The Bell Stratus Mips Helmet is quality, comfortable with a great fit, and comes in a wide range of colours.
The Stratus Mips is Bell's latest second-rung helmet, below the Zephyr, and shares many of its features, the main differences being a single polycarbonate shell instead of the dual-density laminate and a £70 saving. That's significant, so if you can't stretch to the Zephyr, look here.
The first thing I noticed on opening the box, apart from the obviously lurid colour, was the great quality finish. All the expanded polystyrene is covered by the outer shell (with the minor exception of some aero channels). It's super-shiny and slippery and, along with the overall shape of the thing, looks like it has been designed with smooth airflow in mind.
I asked to test this helmet because I have a 58cm head and I frequently fall between two sizes. In the case of the Bell, 58cm sits properly in the medium range and this fitted me perfectly, with enough extra space to allow for a thermal cap. The shape felt just right, too. Adjustment is simple, with a large wheel to click at the back. The sweet-spot, between too tight and too loose, to allow the Mips insert to do its job (if you're not familiar with Mips technology, find out more here), was easy to find.
The helmet is height-adjustable too, though you wouldn't know it from the instruction booklet. There's a sliding clip at the back. This is partially obscured by the Mips insert and even after six weeks I think I'm still finding it a fiddle to adjust so that's a minor gripe. The amount of adjustment, though, is worthwhile.
The chin straps sit close to the cheek, which improves both the look and comfort. They were much less inclined to get twisted than some helmets I've owned.
The Mips insert is closely matched to slots in the helmet shell so there's no restriction of airflow over the scalp, with space between the helmet and the insert allowing plenty of room for air to get in (and out). This is further aided by the grooves cut into the foam shell itself, at the brow, which channel air around this crucial area too.
While March and April have failed to deliver any of the 30°C days that Bell anticipates you may be riding in, I found the temperature comfort level good on both mild and cold days, with no disagreeable draughts on cold descents. In fact, the helmet has a very slippery feel about it and didn't generate any sense of turbulence on fast downhills.
Bell's attention to detail is clear in its 'Sweat Guide padding' system. It's simple but very effective. The front edge of the brow pad features a small tab which folds forward to fasten onto a Velcro tab in a corresponding notch in the polycarbonate shell. The idea is that the sweat then gathers at this forward point, to drip off the front lip of the helmet instead of running into your eyes. It really works!
I know what you are asking: 'How do you know, when you haven't ridden in any warm weather?' Do not underestimate the ingenuity of your tester. I sat on the turbo trainer in an unventilated room and spun modestly for an hour to generate my own indoor summer, even as the sleet blew sideways past the window. True enough, the sweat dripped harmlessly an inch from the end of my nose.
I can't say I warmed to the fluoro colour, though it looked fine as long as I wore something else with a flash of high-vis yellow on it. If it doesn't match your skin tone, there are nine other colour schemes you can try.
Price-wise, £130 for a helmet isn't cheap, but you can pay more for similar-weight lids; the Abus Aventor, for example, is a tenner more, for a 28g weight-saving, but doesn't have Mips technology. The Bontrager Velocis Mips is £149.99 for a 12g saving... Then again, Bell's Tempo Mips is half the price... If the Stratus fits you as well as it fits me, I'd say it's well worth the outlay.
Out on the road, this felt light and unobtrusive. I don't want to be reminded that I'm wearing a helmet and this sat securely and low on the brow but without getting in my line of vision or causing any obvious shift of balance in my head weight. If comfort is very important to you, and if you've had problems finding a helmet that sits well, the Stratus will be worth a test fitting.
Very similar in looks and performance to Bell's excellent Zephyr, but much more affordable. Nearly perfect!
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Bell Stratus Mips Helmet
Size tested: M 55-59CM
Tell us what the product is for
From Bell's website: "Built with the same core design principles as the pro-level Z20, the Stratus combines lightweight aero efficiency with cutting-edge comfort technologies. The shape was refined for all-around road performance''ventilated for long climbs but still fast for the flats''and the integrated Float Fit system offers comfort and security with a streamlined fit and an oversized dial that's easy to adjust with one hand. The Overbrow Ventilation system pulls cool air in through the front and pushes it through an air-channel matrix to reduce overheating. And thanks to the adjustable No-Twist Tri-Glides, the straps stay flat and properly positioned no matter how hard you're hammering. This model also includes MIPS (Multi-Directional Impact Protection System) for added protection in certain types of impacts."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Fusion In-Mold Polycarbonate Shell
Lightweight Internal Polycarbonate Roll Cage
Reflective Decals (select colors)
Sweat Guide™ Padding
WEIGHT: 275 Grams
CERTIFICATION: CE EN1078CPSC Bicycle
This looks a high-quality helmet. Bear in mind it is certified only to the European EN1078 standard and not the tougher CPSC standard of the USA.
The drip-control feature really works. Venting seems good, though I have yet to get any riding in on a warm sunny day to really test this. I was never too warm or too cold when using this helmet. On fast descents it felt "slippery" and didn't show any tendency to lift in the wind.
Top quality construction means there should be no issues with this over the life of the helmet.
There are lighter helmets for similar money, even with Mips, but this felt plenty light enough for me.
I occasionally found myself raising a hand to check I had remembered to put this helmet on, which is, for me, one of the most important aspects of any helmet.
Although still a lot for a crash hat, you get some well-thought-out features, great build quality and excellent comfort. For which you can pay a lot more...
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It's designed to be comfortable, slippery and well vented and it seems to be all of those things. Can't wait to try it in some proper summer weather!
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The flat-fitting straps work really well. I like the drip-channelling feature. Fit and comfort are great.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The height-adjustment clip is a bit awkward to get at and use. No CPSC or Snell Certification.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
Although it's more than I've ever, erm, "shelled" out for a helmet, I have to say I thought it was also a cut above anything I've worn before. Quick and simple adjustment, good sizing and excellent fit make it a pleasure to wear.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cannondale CAAD10 My best bike is: Tomassini Prestige
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mountain biking