In the past, despite retro bikes and cafe racers existing, gear manufacturers have pushed ever onward to newer materials and left the classic crowd with few options. Thankfully, manufacturers have discovered that there are ways to make riding gear that looks classic, yet incorporates many modern safety features. This is most noticeable with helmets, with the past decade seeing a surge of neo-retro and cafe-style helmets in the marketplace.
The definition of a cafe racer helmet can be quite wide and diverse, so for today’s list, we’re looking at the helmets that manufacturers have labelled as retro, classic, neo-retro, or have a classic style design to them. Let’s get started!
The Biltwell Gringo SV is about as 1970s as you can get in terms of looks. Featuring a rounded ABS shell backed by multi-layer and multi-density EPS foam, this helmet rocks the retro vibes while also giving you modern day protection.
A hand-sewn liner features classic diamond stitching to cement the retro feel of the lid, and it even features speaker pockets hidden behind the liner for modern comms devices to be mounted. The liner is also completely modern in that it uses bio-foam to prevent the growth of any smelly microbes.
The visor, while being fully retro in looks, is again a modern touch to the helmet, in that it is 98% optically correct and features UV protection. The final details worth noting here are the gradient pinstripes, reminiscent of the stripes you would find on cars, cruisers, and sport bikes of the 1970s.
The Biltwell Gringo SV is both DOT and ECE 22.06 rated.
The Bell Broozer helmet is a couple of years old now, but is a helmet that definitely fits into the neo-retro category quite neatly. While the original version from 2019 did not carry an ECE rating, the 2020 version saw a couple of changes that helped it gain the ECE stamp so it could be sold in Europe.
The thing that makes the Broozer unique is that it is, in fact, a modular helmet. If you want to have an open face ¾ helmet, you simply release the tabs on the inside of the helmet and the chin bar comes off.
The drop down visor built into the crown of the helmet can also be retracted if you want to go completely open face with a pair of sunglasses. Or it can stay down to give your eyes some protection—your call.
Made of a mixture of polycarbonate and ABS, with dual density EPS and removable, washable liners, the Bell Broozer is the perfect helmet to ride on both a retro rocket or a modern day cruiser with classic styling.
Anyone that’s been around any type of retro or cafe racer style motorcycle is familiar with the shape of the Bell 500. With a shell design and liner style that hasn’t changed much in decades, the Custom 500 just keeps on going, iterating year after year with newer materials and helmet technologies without loosing its retro charm.
This latest iteration uses a new weave of fiberglass composites for the shell, making it thinner but also stronger than previous versions. It also has a new EPS liner, and comes in 5 sizes so that no matter your head size, it looks low profile but still provides excellent protection
Of course, the liner also gets a slight upgrade for 2023. The liner is made out of perforated suede, and the chinstrap is soft leather with a double-D ring closure. The 5 snap face shield attachment works with any compatible visor, and a leather goggles strap sneaks its way in if you are going to use the helmet like the cafe racers of old did—open faced with some riding goggles.
The Bell Custom 500 is fully DOT and ECE 22.05 certified.
With style for days, Nexx Helmets out of Portugal should be on your must-see list. The SX60 is a fresh take on an open-face helmet mixing both retro and modern vibes.
The Advanced Thermo Resin shell is incredibly strong and lightweight so it can withstand anything the road may throw at you. Any head shape can fit inside the 3D-shaped interior of the helmet. A comfortable, allergy-free, removable, and washable lining keeps the interior fresh. Your eyes are protected from nature and UV rays by a drop-down sun visor and a polycarbonate Lexan face shield.
The Nexx SX60 Jazzy is fully DOT and ECE certified.
When it comes to helmets, Arai does not mess around. Their helmets are known to be some of the safest in the world, and although their bread and butter are full face helmets, they do make one helmet for the neo-retro and cafe rider. That helmet is the superb Classic-V.
Made from the same weave of fiberglass, carbon, and organic fibers, the shell maintains the curves of the famous Arai egg shape. Because Arai realized that ventilation in many retro helmets is pushed aside for style, there are a total of 3 full helmet vents that take in cool air across the forehead, and exhaust out the bottom of the neck roll. The helmet will take a 5 snap face shield, a 3 snap visor, or will let you ride with goggles or sunglasses.
As well, Arai’s one piece, multi-density EPS liner inside the shell provides the best impact protection available. With all of the safety features of the helmet, not only is it DOT and ECE 22.06 certified, it also has passed the stringent SNELL M2020 tests and is therefore qualified to be used in classic bike racing!
Cafe Racer Helmet #2: The Schuberth M1 Pro Outline
What you get with the M1 Pro, however, is perhaps one of the finest open face helmets to ever come out of Germany. Made out of multilayer fiberglass and carbon fibers, the helmet is resilient yet elastic for impact force dispersion.
The full face visor can be easily removed, and the internal sun shield is operated by a slider on the left hand side of the helmet. With the visor removed, an included peak visor can be installed to keep the sun out of your eyes and give it a more retro feel.
The shape of the helmet also combats one of the sore points about classic helmets—that of noise. By shaping the air that passes around it, wind roar is reduced, and the helmet features an optimized ventilation system that needs only one intake to cool your head.
The Schuberth M1 Pro Outline is both DOT and ECE rated.
Giacomo Agostini, or lovingly nicknamed Ago by his Italian fans, is one of the most successful motorcycle Grand Prix and Tourist Trophy racers of all time. With 122 GP wins and 15 world titles to his name, as well as 10 Isle of Man TT victories, his legendary career is celebrated with this special helmet that is modelled after his late 60s style grand prix helmet.
It is the small details that make this helmet the ultimate classic helmet. Made out of advanced composite fiberglass, backed by AGVs best EPS and lined with both suede and premium leather, the helmet features a contoured chin bar, just like Ago’s, that lets the rider tuck down just that inch tighter to the tank. The visor is fully spec to what Ago used, but made of modern ballistic polycarbonate so that nothing will penetrate.
Hidden ventilation ports keep your head cool, and the double-D ring strap is made of reinforced leather, as the straps in the past were. What makes this helmet extremely special for AGV, and for cafe racer riders, is that the tricolor Italian flag design of Ago’s helmet is what inspired the company’s logo.