Helmets are an important part of road safety for motorcycle riders because they may prevent serious injuries to the head and reduce the chances of fatalities in motorcycle accidents by a huge margin. This is all because our head is the most vulnerable part of our body when we’re riding a motorcycle and the one that suffers the most in case we have an accident. However, it’s not just a safety measure because there are different styles of cafe racer helmets through the years that have risen in popularity and became classics because of the way they look and the style and personalization they offer to the rider. Ever since they were invented they’ve completely changed the entire look of motorcycle riders for the better and added an extra item that can be personalized and used for expression.
Although, at first there were many riders that preferred not to wear helmets because they considered it to be uncool and gross, the opinion of a lot of people has changed once they realized the amount of protection it offers and the decline in total fatalities it had during the years where it was mandatory for people to wear their protective helmet.
For many motorcycle riders, it became a part of their persona and character to wear a helmet and what they once deemed uncool and gross to wear, was now something that they couldn’t ride without. The popular opinion of using helmets changed throughout the years and people started finding it cool while people today prefer wearing some classic helmet wear that look exactly like the ones that were produced back in the days but with modern day technological improvements.
The history of popular helmets is quite interesting and dates back quite a bit so let’s dig into it and learn a few things about a few helmets through the years that left a mark and became classics that many companies are influenced by when designing their products today.
History and Development
Helmets didn’t appear as soon as the first motorcycle did because when it was invented it wasn’t fast enough to require any special protective gear like a helmet. It was built for fun and the inventor that built this also had a leather cap that he used as a form of protection although it didn’t really provide much because it wasn’t a helmet.
As motorcycles became faster and more advanced the need for some protection was felt although it wasn’t invented until a very popular historic person called T.E. Lawrence died from an injury to the head that he received in a motorcycle crash in 1935. His death made people aware of the dangers associated with riding motorcycles and authorities made it a requirement for people to wear protective helmets when they ride for their own safety. Motorcycle companies at this time were in a competition against each other of which one can make the fastest motorcycle and it meant that the deaths from accidents became more often when people weren’t wearing helmets.
Helmets weren’t worn and many people resisted until the 1941 when the British Army suffered a loss of two soldiers within a week and demanded that their soldiers have helmets as part of their gear which they had to wear when they rode.
It wasn’t until the 1953 when the first helmet that could absorb shocks from accidents was introduced to the market by Professor C.F. Lombart. He designed the helmet for speed racing because motorcycles were becoming faster and faster. This invention by the professor of the University of South California was a true turning point for helmets. It was made of a strong outer shell that had two more layers of padding that was used for both comfort and to absorb the shock from the energy surge caused by the impact of the crash. One of the most popular helmets of all time and a complete classic was the Bell 500 helmet that came out in 1954 made by Roy Richter.
A few years after the classic helmet was made, a company was established with the purpose of testing helmets that other companies produced and it used to test the quality of the helmets without being influenced by anyone including the government giving fair and correct results about the safety of each helmet they tested.
Although wearing helmets was proven to be much safer and it prevented many people from dying by head injuries suffered from motorcycle crashes people still didn’t like wearing them and there was no law requiring them to wear them whenever they are riding on their bikes. The popular opinion among many riders was that it was completely uncool and gross to wear something of the sort until the 1961 in Australia where the first law for mandatory helmet wear was introduced where anyone riding a motorcycle had to have a helmet on as a safety precaution.
A few years later, similar law was introduced in the US through the Highway Safety Act that made it mandatory for helmets to be worn in every state. The states had to implement this law because otherwise they wouldn’t get any funding for their roads and highway building and maintenance. In the same year, the standards of safety motorcycle helmets were set and all manufacturing companies had to have their helmets meet these standards so they could pass their product to the market.
In the year of 1971, the first full face helmet was created and hit the market become extremely popular among riders. The popularity of open face helmets started to drop during this period and the popularity of open face helmets was on the rise and many riders accepted this emerging trend.
In 1975, the strict helmet wearing rule was revoked and many states revoked their strict helmet laws from use resulting in many people deciding to not use helmets anymore while others wore them because they became trendy and cool.
Ever since the mandatory law for wearing helmets was revoked, the fatalities caused by head injuries in motorcycle accidents increased and continue to increase significantly. Many companies who make motorcycle helmets had decline in profits because less people were interested in wearing one they didn’t stop making them for those who were concerned with their safety and felt like they are looking more stylish with their helmets on.
