On August 12, 2012, Carlin Dunne crossed the finish line at Pikes Peak’s 14,110-foot summit with a time of 9:52.819. The full-tilt charge not only locked up a Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC) victory for the Californian but his sub-10-minute run also rewrote PPIHC record books. Dunne added another Pikes Peak trophy to his case in 2013. However, he only returned to the Colorado race after Chris Fillmore eclipsed his nine-minute, 52-second record in 2017.

On June 24, 2018, the Ducati rider conquered the 12.42-mile road course yet again, crossing the finish line in 9:59.102. While Dunne didn’t reclaim his relinquished PPHIC record, he notched another win on the treacherous mountain pass. Most importantly, Dunne set his sights on 2019, returning to the Race to the Clouds with Ducati’s all-new Streetfighter V4.

On June 30, 2019, history beckoned once more, but sadly, Dunne never crossed the finish line. Just a quarter of a mile away from the checkered flag, Dunne crashed, ultimately resulting in the rider's death. The racing world mourned his passing for months but Carlin’s sister, Daniela Dunne, preserved her brother’s memory by founding the Carlin Dunne Foundation (CDF) in 2019.

On December 18, 2022, Bell Helmets partnered with CDF to release the Race Star DLX Flex helmet in a limited-edition Carlin Dunne graphic. Showcasing the design donned by Dunne during his 2018 Pikes Peak campaign, the race replica faithfully recreates the rider’s legendary lid. Underneath the vibrant livery, though, the Race Star still has to live up to the racer’s inimitable image. We spent several months with the special-run helmet to determine if it can do just that.

Familiar Territory

Bell Race Star DLX Flex Carlin Dunne Helmet - Side, Left

The Bell Star family covers its bases with the road-oriented Star DLX MIPS and the track-focused Pro Star model. Slotting seamlessly between those two pillars, the Race Star DLX Flex courts the “everyday commuter who likes to chase checkers on the weekend.” Despite that multi-purpose depiction, the helmet fully leans into its “Race” forename. Sporting a 3K carbon fiber shell, the model sheds precious grams without shedding safety.

On the scale, a medium-sized Race Star weighs in at 3.4 pounds (1,540 grams). Compared to the 3.7-pound (1,690-gram) base model Star, with its Tri-Matrix composite shell, the carbon-fiber-clad lid shaves off all but one-third of a pound. That may seem negligible on the spec sheet but it's evident on the head.

Gallery: Bell Race Star DLX Flex Carlin Dunne Helmet

Worn back-to-back with its mid-tier sibling, the Race Star’s weight-saving efforts clearly pay off. That lightweight construction not only mitigates neck fatigue during everyday use but also maximizes fluidity of motion on the raceway. The Race Star owes part of that weightless, hyper-connected sensation to its snug fit as well.

It’s What’s Inside That Counts

Bell may turn to a MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System) liner for the standard Star, but the Scott’s Valley, California brand takes matters into its own hands with the Race Star. That’s where the proprietary Flex Energy Management system steps in with its three-tiered impact liner accounting for low-, mid-, and high-speed collisions. Flex doesn’t forget about rotational forces either, allowing slip between the inner expanded polypropylene (EPP) and expanded polyolefin (EPO) mid-plane.

Bell Race Star DLX Flex Carlin Dunne Helmet - Flex Energy Management System

Bell then lavishes the interior with a CoolJade top liner. As the name suggests, the fabric incorporates jade minerals into the weave to produce a cooling effect. The Race Star’s interior measures 10 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than competing liners as a result. When those climate control measures don’t suffice, the material’s anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, and anti-odor properties keep the lid fresh session after session. Should use in warmer temperatures necessitate a wash, however, users can easily remove the liner for cleaning.

Fortunately, we didn’t encounter such conditions during our time with the Race Star DLX Flex. Winter riding may not qualify as the CoolJade material’s ideal venue, but even with all the vents closed during several spirited track sessions, I didn't perspire once. When warmer temps return, the expansive chin bar vent, four-slot brow intake, and hooded crown duct help maintain the liner’s cool disposition. Channels between the EPP and EPO evenly distribute that ventilation, while one active and one passive rear extractor continuously circulates air through the helmet.

Bell Race Star DLX Flex Carlin Dunne Helmet - Apex
Bell Race Star DLX Flex Carlin Dunne Helmet - Bowl

Similar to the Bell Star, the Race Star’s ventilation system delivers abundant airflow when all ports remain open. Of course, users can close one of the many inlets to tailor the aerating properties to their preferences and given circumstances. The removable chin curtain, breath guard, and chin bar plug only enhance the multi-seasonal function. That modular approach also enables users to remove accessories for optimal ventilation or retain them to deaden deafening decibels.

On the head, the Race Star upholds Bell’s intermediate-oval fit. As I’ve stated in the past, the Star family runs narrower at the temples and longer front-to-back. The Race Star doesn’t divert from that formula, but the luxurious Virus CoolJade liner yields more all-day comfort than the Bell Star’s MIPS liner. In addition to the Race Star’s oblong fit, I frequently find that Bell helmets run slightly smaller than comparable competitors. For that reason, I highly recommend trying on a Race Star DLX Flex before purchasing, especially when considering its top-tier price tag.


Bell Race Star DLX Flex Carlin Dunne Helmet - Conclusion

At $919.95, the Carlin Dunne race replica is one pricey piece of kit. However, Bell buttresses that lofty MSRP with a 3K carbon fiber shell, its Flex safety system, and removable accessories. The DOT- and Snell-approved helmet doesn’t go light on style either. The Carlin Dunne Race Star graphic may not reproduce the same iridescent gold leaf effect captured by AirTrix artist Chris Wood, but it’s still a stunning tribute nonetheless. Plus, the design fully complements the helmet’s exposed carbon fiber weave.

As a part of Bell and CDF’s partnership, the fabled helmet house will “provide resources and help to the foundation” in the years to come. With the organization serving extreme sports athletes at risk for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, concussion syndrome, and traumatic brain injury, the limited-edition Race Star supports an honorable cause along the way. Carlin Dunne may have given his life for the sport he loves, but CDF and Bell are making sure the loss doesn’t go in vain.

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