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Look, we get it: A modern full-faced lid is the safest helmet choice on paper, but they just look out of place on a retro bike. Whether you’re roaring around on a chopped Honda CB750 or enjoying the miracle of fuel injection on a neo-retro bike like the Triumph Scrambler or Kawasaki Z900, you need a helmet that looks the part. Thankfully, there’s no shortage of options when it comes to retro motorcycle helmets.
And no, we’re not talking about pulling your old man’s dusty Bell Star off the shelf. Yes, authentic vintage helmets look cool on your mantle, but they belong there for a reason. The Snell Foundation recommends replacing your motorcycle helmet every five years due to normal wear and tear, so those sweet brain buckets from the 60s’, 70s’, and 80s’ are all a good quarter-century past their prime.
There’s a modern take on pretty much every iconic helmet shape though, so whether you’re looking for an old-school enduro lid for your off-road exploits or full-faced retro motorcycle helmets for your daily rider, we’ve got something down below that’ll be right up your alley.
Best Retro Motorcycle Helmets in 2022
1. Bell Moto 3
You’ve got a few options out there for off-road style retro motorcycle helmets, but the Bell Moto 3 is the lid to beat in our book. Bell literally invented this style with their original Moto 3 back in the 1970s, and the latest version is nearly indistinguishable from the original right down to the old-school terry cloth liner.
The eye port is massive and goggle-friendly, and the removable peak comes off faster than your favorite track pants with five quick snaps.
Protection-wise Bell updated the original Moto 3 design with a modern fiberglass composite shell, and threw in an EPS foam layer on both the head and chin bar. The Moto 3 gets high marks for safety with DOT and ECE certifications, and also gets the nod for fit and comfort thanks to three available shell sizes and a plush moisture-wicking liner.
The authentically-vintage design isn’t without its shortcomings though, and the main drawback of this helmet is its lack of versatility. Ventilation is outstanding for warm weather, but with zero face shield and zero adjustability on the large front vents, your goggles of choice are your only protection from the elements.
Style-wise the Bell Moto-3 is a total home run though, so as long as you know what you’re getting into, you won’t be disappointed.
- Authentic design pulled straight from the original
- Lightweight and comfortable
- Fantastic airflow
- No face shield option
- Non-adjustable vents
2. Bell Bullitt
We can’t talk vintage helmets without mentioning the Bell Bullitt, which is a modernized take on the world’s first full-face helmet, the original Bell Star. Everything about the Bullitt oozes premium design and style, from the full-grain leather neck roll to the oh-so-plush micro-suede liner.
The massive viewport of the Bullitt flows tons of air with the face shield up and offers such a wide range of vision it’s easy to forget you’re wearing a full-faced helmet (it also happens to be large enough to fit goggles).
Bell offers tons of cool colors and style options for the Bullitt (there’s even a carbon fiber version) as well as an optional “bubble” face shield for that OG space cadet look. Modern accouterments include 3D cut cheek pads (which are speaker-compatible) and a low-profile magnetized shield lock system hidden inside a genuine leather tab.
Our main complaint with the Bell Bullitt was the two front snap closures used to hold the liner in place (they were poorly placed and dug into your head), but Bell addressed the issue in 2018 and vastly improved the feel of the helmet.
Nowadays our only complaints with this lid are (a) it’s pretty expensive and (b) it’s still just as noisy as ever due to the large face shield, which doesn’t quite seal around the Bullitt’s gaping face port.
The Bullitt is still a much lighter and higher-quality alternative to helmets like the Biltwell Gringo below though, so if you’ve got the extra cash to spend, the premium materials and high-quality composite shell are well worth the bump in price.
- Premium build quality and materials
- Massive viewport
- Style for days
- On the pricier side
- Not particularly quiet
3. Hedon Heroine Racer Retro Motorcycle Helmet
If you’re chasing the most luxurious helmet possible, cost be damned, the folks at Hedon have just the lid for you. Hedon (yes, as in hedonism) makes hand-crafted retro motorcycle helmets packed with premium materials top to bottom.
With brass hardware, fine calf leather trim, and automotive-grade paint, the Hedon Heroine looks like something Bruce Wayne would keep a few of in his closet.
These vintage-inspired helmets aren’t just for show though: Hedon specs the Heroine with a carbon fiber and fiberglass composite shell, which keeps the helmet exceptionally light (a medium weighs just 1200 grams) despite its heavyweight trim selection. Combined with the Heroine’s 360-degree “Hed Armour” padding, this shell earns both a DOT and ECE 2205 safety rating.
