I haven’t had a new helmet in a little while but seeing as Bell are supporting the Bike Shed show this year I thought I’d see what their new Elimnator was like. I’ve been an Arai guy most of my life, Bells never used to fit, but something must have changed, or my receded hairline has freed up some cranial real estate.
I use a Bell MX-9 for Enduro and flat track practice and found the comfort excellent. It’s only a cheapie but so far I’ve been impressed – sweat and hard use hasn’t resulted in much change in the fit and I’ll definitely buy another. But off-road stuff is easy design from a looks vs safety perspective. Retro road lids, not so much.
In the quest for an uber cool urban aesthetic shell sizes have shrunk to the point where I’m not convinced by their safety claims. Sure, all helmets (I’m not talking about the crap stuff at shows and on the eBay) pass incredibly stringent tests and I have zero evidence for my notion other than the mum logic of Volvos being better because ‘there’s more around you’. My mum obviously never saw the slow motion footage of 1960s american road barges being smashed into concerte blocks. I’ve got some lids on the shelf that have passed all the necessary crash tests yet at above 60mph the chin bar tickles my moustache, or worse pushes onto my mouth to the point of hampering breathing. How this works in an impact I do not wish to know.
I’ve raced in and destroyed five Nexx XG100 full facers over the last 3 seasons and not once has my nose come close to being bashed (and it’s a fairly Streisandy one too) let alone my gob. My new evaluation as to whether I’ll wear something is the tongue test. If I can lick the chin bar, I’m not trusting it. Which rules out a lot of the current crop of hip and retro helmets on the market.
Bell are of course a massive company and not about to risk their name by completely favouring style over function. Their Bullitt was one of the first mass produced retro full facers and it sold by the zillion. Loads of my mates use them but I can’t be doing with the thing. Nice concept and thanks for paving the way for other manufacturers to have a try but with that giant visor the result is more Buzz Aldrin than Steve McQueen. Way, way too much face.
Thankfully Bell recently launched this, the Eliminator. Gash name but cool looking lid. I love the Simpsons worn by Top Fuel drag heroes of old but on a bike, on the road, the Bandit and Speedway are a bit streetfighter and ‘look at me, I’ll smoke you off the lights’. The Eliminator blends the clean lines of a Ruby Castell with the Simpson’s bad ass 1/4 mile credentials.
The shell is a proper size and although the visor seal nearly touches my schnoz it passes the tongue test, just. The visor itself isn’t huge thanks to the thick chin bar yet visibility is excellent and the padding is generous and very comfortable, gripping the cheeks from the edge of the eye socket down to the lower jaw line – snug and reassuring. And rather than rely on a dangly retaining magnet strap like the Bullitt, or wishful thinking like some retro helmets, the Eliminator’s visor snaps down positively on the left side. Overall it feels like a Bell should – premium. I particularly like the magnet that secures the end of the chin strap with a satisfying clink. The fastening is by double D-ring and there’s an elasticated band to keep the excess strap from flapping around. But I do wonder how many chins riders in Bell’s focus group have, there’s quite a lot of spare material.
As is de rigueur these days one needs tools to swap visors. Eliminator riders will need to keep an 8mm and a 2.5mm allen key handy, the big one for the main bolts (lightweight anodised alloy) and a smaller one for the tensioners. There are no notched detents to hold the visor between desired positions, just the stiction of the smaller bolt and plastic washer arrangement – adjust to your liking. Lose one of the biguns though and you’ve got a problem, the little ones less so, although the plastic washer is specific to run in the visor’s groove. Butter fingered folk should order a spare set to keep in a jacket pocket just in case, everyone else will manage fine.
What’s up for debate though are the air vents above the forehead. Clearly thought up by a team working and riding in California, not Cumbria. Personally I don’t care for vents, I’d rather quiet airflow and an unfused appearance but I get it that keeping a cool head is important for concentration, if not just comfort. On the Eliminator it’s as if a Ruby Castel was being ridden in so fast the circular chin vents slipped and ended up on the top. A nice design feature though, I guess. But not one that appears all that thought through as our shop has just received a batch of plastic clip-on covers intended to keep one’s head dry when not riding in arid areas.
I didn’t bother taking one of those to California for the Indian Motorcycle FTR1200 press launch as according to all gear that hails from this fine state, it never rains.
Well, jinxed that didn’t I! The hills above Santa Monica were cloaked with damp cloud and it was colder than back home. Perfect for a real world test of the Eliminator. Try as I might I couldn’t get the visor to fog and the dark tinted visor offered plenty of clarity. So far, so good.
Usually it takes a few wears before a new lid is truly bedded-in but the Eliminator was a delight from the get-go. No hotspots, itchy bits or annoyances – just cosseting all-day comfort. The small chin spoiler did it’s job at preventing lift, even on a naked bike at triple digit speeds. And the few grams saved by plumping for the carbon option gave my dodgy neck an easier time too. My hooter did get tickled by the visor seal on the chin bar at high speed which was a tad off-putting, nothing a little trimming with a scalpel wouldn’t sort.
I can’t say I felt an enormous amount of ventilation from the top holes, despite them directing air straight onto my bald spot. Maybe on a hot and sweaty day I’d be waxing lyrical. There’s no fancy channeling to rear exhaust vents, just the top holes, which keeps the EPS layer becoming bulky and the liner simple. This, along with the cheek pads are removable via easy poppers, and are machine washable.
Back in Blighty and the Eliminator was the perfect companion for another press launch, this time on Suzuki’s new Katana (review on that soon). Banging through the Cotswolds I was reminded that, despite the holes, open chin vents and an externally hinged visor, this isn’t as noisy as I’d expected. This combined with the aforementioned comfort means the Eliminator now occupies top spot by my desk and is the lid of choice.
But don’t just take my word for it, Dutch has been sporting the same helmet for the last couple of months since taking one on the Husqvarna Svartpilen launch.
“Since the Husky press test the most interesting thing to me is that despite being a convert to wearing an open face helmet almost every day, I am now reaching for my carbon Eliminator as a default helmet for even the shortest of journeys. It’s handsome, light, always comfy, and despite a solid chin-bar it offers a decent field of vision. I think it looks cool too – but best of all, my favourite feature is the magnetic clip that stops the end of the Double-D-ringed strap flapping around and slapping you in the neck. It’s a stroke of genius and make the poppers on all my other helmets feel like a real annoyance. …Why don’t all helmets have this?”
“In summary, I think it’s it’s a great lid, looks handsome and classy, works really well, and fits my head, although a few people in the office complain that the chin bar is too close to their face. Luckily I am not blessed with a Desperate Dan jawline and have no issues with that. …I have to declare upfront that I did get a free helmet, but I would genuinely spend my money on the Bell Eliminator, and will probably wear it on my next track day. It ticks lots of boxes and in my never-ending search for the perfect retro full-face lid, featuring a mix of proper mod-cons, all-day comfort and relatively classic looks, and yet again, I’m wearing it on my very short 30mph journey home, despite the sunshine outside – Dutch”
And Shopkeep likes them so much that he designed two BSMC colourways. Here’s the gloss white and matt black versions, available exclusively from our Shoreditch store.
See the full range of colours via our webstore
And here’s a vid of Josh Herrin in a pimping chrome Eliminator spanking an XSR700. Skills!