Retro is very much the fashion these days, however there’s retro and there’s this – the Bell Moto 3.
In the 1970s the Bell Moto 3 was the coolest off road helmet of them all.
Founded in California in 1954, Bell was one of the great innovators when it came to crash helmets. In 1968 they unveiled the first full faced crash helmet, the Bell Star, which was worn by auto racing legend Dan Gurney at that year’s Indianapolis 500, and over the years the brand became associated with some of California’s coolest racers. Kenny Roberts wore Bell when he came to Europe and dominated the 500cc road racing world championships, while on the dirt tracks, stars like Bruce Penhall and Bob Hannah wore the Bell Moto.
Bell’s off-road helmet went through various iterations, up to today’s ultra-modern Mark 9, but the Bell Moto 3 (stylised as the Moto III) remains the icon.
Introduced in 1971, the Moto 3 was the first full faced off-road helmet and featured a chinbar that allowed it to be worn with goggles, rather than a less protective facemask. With the rise in demand for Seventies styled retro bikes like the Scramblers from Ducati and Triumph, it’s hardly surprising that helmet manufacturers have got in on the act too. No one has done this better than Bell, who have exhumed the designs from their back catalogue and come up with a range of on and off-road helmets that are straight out of the Seventies.
According to the blurb, these are not ‘retro’ but ‘original’. And that’s true, to a degree. The shape is exactly the same as that worn by Bob Hannah when he dominated the American motocross and supercross scene in the late Seventies, and the colour palette and graphics are pretty similar too.
Where the modern day Bell differs is in its use of modern materials and construction techniques. The styling may be original but the lightweight fibreglass composite shell passes all the modern safety standards. The interior is light and comfortable, and overall it is a joy to wear.
Compared to more modern designs, the Moto 3 is a little lacking in ventilation by modern standards. It’s not a major problem though. Racers and actual off road riders are likely to buy a more modern design anyway, and that’ll likely have top vents to channel cool air to the bonce during an intense session. The very nature of these helmets mean that there’s plenty of air circulating around the rider’s head anyway, certainly enough for even a spirited road ride.
Let’s be honest, for most riders it will be about the look and the memories and frankly when it comes down to it there is nothing to touch the Bell. It’s the perfect accompaniment to the off-road styled retro bike, and you don’t even have to be a hipster to rock the look.
The 2017 Bell Moto 3 retails at £299 and comes in a wide range of period colours.
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