|Headquarters||Rantoul, Illinois, United States|
Bell Sports, a division of Vista Outdoor, is an American manufacturer of bicycle and motorcycle helmets. BRG Sports, owner of Riddell football helmets, sold the Bell, Giro, C-Preme, and Blackburn brands to Vista in 2016.
The company started in 1923 as Bell Auto Parts, named for its location in Bell, California.Roy Richter began working for Bell Auto Parts in 1933, and, in 1945, purchased the store for $1,000. He produced its first race car helmets in 1954. The Bell Helmet Company was established as a division of his Bell Auto Parts store in 1956. Bell introduced its Star model, the first full-face motorcycle helmet on the market, in 1968. In 1971, Bell produced the first full-face off-road motorcycle helmet. Bell introduced its first bicycle helmet in 1975. Eventually, Bell would introduce helmets for skydiving, skiing, hockey, football, baseball, fire, police, and military anti-ballistic uses.
Bell's first production helmet was made in 1954, the result of months of research and development. Richter, with the help of veteran naval pilot Frank Heacox, reverse engineered numerous helmets including some used in military aviation. Heacox played a key role in developing Bell Helmet's first products, most importantly by using the helmets himself, both in races and on the street. These experiences with the prototypes led to many useful suggestions. That first helmet, named the Bell 500, featured a polyurethane foam liner insider a hand-laminated fiberglass outer shell. Laminating and polishing helmets by hand was relatively expensive but Richter believed it resulted in a stronger helmet.
Several members of the famous Bill Stroppe Lincoln Team wore the Bell 500 in the Carrera Pan-American Road Race in 1954. A Bell helmet was used in the Indianapolis 500 for the first time by Cal Niday in 1955. Niday crashed during lap 177 of the race and suffered several major injuries. Despite suffering a skull fracture Nidal credited the helmet for preventing even more serious injury. By 1956 helmet sales were far above projections. This resulted in the formation of the Bell Helmet Company as a subsidiary of Bell Auto Parts. The helmet operation employed at least four people working full-time producing helmets in a facility next door to the original Bell Auto Parts location.
The company merged with football helmet manufacturer Riddell to form Bell-Riddell Inc. in 1980. The Bell-Riddell motorcycle division was sold in 1991, becoming Bell Helmets, Inc. The remaining company was renamed Bell Sports, Inc. In 1999, the auto racing division was sold and split into two separate companies called Bell Racing Company (North America) and Bell Racing Europe (Europe, Asia and Africa). Bell Sports reacquired Bell Helmets in 2002, creating Bell Powersports. In 2005, it reacquired Bell Racing Company, and was itself merged into Easton-Bell Sports, Inc. in 2006. Vista Outdoor acquired the company in 2016.
The Bell Star MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System) is the entry-level model of the Bell Star line of motorcycle helmets. It is made using a slip-plane design and a foam EPS liner. The EPS liner is designed to deal with main impact forces while the MIPS helps prevent brain injuries such as concussions by reducing rotational forces.
Relationship to Bell Racing
Bell Racing is headquartered in Rantoul, Illinois, with manufacturing facilities at an industrial park which used to be Chanute Air Force Base. Bell Racing USA, an independent company that uses the Bell mark under license, is headquartered in nearby Champaign, Illinois, while Bell Racing Europe is headquartered in Ghislenghien, Belgium. Bell Racing helmets recently relocated its global research and development and hi-tech manufacturing operations to the Bahrain Grand Prix circuit complex, Bahrain.
- Vista Outdoor Announces Agreement to Purchase Bell, Giro, C-Preme and Blackburn Brands from BRG Sports, Inc. (press release), PR Newswire, February 25, 2016
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- "About Bell Racing". Archived from the original on 2007-06-25.
- Henning, Ari (May 2016), "OLD MEETS NEW", Motorcyclist, p. 52
- "HISTORY & FACTS". Bell Helmets. Retrieved April 16, 2016.
- Bagnall, Art (June 1990). Roy Richter: Striving For Excellence.
- "Bell Sports acquires Bell motorcycle helmets, forms new powersports division". 2002-11-04.
- "Bell Sports Acquires Bell Auto Racing Division". 2005-01-07.
- "Easton And Bell Announce Merger". 2006-02-07. Archived from the original on 2007-06-24.
- De Sena, Nic (3 November 2017). "Bell Star MIPS Helmet Review | Slip-Plane Technology". Ultimate Motorcycling. Retrieved 7 December 2017.
- "Bell Racing Europe Website".
- TradeArabia. "Bell Racing Helmets to move operations to Bahrain".