The idea of a "head-to-head" fistfight when you and the other dude are both wearing motorcycle helmets is a pretty funny image. (Especially if the contest eventually comes down to head-butting.) But of course, there's the deadly serious business of wearing a moto helmet in the first place. You're doing it to stay alive. That's no joke.
That's why we wanted to compare two of the best motorcycle helmets you can buy today: the Bell Race Star Flex DLX and the AGV K6. Both have top safety ratings, scoring 5/5 possible points from the UK's stringent Sharp testing agency. So what divides them?
Well, price, for one. The AGV comes in at a moderate $500, while the Bell bites your billfold a bit harder at $820. Could the more expensive Bell really be worth it?
Best Overall Motorcycle HelmetBell Race Star Flex DLX Helmet Bell Helmets Read More
Best Value Motorcycle HelmetAGV K6 Helmet AGV Helmets Read More
I always get into this debate with other riders at coffee stops. They're straddling $20,000 BMWs and beef about the difference between spending $300 and $700 for a better helmet. If you're willing to ride, you must confront the reality that it's a dangerous pursuit. But you can make it less hazardous by investing $1,500-$2,000 in decent, highly protective riding gear. That's the cost of a decent MacBook or a garden-variety chronograph. Isn't your life worth that much?
I'll get into whether the Bell is worth the extra scratch below, but there is a rub beyond the cost of safety: Comfort.
The best helmet is the one that fits well. A perfect lid is one you completely forget you have on until it's time to fill up with gas or stop for a coffee. A crappy helmet leaks air through its visor or around and beneath the chin, slowly driving you insane with a high-pitched whistle or the roar of the wind. A loud helmet's dangerous in two ways: You can't hear the car in your blind spot over the cacophony swirling around your cranium, nor can you pick up changes in how your motorcycle sounds—and if that might spell trouble.
The other day, riding my KTM while wearing the Bell, I heard more chain slap than usual. Sure enough, when I was done riding, I checked the tension and needed to move the rear wheel back. Yep, we should all inspect our bikes ahead of each ride. But we don't. Hearing a change in your bike offers an early warning mechanism—but only if your peepers can pick it up.
So a good helmet is quiet, long-mile comfortable and, if the maker showed considerable care, has a lot of other subtle attributes baked in. In the case of both the AGV and the Bell, their manufacturers worked hard to include several extras. How they stack up and which you'll want may come down to which subtleties matter to you and the conditions you ride most often.
Test Number 1: Comfort
A helmet is a lot like shoes: You should try it on before you buy it. Unlike shoes, you want the snuggest helmet that fits because the padding inside will eventually compress, so a perfectly comfortable lid to begin with will get too loose in the long run. That said, Bell offers five shell sizes, while AGV provides four. The shell size isn't the measured size—cheaper helmet models are frequently just offered in a few shell sizes, and the manufacturer crams in more foam to make the lid fit a small circumference head. If you don't have an XL bean, you might be forced to wear an extra-big helmet, which will lead to fatigue because you have to balance that load on your (probably) proportionally smaller neck.
Or, simply put, more shell sizes provide more options and increase the chance of finding the perfect fit. Both helmets are classified as intermediate ovals, with a fit that offers a little more room in front of your face (easier for glasses wearers) while remaining snug at the sides. Unless you have an exceptionally round head, intermediate oval is the shape you want.
As for interior comfort, the AGV's chin curtain is removable and, like the neck roll, is made from super friendly, soft material, so while the lid will go on snug, once you cram your head through the entry, the fit is exceptionally cushy. That soft material also fits flush around the lower edge of the lid, acting as an excellent sound deadener, so, like the Bell, the AGV is exceedingly quiet.
Once you're wearing the K6, you'll notice the exceptionally low 2.95-pound weight. There's simply no getting around the idea that less mass is less fatiguing and that factor, along with reduced noise, are the primary reasons these helmets perform so well. The soft liner feels like memory foam on a mattress, conforming to the shape of the base of your skull — and both it and the headliner are anti-microbial and hydrophobic, so your sweat won't coat the inside of the lid and rain down your face.
