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The Bell Gage manages to combine a high level of comfort with plenty of ventilation and a light weight.
This new helmet takes over from the Volt at the head (thank you very much) of the Bell range – it's the one that Bell's sponsored riders are now using. It's considerably lighter than the Volt, our medium model weighing in at 235g. There are lighter helmets on offer – the Aeon we reviewed from Bell's stablemate Giro hit the scales at just 189g, for example – but the Gage is a highly reasonable weight for a race helmet.
Bell keep the grams down by using lightweight reinforcement within the EPS (expanded polystyrene) structure. You can see the skeleton running through some of the vents up front. This allows them to increase the size of the vents without affecting safety.
Like most – but not all – high-end helmets, the Gage is in-moulded. This means that rather than being created separately and then stuck together, the EPS foam is forced into the microshell cap while it's in the mould so that they're structurally integrated, benefiting durability.
Fit is handled by Bell's Twin Axis Gear (TAG) system. That allows you to move the whole of the rear part of the cradle up and down really easily. You can choose from three different positions according to the size and shape of your head. Then a simple dial allows you to adjust the tightness of the fit. It's easy to move one handed if you want to fine tune things on the go.
Some helmet brands will fit your head better than others and there's no substitute for trying one on before you part with your cash. That said, the Gage's fit is adjustable enough that it'll suit a whole range of different head shapes comfortably.
The straps are a very lightweight webbing which looks a whole lot like the fabric Giro use in their Aeon lid. If it's not the same stuff, it's very closely related. You just cut it to length and melt the ends so they don't fray, as you would with any other straps. Cam-lock guides make sorting the straps super-easy and they've stayed in place perfectly once set.
If you're a vent counter, you get 26 here. More significant is the fact that they take a whole lot of cool air inside. The ports at the front are large and internal channels allow the air to pass over your head before exiting out the back. That's the theory, anyway, and I never suffered from a hot head during testing so I'm saying it works. I do reckon my head stays slightly cooler in a Giro Aeon, but just a smidge and that helmet is £40 more expensive.
The padding inside is Antimicrobial X-Static so it inhibits the growth of bacteria which, in turn, reduces the chance of odour building up. A quick test – sniff, sniff – says it's doing well so far. Those pads are really easy to take out and wash when they become hard to live with.
Equally good, one of the pads extends right across your forehead to reduce the possibility of sweat dripping down into your eyes. Well, it works until you've sweated so much that it becomes saturated.
The one thing we don't test helmets for is the one thing they're princiapally designed to do: keep your head safe in the event of a crash. The safety authorities are better placed than us to comment on that and the Gage, of course, meets the necessary safety standard (CE EN178).
Performance helmet with an excellent combination of comfort and ventilation at a light weight
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Make and model: Bell Gage
Size tested: Medium, Black/Red
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Bell's pro riders have been using the Gage throughout the Spring Classics. It's not exclusively for racers although it's certainly for the performance minded.
Bell say, "You're not on a bike to pose in front of the coffee shop. You're on a bike to ride. Rain or shine, bad roads be damned. You're committed. Just like the Gage. Classics-born, pro-proven and every ounce a Bell."
I guess that's a round-about way of saying that it's for serious riders rather than posers.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Bell say, "In order to maximize venting and minimize bulk, the Gage features internal reinforcement structures. These composite skeletons fortify helmets the same way rebar makes concrete stronger, allowing for bigger vents, more advanced styling and lighter weight, while still meeting stringent safety standards."
There were a couple of minor imperfections around a couple of the vents but nothing to affect the performance or even the looks. The materials are excellent, particularly the retention cradle and the lightweight straps.
I've not had to test its ability to keep my head safe in the event of a crash, thankfully, but it's light enough that you barely feel it in use and plenty of cool air gets vented in.
It's inmoulded so it should stand the test of time. There's no reason to think that the lightweight straps will last any less well than standard straps. All good.
You can get lighter by about 40g or so if that's important to you.
It's really comfortable thanks to Bell's retention system, soft, lightweight straps and good padding.
It's pricey as helmets go, but it is a pro-level model.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The combination of comfort, ventilation and light weight.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Um, I'd be hard pressed to think of any negatives other than the price.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Possibly, although I generally prefer a Giro, just about.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.
Age: 41 Height: 190cm Weight: 75kg
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding,
Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.