Bell Moto-9 flex and carbon motorcycle helmet review

Bell Moto-9 flex and carbon motorcycle helmet review

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Bell Moto-9 and Moto-9 Flex Motocross helmet review

Along with the cheaper Bell MX-9, the Bell Moto-9 range of helmets has been the mainstay of Bell‘s motocross crash helmet range for some time now.

But there’s a couple of different helmet technologies going on within the Bell Moto-9 range, because there’s both the ‘standard’ Moto-9 and then there’s the Moto-9 Flex.

The Flex is their top-of-the-range pro-level dirt bike helmet featuring their ‘Flex’ multi-density and flexible helmet liner that’s designed to mould slightly to the wearer’s head shape as well as give improved control of shock-absorption. The first layer of the liner is also designed to move slightly under impact to absorb some of the rotational forces which can cause brain injury (for more, see the Safety section below).

So there’s the Flex, but there’s also the more conventional range of standard Moto-9’s. These non-Flex Moto-9s are composite fibre helmets with a more standard polystyrene shock-absorbing liner without the rotational absorption. They’re still great helmets (read on to find out why), but it means they’re getting on for a couple of hundred less than the Flex version.

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A great performing dirt bike helmet. This one’s the Bell Moto-9 Flex in Seven Yellow design

  • Bell’s top motocross helmet
  • Moto-9 Flex = carbon composite shell
  • Moto-9 = tri-composite shell
  • All are Snell certified
  • EQRS quick removal system
  • D-ring fastener
  • 5 year warranty
  • Sizes XS-XXL
  • Moto-9 Flex: expect to pay £427-£450
  • Moto-9: expect to pay £299-£349

Sa

Safety

rst off, Bell have an excellent reputation for making helmets that give great protection. They’ve been either our top-rated or joint top-rated best brand for safety for a few years now. That’s based on how well the helmets have performed in the comparative SHARP helmet safety testing – so we’re pretty confident that most Bell helmets on the market today will give you at least a good level of protection.

Having said that, the Bell Moto-9 hasn’t been tested by SHARP. It is DOT certified – and because it’s on sale all over the EU we’re assuming it’s also ECE 22-05 certified (though none of their websites actually say it is!) and it’s also been Snell tested/approved in the US.

So, there’s lots of stickers and certifications that tell you the Moto-9 should be a safe helmet. But lets have a look at the features it offers.

First off, when comparing the standard Moto-9 over the Moto-9 flex, they use different helmet shell materials as well as shock-absorbing technologies.

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The non-Flex Bell Moto-9 looks identical to the Flex version. Here’s a standard Moto-9 in Spark red design

Bell Moto-9 – standard version

The Bell Moto-9 (non-Flex version) comes in two different helmet shell materials. The basic Moto-9 is a tri-composite shell but there’s also a carbon-composite version that incorporates a layer of carbon fibre. Carbon helmets are usually the lightest helmets, though Bell don’t make any claims that the carbon composite version is any lighter than the tri-composite. So we’re assuming here that the inclusion of carbon is probably there for cosmetic and marketing purposes – i.e. we love a bit of carbon.

The standard Moto-9 also has a more conventional type of shock-absorption technology. That’s the type of EPS or expanded polystyrene liner that’s used on most helmets today – and very effective it is too.

Bell Moto-9 – Flex version

The Flex Moto-9 is a very different beast though because Bell have put a lot of R&D into developing an alternative type of shock absorbing here.

The Flex Moto-9s all have a carbon-composite shell. Carbon shells are tough and they’re typically lighter than other helmet shell materials although, again, Bell claim the same weight for both the Flex and standard helmets.

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The Bell Moto-9 Flex has a trick lining designed to improve shock absorption and reduce rotation

Inside the helmet, Bell have used three layers of material to help absorb energy at different speeds. Usually, makers use different densities of polystyrene, but Bell use a layer of expanded polyolefin, another of expanded polypropylene alongside the more usual expanded polystyrene to try and target specific impact velocities.

