Crash tested! Bell Moto-3 Review

Bell Moto-3 crash
It's not just jacket, pants and gloves that protect you from road rash. Note the scrape on the helmet's chinbar. That could have been my face, when I crashed last September.

I planned on testing the Bell Moto-3 helmet this summer, but I didn’t plan on testing it this well.

At the start of the week, I was wearing the Bell while dual sport riding on my Suzuki DR350. I crashed at moderate speed when I blew my front tire in a corner and went down fast. I managed to shred my jacket and pants nicely, and gave my helmet a really good scrape.

I figure I was riding between 65 and 80 km/h when I went down, and when I banged my head, I did end up with wavy vision for just a few seconds. But since then, I’ve had no headaches, no blurred vision, nothing bad at all. Given the situation, the helmet, and my head, are actually in pretty good shape—better than my ribs.

So what’s the lesson here (besides, be more careful about airing down your tires for offroading)? It’s simple: Good gear is worth it.

When I got the Bell Moto-3 this spring, I was surprised to note it carried an ECE 22.05 safety rating, an unusually robust rating for what many would consider a novelty helmet. It’s certainly much safer than the open-face helmet I sometimes use for runs to the grocery store. Even without factoring in the Bell’s full-face coverage, most of these vintage helmets only carry a DOT safety rating. That’s probably enough for a crash like mine, at moderate speed, but it’s nice to know the manufacturer has tested the helmet to a high standard.

The road rash scar on the front of the helmet (pic below) could have been my face. I’m very glad I had the chinbar coverage. While some people might think they look cool in an open-face helmet (better-looking people than me, anyway), nothing ruins a sculpted jawline worse than a few square inches of scar tissue.

Before the crash

But enough about crash damage–how did the helmet fare in day-to-day use all summer?

Like I said in my initial look at the lid, while I definitely liked the vintage look, I wasn’t expecting much from the helmet when I got it. Happily, I was surprised; it was far quieter than I expected, and far more comfortable. Fiberglass construction kept it light, and while it didn’t flow as much air as a modern MX-style helmet, it was definitely more breezy than any full-face I’ve owned.

The neck opening might have been a tad tight on the sides (it would catch on earplugs when I removed the helmet), and I didn’t find the lining loosened much over the summer. I wasn’t upset by that, though; it means  Bell used quality materials that weren’t quick to break down (in fact, the more I wore it, the more I was impressed with its build quality). I also found the helmet’s paint seemed to fend off scratches from tree branches pretty well, but I didn’t take it into the tight woods stuff enough to know how well it would hold up to repeated single-track usage. Most enduro riders would be going for a more technical helmet, anyway; this lid is aimed at vintage enthusiasts, scrambler riders, or the cruiseratti.

Getting some dual sport action in southern New Brunswick.

The helmet’s brim is easily removable via five snaps, and depending whether I was riding a dual sport or my Suzuki Savage, I removed and replaced it a few times over the summer. The snap system felt pretty secure; the brim was mangled in the crash, and is lying in a ditch in rural New Brunswick somewhere now. It probably stopped me from further scraping the front of the helmet.

I did find my Fox goggles didn’t fit particularly well over the helmet, and neither did the eBay specials I bought. I’d suggest taking the helmet with you to try on some goggles if you want to wear them with the Moto-3. And I’d recommend that you do make that investment, as sunglasses don’t offer the same eye protection. And, in rain, goggles will provide more facial protection.

There’s only a small bit of road rash on the front of the helmet, but that would have been most unpleasant had it been on my face.

Speaking of which, riding in rain is unpleasant in any open-face helmet, and as far as I can tell, nobody is fitting a bubble shield to these helmets (the old three-snap shields are very common on vintage open-face helmets, but not these dirt-style helmets).

So, because I didn’t want to ride in the Moto-3 for hours of downpour, I only used it for rides closer to home. I’m sure a bandanna or some other solution could lessen the hydro-blasting, but I’m not that desperate to look cool. I took the full-face if I thought it might rain. And that’s fine: the people buying this helmet probably aren’t the sport-touring type anyway, just like it’s not marketed at hard-core offroaders.

Instead, this helmet is designed for someone who wants old-school looks with modern protection. Speaking from personal experience, I’d say it works just fine.


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