Thursday, January 31, 2013

Equipment - Bell Muni And Gage Helmets

Taking a break from bike stuff, I want to mention a couple helmets I'll be using in 2013.

I got them a while ago, I forget when, but I bought them through the shop that sponsors Expo Wheelmen, Manchester Cycle. With a new Volt and a semi-new Specialized helmet I didn't feel the need to break these out this year. The Gage arrived late in the season (or early in the off season). The Muni arrived earlier.

The Bell Muni is the first of two new helmets. The Gage is the one at the bottom.

I bought the Muni as a cold weather helmet. The idea was to get a less ventilated version of a well fitting helmet, one that had smaller vent holes that would be easier to cover. As a bonus I wanted to try a "commuter friendly" helmet that had built in blinkies, a mount for a regular blinky, and any other neat features such a helmet would have.

Built in rear blinkies indicate the commuter intent of the Muni design.

The little red arrows pointing up are actually printed on clear plastic pull tabs. They isolate the batteries from the blinkie so the lights don't go on inadvertently and drain the batteries before someone buys the helmet. I haven't pulled them out yet because I haven't ridden with the helmet in low light conditions.

The rear clip allows regular full size blinkies to attach.

The riveted strap across the middle of the helmet acts as a "belt" for those "clip on" lights. Usually they clip onto a seatpost mount but having an extra blinkie up high can't hurt.

I found one problem when gathering up gear for a cold weather ride. When I tried on the Muni it fit a bit smaller than my Volt, the current Bell helmet I have, and the Gage, the new Bell helmet I have described below.

The limited retention strap adjustment on the Muni. Right side pictured.

The ball joint tipped bit extends to the back, where the blinkies sit. The helmet itself has three receptors for the ball joint bit. The helmet came with the ball joint thing clipped into the middle of the three receptors. I moved it back to the one closest to the back, i.e. to make the helmet as big as possible. It wasn't enough for my noggin unless I have nothing on underneath the helmet.

Extended all the way out it's still much more snug than a snugged up Volt or Gage. I'll have to explore more to see if this helmet is sized differently and simply unusable for my purposes. The issue here is that I wanted to wear this in colder weather races as well as low light rides, and cold weather implies some kind of head cover. There's no way I could wear even a thin skull cap under this helmet without blowing a blood vessel or two.

Based on this the Muni may be just a low light helmet in the spring and fall, not a low-light-or-cold-weather one. I'll have to report back on this.

The other helmet I got was the new Gage helmet, the new top line helmet from Bell. It didn't seem all that different from the Volt although it had more rounded vents. I got it primarily because I know that my helmets get dinged up a bit and I'd rather be racing on a helmet I know and trust will work for me if I take a tumble.

The Gage has moderately large vents.

The Gage seems much more like the Volt, just lighter, so I have no complaints about this helmet. The only thing is that I'll have to wait for a while to use it. I learned the cold way that using a high end well ventilated helmet at a cold Bethel Spring Series race just leads to massive chills. I will be saving the well ventilated helmets for the warmer weather races and rides.

The Gage has very thin straps and a minimalist retention system.

The higher dollar Gage has a higher dollar ratcheting retention adjustment system - the round thing at the center of the light gray plastic thing cranks down the helmet. This works well and allows me to put the helmet on while the helmet is loose, to clear my Halo headband or whatever other thing I'm wearing on my head, and then cinch up the helmet quickly and easily. It works even with full finger gloves, which is nice because I always wear full finger gloves when I ride.

No built in blinkies or riveted blinkie mounts. This helmet is all business.

The flat profile of the Gage seems to lend itself to mounting a Contour helmet cam.

Although not part of my decision making process, once I have a helmet in hand I check out how a helmet cam would fit on the top. In this case it looks pretty good. I mount the cam as far back as possible so it points up a bit. This works well with my head down riding style.

My only regret right now is that I have no aero mass start helmets. I'm convinced that an aero road helmet will help a bit with top end speed, especially with my head forward, head low sprinting style. It may not work for some racers but for me a huge amount of my frontal area when I'm sprinting comes from my head. Therefore an aero road helmet may make a difference. I suppose that'll be my next test/purchase, an aero road helmet. Bell helmets fit my head best so I'll be waiting for them to come out with one.

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