The latest generation of road helmets walks the line between aero helmets, like the Giro Air Attack, and the ventilation-heavy helmets of years past. These helmets, like the Giro Synthe and Kask Protone, offer ventilation that comes close to the featherweight helmets of the mid-2000s but with a consideration for aerodynamics.
Many would be quick to include the Bell Star Pro in this in-betweener family. But the Star Pro is first and foremost an aero road helmet. You won’t be seeing riders in the UCI WorldTour wearing the Star Pro to mountaintop finishes in the heat of July, though you would see the UnitedHealthcare team wearing it to countless criterium podiums. And we saw Lars Boom, who switches from Belkin to Astana for 2015, ride one to victory in the cold, wet weather in this year’s Tour de France stage on cobblestones.
What separates the Star Pro from other aero helmets is a convertible vent system on the sides and rear of the helmet. A small slider opens and closes these vents. When closed, Bell claims the Star Pro is faster than all challengers, and with the vents open Bell claims the Star Pro is still quite slippery in the wind, which I’m tempted to believe based on the Star Pro’s ventilation — or lack thereof — even when the switch is open.
The only helmet with a similar open/close design is the Kask Infinity. But on that one, the whole top of the helmet slides open.
On the road
The Star Pro is by no means a lightweight, highly ventilated helmet for climbing on hot days. On hotter days in the sun, the Star Pro heats up, especially in the forehead area where it lacks traditional vents. It has brow vents instead, between the forehead pad and the EPS foam. Theses vents require a good bit of speed before air starts traveling into them and across the head. The brow padding is a bit lacking; while comfortable, it did not absorb sweat as well as I’d like.
When opened, the vents pull air across the back of the head. A decent-sized exhaust port opens up that pulls air from the brow vents. It’s with the vents open that I really noticed the front of my head getting hotter than the back. Still, this small amount of venting can make a big difference on a hot day compared to other sparsely ventilated aero road helmets. It cools far better than the Air Attack, for example. On a hot day with long climbs and slow speeds when air doesn’t flow easily through the Star Pro’s smaller vents, a lightweight helmet like the Lazer Z1 would be our choice.
The Star Pro is available with a large Zeiss shield lens. The lens is sharp enough, which is unsurprising considering Zeiss’ stellar reputation, and the shield snapped in and out of the helmet with ease. But I still prefer sunglasses and, admittedly, I only rode with the shield once.
A cyclocross sleeper?
The Star Pro is a perfect cyclocross helmet. With its easy on-the-fly opening and closing of vents, a rider can start the race with the vents closed and open them up during the race if they should start to get exceptionally hot, though I never thought about my helmet’s vents during even warmer races.
The fit, however, may not be ideal for all cyclocross racers as it’s not as stable as we like. Especially with a cap on underneath, the Star Pro tended to move around on the head a bit. The retention system, which does not lock into different positions up and down in the rear like other helmets, floats and adapts to different head shapes, and this lack of secure adjustments is to blame for the Star Pro sometimes moving around on mine and other testers’ heads. Another tester noted that he preferred the fit and feel of his Specialized Evade to the Star Pro because of this problem, and that the Star Pro tended to rattle against the top of his Poc Do Blade sunglasses.
Without a hat on under it, the Star Pro stayed put considerably better, and it was a great cyclocross helmet on all but the hottest days.
If I were buying a true aero road helmet and was concerned primarily with marginal gains, it would be the Star Pro. The ability to open and close vents, despite their small size, makes the Star Pro more versatile than other true aero road helmets. The fit is top notch, at least without a hat. In testing my large model, I much prefer the fit to that of the Specialized Evade, despite issues that arose while testing during ’cross races. At $240 for the model without the shield, the Star Pro is barely less expensive than the Evade and is $40 more expensive than the Air Attack, though it’s simply a better helmet than the Air Attack. It has all of the aerodynamic advantages, plus the option of ventilation.
Suggested retail price: $240 ($280 with Shield)
We like: On-the-fly venting adjustment; doesn’t look too terrible
We don’t like: Helmet got a bit wobbly when we rode it during cyclocross and got even worse when a hat was worn under it
The scoop: Best option for anyone looking for a true aero helmet with few vents
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