They are both quite comfortable.

It has great skull coverage for technical riding and still ventilates well…and light at 316g!

It has great skull coverage for technical riding and still ventilates well…and light at 316g!

Although I really dig the more expensive helmet from another manufacturer that I was using before I tried the Stoker, I haven’t put it on once since I started this review a month or so ago. I think the Bell Stoker is built to last, and I have no concerns about it’s longevity or quality.

So, if you are in the market for some new head armor, I strongly suggest that you check out this helmet first.

Thanks a lot to Bell for sending the Stoker over for review. Hopefully I won’t have to replace it anytime soon!

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