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.