Some things never go out of fashion for a reason. Bell has been building action sports and motorcycle helmets for almost a century, and the Custom 500 is a new take on an iconic helmet that’s a favorite with old school riders and newer generations for its timeless appeal, razor-sharp looks and custom fit. This is a superb helmet that, like fine wine, has only gotten better with age. While minimalist and understated, the Bell Custom 500 has new custom paint jobs and finishes that range from mild to wild. It’s a no nonsense helmet made of cutting edge modern materials and the greatest variety of sizes and finishes Bell has ever offered.
Do you need a sweet pair of shades or some stylish goggles? Probably. Is there a cooler looking retro helmet that’s got fresher or funkier styling? Not likely. Check out Bell’s update on a timeless classic. From “Easy Rider” to “CHIPS”, these helmets are a start in the firmament of motorcycle rider history. Let’s take a look at how the original classic holds up by today’s helmet standards.
Outer shell material : Custom fiberglass shell
Shell size : 5 shell
Shell 1: XS and SM Helmet
Shell 2: MD Helmet
Shell 3: LG Helmet
Shell 4: XL Helmet
Shell 5: 2XL Helmet
Liner : Custom-quilted liner / EPS
Weight : 3.65 pounds
Pinlock : No, but with a separate sun visor
Strap System : Padded chin strap with D-ring closure
DOT : Yes
ECE : Yes
SNELL : Yes
SHARP : Not tested
Shape and materials
When riders think old school motorcycle helmets, this is the shape and style that springs to mind. Bubble-like shell, detachable sun visor and the firm caress of well-built chin strap. The outer shell is made of highly durable fiberglass with custom-fit interior padding that uses modern fast-wicking fabric to keep you dry while you ride. This is the helmet of Evil Knievel and Peter Fonda, the iconic lid that Ponch and Jon wore patrolling the highways and byways of Central Los Angeles.
The finishes are what make the Bell Custom 500 a winner though. Custom pinstripe and automotive artist Skratch did a collection of designs in 2011 that are still available today. These finishes are true wearable works of art that are as simple as classic numbering and lettering to mind-bending, Frankenstein’s monster line art. You will be hard-pressed to find a helmet with this many looks and styles. Want a simple metal flake in vibrant cover? You got it? Want that original dirt track motorbike racing look? Done.
This is the helmet that says “instant classic” no matter when it was made or how it’s painted. Best of all, the finish is highly durable and will last for years to come without showing ugly scratches or fading from wear.
Things I liked
Things I don’t like
There is a school of thought among riders that the less helmet that surrounds your face, the more comfortable it is. Some riders have started out with a full cover helmet with a chinbar, and so the Bell 500 Custom may leave them feeling a bit exposed. It’s a personal preference thing, but the three-quarter helmet is popular with riders who like to feel the wind and sun on their face as they put long miles behind them.
The other major benefit to a Bell Custom 500 is the shell comes in sizes from XS to 2XL. If you know you have a unique head shape and haven’t had any luck finding a helmet that fits safely and comfortably, the Bell Custom 500 may have what you need. The internal padding is comfortable and breathable with a removable liner for easy washing between weekend rides or road trips.
Your field of vision is completely unrestricted with a Bell Custom 500. It may not have a full face shield and chin bar, but the trade-off is a complete field of view while you ride. You may not even need to turn your head too much as you ride to check lanes before merging or when turning across traffic
I’d recommend you get yourself a good pair of goggles and a breathable face mask if your bike doesn’t have a windscreen though, as incoming bugs and road grit can leave a lasting impression on your face and eyes. The detachable sun visor is also a must for long rides on sunny days, as it makes a big difference in visibility that even a good pair of sunglasses can’t match.
One of the advantages of a three-quarter helmet is there’s no air vents to generate additional wind noise as you ride. That makes for pretty good noise dampening without impeding your hearing as you ride.
However, don’t forget your earplugs if you have a custom exhaust on your bike, as hearing damage is a real possibility regardless of the style of helmet you wear.
There are no vent ports on this helmet. That can be problematic depending on whom you ask. The Bell Custom 500 can get a little warm on long sunny rides, but most riders prefer this three-quarter style because it vents along the edges nicely on its own without the need to cut into the helmet and provide airflow ports. You may try a Custom 500 and decide it doesn’t provide enough ventilation for you.
The trade-off is that wind noise is greatly reduced compared to helmets with variable airflow controls. The helmet breathes fine for maintaining a comfortable temperature, but some riders may find it’s not enough for their needs. This is an important consideration when deciding on the best helmet for how you ride and what type of riding you do regularly.
The only independent safety rating this helmet doesn’t have is a SHARP score. Otherwise, its certified for use in all 50 US states and Europe.
There is the fact it doesn’t have a chin bar for protection in forward collisions, but if you are worried about side impacts or forehead impacts, there aren’t many other helmets with a better safety rating or record that can compare to the Bell Custom 500.
Riders who want a classic look with some modern updates and additional safety features should give the Bell Custom 500 some serious thought. New riders looking for a safe helmet that won’t break the bank are also the target market for these excellent helmets. One caveat: you’re going to want some goggles, sunglasses and a balaclava for riding in cooler weather or the early morning hours.
As for looks, there are new custom finishes releasing semi-annually. These helmets can also be taken to custom shops and refinished to give yours a unique look that coordinates with your bike’s custom accessories and paint job, too.
The only way to determine if this helmet is going to be what you want and function the way you want is to try one for yourself. Visit your local shop, try one on and see what finishes are available to match your bike’s paint job or suit your personal style. The Bell Custom 500 has something for everyone, and you’ll need to look long and hard to find a better value for the money.
Where to buy this helmet :