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Interviews

20 years/20 questions – Bell

An mtb chat with a life saving company

TO CELEBRATE THE TWENTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF DIRT WE’RE SPEAKING TO THE BRANDS AND RIDERS THAT HAVE SUPPORTED US THROUGHOUT THE YEARS. WE’LL BE ASKING 20 QUESTIONS ON THE PAST PRESENT AND FUTURE OF MOUNTAIN BIKING TO THOSE WHO ARE TRULY IN THE KNOW. CHECK OUT OUR 20TH ANNIVERSARY BOOK THAT’S AVAILABLE TO ORDER HERE.

There’s not one piece of equipment in mountain biking more important than a helmet. In fact, yours has probably saved your life in the past!

Bell has been in the helmet game for 60 years and continues to protect everyone from first-timers to the Propain Dirt Zelvy team. We spoke to Hilgard Muller, director of product creation at Bell pictured below in his more reckless days!

20 Questions – Bell

What achievement of the company are you most proud of?
“That’s easy! I am proud of the fact that we have made a meaningful product for over 60 years that protects people from potentially life-altering head injuries.”


What has been your biggest product development?
“Bell invented the cycling helmet category. We made the first real bicycle helmet long before there was even a recognised safety standard. We also invented the first full face helmet. I would say that’s a pretty big deal! The lists of firsts are huge for the Bell brand and that list will continue to grow.”

What was the brand working on 20 years ago?
“I have been here for 18 of the last 20 years. Back then we were working on helmet innovation, just like we do today. It’s what we do and it’s what we are good at.”

What is the direction of the company setting up for the next 20 years?
“Concussion awareness is becoming a regular conversation among cycling enthusiasts. These conversations are extremely important not only to help increase awareness, but it will increase the acceptance at the consumer level for non-traditional solutions to safety products.

Consumer knowledge around head protection, in a lot of ways, is what drives the innovation in the protective category of cycling.”

What influence has Dirt had on your company?
“Dirt has always been an influential magazine in the mountain bike scene. I think it’s safe to say that the print edition was always at the forefront of how MTB was evolving, and every issue was highly anticipated.”

What has been the biggest lesson the company has learnt in the industry?
“We have been around for over 60 years and have learned a lot of lessons in that time. I have been here somewhere around 18 yrs and I learn something new every day that helps inform the product we work on.”

What do you dislike about working in the bike industry?
“I love the bike industry; I grew up on anything two wheels so it’s hard to find something I don’t like about it.  If I said I didn’t like something about the industry, it would be the general lack of education around concussions and helmets. There is a substantial lack of understanding for how complex the protection category is for cycling and the challenges it provides.”

What would you like to see from Dirt over the next 20 years?
“Great feature articles at the forefront of mountain biking.”

Do you have a favourite or memorable feature from Dirt’s history?
“Billy always did a great job with the online coverage. During World Cup season it was always great when you saw a new video or feature of his pop up on the site. It was always a little bit raw but full of insight at the same time. You could tell he was completely submerged in the scene, and it come across in his content.”

How were you first introduced to Dirt?
“Way back when it was part of 4130 publishing and was linked to Ride BMX mag.”

What would be the first question you would ask Dirt?
“Tea or Coffee?”

Press releases or journalism?
“Both can be done well (or badly). It’s always good to read an in depth piece that teaches you something or gives you an insight that you didn’t have before though.”

Who have been your favourite riders of the past 20 years?
“There are too many great riders to name them all. Any riders who have raised the bar and moved mountain biking forward in their own way deserve a mention.”

What Rider has most pushed the boundaries over the past 20years?
“This is an interesting question…every rider that puts on a Bell helmet pushes their own boundaries in one way or another. We provide a product that allows people to push their own personal limits whether it’s a grom on a kick bike trying to roll through a pump track, or a top-level athlete dropping in at the “Rampage”.

What has been your favourite or most memorable race?
“World Champs is always a special race. It’s one run on one day that crowns the champ, and all the variables around that make it one of the greatest races on earth. It never disappoints.”

What does the next 20 years bring for Mountain biking?
“I think mountain biking is the future of cycling. The culture around mountain biking is more accessible to the younger generation as opposed to the spandex categories. 

We are starting to see mountain biking explode with the kids that started on kick bikes 10 years ago. Now that they are older, we can see the impact they have to the growth of the category.  Any sport that is accessible to the youth is sustainable; look at team sports as a whole.”

What’s your opinion on E-Bikes?
“Does it get someone on two wheels and goes fast? If the answer is yes…I support them.” 

What life lessons has Mountain biking taught you?
“I have learned a lot about how gravity can be your best and worst enemy! If you are riding alone in the forest and you crash, no one will here you cry…or will they?”

What’s been the most questionable thing to come out of Mountain biking?
“Strava…”

Who doesn’t get the credit they deserve in the industry?
“The people that devote their time towards programs that create access to mountain biking in their local communities.”

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