Nostalgia is such a powerful draw. It’s the reason why the show Pawn Stars is so popular. The same reason why classic bikes like café racers, scramblers, trackers, bobbers, cruisers, and even old-school scooters, modern classics, and neo-retros make people stop and stare when they fly by down the street. But do you know what can make a retro or vintage motorcycle look even cooler? Retro helmets. Don’t know where and what to look for? Here’s a comprehensive list of the best retro motorcycle helmet you can buy today.
There is no denying that modern motorcycles, particularly sports bikes and supercharged naked bikes of today, look like futuristic robots with two wheels. They are designed with so many sharp edges for performance and aerodynamics. Thus, they are often paired with helmets with the same design concept. However, wearing these futuristic helmets just doesn’t seem right with say, a cruiser or café racer-type motorcycle. So what should you do? Get proper vintage motorcycle helmets that complement your ride.
Vintage-style helmets, also known as retro motorcycle helmets, are not just safety gears that secure your precious grey matter and provide protection from traumatic brain injury. It is also a piece that pays homage to the motorcycle culture – a timeless piece of headgear, much like mechanical watches and boots. This list compiles all the best retro motorcycle helmets on the web, the leather helmets that are paired with goggles Top Gun style, full-faced with bubble visors, to retro metal flake helmets from the 80s.
Best Retro Motorcycle Helmets: Full Face Helmets
Nothing beats a full-face helmet when it comes to maximum protection. It protects your face and chin – hence the name. Aside from full head protection though, full-face helmets also offer better protection from wind, wind noise, sun’s heat, bugs, stones, and the cold. You are fully insulated with this type of helmet, making it ideal for a long trip.
If you don’t want people to easily recognize you on the streets, then a full-face helmet with a tinted visor can easily do that for you. Moreover, a tinted visor in a full-face helmet negates the need for sunglasses. Lastly, it feels really comfy to be cocooned in a full-face helmet, especially when you’re riding during cold seasons.
This list oozes with retro styling; some may not have vented sections or fancy gadgetry, just straight-up old-school rounded helmets tailored for your retro motorcycle.
1. Biltwell Gringo S
Retro motorcycle riders consider the Gringo from Biltwell as the granddad of vintage helmets. It is probably the oldest on this list. Yet, a lot has changed since it first graced the market, and the S series came with modern features and upgrades that new motorcycle riders would appreciate.
- ECE approved, DOT approved, meets FMVSS 218 safety standard
- Adjustable chin strap with brushed fleece Lycra touch points for comfort
- 3-piece Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) safety liner
The Gringo S sports an injection-molded ABS outer shell that is both rugged and lightweight. The kind of combination you can expect from a modern helmet. In terms of versatility, it uses CE-certified polycarbonate face shields made with anti-fog and anti-scratch material for durability and rider’s safety.
For additional safety, it has a three-piece Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) safety liner. This disperses impact loads and reinforces helmet structure for a secure and more comfortable fit.
The three-piece inner lining is hand-stitched and uses a specifically designed bio-foam to keep it fresh. There is also enough space inside to accommodate your Bluetooth comms equipment.
It is available in the pictured retro-style design, and in solid colours including flat black, gloss vintage white, and metallic grape.
2. Bell Bullitt Helmet
If you are a fan of 60s and 70s styling retro sci-fi flick styling, then you must check out Bell Bullit. It has the retro vibe packaged with modern design and high-end safety. Made by world-renowned motorcycle designer Chad Hodge, and named after the film of iconic motorcycle enthusiast Steve McQueen, the Bell Bullit has the perfect marriage of the vintage design and modern manufacturing technology. The brand believes so much in their classic helmets that they offer a 5-year warranty.
- EPS sizes that are DOT safety standard
- 5-year warranty
- Different types of face shields to choose from
- Recessed speaker pockets
- Contoured cheek pads
- Luxurious leather interior and leather trim
- Low profile carbon/Kevlar/fiberglass mix shell
- Five metal mesh air intake vents
- Magnefusion shield closure
Inside the fiberglass composite shell are the 3D cut removable cheek pads and a Magnefusion shield closure. For comfortable and security, they equipped the helmet with an EPS liner with variable density.