As you might expect, the Hedon Heroine Racer also happens to be the most expensive helmet on our list, and most models will set you back well over $900 when it’s all said and done. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but if you want to know what wearing a Bentley leather interior on your head all day feels like, it’s the only pill to take.
- Outrageously premium and plush
- Solid safety credentials
- …did we mention the calfskin leather?
- May cost more than your bike
- Easily mistaken for the Biltwell Gringo below to the untrained eye
4. Biltwell Gringo S
When most riders think of retro motorcycle helmets, chances are the Biltwell Gringo S is the one that comes to mind. The Gringo is arguably the most popular vintage-style helmet on the market, and they sell like Harley Davidson t-shirts for good reason: They look cool, they’re dirt cheap, and they’re legitimately protective with both DOT and ECE approvals.
This vintage motorcycle helmet doesn’t have the level of bespoke detail of something like the Hedon or Bullitt above, but it’s far from bare bones on the style side. The Gringo comes in tons of hand-painted retro color options like “Yukon Gold” and “Metallic Grape,” and some finishes even include slick chrome trim at the eye port.
Regardless of which finish you choose, you’ll find a hand-sewn diamond-quilted liner inside every Biltwell Gringo S, which gets points for both style and comfort.
Keep in mind that although the latest version of the Gringo is more feature-rich than ever (they’ve even got speaker pockets now), this is a budget helmet at its core. Cost cutting comes courtesy of a basic injection-molded ABS outer shell and an extremely simple polycarbonate eye shield, which doesn’t seal against the eye port and requires a screwdriver to remove.
The Gringo is easily the best bang for your buck on this list, but it also tends to run small, so chances are you’ll want to budget a slimmer set of cheek pads into your purchase as well.
- Safe, stylish, and budget-friendly
- Comes in 1,000 different cool retro colors like “Metallic Grape”
- Includes speaker pockets for your helmet audio of choice
- Simple ABS plastic outer shell
- Small sizing typically requires buying extra cheek pads
5. Simpson M30 Bandit
If you’re into the retro motorcycle helmet style but prefer something more aggressive looking, the Simpson M30 Bandit is what we imagine Darth Vader would wear inside his Tie Fighter if it were powered by an air-cooled V-Twin.
The M30 is stripped down, menacing, and technically dates back to around the time the Star Wars franchise his theatres in the late 1970s.
Style is definitely the main selling point of this helmet, but it’s got a few other things going for it as well. The most noticeable is its low weight, as the Simpson M30 Bandit tips the scales right around three pounds. You can shave another half pound off that total if you pony up for the carbon fiber version, but you’ll also shave another $200 or so from your wallet, so be warned.
There’s not much else to report about the Simpson due to its bare-bones approach, save for the fact that its unique profile is a great fit for riders with rounder head shapes. Of course that also makes it a poor fit for your standard oval-shaped profile, so if you’re used to the fit of something like a Bell helmet, you need not apply here.
We’re not in love with the “DOT only” safety rating of the Simpson, and several long-term owners have reported durability issues with the padding, but if you’ve got the melon for this bad boy, there’s nothing else like from a style standpoint.
- Unique aggressive style
- Great fit for round head shapes
- DOT rated only
- Bad fit for most head shapes
- Questionable pad/liner durability
6. Arai Classic V Retro Motorcycle Helmet
Motorcycles were invented in the late 1800s but motorcycle helmets (as we know them today) didn’t start showing up until the late 1960s. So, in the spirit of retro motorcycle helmet authenticity, we will begrudgingly include our favorite open-faced design, the Arai Classic V. That’s V as in “vee” by the way, not V as in “five,” an important distinction to make considering the “V” stands for “ventilation.”
Three forehead air intakes pull air into the Classic V and over your head, and three matching exhaust ports at the rear keep everything circulating. This is all clandestinely tucked away under the Classic V’s shell, which happens to be made from the same high-quality materials as the current Arai X series of helmets.
Style-wise the Classic V comes in solid colors as well as the retro sweep version seen above, and its three upper snaps can be utilized to add a full-length face shield or a retro sun visor for that classic “Steve McQueen on a Husqvarna 400” vibe.
At the risk of stating the obvious here, the main drawback of the Arai Classic V is the open-faced design, which is a great fit for anyone without a lower jaw, but a safety issue for the overwhelming majority of us.
The Classic V also costs full-face Arai money (although it’s missing 25% of the coverage), so should you happen to crash in one, there’s a decent chance you’ll have no funds left over for that facial reconstructive surgery.
- Typical high-quality Arai shell
- Outstanding ventilation
- Multiple visor/shield options
- Open face design isn’t ideal if you value your chin
- Typical Arai price
Thanks hope this helped you find the right retro motorcycle helmet for your next ride.