The recent rise in popularity of retro-style motorcycles – machines with classic, old-fashioned looks but with bang-up-to-date mechanicals and performance, such as Triumph’s 1960s-influenced Bonneville, Kawasaki’s 1970s-inspired Z650RS and even 125s such as from MASH and Bullit - has also led to a rise in retro-style bike gear.
After all, nothing spoils your classic image as much as riding in modern high-tech clobber. And that applies not just to leather jackets, gloves and bike boots – but to helmets as well.
And now there are more retro-style helmets available than ever. Legendary US brand Bell, who invented the first ‘full face’ helmet back in the 1960s, led the way when it introduced its retro Bullitt full face in 2014.
Since then, however, there has been a flood of retro offerings from all the leading manufacturers; some full face, some open (which obviously don’t offer as much protection) and some even motocross style.
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Nor do you have to worry about retro helmets providing retro-standard protection, either. All are built to the same exacting manufacturing and safety standards as any other, including modern structures, fastenings and visor openings and offer protection to match the best – just in more retro styles and colour schemes.
But what’s out there? What can you get for your money and what’s included? Here’s our pick of some of the best.
The Ex-Zero from Shoei is a retro off-road style helmet aimed at scrambler buyers but with all the usual modern safety features, including: a composite shell structure, EQRS (Emergency Quick Release System) strap, integral, drop-down three-position visor, detachable peak, washable liner and comes, as with most retro helmets, in a wide variety of styles and colour ways. Not cheap but oh-so classy...
Classic 1980s styling
Modern safety features
Highly reputable brand
Among the most expensive
Bell Custom 500
Bell is the original king of classic helmets with the famous logo being used by the likes of Steve McQueen and the Custom 500 is its brilliantly authentic (but upgraded) modern incarnation of its original open-face helmet.
It’s a top-quality bit of kit, too, with a fibreglass shell, huge variety of finishes and designs ranging from plain white to multicolour metalflake designs (prices vary accordingly) and a plush lining as well.
It meets all the latest safety standards, comes with its own, stylish retro holdall, a variety of visors are available and is just the thing to go with any ‘60s retro or classic.
THE retro brand
Range of quality features
Not the cheapest
OK, so the name may be slightly cringe-worthy but the Glamster, in being the purpose-designed, full-face retro offering by Japanese helmet brand Shoei, is more than worth a look.
It features a bang-up-to-date multi-composite shell, a removeable, washable liner, lots of air vents, a Double D-ring chin-strap system, and a classic style ‘CPB-1’ three-position visor system. In short, it has the best of modern Shoei tech, in a clean, simple retro design – win/win!
One of the biggest names in the business
Classic, clean design
Pricier than some
AGV X3000 Sheene
Retro motorcycle helmets probably don't get any more recognisable or arguably desirable, at least in the UK, than this retro replica by leading Italian brand AGV. Britain's two-time GP world champion Barry Sheene switched to AGV in the late 1970s, taking his distinctive 'Donald Duck' design with him onto AGV's then X3000 full-face helmet.
This modern recreation is impressively authentic in style (and comes in a variety of other designs and replicas) but has a totally modern fibreglass construction, updated visor system (which still features the X3000’s iconic push button), quality suede interior and more.
Variety of designs
Some quite pricey
A great looking, 1970s-style retro full-face helmet from a legendary brand (that rose to prominence in the 1970s), is a modern-day replica of that worn by British 1973 world champion Phil Read and yet is still at a tempting price.
The Trophy has a modern multi-layer shell, a removable and washable sanitised lining, double D-ring retention strap, two front and one rear vents and comes, again, in a wide variety of colour schemes – although if you’re after a ‘70s-style Premier, this surely has to be the one!
Classic 1970s replica
Not as well-known as some
Alongside its Custom 500 open face (above) and its pioneering Bullitt full-face, one of Bell's most recent additions is this 're-imaging' of its classic 'Moto3' motocross helmet as first introduced in the 1970s.
This new version has all the classic style of the old but with modern production techniques and safety features and, again, comes in a variety of colours and designs, all of which are perfect to accompany your retro street scrambler or trail bike.
Comes with retro bag!
Less practical than full-face designs
Held is a reputable German motorcycle clothing and accessories brand and, although not widely known for its helmets, its products are good quality and tempting value, too.
The Root is its latest full-face retro design has similar looks to Bell’s Bullitt and has lots of quality touches including a fibreglass shell, chrome aperture edging, Double D-ring chin strap, washable cheek pads and a soft fabric lining – it comes with some great customer ratings and is well-priced too.
Reputable German quality
Fewer features than some
Arai of Japan has a long history of producing fastidiously crafted, high quality and, yes, pricey, head protection, so you can rest assured that its 'retro' offerings are trustworthy too.
The Freeway is its open-face design, updated to be even more retro in this Classic form. It’s a quality product, too, with a complex multi-laminate shell, triple density inner shell, fully washable interior, replaceable ear cups and more. Its paint scheme and overall style may not be quite as snazzy as some, but it’s almost certainly one of the best helmets.
Slightly dull styling