Stylized like an adult mountain bike helmet but in a pint-sized package, the Sidetrack is durable, adjustable, and full-featured for a very decent price. With extended coverage along the back for additional protection, 15 vents for plenty of ventilation and an easy-to-use dial-adjust fit system, the Sidetrack is a top-notch helmet for kids of all ages.
Bell Sidetrack Review
RATING: Highly Recommended
BEST FOR: Preschool and Pre-K riders, typically ages 4 to 6, looking for a “big kid looking” helmet with a lot of features for a fair price.
SIZE: 47 – 54 cm
ADJUSTMENT SYSTEM: Dial adjust
- Extended coverage in back for better protection
- Dial-adjust system has a full cage for a more precise fit
- 15 vents and internal air channels for great ventilation
- Tri-glide sliders stay in place better than traditional sliders
- Stylized like a mountain bike helmet for an extra cool look
- The buckle is difficult to figure out and takes some practice
- The dial adjust can be hard to grab when on a child’s head
Bell Sidetrack Review – Results of our Testing
What is the difference between the Youth and Child sizes?
The Sidetrack comes in two sizes – Child (47 cm – 54 cm) and Youth (50 – 57 cm). There is a 4 cm overlap so that a child with a head circumference of 50 – 54 cm could technically wear either helmet. Both sizes are designed with the look and feel of a mountain bike helmet in mind and boasts lower coverage on the back of the head.
The tester below has a head circumference of 50.5 cm. He’s on the very low end of the Youth’s range but in the middle of the Child’s range. The Youth helmet looks slightly bulky on the sides and back, but still fits him just fine. The Child, however, appears to be a better fit and still leaves several cm and years for growth.
Helmet Coverage – Child (Green) vs. Youth (Orange) on 50.5 cm Head
Here’s where it gets tricky. As explained in more detail below, as you turn the dial on the back of the helmet to make it smaller for a smaller head circumference, the inside of the helmet narrows, including the sides. While the Child helmet appears to fit our tester better, it’s actually too tight on the sides when dialed in to fit his head. So in his case, the Youth would actually be a better choice. A properly fitted helmet is about head circumference and head width.
At its widest point at the largest setting the Child is 15.5 cm wide. The Youth is 17 cm. So take into account that the Youth is probably going to be a little wider at any given setting when deciding whether the Youth or Child is better for your kid. If your child has a noticeably wide head, you might want to check out a skater-style helmet like the Melon, which are known for being more round than oblong. You can also check out a wider selection of helmet recommendations on our Best Kids Bike Helmets page.
Bell Sidetrack Adjustability
The Sidetrack features Bell’s fit and adjustment system called Ergo Fit, which is comprised of two elements: 1) A full internal cage for the dial to adjust, and 2) No-twist, tri-glide side strap sliders. Combined, these allow for an accurate and longer-lasting fit so your child’s helmet can actually protect them in the event of a crash.
Dial Adjust: The dial adjust system of the Sidetrack allows for a more dialed in fit than a standard dial adjust system. Dial adjust systems work by tightening an internal plastic “cage” that lines the inside of the helmet to match the circumference of your head.
Most dial adjust systems, even on high-end helmets, are actually half cages and only make the fit tighter from the back. The Sidetrack’s cage lines the entire inside of the helmet, so when the dial is turned the cage narrows from the back and the sides. This is a great emphasis on extra safety, especially for the price point. (Be aware though, that if your child has a wide head, this could be an issue.)
Because the helmet has additional coverage in the back and such a large size range (7 cm for both), when the dial is tightened close to all the way, it’s difficult to reach and get a grip on when on a child’s head. You have to come at it from underneath. If your child’s head is on the small end of the range, you may have to take the helmet on and off to adjust the dial. It can also catch on hair (both short boy hair or long hair) when being turned, but this should only be an issue the first time you adjust the fit. Thereafter only minor adjustments should ever need to be made.
