I’ve been sporting an Icon Alliance Dark since my first day of riding. It’s the go-to helmet for all types of riders, especially beginners because its safety rating and extremely affordable price. I used my Icon for my trip into Canada and it’s the helmet I hand over to pillions. I highly recommend the Icon Alliance Dark if you’re a first-time buyer on a budget or simply looking for a spare helmet; but, I finally decided to invest a little more for a classier, refined helmet. Enter, the Bell Bullitt.
- Ultra low-profile fiber composite shell
- Multi Density EPS liner
- Removable, washable, and anti-bacterial interior
- Perforated micro suede interior fabric with leather trim
- Padded chin strap with Stainless steel D-ring closure with leather pull tab
- 3 shell 3 EPS system
- 5 Metal mesh intake vents with 1 rear exhaust vest
- 3D cut cheek pads with speaker pockets
- Magnefusion shield closure system
- Certification: DOT and ECE
- Weight: 1400g (3lbs)
Initial Impressions – Off the Bike
The Bell Bullitt is a visually stunning, retro piece. With a fiber composite shell, multi-density EPS liner/3 shell EPS system, 3D cut cheek pads, and a Magnefusion shield closure system, the Bullit offers the vintage, Steve McQueen-esque style many riders have come to love in recent years but with modern features. You can customize the appearance with a wide variety of colors and various visor types to support your riding style and gear. Four mesh intake vents line the top of the visor and a single slit on the back of the helmet completes the ventilation system. The vents hug the helmet and maintain the smooth, rounded exterior of the Bullitt. Its low-profile and rounded styling ensures that the Bell Bullitt’s appearance stays loyal to its ancestor, the Bell Star. The Bullitt’s interior equally matches the visual expectations set by its exterior.
The Bullitt is lined with seude with leather trim and can be easily removed for cleaning and its 3D cut cheek pads make speaker/headset integration possible. The fit is comfortable but runs a small; if you’re between sizes, make sure to try the size down before writing off this helmet or jumping up a size. The suede is soft and offers decent wicking and ventilation which is nice for summer and early fall riding.
I think the Bullitt is a visually stunning helmet and one that will turn heads. In fact, I know that it’ll turn heads. With its nice fit, stylish paint job, and an unseasonably warm December, I decided to put some miles on my bike to see how the Bullitt felt while riding.
The Bullitt matches my Rev’It Flatbush Jacket perfectly and I was stoked to show it off, like a new pair of shoes on the first day of school. Looking at the helmet, it’s hard to imagine why anyone would buy a different modern, retro helmet. The robins-egg blue with subtle flakes, brown suede interior, and round, bulbous styling make the Bullitt look like it actually belongs on Steve McQueen during the iconic car chase scene of the 1968 class, Bullitt. Needless to say, I was more than excited to parade around rural North Carolina and show it off to the cows.
My excitement didn’t stop beyond the looks of the helmet, either. It does everything a helmet in its price range should do. It’s lightweight, comfortable, and provides amazing visibility. Also, the Bullitt is DOT and ECE certified. ECE certification is among the most stringent safety standards; therefore, the Bullitt provides an extremely safe surrounding for your head. As I set off and finally got up to speed I immediately ran into a problem; well, my muscle memory and subconscious did, actually. I had to reprogram myself to use the Magnefusion visor tab instead of the traditional quick-release style. Bell replaced the widely used quick release mechanism with the Magnefusion magnetic tab. I think this stylistic flair was tastefully done but, I’m still caught fiddling with the magnetic tab as I pull up to a red light. If this was the biggest flaw I could find with the helmet then things could be worse. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the only flaw that myself, or others, found.
I’ve worn the Bullitt in weather ranging from the high 20s into the low 70s (and in the rain, as the pictures show) and found the ventilation to be fine for a variety of riding conditions. The brow vents cannot be closed, but their size and mesh regulate the amount of air brought into the helmet. Not being able to close the brow vents have upset some people, but their complaints are misplaced. In order to incorporate modern technology while staying loyal to the vintage style of the 1960s Bell Star, Bell had to compromise in some areas. Had Bell slapped a latch onto the Bullitt allowing the vents to be closed, then the sleek and rounded profile would have been compromised; furthermore, Bell designed the brow vents to mitigate the constant breeze by making the actual amount of air brought in less than that of a typical helmet. If complaints should be directed at any design flaw, it should be the amount of wind noise and air let in around the visor.
I didn’t mean to put my foot in my mouth by saying I like the Magnefusion closure system. I genuinely do; but, it comes with a major flaw that isn’t common with traditional quick-release visors. The magnetic tab used on the Bullitt in place of a quick-release system holds the visor shut, but it doesn’t not as firmly; the wind pushes and shifts the visor back and forth while riding, especially on windy days. The quick-release system with a metal knob and hole firmly holds the visor; with the Bullitt, however, air pushes its way between the helmet and visor which generates wind noise and focuses the airflow directly to your eyes. I almost always wear ear plugs and sunglasses while riding, so these flaws aren’t devastating for me; but, this may be a minor annoyance to those who don’t.
The Bullitt brings the best aspects of old and new together. Bell combined the styling, colors, and customization reminiscent of the Bell Star with the technology and safety of modern helmets in making the Bullitt. Certified by both the DOT and ECE, the Bullitt provides some of the best protection you can find in its price range, and above. That doesn’t mean the Bullitt is without its own flaws; you’d be hardpressed to find a helmet that isn’t. The intake vents are bothersome to those who want more ventilation or the ability to close them; the Magnefusion closure system doesn’t hold the visor as firmly as traditional quick-release systems, and there is a considerable amount of wind noise and air that come through the creases of the visor.
Even with these flaws, The Bell Bullitt has something else up its sleeve that other helmets don’t – spirit. Biltwell’s Gringo, the Bullitt’s fiercest competitor, is an awesome helmet and looks similar to the Bell Bullitt, but it doesn’t have a history nearly as extensive and deep as Bell. The Bullit’s ancestor, the Bell Star, was the inspiration behind the Gringo. The Gringo is successful in mimicking the Star’s style, but it doesn’t captivate the authenticity and spirit of the helmet. Another glaring shortcoming of the Gringo is that it lacks the more stringent, ECE certification offered by the Bullitt. For buyers who are safety conscious, this is a huge advantage. DOT and Snell certifications are great, but obtaining ECE certification is a more strenuous and stringent process. The Gringo is still a viable option for buyers who are on a budget or aren’t concerned about safety beyond DOT certification.
Verdict and Where to Buy
Personally, I think the Bell Bullitt is the best looking vintage helmet currently on the market. With a wide variety of colors and the option for either a bubble shield or regular visor, the Bullitt allows you to customize it and make it your own. This is not a helmet that will end up on your mantel as a display; you’ll want to wear this helmet, regardless of what you’re riding. BikeBandit.com and Amazon offer the Bullitt for a fairly affordable price (if you find it cheaper elsewhere, BikeBandit will match the lower price, too).
Amazon and BikeBandit.com both have a wide variety of colors and visor-types that are perfect for your gear and riding style.