The clear face shell gives a cool and classy look. They also included five hidden ventilation systems to keep you cool and fresh as you ride your bike for hours.
Available in a variety of designs, such as red white and blue stripes, black and gold stripes, gloss white and oxblood; Bell Bullit is more than just a premium helmet with retro styling – it’s a piece of wearable art.
3. Biltwell Lane Splitter
If you are looking for an aggressive-looking helmet to look extra badass on your café racer, this futuristic vintage helmet should be on your top list of choices.
- ECE 22.05 safety standard
- Shock absorbing expanded polystyrene inner shell
- Injection-molded ABS shell with hand-painted finish
- Mesh pockets for communication devices
- Hand-sewn brushed Lycra liner with diamond-stitched quilted foam padding
- Venting on the chin bar and at the back
- Internal BioFoam chin pad with hand-sewn contrast stitching
While California’s Biltwell may have pioneered the retro helmet movement for the bobber and chopper scene, their design is still deeply rooted for café racers too. With its aggressive styling and hard-edged angular chin bar, the Lane Splitter means business. It is an excellent choice for café racers, scramblers, and classic trackers.
This helmet shell is crafted around the brand’s proprietary ABS shell and equipped with shock-absorbing EPS liner, along with great cheek pads. The chin-up bar houses a couple of vents for your comfort. It comes equipped with an injection molded shield that has great optics and can be easily opened and closed, even when you are wearing gloves. There is also a mesh pocket to make mounting your comms system super easy.
Available in multiple solid colors, such as matte black, matte titanium, gloss black, gloss blood red, and gloss white; or striped designs such as orange, grey and black, and red, white and blue; you can certainly find one that fits or complements the color of your bike.
4. Nexx X.G100R
Another tailor-made helmet for cafe racers or classic sports bike motorcycles is the Nexx X.G100R. This helmet features a great crossover between classic and modern, making it actually difficult to tell from afar if it is actually a helmet from the 70s or a modern helmet.
- X-MATRIX shell
- Soft padding, sweat-wicking, and hypoallergenic fabric
- Comes with a clear visor
- Double D ring fastening
- Rotating shield with anti-fog insert
- ECE/22-05, DOT and NBR-7471:2001 safety standard
The shell of Nexx X.G100R is round. And when we say round, it means there is no single groove or spoiler in it. The simple lid may not make it as aerodynamic as you want for a sports bike helmet, but as a vintage retro helmet, it can make riding in and out of the city quite pleasurable.
The outer shell is made up of fiberglass carbon fiber with aramid composite material, a strong and modern combination. The weight is relatively light.
Styling-wise, it is true retro; simple, clean, and quite minimalistic. It has a great classic combination of matte black with gold trim (it is also available in other colors and trims). But don’t mistake its simplicity for average, as this retro-styled helmet comes with modern conveniences like an anti-fog lens, the ever-reliable double D chin strap, and an antibacterial inner lining that is completely removable and washable. The fit is quite oval, making it quite comfortable.
5. AGV X3000
AGV has been a very active name in the motorsports world, particularly in MotoGP for years. Valentino Rossi rides with their top-of-the-line helmet. The AGV’s top-of-the-line retro helmet X3000 is easily one of the best vintage helmets you can get today. This helmet is actually based on a champion rider in the 60s and 70s that goes by the name of Giacomo Agostini, who won multiple competitions back in the day.
Agostini was obsessed with aerodynamics, so he always laid flat on his tank. However, the only issue is the chin bar of his helmet got in the way of his riding position. Agostini took the helmet to his shed and filed it down. This DIY was so legendary that AGV actually decided to adapt his technique in their retro helmets – as a solid homage to Agostini.
- EPS carbon fiber shell has 3 shell sizes
- ECE 22.05 homologated
- Large viewport for good visibility
- 100% leather and suede interior
- Anti-scratch visor
- Double D ring closure
- Ventilation system with on/off the air vent
The outer shell of X3000 is made of carbon fiber that is extremely light. It is available in matte black, gloss black, gold, white, red and white, and limited edition black and gold; and all helmets features the iconic Italian flag logo and the contoured chin bar.
