Bell is one of the oldest and best regarded names in both safety gear and helmet manufacturing. The Bell MX-9 is the culmination of their many years of knowledge and experience designing and building helmet for racing and dirt track competition. Riders at home on the trail as much as the street prefer helmets like the Bell MX-9, and for good reason: the MX-9 features Bell’s patented Multi-Directional Impact Protection System (MIPS), offering superior defense against head trauma regardless of a rider’s preferred motorsport.
The engineers and designers at Bell developed MIPS to reduce the potential trauma via a slip plane layer. This unique additional layer manages the energy of both angular and rotational impacts, impeding or partially eliminating the force of impact to and from a rider’s head. In short, the Bell MIPS mimics the human brains concussive defenses with a low-friction layer between the hard outer shell and the padded liner.
Angled and rotational impacts are easily absorbed the MIPS slip layer, shifting into place and absorbing more energy than other motor-sports and adventure helmets. If you’re in the market for an ATV or motor-cross helmet that provides superior protection and features for motorcycle riders as well, the Bell MX-9 should be topping your list of potential best choices.
Outer shell material : Injected polymer composite
Shell size : three shell sizes, Small-Medium-Large
Liner : Moisture-wicking, removable/washable air channeled comfort liner.
Weight : 3.3 pounds
Pinlock : Ready
Strap System : D-ring
DOT : Yes
ECE : Yes
SNELL : No
SHARP : Not tested
Shape and materials
The styling of the MX-9 has a lot in common with a motocross helmet, though the front-extended sun visor is adjustable for improved aerodynamics on extended on-road rides. To cut weight without compromising safety, the outer shell consists of lightweight polycarbonate. The liner is air channeled and made from a fast-wicking synthetic material that keeps your face cool and dry even when riding in hot weather.Furthermore, the MX-9 is available in sizes from Extra Small to 2XL, accommodating a wide range of head shapes and fit preferences. The integrated face shield is scratch resistant, as is the high gloss and matte finishes. Graphics are clear-coated and provide superior resistance to wear and tear, keeping your MX-9 looking even after years of regular use.
In addition to building exceptional helmets, Bell also excels at providing some of the best comfort and fit features of any manufacturer. All liner pads are interchangeable for custom fitting, and thanks to their unique air channeling and washable moisture-wicking fabric they stay comfortable and free from odors and moisture all day long.
The chin bar is EPS-lined, providing an additional layer of safety and stable comfort when properly fitted. Moreover, the MX-9 has an integrated adjustable mouth vent to keep dirt and debris out of the ventilation system even when riding off-road. One caveat for riders who wear prescription eyewear or sunglasses: this helmet does not play well with glasses or sunglasses.
Some users and critics have complained the internal padding tends to make glasses stems dig in to their skin uncomfortably, or just outright prevent their glasses from fitting properly enough to see with reliable depth perception. Some riders swap out the face shield for prescription goggles and a balaclava, but that does limit ballistic protection significantly when riding at high speed.A well-padded chin strap uses D-ring closure to keep your MX-9 securely fitted to your head, and the strap keeper keeps everything squared away nicely for high speed riding. This helmet is ready to strap on, buckle up and ride practically out of the box, and you can easily achieve the perfect custom fit with only minor tweaks to the interchangeable pads and D-ring closure strap system.
Things I liked
Things I don’t like
The 180-degree field of view is enclosed by the impact and scratch resistant face shield. You can order your MX-9 with your preferred tint level or simply use your own eyewear to achieve maximum visibility even in bright conditions. Off-road riders will love the integrated sun visor when riding or driving off-road for long distances or during endurance races.
The visor is removable and has a four locking ratchet points to keep the visor fully or partially open. There’s also an easy to grip ridge at the bottom of the visor to make opening and closing the visor with a gloved hand significantly easier. The visor doesn’t pop off on a quick release for open-faced riding, but loosening a couple thumb screws makes it easy enough to remove before riding and replace just as easily.
As for the sun peak, it is adjustable but requires some tool work to reposition. Something to keep in mind if you are planning on an extended trail or road trip when the sun peak is likely to generate excess noise at high speed or wind interference.
Last but not least, a distinct advantage of many dual-purpose helmets is their superior peripheral visibility that comes with the extended face shield, and the MX-9 is no exception to this rule. Need to open the face shield quickly? A couple quick clicks and your face shield swings up and out of the way effortlessly. Whether you ride motocross, ATVs, motorcycles, or off-road vehicles, the Bell MX-9 lets you see everything you need to see with superior visibility.
The MX-9 is an excellent multi-purpose helmet, and with any multi-purpose build you are going to have compromises. In the case of the Bell MX-9, that compromise generally means the noise dampening is not as good as purpose-built helmets for motorcycle cruising or ATV riding specifically.
Ear protection is a good idea even with the quietest ride-specific helmets, but the MX-9 does tend to be a bit noisier than most helmets. As tradeoffs go it’s not a deal-breaker, but you should be prepared to have ear plugs or similar ear protection handy if you will be taking an extended ride with this helmet.
Airflow and ventilation is where the MX-9 outperforms most helmets in its class.Three front vents in the chin bar and dual forehead vents push air in and around the polystyrene liner and padding. Not only does it keep cool air flowing through the helmet at customizable rates, but it also has an adjustable air intake in the chin bar to deal with whatever mud, dust or grit your ride kicks up while you’re on the road or trails.
Some riders have commented the ventilation is stifling in high heat environments, while others find the ventilation more than adequate for hot or cold weather. Ventilation on adventure and motorcycle helmets remains a subjective issue, but most users and critics agree the MX-9 offers exceptional hot and cold weather ventilation.
While the Bell MX-9 is DOT and ECE rated for safety, it lacks a SNELL or SHARP test rating. In short, it’s certified by the United States and European authorities as safety gear, but it has not been tested for impact and accident protection by an independent third party.
That being said, there are many highly rated adventure and motorcycle helmets without SNELL or SHARP ratings that have performed exceptionally well in hundreds of crashes. Independent ratings are nice to have, but they aren’t necessarily clear indicators of a helmet’s actual crash performance.
I’ll be blunt: this helmet and its features are heavily favored toward meeting the needs of adventure and motocross riders first and foremost. It’s rated for motorcycle use, it can stand up to the significant potential impact energy and other trauma associated with a crash, but the amenities and creature comforts are better suite for dirt track riding and off-roading than high speed track racing or cruising along back roads.
It fits comfortably, its moving parts are highly durable and easily adjustable, and it breathes better than most helmets in its class. The absence of a sun visor, the difficulty repositioning the sun peak, and few motorcycle friendly features like fully adjustable ventilation make this a better choice for riders on that road not taken.
Riders that intend to do more motocross and ATV adventuring than cruising should pick this helmet for its excellent multi-role performance and specialized impact reduction technology. If you’re looking for a helmet to ride your motorcycle across a continent or on long road trips, I’d look elsewhere. AS always, you’ve got the final say. Check the specs for yourself and decide what’s best for you and your riding needs.
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