Bell's Race Star Flex matches, even out-"cushes" the K6. Like with the AGV, the chin baffle is removable (and for both helmets, you'd pull that piece to increase airflow, though that will make each a little louder). Here, the cheek pads are just a little beefier, and so is the neck roll, and just like on the Italian lid, the American Bell fuses the junction between the lower edge plastic and the foam to reduce the sound of air rushing by massively. On one ride, on a naked Royal Enfield Continental GT 650 at 75 mph, I could feel the air pressure on my chest, but the Bell shut out the wind so I could hear the sweet purr of the twin-engine.
At 3.57 pounds, the Race Star Flex isn't quite as feathery as the AGV, but it's still very lightweight, and again, because it comes in more shell sizes, you won't be wearing more helmet than you need.
The big edge: Bell includes a photochromic shield with the Race Star Flex, which darkens in the sun and becomes clear under cloudy skies, and it snaps between dark and light and vice versa almost instantly. Especially if you already have to wear corrective lenses, this provides a significant advantage. Still, even if you don't, not having to fuss with sunglasses makes riding more pleasant.
Test Number 2: Ease of adjustment
Three factors of adjustment really matter with a daily helmet like these: Ease of using/removing the visor and the firmness of the detents that hold the visor open; ease of removing the liner for cleaning and adding a comms system; Anchoring the chin strap.
Ease of using / removing the visor:
Both helmets use super innovative systems to hold their visors in place. On the AGV, tap a small tab below the shield hinge, and you can easily remove it. On the Bell, a few buttons at the exterior of the hinge allow just as easy removal. Why does it matter? Because on many helmets cleaning the lens's interior is such a chore you won't bother, which could hinder outward vision.
If there's an edge (as long as you don't want the Bell's photochromic tinting), it's with the AGV's Pinlock system that enables reduced fogging, adding a tint to the stock visor, etc. By the way, the AGV's detents are also a tad handier because there's a mid position (half open) that offers more airflow. As we mention in the cooling section, that's more necessary with the less breathable K6 than the Race Star Flex.
Ease of removing the liner:
You can remove the entire neck roll and cheek pads in one fell swoop with the AGV K6, and it's pretty easy to anchor speakers within the recesses. But because the liner attaches with small snaps, it's just a bit of a chore to reattach. Meanwhile, the Bell's clever use of magnets to secure the cheek pads makes it easier to remove them, replace them and wire up the Bell with speakers. Though the headliner also uses snaps, like the AGV, re-inserting that's just a hair more straightforward because the snaps are larger.
The chin strap:
Securing the loose end of a chin strap is a minor deal that becomes an eventual annoyance when that's flapping in the breeze and pounding at your jaw. While both lids use double D rings to anchor the chin strap, its loose end requires locating the snap point at the rings. The Bell takes the innovation mantle by incorporating magnets at that location, so you just swing the loose end, and it "auto-attaches" to the anchor.
Test Number 3: Cooling
Neither of these helmets offers enough cooling for slow-speed use. But if there's an edge, it's for the Bell, because its four ports suck in more cooling than the five smaller vents of the AGV. And even though the switches to open and close them are smaller than the AGV's, they're pointy, so you can feel them more easily with even a well-armored gloved hand.
Bell's VIRUS liner may sound like a gimmick, but it's actually effective, using recycled jade that works a bit like cooling tech in everything from bed sheets to sports base layers. Both these helmets' liners wick well, too, but the Bell's just a bit breezier, a factor you will notice on hotter days.
Bell Race Star Flex DLX Vs. AGV K6: The Verdict
Both helmets are excellent options and exceptionally quiet. If you're hungry for a lightweight helmet ideal for higher-speed riding, you'll hardly be bummed getting the K6—especially because lids this quiet and this lightweight tend to cost twice as much or more.
That said, we love the Bell's photochromic visor, better cooling, easier-to-adjust interior, and exceptionally quiescent design. You'll be safe wearing either bean protector, but you'll squint less and sweat less in the Race Star Flex.