Design-wise, the helmet is superbly clean – there is hardly anything to see in the way of options. The top of the visor is a nicely hidden ventilation system. All you have to do to activate it is to remove the rubber strip.
The interior of the helmet comes with a luxurious leather finish, both breathable and removable. The visor has an anti-scratch surface with a classic and strong metal locking system. And as with most retro and classic helmets, it comes with a tested-and-proven double D chin strap.
Unfortunately, the removable visor is not ready for Pinlock. However, you can easily buy an aftermarket shield that is Pinlock read.
6. TORC T1 Unisex Adult Retro Full face Helmet
At first glance, Torc T1 has everything you can expect from a retro motorcycle helmet; it features a round shell and narrow chin bar with some Lego spaceman vibe. While it may look similar to the Bell Bullit, this helmet is a cheaper option of the two. However, just because it’s cheaper doesn’t mean the manufacturer skimp on its safety features and quality.
- Certified DOT and ECE 22. 5
- Fiberglass Tri-Composite Shell
- Anti-Fog & Anti-Scratch Shield
- Padded Chin Strap with D-Ring Closure, Multi-Density EPS
- Removable Shield, Faux Suede Liner
The outer layer of this helmet is made up of a carbon fiber shell, which is lightweight and feels really well constructed. The finish, however, is at the end of the price range.
Though not exactly premium, the brown inner faux-suede interior feels really comfy and welcoming. It also comes with a double D-ring strap, which is a nice touch for both classic look and safety. There is also a thin wire mesh that covers the vents. However, the vent cover and its controls feel a little bit fragile and fiddly. Aside from that, the vents do a decent job in moving air in and hot air out. The tinted visor comes as an option, but they don’t seem to offer bubble shields like those you can commonly find in Bell helmets.
When it comes to fit, this helmet runs to the large side. This means you may want to go one size down from your regular helmet size. In terms of fit, however, it is superbly comfortable, almost as comfortable as its premium counterparts from Arai. If you have a round head and have been struggling to find a good-fitting helmet, let alone a retro one, then you should check out Torc T1. They come in numerous colors and trim options, from solid colors such as matte black, bubblegum metallic, gold metallic, gloss orange, gloss tiffany blue, carbon fiber textured black; to designs such as stars and stripes, gold and black, and retro stripes.
The field of view from the visor is massive, thanks to the low chin bar. However, that design feature also means it doesn’t have a breath guard, which means it could be prone to fogging up in cold weather. Obviously, you can easily get rid of that once you pick up your speed on the road. Also, the thin chin guard means there is a chin curtain. Thus, air can get in underneath, which may cause whistling noise. You can, of course, use earplugs to address that (actually it is advisable that you wear earplugs when riding a motorcycle, especially for long trips).
Best Retro Motorcycle Helmets: Open or Half-Face Helmets
Old school riders love to have fun; they stick their tongue out, smile and laugh with their buddies, smoke, and simply feel the wind of freedom hitting them square in the face. They also talk to their pillion and fellow riders on the road. This is where the advantage of open or half-face retro motorcycle helmets can really shine.
Open-face or half-face helmets are lighter, thus they are less fatiguing compared to full-face helmets. Moreover, they have a wider field of unobstructed vision, allowing the rider to see the road and peripherals clearly; there is a wider range of view which eliminates blind spots. They also allow riders to hear emergency sires and horns better. Lastly, it is the most comfortable choice when you constantly ride on roads with heavy traffic.
1. Biltwell Bonanza
If you are going to skimp on your riding gear, make sure it’s not your helmet. While premium helmets can be quite expensive, they are priced like that for obvious reasons – top-quality safety. However, expensive helmets don’t necessarily mean they are the toughest helmets. There are lots of affordable helmets that meet the same quality and safety standards.
Biltwell Bonanza’s open-face retro helmet is a prime example that you don’t need to pay extra for premium quality helmets. It is a straight-up, no-frills open-face lid that checks all the boxes for retro riding. It is affordably priced and DOT-approved for your protection.
- DOT Approved. Meets the FMVSS 218 safety standard
- Injection-molded ABS outer shell
- Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) safety liner
Biltwell is one of the most respected brands in the motorcycling world, and the Bonanza helmet is a good illustration of that. It is affordable (if not cheap), yet it delivers in terms of function and styling, being available in both gloss black and black and gold flake.
