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Bell Sports, a division of Vista Outdoor, is an American manufacturer of bicycle, auto racing, and motorcycle helmets. BRG Sports, owner of Riddell football helmets, sold the Bell, Giro, C-Preme, and Blackburn brands to Vista in 2016.[1]

Bell Sports
Headquarters Rantoul, Illinois, United States
Parent Vista Outdoor
Helmet of F1 driver Michael Schumacher in 1995
Bell motorcycle helmet



The company started in 1923 as Bell Auto Parts in Bell, California.[2][3]In 1933 Roy Richter began working for Bell Auto Parts, then in 1945 he purchased the store for $1,000.[2] He produced its first race car helmets in 1954. The Bell Helmet Company was founded by Roy Richter as a division of his Bell Auto Parts store in 1956.[2] The company name of Bell comes from its location in Bell, California. Bell introduced the first full-face motorcycle helmet on the market in 1968 the Star.[4] In 1971 they produced the first full-face off-road motorcycle helmet.[5] It introduced a bicycle helmet in 1975. As well as motor sports helmets Bell produced helmets for skydiving and skiing, hockey, football, baseball, fire, police and anti-ballistic for military use.

Bell's first production helmet was made in 1954. It was the result of months of research and development. Richter, with the help of Frank Heacox, reverse engineered numerous helmets including some used in military aviation. Heacox was a Navy fighter pilot in World War II. He played a key role in developing Bell Helmet's first products. One of the most important ways he contributed was by wearing the helmets in races and on casual rides. His experience actually using the prototypes allowed him to make many useful suggestions. This first helmet was known as the Bell 500. It had a polyurethane foam liner, a hand-laminated fiber glass outer shell. Laminating and polishing helmets by hand was relatively expensive but Richter believed it resulted in a stronger helmet.[6]

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 being formed as a subsidiary of Bell Auto Parts. By the same year at least four employees were working full-time in helmet production at a separate facility next door to the original Bell Auto Parts location.[6]

In 1980 the company was merged with Riddell to form Bell-Riddell Inc. In 1991, Bell-Riddell's motorcycle division was sold and became 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.[7] In 2005, it reacquired Bell Racing Company,[8] and was itself merged into Easton-Bell Sports, Inc. in 2006.[9] Vista Outdoor acquired the company in 2016.

Relationship to Bell RacingEdit

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 Saintes, near Brussels, Belgium.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Vista Outdoor Announces Agreement to Purchase Bell, Giro, C-Preme and Blackburn Brands from BRG Sports, Inc. (press release), PR Newswire, February 25, 2016 
  2. ^ a b c "Bell Helmets - Bell Timeline". Bell. Archived from the original on 2009-12-28. Retrieved 2015-08-04. 
  3. ^ "About Bell Racing". 
  4. ^ Henning, Ari (May 2016), "OLD MEETS NEW", Motorcyclist, p. 52 
  5. ^ >"HISTORY & FACTS". Bell Helmets. Retrieved April 16, 2016. 
  6. ^ a b Bagnall, Art (June 1990). Roy Richter: Striving For Excellence. 
  7. ^ "Bell Sports acquires Bell motorcycle helmets, forms new powersports division". 2002-11-04. 
  8. ^ "Bell Sports Acquires Bell Auto Racing Division". 2005-01-07. 
  9. ^ "Easton And Bell Announce Merger". 2006-02-07. 

External linksEdit