Since the turn of the millennium, retro-inspired offerings have skyrocketed in popularity, permeating a slew of industries including the motorcycle world. In response to the growing number of vintage-inspired production models — and an increasingly influential custom motorcycle scene — many of today’s most reputable gear manufacturers have started producing items that draw visual inspiration from riding gear of decade’s past while still offering modern-day constructions and safety standards — or what a great many riders would call “the best of both worlds.”
With this nostalgia-grab at an all-time high, there is now more retro-style riding gear to choose from than at any previous point in history. However, just like regular modern riding gear, the overall construction and protective qualities of these items can massively vary from product to product and manufacturer to manufacturer. So, with this in mind, we’ve pored through hundreds of catalogs and websites from all over the planet to deliver this curated guide to the best retro motorcycle helmets. In addition to highlighting the best lids the market has to offer in the 3/4, enduro, and full-face segments, we’ll also be touching on what aspects to take into account when shopping.
The Best Retro Motorcycle Helmets
Best Smart Helmet
Best Neo-Retro Helmet
Best Off-Road Helmet
Most Authentic Vintage Helmet
Best 3/4 Helmet
Best Scrambler Helmet
Best Boutique-Made Helmet
HEDON Heroine Racer
Best Modular Helmet
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Antiquated Aesthetics & Contemporary Coverage
The Main Areas To Consider When Shopping For A Retro-Style Motorcycle Helmet
While for most people, their hunt for a new retro-style lid is largely an aesthetically driven pursuit, there are a handful of other areas that are crucial to consider before making your purchase. Below, we’ll briefly be touching on the eight most important factors to think about when shopping for a vintage-style helmet.
Shell Construction: A motorcycle helmet’s weight, durability, and resistance to impacts is almost entirely owed to the type of shell that it’s built around, as well as the material that lines the inside of the shell (and absorbs impacts). These are typically made from composites, plastics, carbon fiber, or a combination of the two or three — which are often proprietary constructions. It’s also worth noting that the more premium manufacturers tend to produce more shell sizes than the budget brands — which often share one or two shells across the entire size range — which allows for lighter and better-fitting helmets.
Pads & Liner: In addition to weight, the comfort of a helmet is primarily determined by the interior liner and cheek pads. Some pads are not only markedly more plush and luxurious than others, but also boast sweat-wicking, quick-drying, and antimicrobial properties. More often than not these pads and liners are also removable and machine-washable. Some helmets also sport emergency release systems for emergency medical teams and first responders.
Safety Certification(s): To give a better and more objective sense of a helmet’s overall protection, several official outfits have created legal safety tests and standards that helmets must meet in order to obtain legal status on public roads. In the US this means DOT-certification while Europe uses the ECE-rating system. There’s also the supplementary SNELL and SHARP standards, as well as the FIM certification for use in racing. it is important to note that some retro-style helmets — especially of the enduro-style variety — often lack the DOT or ECE certification needed for legal use on the street.
Weight: How much a helmet weighs is determined by its size, shell and liner construction, and several other factors. Considering these items are solely supported by our neck, a low weight is immensely important. Fortunately, in addition to boasting modern-day safety standards, most new retro-style helmets also distinguish themselves from actual vintage lids by their lightness, with many of today’s more high-end offerings tipping the scales at between three and four pounds.
Price & Value: Spending a larger amount will almost always ensure that you’re getting a better, more premium helmet. Having said that, there are plenty of more accessibly priced helmets that offer far better bang-for-your-buck than their high-dollar counterparts.
Noise: Excessive wind noise is not only annoying but can actually be damaging to your hearing. At 40mph, riders are typically exposed to around 90dB of wind noise, though this figure climbs to 110dB once a rider hits 100mph. As a point of reference, an ambulance siren is about 120dB. For this reason, it’s extremely worth your while to explore how effectively a particular helmet is at mitigating wind noise. It’s also worth mentioning that full-face helmets will almost always provide markedly better protection from wind noise than enduro and 3/4-style lids.
Color & Livery Options: Because style and aesthetics are such a pivotal part of retro-style helmets, a great many of the brands producing these items offer these helmets in a host of unique patterns, designs, and liveries, as well as plain gloss and matte solid color options. If you’re ever on the fence between two particular retro-style helmets, we’d advise exploring the different paint options available, as this will often help guide your decision.
Accessories & Attachments: Many of the retro-style helmets on the market can be further customized or personalized using accessories and add-ons. This includes flip-up and bubble-style shields, different color drop-down visors, snap-on visors, removable chin-bars, and even some custom-anodized hardware on some of the most premium models. There are also several helmets from boutique brands that are available with bespoke goggles made specifically to pair with a given full-face, 3/4, or enduro-style helmet.
- 3/4-style helmet w/ onboard comm, auto crash detection, & SOS system
- Offers great value
- Features quilted interior & drop-down visor
- Has optional snap-on full-face visor
- Lacks fit & finish of more premium helmets
Best Smart Helmet: Named after the “King of Cool” himself, the QUINN McQ is a more technologically advanced and feature-laden take on a 3/4-style lid, boasting a Bluetooth comm system with an integrated microphone and speakers, as well as a built-in SOS beacon and automatic crash detection system. Sold with a premium matte finish in a number of color combo options, the McQ also packs a tinted drop-down visor and a color-matched quilted liner.
Shell Material: Polycarbonate Thermoplastic ABS
- Unique 1980s, race-inspired design
- Perfect for cafe racers & vintage sportbikes
- Stellar Japanese craftsmanship
- Offers amazing value
- Isn’t sold in U.S. though can be ordered from overseas
Best Neo-Retro Helmet: Rather than taking visual inspiration from ’60s- and ’70-era race helmets, this cafe racer lid from Shoei is modeled after retro superbike and race helmets from the 1980s. On top of the cutting-edge Matrix+ AIM shell and multi-density polystyrene foam liner, this helmet also sports a number of other thoroughly modern features such as a UV-protective visor that comes equipped with a Pinlock EVO fog-resistant insert and an emergency quick-release cheek-pad system for first responders.
