Bell recently replaced its Sweep flagship helmet with the Gage. It's a worthy successor, with 80g less weight, a trimmer and sleeker shape, great airflow, a comfortable fit and high-end features at a relatively reasonable price. Current Bell owners will find a lot of upgrades in the new lid, but we still found a little room for improvement.
Overall ventilation was excellent, even through an unusually hot Colorado summer with what seemed like endless weeks above 32°C (90°F). The gaping forward-facing vents present few restrictions to oncoming air, and fairly deep channels throughout the interior provide lots of room for that air to move, too. At standard road riding speeds you can feel the air careening across the top of your skull, meaning our heads were rarely even damp.
Generously proportioned exhaust vents do a good job of letting hot air and sweat vapor escape at lower speeds for the most part, but hot, steep climbs – especially on the trail when there's little breeze – reveal the Gage's one main weakness in terms of ventilation.
While the X-Static padding is pleasantly resistant to odor and comfortable on bare skin, the solid brow pad doesn't allow much air to pass across the forehead. This allowed more sweat to drip into our eyes and sunglasses than we'd prefer.
Comfort was very good despite padding only being applied to the front and top of the liner. Bell's headform seems more accommodating of a wider range of head shapes than Giro and Specialized's more ovoid option.
Bell applies bits of soft rubber to any exposed plastic edges, and the straps have been upgraded to a thinner nylon webbing that's much more flexible and easier on bare skin – especially when you're caked with salt. However, we frequently had to tighten the straps, as they tend to migrate in the buckle even with the molded rubber keeper in place.
Strategically placed rubber on the TAG retention system, keeping things comfy
Carrying over from the venerable Sweep is Bell's excellent Twin Axis Gear retention system, which is easily adjustable for height and circumference with one hand. It's a touch stiffer and bulkier than ones from the likes of Giro and Specialized, but for those who travel regularly it's worth noting that it's proven more durable when stuffed into a suitcase.
Speaking of durability, our test sample has held up very well over an entire summer of testing. Unfortunately, Bell doesn't equip the Gage with a full lower shell, but at least the outer edges are protected and the rear of the helmet isn't as precariously pointy as on the old Sweep.