The Bell XR Spherical Helmet takes slip-plane technology to a whole new level with a ‘helmet within a helmet’ approach to its design to offer another level of impact protection. It could be labeled a gravel-specific helmet, but Bell actually refers to it on their website as a “do-it-all” solution, suitable for a variety of riding disciplines.
The unique XR Spherical design and construction is a fascinating take on the slip-plane concept.
The new Spherical Technology is designed to redirect impact forces away from the brain by splitting the helmet shell into two halves — an inner and outer liner. Upon an impact, the two parts shift, and diffuse an additional amount of force before deformation.
- Features new “Spherical Technology” powered by MIPS
- Fusion in-mold polycarbonate shell
- Listed weight: 285g (size medium)
- Fidlock magnetic buckle
Bell calls the XR Spherical a “part road, part mountain, and part world traveler.”
As a rider that enjoys all types of cycling, I find its aesthetic as well as intended use appealing and it’s taken a place as my primary gravel and commuter helmet.
On the bike
Fancy slip-plane technology and high-end protection aside, the XR Spherical is one nice helmet. Like many other premium helmets, it features a Fidlock magnetic buckle for one-handed opening. There are plenty of vents for air for cooling, and once adjusted it stays put and is comfortable.
When it comes to helmets, there isn’t really too much more to say – it’s light, offers ample protection, and is aesthetically pleasing. The look of it works whether you’re commuting, on the XC mountain bike, or the drop bar bike. When it comes to cycling helmets, it hits all the buttons.
I like having a gravel/road/XC/commute able helmet in the gear closet, and the Bell XR pairs well with more casual looking multi-sport clothing as well as race oriented lycra. Admittedly, I fall solidly in the mountain biker camp, and am not a roadie. It’s not the lightest, most aero, or the coolest, (in terms of ventilation or prestige) so you’re not going to see roadies running the XR on pavement, but it pairs well with gravel, and I’ve seen plenty of them out there.
The ti grey color goes with everything which is nice. I had almost nothing but good things to say about this helmet, but I did find one sticking point; eyewear compatibility was a challenge. I was wearing prescription Oakley Plasma glasses all last year and they simply didn’t play well, forcing me to wear other protective eyewear, or selecting a different helmet if I wanted to see clearly. (don’t like contacts)
Fit & Sizing
I’m running the size medium helmet and have a head circumference of 21.5″/ 55cm. I often have challenges finding good fits with helmets as my head is more round in shape. The XR Spherical is considerably more rounded than Giro models which will accommodate a wider range of head shapes; Giros don’t fit me at all.
The size medium XR fits my head, and can even accommodate a cycling cap under it which is nice. Finding helmets that fit can be challenging at times, as I often have to size up to a large in order to find a model wide though – but then they are way too long. Unlike the motorcycling industry, cycling helmet brands don’t define fits outside of circumference, which is frustrating for those of us that don’t have Caucasian-shaped heads. I have had this conversation for years whenever I have the opportunity to converse with cycling industry folk, as there are quite a few asian folks in the world, but nothing has really changed yet.
Overall, the XR Spherical is a great all around helmet that will work for a lot of different types of riders and disciplines — and yes, it’s a great match for gravel riding.
The Bell XR Spherical lists for $225, but we’ve seen the street price considerably less, so if you’re shopping, its worth checking around.