The outer shell is made of tough molded ABS material and paired with a custom-shaped EPS inner shell. The inner liner is hand-stitched with Lycra paneling. It dissipates impact loads without compromising comfort.
2. Bell Custom 500 Helmet
Bell Custom 500 is a legendary helmet for many retro motorcycle riders. This helmet represents the simplicity and the simple joys of motorcycle riding – no-frills, yet stylish, comfortable, and well-made, all for an affordable price. And this latest version has some new improvements over its predecessors.
- Multi-density EPS liner
- Low-profile fiberglass composite shell
- 5 shell and EPS liner sizes ensure a low-profile look
- Integrated 5-snap pattern for aftermarket shields and visors
- DOT approved. Meets the FMVSS 218 Standard
Bell 500 helmet now comes equipped with an all-new headform for a perfect and comfortable fit. The low-profile shell sits low on your head for ergonomics. And thanks to its selection of shell and EPS sizes, anyone can find the best fit for their head.
Riders with rounder and larger heads may find the fit a little uncomfortable though, as the linings feel snug in some areas. For narrow, oval, and regular-sized heads, on the other hand, this vintage helmet fits like a glove.
Inside is a strong multi-density EPS liner with a padded strap and the tested-and-proven steel D ring closure for safety. It also comes with a leather D-ring pull tab for quick and easy setup.
This helmet is available in a variety of designs: gloss black, carbon black, matte black, black red and gold, yellow stripe, blue stripe, retro orange stripe, vertigo black and white, and white. It also comes with a 5-year warranty.
3. Bell Pit Boss
You know the brand is really good when it is mentioned more than a couple of times in the list of best retro motorcycle helmets. The Bell Pit Boss is probably the best quality half helmet you can find in the market right now. If you like riding bobbers, and cruisers, this is the most comfortable open-face helmet you can get right now.
- DOT approved. Meets the FMVSS 218 safety standard
- Carbon composite shell with internal Sun Shade
- Industry-leading 5-year warranty
- Innovative Speed Dial adjustable fit system
- Removable neck curtain for cold-weather riding
This 1960s-styled helmet is made with modern hardwearing and light material for comfort and safety. The helmet shell is made with the brand’s very own TriMatrix material, a combination of carbon fiber, fiberglass, and Kevlar. Yes, you read that right, Kevlar – something you can commonly find in military-grade safety equipment.
It also comes equipped with a flip-down visor hidden behind the peak to protect your eyes. And don’t mistake its minimal design, as it also comes with speaker pockets in the rear guards to allow you to fit your comm device to your helmet.
For ergonomics, this helmet also comes with a SpeedDial system that lets you set your helmet slightly loose and easily tighten it by twisting the dial for a snug fit. There is also a curtain neck that fits easily into the pocket for when it starts to get chilly in your morning ride.
It is available in matte black, gloss black, gunmetal roses, gloss pearl white, black and grey, and black and pink.
4. Royal M139 Open Face Motorcycle Helmet
Royal has been a staple name in the retro motorcycle scene for a couple of years now, which is interesting as it has only been around since 2017. Despite being one of the youngest brands in the industry, it has made quite a loyal following. The Royal M139 is their latest addition to their growing line of vintage style helmets.
- DOT FMVSS 218
- Upgraded ABS material for heat and corrosion resistance, yet lightweight
- High density fully vents EPS liner to greatly absorb impact, reduce vibration
- Anti-scratch visor
- Sophisticated classic design
- Double D-rings chin strap
Royal M139 sports an elegant classic design perfect for all sorts of vintage bikes, like bobbers, cruisers, classic scooters, or even e-bikes. It’s straightforward, stylish, and delivers the job quite better considering its price. The shell is made with a DOT-approved high-quality ABS shell.
The inner lining is made up of three removable parts that are easy to remove and clean, so you can keep your helmet fresh. The lining is equipped with moisture-resistant fabric, which is a plus. The whole helmet is secured in your head using a double D-rings chin strap, which is not only true to its retro name, but also by far, the most secure chin strap there is.
The visor is nice and wide, giving you a wide field of vision. You might want to get an anti-fog coating though, like the visor of this helmet fogs especially when riding in cold weather or early mornings.
