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The Best Vintage-Style Motorcycle Helmets You Can Buy

Riding a café racer with a modern helmet looks just plain wrong. Here’s how to go properly retro.

a man riding on a motorcycle
Gray Van Dyke

Vintage style and motorcycles are good bedfellows. From Italian styling to luxuriously reconditioned rides, there's a raw, utilitarian beauty to be found on two wheels. Superfluity is kept at a minimum, and styles of yesteryear echo a time when motorcycling had an ethos and feel all its own — individualistic and raw with an attitude that was a natural flow out of the two-wheeled renegade spirit.

And that spirit lives on today, as more motorcycling gear manufacturers see value in vintage styling. More than just leather jackets and boots, helmets also imbue riders with retro aesthetics — and modern safety.

So, with all that said: it's time to let the beard grow out, tune-up your sweet little café racer, and get your vintage style ready for a Sunday ride.

Are vintage motorcycle helmets safe?

Vintage-style motorcycle helmets and vintage motorcycle helmets are two different things. Vintage-style helmets aspire to a timeless aesthetic but take full advantage of modern composite materials and decades of helmet design and safety advancements.

Vintage helmets are old helmets that don't have those tech advancements and likely have degraded materials and other structural issues. Manufacturers typically recommend swapping for a new helmet every five years as a rule of thumb. Wear the Steve McQueen-inspired helmet; don't wear Steve McQueen's actual helmet.

What to consider with a vintage-style motorcycle helmet


The helmet should fit snugly and comfortably on your head with the eye port starting above your eyebrows. If you can adjust the helmet side to side without your skin moving, you likely need a smaller size.

Open-face vs. Full-face

Many vintage-style helmets are open-face. There are some advantages to open-face style helmets: extra venting, added visibility and lighter weight. But helmets with a chin bar are safer as a high percentage of head impacts also involve the chin area.


Wearing a motorcycle helmet can get sweaty, particularly during summer rides. Look for liners that are easily removable, washable and made from antimicrobial materials.

Safety Standards

Manufacturers will reference several safety standards for helmets. DOT and ECE are the basic standards that must be met for the United States and Europe respectively. SNELL is a private U.S.-based certification required for some racing series. SHARP is a U.K. government program to assess helmet safety performance.


A lighter helmet will generally be more comfortable and cause less neck strain. Many helmets incorporate carbon fiber and other lightweight materials into the construction of the shell, which can reduce weight but also jack up the price.

Venting and Noise Cancellation

Vintage-style helmets aspire to that simple, smooth dome look. But much of the reason more modern helmets look fussy by comparison is to add venting and be less draggy and noisy. Nailing that vintage aesthetic may come with a comfort trade-off.

How We Tested

a collage with a motorcycle helmet on a counter and 2 men wearing motorcycle helmets
Gear Patrol Staff

Gear Patrol staffers and contributors rode for hundreds of miles testing vintage-style helmets for this guide. Rides included daily commutes and longer weekend trips and excursions in town, on the freeway and on California canyon roads. And helmets were assessed in all weather conditions; one of our testers does not own a car. When testing helmets we looked for comfort, usability, noise levels and venting.

Our Picks for Best Vintage-Style Motorcycle Helmets

Bell Bullitt

The Best Vintage-Style Motorcycle Helmet

Bell Bullitt Helmet

Bell cyclegear.com

  • Gorgeous finish and eye-catching paint schemes
  • Soft liner and premium feel
  • Speaker cut-outs for use with comm systems
  • Strong magnetic closure to secure face shield
  • Large face opening makes for great vision

  • Swapping visors is tedious and leads to hardware scratching
  • Small chin bar doesn’t inspire confidence or leave much room
  • Whistling/rattling can be expected at higher speeds
  • Shape: Round Oval
  • Weight: 3.24 lbs

    The venerable Bullitt has been around since 2014 – and it’s for good reason. A true fan favorite amongst vintage moto enthusiasts, it pairs undeniably old-school cool with the safety and build quality the Bell brand is known for.

