A comfortable helmet with a well integrated MIPS layer. There's plenty of breathability, and the brow pad sweat catching system is a good idea. The only let downs were the material on the straps and the slightly temperamental glasses port.
Glasses port doesn't provide a firm hold
Straps material is coarse
The Bell Z20 Aero MIPS is the wind cheating road helmet from the US brand which also manufactures protective gear for motorcyclists, mountain bikers and BMXers.
Bell make the Z20 in a few guises - the standard Z20, Z20 Ghost and the Aero model. As you'd expect, this one is meant to cut through the air with minimal drag.
Unfortunately, we didn't get to confirm its watt saving performance at our recent testing session at Newport Velodrome, but it's interesting to note that the difference between the "best" and "worst" helmets at 30kph was in the region of 2 watts, extending to around 9 watts at 45kph. Comfort and fit are therefore likely to play a leading role in most riders' decision making process.
When it comes to breathability, Bell has added 10 vents - a lot less than the standard Z20 with 18. However, in testing I found that airflow was plentiful and I didn't overheat, though I've yet to try this lid in high temperatures abroad.
Two of the vents at the top of the helmet can be uses as a glasses port. This system did work, but the vents are quite close together, meaning I had to push the glasses quite far in to ensure they were locked in place, and they didn't feel as secure as I would like.
Bell has used two-layers of hard shell EPS foam as well as embedding a MIPS system, and the latter has been applied using the brand's own 'Float Fit Race' retention system. This means that the rear dial adjusts the height and width of the fit simultaneously, and sets the lid apart from the competition where the MIPS layer is an additional insert.
The dial is easy to use and a size small fitted my head with no problems, or unwanted pressure.
Inside, there's X-Static and XRT-2 padding, designed to wick away sweat and keep whiffs at bay. The padding continues at the forehead, where the 'sweat guide pad' aims to pull moisture away from the brow pads, providing a welcome service for those who find their forehead leaks a lot on long, hot climbs.
The helmet straps were easy to adjust. However, they're made from quite a coarse fabric, which felt like a bit of a let down for a model retailing at over £200.
Bell's claimed weight is 296g for a size medium, and my size small came in at just 252g, which puts it on a reasonable footing when compared with other optimised models - the Abus Gamechanger I put through its paces earlier in the year came in at 256g in the same size whilst a Smith Ignite in a Medium was 277g.
Michelle Arthurs-Brennan is Cycling Weekly's Tech Editor, and is responsible for managing the tech news and reviews both on the website and in Cycling Weekly magazine.
A traditional journalist by trade, Arthurs-Brennan began her career working for a local newspaper, before spending a few years at Evans Cycles, then combining writing and her love of bicycles first at Total Women's Cycling and then Cycling Weekly.
When not typing up reviews, news, and interviews Arthurs-Brennan is a road racer who also enjoys track riding and the occasional time trial, though dabbles in off-road riding too (either on a mountain bike, or a 'gravel bike'). She is passionate about supporting grassroots women's racing and founded the women's road race team 190rt.
She rides bikes of all kinds, but favourites include a custom carbon Werking road bike as well as the Specialized Tarmac SL6.
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