There are very few full-face helmets that fit young kids well. And yet, we know plenty of pre-schoolers that NEED a full face helmet.
Fortunately, there is the Bell Sanction. This full-face bike helmet comes in little sizes, has a smaller profile, and is significantly lighter than most full-face bike lids.
It does NOT have the ASTM (downhill mountain bike certification) so this isn’t the helmet to buy if your kiddo is going HUGE, but for crash-prone balance bikers and even for slightly older kids looking for a little extra protection on technical trails and jumping at the skills park, this is an ideal helmet.
We’ve had our Bell Sanction for a couple years, and while it’s ready to be retired, it has served our son well. He’s used it at the skills park, racing BMX, and even on some mellower lift-served downhill days.
Review in a Nutshell
- One of the only good choices for very young kids
- Excellent head and face protection
- Several fun designs to pick from
- Suitable for BMX or mountain biking
- Heavy and hot compared to a regular mountain bike helmet
- Pads are bit rough and not removable
- Does not have ASTM downhill certification
Price: Price not available (Last updated: 2020-11-04 at 11:22 – More Info)
Bell Sanction Detailed Review
Sized Well For Preschoolers
The Bell Sanction comes in four sizes (XS, S, M, L) that fit heads ranging from 48 cm to 60 cm in circumference. The helmet does seem to run a little small. I’d recommend adding a centimeter or two to your child’s actual head circumference to get the right fit.
I know one mom with a 3 year old and she said the small was a little tight on her child. As for us, we bought a Small for my 52cm 4-year-old, and it gave us a few years of growth.
(For more information, read our guide to fitting a kids’ helmet.)
Also important to note, when you go to buy this helmet don’t be confused that it’s an “adult” helmet. While there is no “youth” version of the helmet, the smaller sizes are clearly intended for youth-sized heads.
Provides Plenty Of Protection, But It’s Not ASTM Certified
If you need a full-face helmet for BMX or the skills park, or you just have a crash-prone pre-schooler, the Sanction provides excellent head and face protection. It is CPSC 1203 Bicycle and CE EN1078 certified (i.e. certified for use on bicycles in the U.S. and Europe).
Compared to a traditional half-shell helmet, the Bell Sanction offers a lot more protection to both your child’s head, and their face. We’ve had a couple of bloody mouth crashes in a regular helmet, and know I always make my son wear his full face if he’s riding trails he’s more likely to face plant on.
That said, the helmet is NOT ASTM-F1952 certified for downhill use, so if you have an older child who is getting into gravity riding, choose a helmet like the Six Six One Comp instead.
It’s also worth noting that the Bell Sanction does NOT have MIPS technology. While still somewhat controversial about it’s effectiveness, MIPS may provide additional protection for your child’s head.
Colors and Designs
Given that the Sanction is one of the only choices for children’s full-face helmets, it’s fortunate that it comes in several colors and designs. The helmet looks snazzy, and grown-up, meaning that little groms love it. In fact, I think these helmets look better in person than they do in the pictures.
Lightweight Compared To Most Full-Face Helmet Options
Compared to a normal bicycle helmet, full-face helmets are heavy. In fact, the Sanction weighs a whopping 850 grams. For comparison, my sons’ Kali Chakra comes in at 208 grams.
For little necks, that extra weight is a lot, and they will likely want the helmet off much soon than a lighter helmet. My little guy seems to make it about 20 minutes before he wants the Sanction off; he’ll wear his Kali for hours at a time.
That said, compared to other small-ish full-face helmets (the Fly Racing Kinetic Invazion Youth helmet for example), the Sanction is actually REALLY light. So if you NEED a full-face helmet and have a younger child, this is a good choice.
Hotter Than A Half-Face Helmet
Like the weight issue, full-face helmets are inevitably hot. To protect the face, heavy pads push up against the ears and cheeks.
This isn’t a fault of the Sanction, but a necessity of the sport. For this reason, if your child isn’t racing BMX or riding technical trails, I’d urge you to keep them in a lighter-weight, better ventilated helmet–perhaps one with MIPS if head-safety is your primary concern.
Well Constructed…With A Few Exceptions
The Bell Sanction is a solidly built helmet. This isn’t a cheap kid’s helmet like the cringe-worthy Razor helmet one of our neighbor kids wear. It has a hand laminated fiberglass shell over and expanded polystyrene liner.
The one complaint I have with the Sanction has to do with the inner padding. The pads are not particularly soft, and while my son hasn’t complained about them, I’m surprised.
The other problem is that they are glued directly to the polystyrene liner so they can’t be removed for washing. I’ve actually spayed this helmet down with a hose to get the sweat off.
Additionally, over time the visor screws have fallen out. We’ve easily been able to replace them with different screws, but the helmet doesn’t look quite as nice without them.
Finally, recently, the plastic strip around the chin bar has started to peel off.
Time for a new helmet….
Traditional Style Buckle Is Easy For Kids To Buckle/Unbuckle On Their Own
Unlike ASTM-certified helmets with their D-ring closures, the Bell Sanction has a traditional-style buckle. This makes it less secure, but also easier for young kids to buckle and unbuckle on their own which is nice.
One of our favorite places to look at reviews for bike gear is Outdoor Gear Lab, and we usually trust their opinion. In their review of the Bell Sanction, however, I think they missed the mark. This helmet is primary intended for use by kids, but they test it as a downhill helmet for adults. Nonetheless, their review is worth a read.
In comparison, the customer reviews on Backcountry.com are universally positive, particularly for the folks who bought the helmet for their young kids. Comments include: “Perfect helmet for the kids.”
Other Options / Comparison Chart
As I previously mentioned, there aren’t many full-face helmets options for kids, particularly for young kids.
Still if you want to compare the Bell Sanction to other full-face options, read our full guide to kids full face helmets.
If you want a full-face helmet for your young child, your options are limited. Fortunately lack of selection doesn’t mean lack of quality. The Bell Sanction has grown-up design and functionality in a small package. It’s worth the $75 price tag.