There comes a time when riders of, let’s just say, a certain “experience” embrace the modular helmet. And why not? There’s no denying the versatility and practicality of these lids, with almost the same protection as that of a full-face, but also having the ability to have a sip of water or even a conversation without the need to unbuckle and take off the whole helmet.
The drawback? Well, you may not look very cool downing an Americano in front of a small-town café with helmet open and cheeks squeezed. Thankfully, I find I’m now at that age where I really don’t care. How exhilarating!
But a modular helmet doesn’t have to look like a European hi-vis ping-pong ball, either. Take the Bell SRT Modular, this one in the black/grey/red “Hart Luck” edition. Built off the same design as Bell’s SRT race-inspired full-face, the Modular has sleek lines that would suit a sport bike rider just as much as a weekend ADV adventurer. And all this at a relatively affordable price.
As an added bonus, Hart Luck is a brand created by Carey Hart, former freestyle motocross racer and the husband of Pink! Does that make it cooler?
The SRT Modular is packed in a red bag made of soft material. Like a kid unwrapping a Christmas gift, I giddily take out the helmet and give it a good once-over. Overall, it feels and looks like a quality build, though I wonder how easy the matte black paint will scuff. The stripes and logos are sticker add-ons, and there are generous reflective areas in the rear padding, where cars will see it. The strap has a traditional D-ring with a snap to secure the excess when buckled.
The SRT Modular has a DOT safety rating, but no Snell, like its full-face SRT brother. That probably has to do with it being a modular helmet with a sun visor, unfortunately. It does have a fibreglass composite shell, which makes it stronger than some helmet shells, but a little heavier than those made of carbon fibre. And I’m a little disappointed it doesn’t feature Bell’s MIPS (Multi-Directional Impact Protection System), which has an inner shell that rotates to deflect forces from the brain on impact.
But wait; here’s an issue. That sun visor won’t operate smoothly and gets hung up going back inside the helmet. A quick look at the instruction manual (I know, it’s like cheating) shows me how to simply pull the shield out of its mechanism, and after pushing it back in, the shield works fine.
I also took the opportunity to take off the sturdy Panovision main shield; it’s a simple process, just push in the buttons on the rotator and pull the shield to the front and out. Putting it back on, however, took a little more finagling.
The nylon mesh and microsuede padding is soft and comfortable on every touch area around the head and face, and can be taken out and put back easily to wash.
With my wee head, I opted for the size small, and it slides on snug and comfortable. Riders with longer heads may find the chin guard a little tight, though. The SRT Modular also comes in two shell sizes, whereas the SRT has three.
After more than 1,000 km of riding, the soft padding has worked itself in nicely to my head shape without loosening up. There are pockets in the foam for add-on speakers, and particularly nice are the cut-outs in the side padding for glasses, so the arms don’t push into your temples.
What I especially like about the SRT Modular is the size of the cheek protection on the helmet chassis, which extends out front more than other modulars. And maybe that’s why Bell has included a sliding switch on the left of the helmet that will lock the front up and open, giving you the option of wind-in-your-face riding. Caution: you may not look that cool, but again, who cares?
The Panovision shield with Class 1 optics is distortion-free, and so clear that a couple times I reached up to close it, only to realize it was already closed. And I like that the sides notch down, giving better visibility when checking blind spots. In fact, for me, the visor offers a little too much visibility; while sport bike riders will appreciate the high forehead design of the shield when they’re leaning forward for the bars, the expanse of “glass” above my eyes riding an upright ADV-style bike makes for plenty of glare from the sky. Nothing that a strip of duct tape can’t fix!
The shield has three open positions from closed (four if you count the “all-the-way-back” when the front is flipped). And the detents have so much resistance, you can easily ride at highway speeds with it cracked open for ventilation, without the visor crashing down. It locks securely in place when closed with just a passive notch instead of a button-operated stay.
I’m a big fan of drop-down sun visors, too, and this one is up there with the best. The slide lever is at the left of the helmet, and with a cut-out for the nose, the shield falls well down the face, leaving only a sliver of daylight at the bottom. And wearing glasses is no problem, either. It’s just dark enough for sunny days but is still safe to use when the clouds are out.
An air vent on the chin and two exhaust vents on the back do a decent if not stellar job of keeping cool air flowing. But the surprising – and, most welcome – part is that the front vent flows air directly up and onto the inside of the visor. I found this to be a veritable life-saver; on a recent trip to Northern Ontario, I found myself riding through a monsoon-like rainstorm, by far the worst continuous downpour I have ever encountered on a bike. And yet, the shield stayed clear of fog despite not having a pinlock fog shield, all thanks to that vent. That’s good design right there.
Another thing noticeable when riding at higher speed: I seemed to have less wind buffeting with the SRT Modular than I do with my own AGV Sportmodular. It could be the overall design, or even the small spoiler on the back of the SRT, but my noggin and neck sure appreciated the softer ride. The SRT Modular is somewhat mid-pack in weight (for a modular, at least), coming in at just under four pounds.
My biggest gripe about the helmet, however, is noise. No, it’s not the loudest helmet, and modulars are always going to have more wind noise than a full-face. But there is an excessive amount of wind roar coming right at my left ear, where the clear visor pivots on the helmet. Holding two fingers over the visor’s top edge not only eliminated this noise but also made the SRT Modular overall one of the more quiet flip-ups I’ve tried. It’s annoying that such a small area creates so much problem, and I don’t know if this is a standard niggle or just a defect with mine; again, maybe I’ll try the duct tape.
Coming in between $500 and $550 depending on where you look, the SRT Modular is a great deal when it comes to a performance modular helmet that seems to do everything well. It offers middle-of-the-road pricing with features and overall quality offered on helmets twice the price. And it even offers a little bit of cool for the café runs.
I’ve done about 5,000 kms wearing the SRT Modular (after years with a Bell solid full-face) and I have to agree with everything Neil says. I’ll have to try that noise reduction trick with the visor because this is a louder helmet than I am used to. With earplugs in, I can hardly hear messages (calls, route directions, etc.) through my bluetooth speakers.