Where will it take you? That’s the tagline Bell is using for their new XR Spherical helmet, and for an adventure focused-helmet, it seems to fit. While the helmet resides in the ‘road & gravel’ category on Bell’s website, the XR Spherical is hard to categorize–kind of like ‘gravel’.
Just what is an adventure/gravel helmet? To me, it needs to be a hybrid of MTB & road. Ideally, it should be lightweight and highly ventilated like the best road helmets, but more protective like a mountain bike helmet, especially in terms of the venting.
Well ventilated without huge holes
As someone who often rides “road” helmets on adventure rides, I find that the huge vents on many road helmets act as magnets for sticks and other debris when the trail gets rough. Not only are the vents on road helmets more prone to infiltration, they often have a lot of exposed EPS foam which doesn’t stand up to repeated abuse. At the same time, you don’t want a helmet that isn’t well ventilated on long, hot days in the saddle.
That’s where the XR Spherical really seems to shine. It feels nearly as airy as some of my favorite road helmets but with vent holes that are broken up to give more protection. At first, the helmet doesn’t look especially ventilated, but the staggered design of the two MIPS Spherical shells seems to do a great job keeping the air flowing. Most of the exposed surfaces are also covered in PolyCarbonate (PC) making for a more durable helmet in the long run.
I can also say that I was happy to have the extra coverage as we were bushwhacking through the debris left after a recent tornado (that we were unaware of on a recent bikepacking adventure until we were in it to the point of no return).
With that said, the helmet doesn’t come down on the temples nearly as far as many MTB helmets. It still seems like it would provide excellent protection at the back and sides of the head, just in a way that keeps the helmet comfortable and light.
Bell Gravel Helmet Actual Weight
And it is light. Very light. My medium sample checks in at 277g (3g less than the 280g claimed). That’s 24g lighter than the new S-Works Prevail 3. The fact that this weight includes a MIPS Spherical construction and a Fidlock buckle is even more impressive.
I will say that the straps are one of my two complaints with this helmet – they’re so light that the adjustment of the ear cradles doesn’t want to stay in place. It stays put for the duration of each ride, but I find myself adjusting it slightly every time before I go out. It’s not a deal breaker though, since the light weight straps feel quite comfortable.
The only other thing to consider is the finish. The matte black looks fantastic at first, but it’s very hard to keep looking fresh. Even after using White Lightning’s Matte Finisher, the finish wants to absorb oily finger prints and other marks. After seeing the OG Camo helmet in person, I’d go for that finish since it should look better over the long run, and it looks great in person.
Overall, the XR Spherical has been a surprising standout from Bell. Historically, their helmets haven’t fit me as well as Giro, but this one is different. It’s supremely comfortable, exceptionally ventilated, and looks great (with some routine cleaning). All reasons why it’s become the helmet I reach for while preparing for my next adventure.