By Jeff Cobb, Motorcycle Safety News
The 2011 Bell Vortex offers a number of trickle-down technologies from Bell’s top-of-the-line Star, for around one-third the price.
Introduced in 2010, the Vortex carries over with new color choices, an improved strap-keeper magnet, as well as slightly thinner cheek pads on sizes XL and XXL. Other than this, no other changes were deemed necessary, and we’d agree that Bell otherwise got it right the first time.
Until the Bell RS-1 came along this year, the Vortex was essentially Bell’s intermediate model intended to get a high-protection lid on more people’s heads at a price that would not cause them to cringe.
Probably the most money is saved on its polycarbonate alloy shell, which nonetheless passes Snell 2010 (and DOT of course) safety standards.
Our size medium Bell Vortex Helmet also weighs about seven ounces more than the same-sized RS-1, but otherwise offers just about everything you would get from Bell’s higher-priced models.
Its fit is a little bit of a wider oval than the narrower Bell RS-1 we reviewed a couple weeks back.
Bell’s super easy to remove and replace ClickRelease shield comes standard in clear, and a wide range of tints is available, including the light-sensitive, do-it-all Transitions SOLFX Shield.
Inside, the Vortex’s antibacterial/antimicrobial liner is replaceable, washable, and includes integrated speaker pockets.
Vents on the chin, forehead and crown are simple to use with gloves on.
A removable breath guard and a chin curtain are included too.
On the road
It can’t be said often enough: fit makes a big difference. And naturally, this is all dependent on your head shape.
I’ve had a few helmets to test lately, and this one has become one of my default preferences because it fits me well.
Other motojournos I’ve talked to have said they’ve had the same experience with the Vortex. My guess is Bell came up with a good middle-of-the-road head form to base this one on, or maybe it is just coincidence.
In any event, once on your head, the Vortex does do what you want it to.
It is easy to see out of its average-size opening, the shield’s anti-fog works pretty well, beats most others we’ve tried, and the vents work acceptably well too.
Also to the shield’s credit is its positioning and action: The Vortex and its siblings are class leaders when it comes to removing and installing their shields – one lever on each side takes around three seconds per side.
Further, most helmets’ shield side plate mounts are adjustable, and I’ve found some need to be tweaked to improve this seal, but the Vortex was good out of the box.
This means when it closes, it is is securely in place, and has a good seal at the gasket for no wind leaks. Also, when raising the shield, it has positive detents at various degrees of opening to let it stay put.
Altogether, the effect is that the transmitted sound level is moderate with the chin curtain in, and a lot of times I won’t use earplugs because it is not too noisy. Aerodynamically, it handles all the speed you’ll throw at it on the street without unwanted moving around or pushing back.
Bell has been coming on strong the last few years innovating its helmet designs at its Santa Cruz, Calif. R&D facility. Its engineers definitely test aerodynamics and ventilation flow characteristics to create a helmet that performs like they say it will.
I never did a track day with the Vortex, so can’t tell you what it is like at 160 MPH, but imagine it would be alright.
Frankly, Bell would rather you get an RS-1 or Star for those purposes anyway.
This relative crash-worthiness question is one of those nebulous details you never hear specified beyond the stated safety rating. No doubt it is a liability issue the corporate lawyers would rather the marketers avoid.
The Vortex, like the Star and RS-1 mentioned, is rated to the same safety standards. Does that mean they all are equally as safe? We can’t tell you, and it’s unlikely anyone will.
What is known is how they all protect a head in a crash may be different because they each use different shell materials.
All this said, I am not too worried about it because I already had one of our road testers crash a (same-spec) 2010 Vortex, and it held up quite well.
It was a 50 MPH highside, and he slid and rolled down a mountain road a good 40 yards or so. The helmet was scuffed, and the shield broke, but he was alright, and we actually nursed his CBR600RR into town with a leaking coolant system, jury rigged it, and rode another 75 miles home.
Of course, we can’t say every crash story will be so fortuitous, but this was one time we actually crash tested a helmet, so thought we’d throw in the anecdote for what it is worth. The Vortex protected my friend’s head in an intermediate-level street get off, and that is what you would want.
The 2011 Vortex comes with a five-year warranty, and is available in a dozen color schemes. If you try one on and it fits, it could be a good choice for you.
The Vortex offers Snell 2010 protection, sporty styling without the price sting, and represents an excellent value for the money.
Check out the new colors and graphics of the Bell Vortex Helmet