Bell Muni/Arella Commuter Helmet Review

A good commuter helmet is a slightly different beast from a good racing helmet. A racing helmet is all about light weight and airflow (and, lets face it probably just as much about how much it costs, who wore it in this year’s TdF and how rare and “unique” it is).

You’re going to be wearing a commuter helmet every day, Winter, Summer, wind and rain. It has to be comfortable, robust and reasonably stylish. It needs to not give you a headache and offer a mount for your helmet-cam whilst matching your business suit AND waterproofs.

Most importantly, it should do all this without completely ruining your hair so you look like you’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards in that 9:30am meeting.

A tall order then.

The 2011 model Bell Muni

Bell’s “muni” helmet and the slightly smaller women’s version called the “Arella”, launched in 2011 claims to offer all this and a bit more. A lightweight (290g) shell is married to your head with Bell’s  unique “OneStep Plus fit system” strap, which they claim fits pretty much everybody out of the box. In reality it took me a bit of fiddling to get a snug fit – but the mechanism is simple and once adjusted remains snug and true to the shape of your bonce, while the ratcheting buckle allows you to fit winter scarves, oxfords and collars without having to adjust your summer fit.

Speaking of winter, the helmet comes with a pair of integrated blinkies on the back strap as well as fittings for front and rear “Blackburn Flea” high-power rechargable LED lights (not included). The built-in blinkies are a bit of a waste of time to be fair – they’re REALLYfeeble and the batteries fade in no time – probably best to forget they’re there unless you have an emergency – after all, any lights are better than no lights.

Muni strap showing rear blinkies

The blackburn fleas are a different ball-game however – I’m going to save my full raptures for these little beauties for a dedicated review – suffice to say they are VERY bright, VERY convenient and VERY clever. The mounts are well positioned and hold the (expensive) Flea lights very securely. My only slight gripe is that it’s fiddly to set the Fleas’ (quite stiff) multi-tap switches with the helmet on your head, so if you’ve not got a mirror to hand, it’s hard to tell what mode you’ve selected without taking the helmet off…

The helmet’s ventilation is, on the whole, good for a commuter model, although you are left with a sweaty forehead band after anything but the most gentle ride.

Bell offer a folding helmet mirror attachment for the Muni/Arella which can be seen in the marketing video below and while I am a keen helmet mirror advocate, I can’t recommend this attachment – A helmet mirror must be very firmly attached if it is to be of any use – the Bell unit attaches purely to the (flexible) visor, by way of a folding, jointed plastic arm. My limited experience with this showed it to be next to useless – I couldn’t get a good over-the shoulder view and what I could see was jittery and shaky – this is more of a distraction than a useful safety feature.

I personally go with a Zefal mirror, with a metal arm, which I attach to the helmet AND visor to reduce shake and bounce.

I’ve been rocking my muni now for the best part of a year and I’m very happy with it. It replaced a Bern Watts which, while cool I couldn’t ever get to fit me and was heavy and hot – the muni by comparison is a joy!

UPDATE!!! My bell muni saved my life last night. It is being replaced by another, newer model. Review to follow

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