    As is typical of retro helmets, the Bullitt is pretty spartan when it comes to features. Apart from a small, two-position chin vent, an exhaust vent, and a magnetically-latching face shield, there isn’t much in the way of modern creature comforts. And, because of the absence of a rubber seal around the face opening, our tester did note a tendency to whistle at higher speeds. Even still, the inner liner is quite plush (though our tester wished it was removable) and Bell has at least had the forethought to include speaker pockets for use with comm systems.

    But let’s face it: anyone who is considering biting the Bullitt isn’t doing so for its amenities; they’re looking at a lid to complement their ride, something that won’t clash with their cafe racer. Whether those things are worth the $440 is a decision that only you can make for yourself; you can get a lot in a modern helmet for that kind of money. Between the look, the feel, and the DOT/ECE certifications, though, it doesn’t get much better than the Bullitt in this category.

    Bell Bullitt Carbon TT

    Cycle Gear
    Best Upgrade Vintage Style Motorcycle Helmet

    Bell Bullitt Carbon TT Helmet


    • Microsuede interior is removable, washable and antibacterial
    • Chin vents for extra airflow
    • Has Integrated Speaker Pockets
    • DOT and ECE certified

    • Styling is more retro-futuristic than retro
    • Very expensive compared to the standard Bullitt and other vintage-style helmets
    • Shape: Round Oval
    • Weight: 2.82 lbs

      The standard Bullitt may be a bit spartan when it comes to features. But the Bell Bullitt Carbon TT takes things up a notch with some added goodies and modern twists. It gets an upgraded microsuede interior that is removable, washable and anti-microbial. It has added intake vents in the chin to improve airflow through the helmet. It has integrated speaker pockets. And it's nearly half a pound lighter than the standard Bullitt.

      With a price point approaching $700, the Bell Bullitt Carbon TT is a hefty investment compared to the standard Bullitt. And with its modern Carbon-y styling, the helmet can feel a bit more modern despite the retro silhouette.

      Biltwell Gringo

      Cycle Gear
      Best Budget Vintage-Style Motorcycle Helmet

      Biltwell Gringo


      • Comfortable over long rides
      • Snaps allow for easy visor or bubble shield additions
      • Several different cool-looking colors and graphics packages
      • Low price point compared to other modern helmets

      • Lacks the ventilation of a more modern-styler helmet
      • Goggles and face shield are sold separately
      • Shape: Round Oval
      • Weight: 3.54 lbs

        The Gringo’s full-face design hearkens back to the '60s and '70s; the glory days of riding legends like Steve McQueen and Evel Knievel. Unlike helmets of old, however, the Gringo meets all modern DOT and ECE R22.05 safety standards, thanks to an exterior made from an injection-molded ABS shell and an interior containing a three-piece expanded polystyrene safety liner.

        While our tester (luckily) never needed to put the Gringo’s safety features to the test, he found the helmet to be great in pretty much every other area. It was comfortable to wear for long periods of time. Snaps around the eye port allowed out tester to add a visor or bubble shield easily. And the Gringo offers several different colors and graphic packages, making an already cool helmet even cooler.

        But perhaps the best part is that the Gringo starts at just $175 — which is ridiculously low by modern high-quality motorcycle helmet standards these days. Even if you don’t ride, a price that low almost warrants buying one just to sit on a shelf and look cool. Of course, it's not perfect in every way. The Gringo isn’t a helmet with the most high-performing stats out there, and if you’re embarking on a cross-country ride, you may want to consider a helmet with additional features.


        Other Good Options

        HJC V60

        Cycle Gear
        Best Cafe Racer Helmet

        HJC V60 Helmet

        Write a Review cyclegear.com

        • Integrated, locking visor for secure, convenient eye protection
        • Snap-on peak for added customization and sun shielding
        • Speaker cut-outs for use with comm systems
        • Plush liner and glove-like fit
        • Plenty of room thanks to large chin bar

        • Rattling of button snaps gets annoying
        • Liner padding/snaps caused pressure in the temple
        • Wind funneled into visor during head checks
        • Lack of vents and features
        • No ECE certification
        • Shape: Intermediate Oval
        • Weight: 2.97 lbs

          With their simple, rounded shells and aggressive, vented chin bars, vintage dirt helmets offer a decidedly different vibe that’s perfect for everything from bobbers to enduro bikes. Unfortunately, their style usually comes at a cost – there isn’t much in the way of sound or element protection, as goggles can invite all sorts of wind, rain, and bugs into your face.

