Motorcycles were once the symbol of freedom and rebellion. More so than even convertibles, there’s a sense of the classic and timelessness that goes hand in glove with the motorcycle ethos. Ask anyone to draw you a picture of a motorcycle and their rendering will almost assuredly be of a ’60’s Harley or perhaps a Vincent Black Shadow. Those are the archetypes indelibly etched into the modern consciousness, so it stands to reason to pair a vintage helmet along with a culture that still conjures up the days of yore.
Designers and developers of motorcycle gear have brought about a new renaissance when it comes to the way helmets with an older design operate. While the exterior might scream of peace rallies, sock hops, or the dawn of disco, the interior houses thermal molded carbon fibers, memory foam, and streamlined ventilation systems tested in space age wind tunnels. They never let nostalgia interfere with quality craftsmanship or jeopardize the safety of your head. If you’re ready to recapture that renegade motorcycle spirit, then you’ll want one of the 10 best vintage motorcycle helmets.
TORC T50 Route 66 3/4 Helmet
Pro: Won’t slip on windy rides
Con: Bulkier than old-school open-faced helmets
All American: A minimalist open-faced helmet with a lightweight ABS shell, the Route 66 is as close as you can get to being Wyatt from Easy Rider while wearing a helmet. The inside is lined with a removable suede liner that cradles your head comfortably and allows you scalp to breathe. Completely DOT approved and equipped with a removable visor for sunny days or long trips. For an open-face, this actually cuts down on road noise fairly well so you don’t end every trip deafened and shouting.
AGV RP60 Royal Helmet
Pro: Leather rolling all around
Con: No outside venting
Under the Dome: Using the rounded style popular among helmets from the ’50’s and ’60’s, the Royal is understated, but with an advanced composite fiber (ACF) fiberglass shell on the outside, it’s more than enough to keep your skull from fractures. Double-D retention holds it fast so wind shear can’t rip it off, and at 960 grams, it’s like baby bear’s bed: just right. Plush padding that can be swapped out or washed up keeps the fit cozy and secure, but never claustrophobic.
Pro: Fits unusual heads well
Con: Not the most intensive protection
Trendsetter: When no one was filling the need for vintage helmet designs, Biltwell was on the vanguard, answering the call with their Gringo. They made it based almost entirely on suggestions from hard-core riders who were re-purposing old helmets to suit their current needs. Adding in an injection-molded ABS outer shell along with a polystyrene inner shell complete with breathable, comfortable, Lululemon approved Lycra, they didn’t just nod to the past, they honored it.
AGV Diesel Hi-Jack
Pro: Intermediate oval head shape
Con: Minimal jaw and neck protection
Chopper to Chopper: Made with a helicopter pilot’s helmet in mind, the Hi-Jack combines the 60+ years of helmet construction experience from AGV with the Diesel brand, who has proven in partnering with the Italian legend that they know what they’re doing. Dual position drop-in visor is easy to operate even with gloves. A low, fiberglass dome adds aerodynamics and keeps both weight and drag down. A quick release strap makes it easy to don and to doff, even when kitted out for winter.
Pro: Open or closed face options
Con: Noise and vibrations ramp up noticeably at high velocity
The Commandant: This isn’t a throwback to commercial helmets, but borrows from the German military riders. The composite shell has the light ridge at front and back to give it a distinctive flavor that begs to shrug off road debris and wind. The real story is with the muzzle which bears a FidLock magnetic attachment for easy on/off access and a removable liner to keep your grill fresh. With three shell and EPS options, you’ll find one comfortable for your gourd.
Premier Trophy Carbon
Pro: Classic press stud visor closure
Con: Visor does not give a full water-resistant seal
Darksider: Part of the Trophy line from Premier, the Carbon doesn’t variate much from the specs of the other Trophies with its tri-composite ultralight shell, wide aperture, and square frontage. The dark exterior is contrasted by a deep burgundy interior that looks like the plush couches at a high-end speakeasy. Sizes go from extra small to extra large, giving one of the widest offerings of any helmet line, vintage or otherwise.
Tachibana GT-750 Grand Prix
Pro: Stretch velour interior
Con: Difficult to import
Uptown Funk: Tachibana is primarily known for making jet helmets with an ultra-modern feel, so the Grand Prix is a welcome departure from form. The GT-750 shows their expertise with its fiber reinforced plastic (FRP) shell that manages to make every gram count while also being capable of withstanding hard knocks at high speeds. It has the Japanese SG safety rating, which is comparable to ECE and DOT in the United States. Using a multi-layered laminate method there’s plenty of protection stacked up and ready for roller disco night.
Pro: Soft, forgiving fit
Con: Limited color options
Atari Time: Reminiscent of a classic arcade box, the 80’s helmets from military supplier Blauer live up to their name in looks, while managing to be nothing but modern in materials. The shell is carbon, dyneema, and aramidic triple composite that has a double layer worth of shock protection in the interior padding. At 1100 grams, they aren’t the slimmest of the ultralight set, but will hardly wear weighty on your brow. This is true Italian craftsmanship ready for the discerning rider serious about going retro in the saddle.
Bell Solid Bullitt
Pro: Panoramic field of view
Con: Serious wind whistle
Back to Basics: The Bullitt has some deep roots since it is practically a shot-for-shot remake of the Bell Star 120, though this time there’s no need to trade fit and comfort for full face protection. Far less clunky than its progenitor with a fiber composite shell and outfitted with a multi-density EPS liner, Bullitt feels like a streamlined helmet stuffed into a classic body complete with plenty of winking retro graphics. Quintuple intake vents slide back to a single exhaust vent at the back for smooth airflow that prevents flop sweat.
Pro: All copper hardware
Con: Unusual sizing typical of Hedon
Every Style: As the name and price would suggest, these are helmets made for the pleasure rider, but that isn’t to say they’re soft. The shell is composite fiberglass and carbon, the interior fabric is Merlin anti-bacterial and comfortable as a cloud. The trim and lining are true calf leather that is buttery soft to the touch and wears well. Each piece is hand-crafted in a variety of colors, every one with its own antique feel.