First Ride: Bell Z20 Helmet

Although technically speaking it’s a road helmet, we tested Bell’s new flagship Z20 in a range of conditions on road, gravel and mountain bikes.

The Bell Z20 is an evolution of the Zephyr helmet, hence the "Z" naming, and it boasts some impressive features. According to Bell it's "the result of years spent analyzing how helmets fit, optimizing aerodynamics, reviewing test data, gathering real-world feedback, and applying our cumulative knowledge of impact management".

 

In the construction of the Z20, Bell uses a technology they dub "Progressive Layering" which uses two layers of EPS foam of different densities to provide improved impact performance while still retaining a compact shape and appealing design. The Z20 also features integrated MIPS and Bell's Float Fit Race retention system, both said to set a new standard in fit and comfort.

 

Bell Z20-1.jpg

 

Specifications


  • Integrated ReflectivityTreated with a durable reflective coating under the clear coat, the Z20 Ghost glows with eye-searing intensity when hit with direct light.
  • TechnologiesNo-Twist Tri-Glides
    X-Static Padding
    Sweat Guide
    Lightweight Straps
    Sunglass Guides
    Integrated Reflectivity (Ghost only) MIPS (integrated with fit system)
    Vents - 18
  • ConstructionProgressive Layering
    Fusion In-Mold Polycarbonate Shell
    FIT SYSTEM
    Float Fit Race (integrated with MIPS)
  • Weight263 grams (size M)
  • PriceFrom R3995 and R4200

 

Our take


The Z20 is a generously vented helmet and the obvious airflow combined with the sweat guide work well to both minimise sweat and keep it away from your shades or out of your eyes. I tend to wear my helmets low on my forehead with the side effect of drenching my sunglass lenses. No such issues with the Z20 in some of the hottest conditions I’ve faced in 2018.

 

The orange and dark grey colourway (Ghost Matte Orange Reflective), as tested, certainly won’t go unnoticed in daylight or darkness. The “Ghost” versions in the Bell helmets range all feature a reflective undercoat which illuminates under direct light (e.g. vehicle headlights). The matte finish and reflective layering do have a propensity to scratch and scuff easily and for this reason, this particular variant may be best kept on the road.

 

The retention system offers height and width adjustability, fastening with a dial at the back of the helmet. It makes for a comfortable fit with no pressure points and despite the MIPS adding a few grams, it doesn’t feel heavy. The Z20 sports a rear-facing sunglass guide to stash your shades when needed. For those familiar with front-facing ports (like me) it takes some adjustment, but makes a whole lot of sense to keep the vents free of restrictions and doing their job.

 

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Bell Z20-4.jpg

 

The Bell Z20 has some top end safety features in the form of MIPS and multi-density foam layering said to further improve impact absorption. Neither of these were tested, but when it comes to helmets I’m inclined to trade some weight (and a few more rands) for enhanced crash protection.

 

All in all the Bell Z20 offers what you’d expect from a flagship helmet. Make no mistake, the added safety features do show up in the price, but if you’re in the market for a high-end bicycle helmet, add the Z20 to your list of options.

 

The U.jpg
The Bell Z20 in action at The U. Although not strictly a mountain bike helmet, the ample venting is well suited to hot days on the dirt. Photo: Chris Hitchcock / The U

 






7 Comments

TheJ, Nov 01 2018 10:56

R4000?

 

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Thomo, Nov 02 2018 05:50

R4000?
 
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LOL
Unfortunately that seems to be the RRP for most top end lids. :(

Admin, Nov 02 2018 07:52

LOL Unfortunately that seems to be the RRP for most top end lids. :(

To be fair, when you look at other top end helmets + MIPS + reflective features you're typically looking closer to the R5k mark. In that sense the Bell Z20 is well priced, but even R4k is still no small amount of money. 

TheJ, Nov 02 2018 09:27

To be fair, when you look at other top end helmets + MIPS + reflective features you're typically looking closer to the R5k mark. In that sense the Bell Z20 is well priced, but even R4k is still no small amount of money. 

 

Helmets... Each and every helmet on the market has to adhere to at least the most basic of safety standards. Hit your head at a given speed, don't die. Something like that. Everything else is bragging rights. MIPS (?), reflective strips, all that is gravy and completely unnecessary. This helmet won't keep you any safer compared to a R800 helmet. This isn't far removed from "sock doping"... perceived value where there really isn't any. Its high density foam with a hard plastic cover over it.

Schnavel, Nov 02 2018 09:40

Helmets... Each and every helmet on the market has to adhere to at least the most basic of safety standards. Hit your head at a given speed, don't die. Something like that. Everything else is bragging rights. MIPS (?), reflective strips, all that is gravy and completely unnecessary. This helmet won't keep you any safer compared to a R800 helmet. This isn't far removed from "sock doping"... perceived value where there really isn't any. Its high density foam with a hard plastic cover over it.

 

I have to disagree with you on that. While I do think R4000 is a getting a bit ridiculous, this helmet will do a much better job than a R800 one - MIPS makes a big difference to the manner in which the helmet absorbs the impact and protects your head. I have ridden many different helmets, crashed in many different helmets and I can tell you that I would never race with a R800 helmet - I like my brain protected.

 

Your arguement is similar to the car industry, each car must be able to survive an impact at certain speeds etc. with air bags and the like - some do it better than others. Would you rather be driving a Volvo or a Tata when involved in a high speed crash?

 

At the end of the day, it is your choice, but I would rather spend a bit extra on safety and forego a component upgrade on my bike. 

TheJ, Nov 02 2018 10:12

I have to disagree with you on that. While I do think R4000 is a getting a bit ridiculous, this helmet will do a much better job than a R800 one - MIPS makes a big difference to the manner in which the helmet absorbs the impact and protects your head. I have ridden many different helmets, crashed in many different helmets and I can tell you that I would never race with a R800 helmet - I like my brain protected.

 

Your arguement is similar to the car industry, each car must be able to survive an impact at certain speeds etc. with air bags and the like - some do it better than others. Would you rather be driving a Volvo or a Tata when involved in a high speed crash?

 

At the end of the day, it is your choice, but I would rather spend a bit extra on safety and forego a component upgrade on my bike. 

 

Guess I'm just lucky then. I ride with one of two helmets. Once I bought over AliExpress about 6 or so years ago. Luckily never crashed it. It does adhere to international standards though. And then a R400 Marvell helmet I got from CWCycles.

 

R4000 for foam? Hellnope.

RaymondC, Nov 04 2018 04:34

Guess I'm just lucky then. I ride with one of two helmets. Once I bought over AliExpress about 6 or so years ago. Luckily never crashed it. It does adhere to international standards though. And then a R400 Marvell helmet I got from CWCycles.

 

R4000 for foam? Hellnope.


Extensive R&D has gone into the modern day cycling helmet I've had some nasty crashes trashing helmets in the process and I'm not putting a price on my head/brain. Currently Riding my 2nd Giro Synthe, 1st one "Crashed" and was replaced.