- Bell Variant helmet
Bell’s Variant is described as having “[a] round, compact design with Freeride inspired styling and great ventilation”. Or, to put it another way, it’s a bit like a Giro Xen. The Xen was the first lid to try to bridge the gap between ultralight, heavily-vented, race-friendly helmets and sturdy, but heavy and hot “pisspot” lids, using lightweight construction but a deeper design with fewer holes in it. It proved massively popular, so the fact that most rival manufacturers now have a similar offering in their ranges is no surprise.
The Variant, then, is Bell’s interpretation of the theme. The overall shape is the rounded, deep-at-the-back extra-coverage style while the vent configuration (there are 24 of them, if you’re counting) ties in with the look of other Bell lids. Construction is the usual in-moulded shell/polystyrene liner, with two separate mouldings making up the shell – one over the front and sides, the other at the back.
Inside there’s a full-width brow pad, which is something that you’ll either get on with or not. The straps are easy to adjust thanks to quick-release buckles, while Bell’s Gear Positioned System head-retention thing is both comfortable and simple to use – you can tweak the fit while riding if you need to.
At a hair under 300g it’s a perfectly acceptable weight, and there’s a choice of three colours (complete with patterns for 2009, which won’t be to all tastes) and three sizes.
Positives: Covers lots of your head, comfy, easy to adjust
Negatives: Graphics may not suit all, not as much shell coverage as some
Comparisons with the Giro Xen are inevitable here, but at about half the price the Variant isn’t really in the same market – it’s more along the lines of Giro’s Havoc, and which you choose is largely a question of fit and aesthetic preference. The Variant is a perfectly good all-round lid – we’d opt for something lighter for racing, but the Bell scores on coverage, comfort and ease of adjustment.