Bell Super 3R removable chinbar helmet review

Version 3.0 improves yet again on pioneering MTB brain protector

Helmets
Bell Super 3R Helmet Review

On the climb up it’s a well-ventilated trail helmet.

What is it

The helmet that ushered in the current generation of removable chinbar technology (and was my go-to trail lid last season) got a refresh for 2017 with a focus on improved fit. After hearing some riders complain of pressure points around the temples when wearing the Bell Super 2R (myself included), Bell removed and reconfigured some of the interior padding to alleviate this issue. The Super 3R also added a Float Fit retention system and incorporated MIPS slip plane safety technology. Ventilation remains impressive with 23 helmet vents, 4 brow ports, and 6 chinbar vents.

Learn about the history of a helmet that changed MTB head protection for good.

Bell Super 3R Helmet Review

On the way down it’s a little extra splash of courage — and face protection.

Safety certification remains for standard bicycle use, not downhill, and there are six color options for sizes S, M, L. Weight of a size medium Bell Super 3R with chinbar attached is 760 grams, 10 grams less than the outgoing Super 2R. The main helmet alone is 440 grams. For comparison sake, my mid-tier Troy Lee Designs full face (that is DH rated) is 1070 grams, while a favorite Mavic trail helmet (not DH rated and with less coverage than the Super 3R) is 330 grams.

Bell Super 3R Helmet Review

Weight for a size medium with chinbar attached is 760 grams, which is 10 grams less than the Super 2R.

Pros
  • Addressed tweener-size fit issues
  • Ample ventilation
  • Slightly lighter than predecessor
  • Easy-to-remove chinbar
  • Improved easy-to-adjust fit system
  • Breakaway POV camera mount
  • Seamless integration with goggles
  • Adjustable visor
  • Wide field of vision
  • MIPS comes standard
  • Backwards chinbar compatibility
  • Great array of color choices
Bell Super 3R Helmet Review

In trail mode, there are 23 vents, plus 4 brow ports.

Cons
  • Not downhill certified
  • Can interfere with sunglasses frames
  • Heavier than some other trail helmets
  • Mushroom-like aesthetic
  • Must have place to carry chinbar when not in use
Bell Super 3R Helmet Review

Even in full face mode field of vision is wide and unobstructed.

Mtbr’s Take

The cycling industry is typically not in the business of giving away things for free, but with the Bell Super 3R, you basically get two helmets for the price of one. With chinbar removed the Super 3R is a well-ventilated trail helmet (23 vents, 4 brow ports) that’s a perfect match for big sweaty climbs and moderately aggressive descents. Should, however, the rowdy factor dial up, you can pop on the removable chinbar and gain the extra confidence that an over-the-bars tumble won’t end with a trip to the dentist.

Bell Super 3R Helmet Review

The unmistakable yellow that indicates MIPS slip plane inclusion.

What the Super 3R is not is downhill certified. And for some that may be a deal breaker, though I’d argue those people are missing the point of this helmet. If your lunch ride truly necessitates top-line safety protection, you should probably be wearing a traditional full face downhill helmet. That’s certainly what I pull on for the occasional bike park session. But when I’m heading deep into the Crested Butte backcountry (my home testing grounds), the Super 3R is an ideal companion. It keeps me from overheating during the myriad monster high altitude climbs, then offers that extra sense of security when it comes time to rip back down. Field of vision is expansive, and it’s really not a big deal to strap the chinbar to my hydration pack when not in use. But yes, you do need a place to stash the chin bar for the climbs, and a jersey pocket probably won’t work.

Bell Super 3R Helmet Review

Now instead of sizing up if your face is getting squeezed you can simply pull some foam out from the chinbar padding in order to dial fit.

But this is all essentially carryover from the Super 3R. What’s truly different this time around is the standard inclusion of MIPS and changes to overall fit that don’t force riders to size up. Personally, I think the jury is still out on whether MIPS truly is the life saver it claims to be. But it doesn’t change the overall experience much, so better safe than sorry.

Bell Super 3R Helmet Review

It even works in the winter.

What definitely does matter is the change in overall headform and tweaks to the cheek pads. Now if your face is getting squeezed, instead of sizing up you can simply pull some foam out from the chinbar padding in order to dial in fit. All the padding is also of the X-Static anti-microbial variety, so no funk after a full-day ride. And the new chinbar is backwards compatible, so if you own a Super 2R you can spend $75 and get upgraded.

Bell Super 3R Helmet Review

Visor adjustment is as simple as loosening or tightening this screw and its counterpart on the other side.

Of course nothing in this world is perfect and I did have a few niggles with the Bell Super 3R. I wish it was a little lighter in trail helmet mode, and it definitely did not play particularly well with my go-to Smith Pivlock sunglasses. The temples hit the bottom of the helmet unless they were tucked behind the straps. Also on my distinctly oval shaped head it nets a bit of a mushroom look.

Bell Super 3R Helmet Review

Always wear your helmet…

But I’m not the type to put fashion over function, and the pros of the Super 3R far outweigh the cons. Bottom line, if you’re looking for a do-it-all helmet for big days in the saddle — and big rowdy descents — this is a great choice. The chinbar is easy to carry — and you can swap it on or off in the same amount of time it takes to chomp down a Clif Bar.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Price: $230
More Info: www.bellhelmets.com

Photo Thumbnails (click to enlarge)

About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Tour de France, the Olympics, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures all over the globe. Sumner, who joined the Mtbr staff in 2013, has also done extensive gear testing and is the author of the cycling guide book "75 Classic Rides: Colorado." When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying life with his wife Lisa and daughter Cora in and around their home in the MTB Mecca of Crested Butte.


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  • zooey says:

    Great review content. Just wish it weren’t stuck on this dated looking narrow format. +1 for recognizing the “mushroom-like aesthetic” con, oval head shape perspective, and crash pic.

  • toad says:

    I thought the Super was supposed to be the least mushroom shaped helmets out there? What is the least bulbous helmet? All the helmets Ive tried sit much higher than the Super which makes them look like a mushroom.

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