This helmet is available in five sizes and four color options (gloss black, matte black, white, and matte gold).
5. Daytona Helmets 3/4 Open Face Motorcycle Helmet Cruiser
Daytona helmet’s cruiser line features a sleek contoured design for a comfortable fit and optimum road protection. Cruiser riders will love the balance of protection and comfort of this 3/4 open-face helmet as it features a low profile lid that stays snug and in place even at highway speed. As a matter of fact, it is the smallest helmet that meets DOT FMVSS218 safety standards today.
- Smallest DOT-approved 3/4 shell helmet ever made, Meets & exceeds D.O.T. FMVSS 218 safety standards
- With nylon strap retention & quick-release system
- Available in 3 shell sizes & employs 9 helmet padding sizes ranging from 2XS to 4XL
- Proper biker headgear & riding gear for safety & comfort
- Moisture-wicking inner liner fabric
The outer shell is made with light polycarbonate materials to keep the whole thing light and minimal. It also comes equipped with a moisture-wicking interior to keep you fresh while riding for hours. It is so well designed that it can fit both small and larger head-shaped riders.
In terms of styling, it is everything you can expect from a retro helmet and then some. It comes with nickel-plated rolled tubular steel rivets that nicely blend and complements the style. It is also available in a huge variety of retro designs, ensuring there is something to coordinate with any vibe a rider may be looking for. This includes some that are reminiscent of old school tattoo designs, such as bombs away, built for speed, joker, flying aces, heaven sent, and gone bad; as well as limited edition daytona 30th anniversary, colour stars and stripes and greyscale stars and stripes; and more simple designs such as orange pin stripe, dull black, and metal flake variations of many different colours including black, silver, blue, red, and even pink.
Also included in the package is the black snap-on gloss bubble visor to complete the old-school rider look. The visor is very well positioned, keeping the wind off of the riders.
The quick-release chin strap comes with a nylon strap retention system with a sliding adjuster that lets you adjust it exactly the way you want it, on the fly.
Whether you are riding cruisers, scooters, or mopeds, this classic slim, lightweight, and low-profile helmet should be on your rotation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Are vintage motorcycle helmets safe?
A. Yes, absolutely! Though old in design, retro helmets are tested rigorously, and those you find in the market have passed their safety standards tested. Some even passed in flying colors. They are also equipped with modern conveniences, making them as comfortable as modern helmets.
Q. What is the actual shelf life of a helmet?
A. Generally, helmets have expiration dates. This is because the resin used and other materials deteriorate over time due to so many different contributory factors, like body fluids, hair oils, UV light, wear and tear, etc. It is often advised to replace your helmet every 5 years after purchase or 7 years after the production date.
Q. Do motorcycle helmets degrade over time?
A. As answered in the previous question, yes, motorcycle helmets, even the best retro motorcycle helmet on the market, cannot last forever. Most brands’ shelf life is around 3 to 5 years.
Q. How do I know if my motorcycle helmet is still good?
A. Check your helmets from time to time. Look for any signs of damage like visible hairline cracks or scarring from your previous wreck or when you drop your helmet.
Next, check the EPS liner. This is the liner that protects your head from a fall – it absorbs all that energy from the crush and provides impact absorption for your skull. You can find the EPS only by removing the internal liner. The EPS liner is pretty much foam, different manufacturers use different EPS foams. Some EPS are high density, some offer multiple densities for optimal protection. When checking your helmet’s EPS liner, make sure it is not brittle and there is no flaking.
Next, check out the liners. Liners always come in contact with your hair, scalp, and skin. Thus, they can easily get funky from the sweat, oil, dirt, exhaust, and everything in between when you ride. So take them out, inspect, hound wash, and let them air dry and you are good to go. If the lining doesn’t feel quite fit- maybe it has broken down, the stitching has come off, etc. – then you might want to replace the liner or the entire helmet itself, which may be available at your local motorcyle shop or on amazon.
Q. Are carbon helmets safer?
A. Carbon fiber is the safest material for helmet manufacturing. It has the strength of steel and the lightness of plastic, meaning you get the best of both worlds in terms of dependability and durability.