Shell Material: Multi-Ply Matrix AIM
- Made in small batches in Portugal
- Peak is fully-adjustable
- Extremely lightweight at 2.62lbs
- Sold in variety of solid colors & ultra-unique graphics
- Would benefit from more premium trim
Best Off-Road Helmet: Made in small batches in Portugal to ensure top-notch quality control and a top-shelf fit and finish, the Nexx XG200 helmet is made from an advanced X-Matrix shell that’s crafted from an amalgamation of multiaxial fiberglass and 3D organic fibers that are strategically reinforced using special Aramid and carbon fiber. Extremely lightweight and offering stellar protective properties, this helmet also sports an adjustable visor and a grilled and ventilated chin-bar and is offered in some of the coolest liveries and designs on the market.
Shell Material: Kevlar & Carbon Fiber-Reinforced Fiberglass
- Replica vintage helmet affording modern protection
- Modeled directly after vintage AGV Grand Prix race helmet
- Made in Italy
- Available in limited edition replica Giacomo Agostini livery version
- Pairs w/ optional replica vintage leather AGV helmet bag
- Authentic vintage design lacks aerodynamics of more modern helmets
Most Authentic Vintage Helmet: Modeled after the shape of the iconic Italian brand’s race helmets of the 1970s, the X3000 manages to cram AGV’s state-of-the-art safety standards into an unmistakably vintage-inspired package, complete with its bullet-shaped shell and off-set snap-locking asymmetrical visor. The interior of this premium cafe lid boasts a genuine leather and suede fabric liner while the outside of the helmet is offered in a variety of solid colors as well as some replica paint schemes from legendary racers like Barry Sheene and Giacomo Agostini (the latter of which is seen here).
Shell Material: Advanced Composite Fiberglass
- Vintage-inspired ope-face helmet affording high levels of protection
- Crafted around same PB-cLc shell as Arai’s flagship X Series racing helmets
- Has hidden ventilation system w/ 3 intakes & exhausts
- Sold in variety of matte & gloss solid colors & patterns
- Trim made from faux leather
- Doesn’t offer same level of protection as full-face helmets
Best 3/4 Helmet: For the Japanese brand’s Classic-V helmet, Arai has taken its cutting-edge Peripherally Belted Complex Laminate construction from its X generation of helmets and used it to craft this traditional-looking piece of protective gear. Boasting both SNELL and DOT-certification, this helmet also sports a faux-leather trim, an antimicrobial liner with removable cheek pads, a hidden ventilation system with a trio of intakes and dual of exhaust ports, a goggle strap holder, and five snaps that can accept an optional face shield.
Shell Material: Peripherally Belted e-Complex Laminate
- 1980s-inspired off-road helmet affording modern protection
- Has swappable dropdown CJ-3 visor
- Can be fitted w/ optional peak
- Features meshed vented chin-bar shaped to fit goggles
- Isn’t sold in U.S. though can be ordered from overseas
Best Scrambler Helmet: A neo-retro take on an enduro-style helmet, Shoei’s Ex-Zero model is made from the same state-of-the-art multi-ply Matrix AIM shell construction that’s used on the Japanese outfit’s world-class race helmets. The helmet’s pointed and pronounced grilled chin-bar gives off a decidedly old-school vibe while the spherical crown and drop-down visor keep one foot firmly planted in the present. Weighing roughly 2.5lbs, this item also boasts Shoei’s typically top-shelf quality and finish.
Shell Material: Multi-Ply Matrix AIM
HEDON Heroine Racer
- Handcrafted, boutique-made cafe helmet
- Lined with Merlin anti-bacterial fabric
- Finished by using w/ automotive-grade paint
- Has brass hardware, double-D ring, & HEDON logo plate
- Outstanding fit & finish
- Expensive price
Best Boutique-Made Helmet: Since the company’s inception in 2011, HEDON has been producing some of the finest old-school-style helmets that money can buy, combing vintage aesthetics with modern materials and old-world craftsmanship. Boasting a fit and finish only made possible through hand-made manufacturing, the ECE-certified Heroine Racer helmet comes with a carbon fiber and fiberglass composite shell that’s finished with an antimicrobial Merlin lining, natural calf leather trim, and brass hardware throughout — including the brass HEDON plate adorning the forehead of the helmet. This top-shelf cafe-racer-style lid is also available in an enormous variety of hand-applied designs and patterns, as well as several limited-edition variants.
Shell Material: Carbon Fiber & Fiberglass Composite
- Modular lid w/ removable chin-bar, face shield, & partial & full-face visors
- Made on the Isle of Man
- Features titanium hardware
- Sold in huge variety of liveries, patterns, & colors
- Can be customized using online configurator
- Expensive price
Best Modular Helmet: Created by the co-founder of Les Ateliers Ruby on the legendary motorsport proving ground that is the Isle of Man, Veldt is an extremely upscale boutique helmet brand that crafts distinctively modular retro-style lids using some of the finest materials available. Pieced together using titanium hardware, the helmet is built around a 3/4-style carbon fiber shell that can be outfitted with carbon chin-bars, visors, and face shields, including a locking unit on the FullFace model (seen here).
Shell Material: Carbon Fiber
Origin: Isle of Man
The Best Retro Motorcycle Gear
Want to check out a more expansive selection of vintage-inspired riding gear that isn’t limited to only helmets? Then be sure to cruise on over to our guide to the best retro motorcycle gear for a handpicked selection of gloves, boots, jackets, and pants modeled after items of yesteryear.