It’s fair to observe that we are entering a new era of regard for brain injuries. Our understanding of how they happen, the impact they have long term and what we can do to prevent them has improved significantly in the last few years. Practically speaking, we’ve seen a number of new designs, some of them more expensive than others.
Not everyone is going to spend upwards of $200 on a helmet, though. Does that mean you have to kiss your brain goodbye in the event of a crash? Fortunately, no.
I’ve wanted to find a versatile helmet, one good for mountain biking but also suitable for commuter use. The Bell Stoker intrigued me because while it’s designed as a helmet for trail use, it has some features that make it attractive for broader use.
Its best feature may be its price: It’s only $70. Of course, that price wouldn’t represent much of a value if the helmet wasn’t particularly safe. I can report it’s certified by both the CE and CPSC.
Because it’s meant for trail use—and by that they mean trail as a category of mountain biking, as opposed to cross country or all-mountain—the Stoker is designed with greater coverage at the back of the helmet to reduce the chance for injury should you hit the back of your head. And while I’d never be caught dead wearing a helmet with a plastic visor on a road ride, visors are as handy for errand rides as they are for the changes of light to dark on mountain bike rides.
Unlike most helmets in its category, and for that matter, in more expensive categories, the Stoker comes in four sizes: Small, Medium, Large and XL. The big gain with the extra size is at the large end. Most helmets can’t accommodate a head larger than 63cm in circumference; the Stoker will fit up to 65cm. I’ve been wearing the small which is meant to fit riders with a head circumference from 51 to 55cm. That falls along the lines of other small helmets I’ve reviewed, but it is able to effective accommodate heads even smaller. Mini-Shred has a head circumference of 50cm and the helmet fits him fine.
While the straps don’t follow his ears too closely—due to how small his head is—the Speed-Dial Fit System accommodates him and keeps the helmet from flopping around. This helmet is touted as goggle-compatible, but it is different from some goggle-oriented helmets in that it still permits you to wear shades. I’ve tried helmets where there wasn’t room to get the ear pieces beneath the helmet. The Stoker boasts 13 vents; just enough to keep you from roasting on a hot day, but no match for a road helmet like Bell’s Gage.
As a mountain bike helmet, this unit gets a slightly different microshell; the Fusion In-Mold Microshell has proven to be a bit more durable than most microshells. While this helmet isn’t meant to take multiple impacts, the slightly thicker shell means it can stand up to bashes from the likes of branches. It’s also really handy for children who aren’t entirely clear on the concept of treating a helmet with care, rather than just dropping it on the floor of the garage, post-ride.
In an absolute sense, there are safer helmets. However, for the price, it’s an exceptionally safe helmet and pretty ideal for younger riders. It’s one of the best helmet values I’ve run across.