Whether it’s an improvement on polystyrene or more of a marketing angle is hard to say, but using multiple densities is a tried-and-tested formula that has worked very well over the years.

The layers in the Moto-9s lining aren’t bonded together but are separate. That’s because the lining in the Flex is designed to rotate independently of the head during an impact to try and reduce the rotational forces passed to the rider.

Rotation is a massive issue during an accident as it can cause neck injuries and brain injuries.

Without getting too gruesome, during an impact where a helmet hits the road at speed, it starts rotating. The instant this happens, the head inside the helmet rotates, potentially causing neck damage. At the same time, the brain doesn’t rotate at the same speed as the rest of the head, causing potential damage as the irregular surface inside the skull moves against the surface of the brain.

So it’s great to see Bell and a few others making real attempt to minimise impact rotation.

In the case of the Moto-9 Flex, the inner lining that’s in contact with the head can rotate freely (to a point) against the second polyolefin layer. This means the helmet removes some of the rotational force from the impact. And that’s gotta be a good thing!

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You can also get the Moto-9 (non Flex version) in carbon composite. This is the Tagger carbon

Other Safety Measures

Other than these differences between the models, there’s a range of other safety measures all Moto-9 helmets share.

They’ve all got EPS behind the chin guard – that’s unusual to find on a helmet but a welcome addition that we’d like to see on more helmets.

They all come with a double-d ring fastener – a bit fiddly but safe as houses if you tighten them up correctly each trip.

They’ve all got EQRS or emergency quick removal system cheek guards. That means emergency services can easily pull cheek pads out of the helmet to help removal of the helmet and avoid neck injuries while doing so.

Not only that, but all Moto-9’s are Eject Helmet Removal System ready. That’s an innovative little expandable plastic bag that’s fitted inside the helmet at the crown of the head linked to a rubber tube. A paramedic can then pump air into the tube, expanding the bag and thereby pushing the helmet off the head, again minimising the risk of neck injuries. A great inclusion that. If you’ve never seen it before, here’s a quick video showing how it works.

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Flex version of the Moto-9 in Syndrome solid matt black

Helmet N

Helmet Noise

’t say they’ve tried anything special to reduce noise on the Moto-9s. And other than talk of thick, plush comfort linings, there’s nothing to suggest that it’ll be any good.

However, a couple of owners commented that it’s a really quiet helmet with one in particular saying he found it unnerving how much quieter he found it that his previous dirt helmets.

Which is pretty much what we always find: we tend to judge helmet noise in relation to how noisy our previous helmets have been. So I guess that guy was probably used to wearing really noisy helmets.

Also, it’s very much dependent on your riding style and type of bike you ride.

Having said that, no one we came across reckoned it was noisy either (which we usually find). So either motocross guys don’t give a hoot about helmet noise – I’m guessing that’s broadly about right – or the Bell Moto-9 seems to be quiet for a motocross helmet. So we’re opting for a bit of both in our review score below.

Ventilation

Ventilation

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Rear of the Moto-9 Flex Vice showing rear exhaust vents

The Moto-9 has what Bell call their Velocity Flow Ventilation System. That’s essentially a load of vents in the front and a load of exhausts – and the faster you go, the more air is channeled into the lining of the helmet and out of the back.

Nothing new there then. It’s what most helmets do.

What is new is that the segmented shock absorbing lining of the Moto-9 Flex means there’s a lot more spaces to let air through onto your head.

There’s 9 vents on the front of the helmet, and the chin vent features a filter that’s removable and washable.

Overall, owners of all versions of the Moto-9 seem to think theirs is a great venting helmet. Obviously, like any helmet, the amount of air that’s going to get in and circulate is very dependent on how fast you ride. And of course most motocross riders are riding slower than road riders. But that said, owners agree that it gives good ventilation at track speeds and, while it’s not the best on the market, it’s well rated.

Visor &

Visor & Goggles

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Top down view of the peak on the Moto-9 Flex Vice in black