          HJC’s V60 bucks these inconveniences thanks to the addition of an integrated sun visor. When fully-deployed, it clicks into a set of secure detents, leaving only the tip of your nose exposed. So, while it won’t offer the quiet and isolation you’d find with a full-face shield, it does go a long way towards reducing the discomfort of road noise and cold air. The helmet also comes with a snap-on peak that, although prone to catching wind during head checks and rattling at highway speeds, does noticeably reduce glare.

          HJC has given the V60 other conveniences, too, such as a pair of cut-outs in the foam for speakers, some built-in grooves for use with glasses, and a set of tabs on the cheek pads for quick emergency removal. The liner is plush and padded, made up of a mixture of suede, mesh, and leather. Our tester found it comfortable during cold weather; however, the lack of vents around the brow and the back of the helmet could prove a little warm come time for summer riding. We’d also like to see an ECE certification in future iterations, though it’s not uncommon to see a helmet with a drop-down visor only achieve DOT status.

          Bell Rogue Helmet

          Cycle Gear
          Best 1950s Style Motorcycle Helmet

          Bell Rogue Helmet

          Bell cyclegear.com

          • Badass. Looks like the moto helmet Darth Vader would wear.
          • Muzzle offers more protection than traditional half helmet

          • Lacks ventilation on top of helmet
          • Muzzle not as protective on impacts
          • Shape: Intermediate Oval
          • Weight: 3.03 lbs

            Bell's Rogue helmet is the clear bad-ass of the group, looking very much like an extra from Mad Max: Fury Road. But the toughness isn’t all show. It’s a half helmet with a matching adjustable muzzle to keep debris and other road junk off your pretty face. Plus, the muzzle is magnetically mounted, making your reveal or concealment a snap. The matte black composite shell cuts the wind and protects your cranium, and the overall look will scare the dickens out of pretty much everyone short of law enforcement.

            The Bell Rogue is DOT approved. Though the muzzle won't provide as much protection as a full-face helmet in the event an impact. And other reviewers have cited comfort issues with the padding as a reason to remove the muzzle altogether.

            AGV X3000 Helmet

            Cycle Gear
            Best 60s Style Vintage Motorcycle Helmet

            AGV X3000 Helmet


            • Leather interior is removable and washable
            • Air venting with channels hollowed into the shell
            • Full-faced protection

            • Other reviewers complained about the process of switching face shields
            • Shape: Long Oval
            • Weight: 3.06 lbs

              AGV's X3000 Helmet blends a classic look from the 1960s with modern materials and amenities. The shell is made from a lightweight advanced carbon fiber. The interior — removable and washable aside from the neck roll — is made from genuine leather. And the helmet also adds extra venting. It also offers better protection with a full-face design.

              Other reviewers complained about the fit being a bit snug requiring them to size up and the visor swapping process requiring an Allen wrench.

              HJC IS-Cruiser Helmet

              Cycle Gear
              Best Cheap Vintage Motorcycle Helmet

              HJC IS-Cruiser Helmet


              • Anti-bacterial liner is washable and removable
              • Super lightweight polycarbonate shell
              • DOT approved

              • Open-face helmet that lacks face protection of a full-face helmet
              • Shape: Intermediate Oval
              • Weight: 2.64 lbs

                The IS-Cruiser takes the basic half helmet and adds a convenient (and protective) visor and a smoked-out sun shield, which can slide up or down as needed. This allows open-air freedom, with additional road and weather protection when you need it. The advanced polycarbonate shell is light and strong, and the liner is both moisture-wicking and antibacterial. The helmet is also super-light, weighing just 2.62 pounds.

                It is only a half helmet though, which means it doesn't cover your full face like a full-face helmet would in the event of an impact. Though the helmet is DOT approved.

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