A High-Quality Dial Adjust with Full Cage Allows for More Precise Fit
Pads: While higher-end helmets come with multiple sets of pads of different thicknesses to better customize the fit for your child, the Sidetrack comes with just one set. Is this really a bad thing, though? In our experience, the second or third set of pads that can be changed out as your child grows often get lost, so having just one set of pads is almost a relief. One less thing to keep track of in the garage, and it also keeps the cost of the helmet down!
Side Straps: Correctly adjusting the sliders on the side straps beneath the ears is necessary to have a truly great and lasting fit. These sliders are notorious for coming loose regularly and, as a result, sliding down and failing to keep the helmet centered over your child’s head. While Ergo Fit’s no-twist, tri-glide side strap sliders don’t lock into place and can move over time, they are definitely an upgrade from standard sliders and do a better job of staying in place. That said, we’re not sure what the “no-twist” feature is about because they can and did twist during our testing, but no more than any standard helmet.
Ergo-Fit’s No-Twist Tri-Glides and Pinch-Free Buckle
Buckle: If there’s one thing we wish were different on the Sidetrack, it’s the buckle. The PinchGuard buckle is supposed to be an upgrade from a standard buckle and prevent a child from getting pinched when buckling or unbuckling. In reality, our testers had a really hard time using it (even our 11-year-old!), and when I stepped in to try to help, I often ended up pinching them! So not only is it not truly “non-pinch”, it will require parental supervision for some time until your child finally gets the hang of using it. This buckle is not unique to Bell and several other brands use it as well.
The other minor annoyance about the buckle is the abundance of excess strap that is wrapped up next to it (see yellow arrow above). It’s a lot of extra strap, but you can cut it and then melt the end with a match to re-seal the end.
Helmet Construction, Vents, & Visor
Weight: At 310 grams for the Child and 340 grams for the Youth with MIPS, the Sidetrack is a pretty standard weight, even with the extra coverage in the back.
Construction: The Sidetrack features in-mold construction where the outer shell is fused with the inner foam core so the helmet is one solid piece. This keeps quality high and the weight low. Both models of the sidetrack have 15 vents.
Sidetrack’s 15 Vents and Visor Offer Great Protection from Heat and Sun
Visor: So many of the visors on helmets we see are cheap pieces of plastic that fall off easily and don’t do much in the way of protection from the elements. The Sidetrack’s snap-on visor is made of pretty hefty plastic and is very securely attached to the body of the helmet. It also protrudes a fair amount from the helmet so that it actually shields a child’s face from sun or rain. As far as snap-on visors go, this is one of the best we’ve seen.
MIPS Helmet Protection System
The Sidetrack Youth is available in a MIPS version, which adds an additional layer of safety to kids’ helmets. (It’s NOT available in the Child size.) The foam core of a helmet protects a child from direct impact but does not protect the head and neck from twisting during an impact. MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System) allows the energy from the crash impact to be absorbed by the helmet regardless of what direction the impact is coming from.
What we especially love about the MIPS version of the Sidetrack is that the internal pads cover the yellow MIPS anchors. On other MIPS helmets we’ve reviewed, these anchors can easily snag on long hair, which is pretty annoying. (Which I say from experience!) With a simple change in the shape of the pads, the Sidetrack solves this problem!
As a general note about MIPS, be aware that the system does affect ventilation because the thin plastic MIPS shell covers the air channels that run down the center of the helmet. Depending on how hot it gets where you live, you may need to consider how sweaty your child will be.
Bell Sidetrack Youth and Child Helmet Bottom Line
The Sidetrack is a sweet looking helmet with tons of features for a very decent price. We especially love that the Youth model is available with MIPS – the best safety technology around. While we’re not big fans of the buckle design, no helmet is perfect and the rest of the Sidetrack’s features are rock-solid.
To view an a full selection of helmets, check out our Kids’ Helmets Comparison Chart and Ratings page.