Are you looking for a mountain bike helmet you can take pretty much anywhere, and you know you will be safe and won’t overheat? For a convertible mountain bike helmet, you can’t get much better than the Bell Super Air R. This Bell Super Air R review will look into what the strengths and weaknesses of the helmet are. And if it is worth the money for you.
As a half shell, you get an exceptional high-quality helmet, that is extremely light and durable. Then you can attach the chin-bar and get an even safer lid for sending it on the trails!
A convertible mountain bike helmet is one where the bottom section of the helmet is removable. This is generally the chin guard, the section covering your ears, and a small portion around the rear of the head. They allow you to ride up hills or along roads wearing a standard half shell lid. Then attach the chin bar when it is needed most.
The idea of a convertible helmet isn’t all that new, but they have really taken off in the past few years. Bell Helmets has been one of the drivers of this change. Having brought out a range of convertible helmets in the past couple of years including the Super Air R.
Bell Super Air R Review
Super light, super comfortable helmet proving a little extra protection when it is needed.
- Insanely lightweight
- Superior Ventilation
- Looks sharp
- Dual Density foam
- Not downhill certified
Comfort and Fit
I really, really like the fit of the Bell Super Air R. It is the primary reason I’d wear the Super Air over any other convertible helmet. The main thing is the positioning of the padding around the cheeks. It is the first helmet I have worn that doesn’t squash my face, so I can easily breathe or chat while riding.
The padding stops slightly short around the sides of the face. This basically means I can comfortably climb hills, and breathe easily while wearing the helmet in full face.
It is light, breezy and comfortable, so much that it has become my go-to lid. The padding is very soft and plush, and the retention system means you can get a perfect fit every time.
The float fit retention system tightens in very small increments. It does so in a very evenly distributed manner. This means you do not get any pressure points once the helmet is fastened.
The first thing we need to make clear is that despite having a chin bar, the Super Air R is NOT downhill certified. What this means is that it does not pass as rigorous testing as downhill-specific helmets.
There are basically two tests. One is CPSC which is the standard test helmets must pass before they can be sold in stores. And the other is ASTM F1952 which is the downhill certification and requires the helmets to withstand a fair bit more force. So if you are wanting a more protective lid for bike park laps etc, we would recommend the Bell Super DH.
The Super Air R is still a very safe helmet. It easily passes the CPSC testing and is a fair bit safer than your standard half-shell lid. Especially with the chin guard attached.
One very cool technology found in the Super Air R is the Flex Spherical MIPS. MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System) reduces the possibility of brain damage occurring to the rider following a crash. The force from the rotational impact is dispersed by the helmet away from the rider’s head.
Effectively it works by having two shells, connected by resistance bands, that can rotate relative to one another. During the crash, once the outer shell comes to a stop, the inner shell can rotate slightly (with resistance), which disperses the energy from the impact away from the rider’s head (by increasing the duration of the crash).
Dual Density Foam
The Super Air R features dual-density foam, which is a huge benefit in terms of the rider’s safety. The outer shell is constructed of a harder EPS foam (Expanded Polystyrene) and the inner shell is made of EPP (Expanded Polypropylene). The outer shell is harder, and hence can absorb high-speed impacts, while the inner shell is softer so can absorb energy from low-speed impacts.
The rear and side coverage of the Super Air R is great as a full face, but reasonably limited as a half shell. Compared to a helmet such as the Giro Source, the back of the helmet doesn’t cover as much of the head and sits a bit higher above the ears. This does help with ventilation but does leave the back of the head vulnerable.
I can easily say that the ventilation is fantastic. The helmet itself has 18 helmet vents, and four over brow vents. The chin-bar has an additional eight vents which make it very breezy! The MIPS Spherical also helps with the ventilation, allowing air to pass between the two shells. This additional over-brow ventilation helps significantly with keeping your head cool. This allows cool air to circulate, even when riding slowly or climbing hills!
I did a few climbs while wearing the chin-bar and surprisingly it wasn’t too bad. It was easy to breathe through and I didn’t get too hot, but I did get a little sweaty. In terms of a full-face, it is one of the best-ventilated lids around.
As a full-face helmet, the Super Air R is the lightest we know of. Weighing 680g for a medium with the chin guard attached, you won’t find the need to immediately take the helmet off at the bottom of the hill! The Troy Lee Designs comes in close but it still weighs around 700g.
The Super Air R is also insanely light and breezy as a half-shell. One of the lighter and nicest helmets I have ridden with, including the Specialized Ambush Comp, which I had thought was going to be very hard to beat!
The visor is the three-notch system. This means there is three set positions that the visor will sit in, high, middle and low. The highest setting allows for a large set of goggles to be stored beneath the visor when not in use. This is a super handy feature for riders using eyewear.
The visor feels very sturdy and is easy to adjust. The length of the visor is ideal, it doesn’t look too short and stubby as a full face. Nor does it look too long on the helmet as a half shell.
The base of the Super Air R is fully wrapped. This means no EPS foam is exposed to the elements, hence increasing the durability of the lid. The in-mold construction (which binds the outer polycarbonate shell to the EPS foam liner) also helps with durability and keeping the helmet together after a crash.
The latches holding the chin bar in place have never worn down on me, and have not heard of the latches failing for anyone else either. Bell is a very reputable brand, so you can rest assured you are getting a top-quality product that will last several years.
On top of the removable chin bar, the Bell Super Air R has all the features you would expect from a high-end helmet.
The helmet is certainly eyewear compatible. While the rear of the helmet doesn’t have ‘goggle grips’ such as the Giro Montaro, it does have a flat back which keeps the goggle strap in place. Glasses comfortably fit with the helmet while riding too.
The Super Air R has X-Static padding, which is common to see in the high-end Bell lids these days. It has real silver fibers threaded into the padding which reduces the buildup of odor-causing bacteria and sweat. The pads are super absorbent and even washable, so you sure won’t be having a smelly lid!
The helmet has an integrated break-away camera mount. This is a great feature for those who enjoy a bit of night riding (lights can also be attached) or filming the ride. The camera will break away in a crash, which may sound annoying at the time, but it will stop your neck from being bent at awkward angles.
In the box, you also get another set of cheek pads. If you need a tighter or looser fit, the cheek pads can be swapped out to fit the helmet perfectly to your face.
We feel the Bell Super Air R is an exceptionally versatile lid. You get two helmets for the price of one, and hence twice as many situations you can use the helmet! I was quite surprised at the number of times the Super Air R was the ideal lid for the ride. For any rides where I figured a little more protection would be nice (such as steep trails, or trails I hadn’t ridden before) I reached for the Super Air R.
The Super Air R is ideal for the intermediate to advanced trail rider, who is constantly learning new trails, so the extra bit of protection is warranted. For the expert rider, sending gnarly downhill trails or bike park laps, consider the Bell Super DH which is a downhill certified convertible helmet. Otherwise, it is a great helmet to ride up or down the hills. Although I would advise maybe just the smaller hills!
If you enjoyed this Super Air R review, or can’t decide between the Super Air R and Super DH, see this post to help decide which is for you!
For a couple more options, have a look at the best convertible helmet, which includes the likes of the Bell Super 3R.