Fit and comfort
The medium-sized 4Forty wrapped around my head, hugging it comfortably. The retention system is height adjustable allowing me to place it low, cupping the back of my head above the neck. The Float system is easily adjusted with one hand, with small enough progression to find the right fit without being annoyingly tight or loose.
My only complaint is that it when in the lowest setting, the retention system obstructed my Oakley Radar EV sunglasses behind the ear pushing them forward on my face. This can be avoided by intentionally places the sunglasses over the plastic retention system or wearing the Float system in a higher setting. It's worth noting that this was not an issue for me with pair of D'Arcs or for our Hela tester wearing Oakley Jawbreaker.
There is standard padding on the top and front with thinner striped side pads on the temples. The back of the inside of the helmet is bare with the retention system serving to avoid uncomfortable contact. The pads and retention system do well to prevent any pressure points and irritating rubbing.
The chin straps make use of Bell’s Tri-Glide junctions for easy adjustment around the ear and avoid any twisting of the strap while doing so. The strap clips under the chin with a standard plastic quick release buckle. It is a system that works well causing no reason to notice the straps once correctly set up for the wearer.
The 4Forty features an adjustable visor which can be moved upward to help fit goggles and other bulky eyewear. The visor is perfectly sized to provide some protection from the elements while not being a distraction or blocking vision.
The 4Forty on test weighed 338 grams (spot on with the manufacturer's claimed weight) with the Hela coming in slightly lighter at 334 grams. This is a decent weight for this type of helmet and added to the effortless feel of wearing the 4Forty. Even on cross-country rides, the helmet did not feel too bulky or out of place with the faster pace and lighter equipment.
Overall, the 4Forty's fit is spot on, allowing you get on with riding without giving the helmet a second thought.
The 4Forty boasts 15 vents which perform adequately in most conditions keeping cool even on the hardest and slowest climbs. Only on the hottest South African days, the available airflow through the vents can be overpowered allowing the helmet to get a touch warm.
The padding along the brow is designed to push the sweat forward towards the "guide pad" on the underside of the rim. The idea is for the sweat to drip down in front of the riders face ahead of their eyewear, rather than rolling down the forehead into the rider’s eyes. The guide pad works well but with one fault: on hot days, the sweat dripped from the helmet straight onto my sunglasses leaving a massive streak down the lens. I’m not an excessive sweater so that can’t be blamed although I’m sure the position where each rider’s sunglasses sit in relation to the helmet can vary.
Like most mountain bike helmets, the Bell 4Forty is constructed from EPS foam with a polycarbonate shell. There is a version with MIPS integrated into the retention system (available on special order). Our test model, however, was the non-MIPS model. As expected, the 4Forty also meets the usual bicycle helmet safety standards.
The overall build quality is good. It might not be a direct safety feature but the workmanship and snug fit certainly gave me confidence that Bell had done a top job on quality control and finish on the 4Forty. Hopefully, this attention to detail carries over to the impact protection qualities of the helmet.
Besides the female-oriented Joy Ride colour treatments, the Hela helmet is identical to the 4Forty. The Hela comes in three unique colourways. Some of the Joy Ride helmets take ponytails into consideration with their retention system but the low backed Hela remains identical to the 4Forty.
Kylie’s take on the Hela:
Putting on the Hela, my first impression was a sense of security. This may be a result of the extensive rear coverage, or perhaps simply because it is slightly bulkier and less ventilated than the featherweight road helmet I usually ride in. Either way, with the Hela on my head I felt protected.
I was concerned that my glasses would not fit comfortably with the helmet, given how low on my forehead the coverage extends, but I had no issues at all with my Oakley Jawbreakers.
As mentioned, there is no specific ponytail port at the rear, a feature often seen on ladies' helmets. While this was a minor inconvenience, it didn’t really trouble me. My hair is short, and my ponytail small enough to squeeze through the small gap between the helmet and the retention system. Ladies with long hair will probably need to tie their hair low, below the retention adjuster.
Once riding I did not notice the Hela at all, which is exactly what I look for in a helmet. Even on the most jarring descents, the helmet did not budge, and my glasses remained fixed in position, re-enforcing the sense of security I experienced when first putting on the helmet. I did not have the same issues with sweat that Nick did, and didn’t struggle in the heat: although I have mainly been riding in the Autumn cool that Cape Town is experiencing. The adjustable peak provided welcome sun protection, and improved vision in certain light, by keeping my eyes shaded.
All in all, I appreciate the feeling of safety that the Hela provides, and the no-nonsense comfort and functionality it offers.
Pricing and warranty
A notable feature of the Bell 4Forty and Hela is the pricing. The 4Forty retails for R1,295 while the Hela can be had for R45 cheaper. For this style of helmet, the price is on-par or even better than many similar helmets on the market. The MIPS editions are currently only available through special order.
Bell's crash replacement policy is a pretty good deal too. Customers pay 30% of the retail pricing should they damage their helmet in a crash within 3 years of purchase. The helmets also carry a 1-year warranty against most defects including colouring, fitment systems, plastic lifting, etc.
In the end
The Bell 4Forty hits the nail on the head as a wallet-friendly trail helmet. It looks the part, offers extended cover and has a quality look-and-feel with a comfortable secure fit.