How Bell changed the way riders look at head protection

Super 2R trail helmet with removable chinbar helped usher in new era

Helmets Sponsored
History of the Bell Super 3R Helmet

Mountain bikes (and their capabilities) have evolved and progressed dramatically in the last half decade, and that’s created a need for better and more versatile helmets.

Editor’s Note: This sponsored post is courtesy of Bell Sports.

Hilgard Muller has always been a tinkerer. Even in his youth Bell’s Director of Research and Development was pushing the envelope of possible. As a 10-year-old, Muller decided he wanted a radio controlled airplane. But instead perusing a Sharper Image catalog for some pre-assembled model, he headed to the local hobby shop, bought some balsa wood and went to work, designing his own flying machine with nary a plan or set of instructions. When the senior Muller saw how serious his son was about the project, he helped him get hold of a transmitter. And yes, in case you’re curious, the plane did fly.

History of the Bell Super 3R Helmet

Before going into production, Muller and Bell’s talented design team created countless 3D models such as the one pictured here.

That first foray into the world of industrial design has become thematic in Muller’s adult life. After attending California’s San Jose State University, he went right to work, hooking on with Bell as an intern. That was 18 years ago. “I’ve been working with the design team ever since,” said Muller.

History of the Bell Super 3R Helmet

Attachment of the chinbar takes less than a minute and requires no tools.

During that successful span, Muller’s been front and center on a host of important projects, but arguably none so industry influential as the removable chinbar helmet, which debuted as the Bell Super 2R in late 2014, and has since been updated with the recent release of the updated Super 3R in the fall of 2016.

History of the Bell Super 3R Helmet

The chinbar was definitely on for this line.

Muller credits the emergence of enduro racing — and his talented design team’s foresight — as reasons why Bell was first to market with the current generation of what has become one of mountain biking’s most popular helmet styles.

“We started to see a big growth and increased interest in enduro-style riding about 5-6 years ago,” recalled Muller, who worked closely with designers Scott Allen and Kyle Ellison during the entire development process. “Bikes and the people riding them were progressing really fast, and more and more people were carrying two helmets at enduro events. So when we launched the original Super helmet we made sure to build a platform that could have a removable chinbar added later because that was always our intention. Turns out our timing was perfect.”

History of the Bell Super 3R Helmet

The original Bell Super trail helmet paved the path for the current class of removable chinbar helmets.

Indeed, events such as the Enduro World Series, which debuted in 2013, helped drive rider need for dynamic head protection that’s light and breathable going uphill, but still offers top line safety features when it’s time to head down.

“The emergence of enduro really was the genesis,” continued Muller. “You have a rider saying, ‘I have hydration pack to carry gear, I’m climbing a large portion of the day, but I only need a chinbar for descending. There has to be a better way?’”

History of the Bell Super 3R Helmet

Bell’s Super 2R was an overnight hit in the mountain bike world.

Bell was ready with the right answer for that question. The original half shell Super trail helmet incorporated a ridged injection molded plate that later became the foundation for the chinbar attachment in the Super 2R.

“It was all very intentional,” revealed Muller. “We discussed the idea of the chinbar three seasons ahead of the Super, but initially didn’t think consumers were ready for it just yet. But when we did unveil it, we felt like the timing was spot on, and judging by what has happened in the marketplace since, I’d say we were right.”

History of the Bell Super 3R Helmet

Bell also relied heavily on input from pro riders, including Team GT.

Of course, Muller is alluding to near industry wide adoption of the removable chinbar concept. Today, Giro, Leatt, Uvex, and Lazer are just some of the manufacturers that have followed the lead of Muller and his team, releasing their own contemporary versions of removable chinbar helmets.

“I love seeing that we created a new category,” admitted Muller. “That ethos of innovation has always been part of the Bell DNA. I also love seeing what other companies are doing, because that competition drives us all to make better product. It’s interesting to see the various interpretations. Sure if we cornered the market that’s great for business. But then we don’t need to push as hard. This motivates the Bell team to step up even further and that’s the fun part. That’s what I live for, problem solving and innovation.”

History of the Bell Super 3R Helmet

Bell’s also had some fun with aesthetic design, including this Star Wars Storm Trooper model.

At the same time Muller feels no one else has matched the Super 2R and now Super 3R for its clean and elegant solution, which requires no tools. Instead the chinbar swap takes about 15 seconds. Muller is also convinced Bell has made the right call in terms of safety certification.

“We are asked why we did not pursue downhill certification with the Super 2R,” he explained. “It was a very conscious decision to develop a helmet that had an additional measure of face protection, but also prioritized low weight and ventilation. Our aim was to balance these consumer needs and expectations. The Super 2R and now Super 3R were intended to serve those specific consumer demands and that’s why it’s been so successful.”

It took 18 months just to design the chinbar that you see here on an early Bell Super 2R production sample.

It took 18 months just to design the chinbar that you see here on an early Bell Super 2R sample.

So where do we go from here? Muller can’t get into specifics just yet, but he says all mountain bikers should be excited for what’s to come. “Our team is firing on all cylinders,” he said. “We have a great group that’s as motivated as ever to push boundaries. Bell will definitely continue to challenge norms and turn heads.”

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About the author: Mtbr is a site by mountain bikers for mountain bikers. We are the best online resource for information for mountain bikers of all abilities, ages and interests.

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  • ray says:

    Where do folks who don’t carry a backpack put the chinbar for the supper 2R? I love the helmet but don’t like wearing a backpack just to carry around the chinbar when I am climbing, any suggestions?

    • piotr.lesny says:

      Use velcro strap to attach it to your handlebars \ stem.

    • darius says:

      Honestly I worried that the chinbar would be in a way and cumbersome. The design is so great that I just forget its there and no need to remove it. After I switched to 3R helmet from Lazer Oasis another great helmet I never removed the chinbar or felt I needed to do so. I do worry it might get a bit warm in the Chicago summers but will see.

  • Suns_PSD says:

    I love mine but no good place to place the chinbar when removed, so I never remove it.

    There are two possible good solutions:

    1) just build and sell a little plastic Velcro deal that allows one to hang the strap over the main frame bar and allows the chin bar to straddle. I only remove th chin bar for slow grueling climbs so it’s not in the way anyways.
    2) build an even lighter more vented version of the helmet with a non removable chin bar. No place to put the chin bar, makes it being removable a useless option for me.

    ~ take care

  • Randy says:

    On a big climb I’ll just let the chin bar hang around my neck, no big deal.

  • Mark says:

    I would like to have a bike helmet that is more like a football helmet with a cage in front of the face instead of a mostly solid chin bar. Need more air flow!!!!

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