Open Face Helmet
One of the best examples of an open face is the Bell 500 helmet that was one of the first helmets made in the 1950’s and became an immediate success for the company. Today it’s available as Bell 500 Carbon and it has a lot of updated safety features but it was designed to look exactly like the one they had back then as kind of a tribute that boosted their success. This is definitely one of the most popular helmets of this time and company and it has amazing features that many serious riders love.
It’s a helmet that has a carbon composite shell that is low profile and a multi dense EPS liner sizer with 5 shells. The interior liner is custom suede leather and it also has EPS foam layer with a narrow profile. It comes without a visor but it has an integrated system that allows you to strap shields or visors quite easily. It straps to the chin with a chin strap that has a D-ring closure. It also features a leather goggles strap. Of course, it has DOT and ECE certifications and on top of everything the company offers a 5 year warranty with a bonus leather bag for the helmet.
It’s a bit pricey, costing a little below $400 but for the features it has and for riding enthusiasts it’s an investment that is completely worth it because it’ll keep you protected while providing that stylish retro look that people had back in the 1950s. If you’re into classics that would never go out of style this helmet is the right pick for you and you won’t lose a minute sleep over the money you spent.
Full Face Helmet without Shield
Aside from the open face helmet that left its mark in the different styles of café racer helmets through the years, another retro styled helmet that is very popular and designed to look like a few popular helmets through the years is the Biltwell’s Gringo Helmet which is a helmet that offers minimum protection and it’s very shiny. Their 2019 line is the one that caught our eye and what the company did is actually made their design similar to the style that was in motorsports in the 60’s and made the helmet suitable to the safety standards of today. Basically they managed to create a helmet that is as stylish as the ones available back in the days with the appropriate safety features that keep riders safe of the present.
This helmet has a lightweight ABS outer shell which is injection-molded with Three-piece EPS that makes the helmet fortified and able to dissipate impacts because the helmets structure is made for increased security. It also features a molded urethane chin bar pad which protects against frontal impacts. The inside of the helmet has removable cheek pads and comfort liners made of lycra for better absorption with an adjustable strap. The three-piece Expanded Polystyrene has recesses inside to support communication tools that might be installed after purchasing the helmet.
This helmet isn’t as pricey as the first open face one and in fact it’s nearly half the price costing around $175. It comes in many different colors and it’s one of the best helmets that represents the 1960’s culture of riders. It offers good protection and if you are into popular helmets and classic styles this one should be one of the first in that category.
Full Face Helmet with a Shield
Another very popular helmets type that was extremely popular in the late 1960’s and definitely worth mentioning as one of the most popular helmets through the years that is still being used today is the full face helmet with a shield and the best example in this category is the Bell Bullit helmet. This helmet is extremely well made and has the same style as the classic they made back in the day with infusing modern technology that offers maximum safety, comfort and protection for the riders.
This helmet has amazing features as well. It has a fiber composite shell with ultra-low-profile with a multi-dense EPS liner. The interior liner is brown with a pull tab on the face shield which is also brown. The entire interior is made out of antibacterial material and it’s removable and washable. The fabric is perforated micro-suede with some leather trim and it has a padded chin strap that features a D-ring closure made out of stainless steel that has a black pull. It has not just 1 but 5 intake vents and an exhaust vent in the rear. The cheek pads are 3D cut and feature speaker pockets. It has both ECE and DOT certifications and it’s an amazing retro style option.
The helmet is quite expensive, costing about $420 although it can be found for $400 in some stores. Even though it’s quite expensive it’s a classic helmet that true riders will appreciate and would love to have in their collection despite the cost. Enthusiasts understand that a rider’s helmet is an investment that always pays off as it elevates your style and safety at the same time.
Bubble Shield and Flat Shield
While in the early days people used to wear goggles with their helmets for extra protection against, wind, rain, or the sun, after a while, shields were invented and many people turned to them instead of the goggles because they were more practical and easier to use. Instead of putting on a helmet, goggles and a scarf over your mouth and nose, all you needed to do is put on the helmet that already had a shield on it and you were good to go. It was a nice invention at the time and there were two types of shields, bubble shield and a flat shield.
Both of these shields served the same purpose of extra protection against the elements but they also left their mark in history in terms of style and they are used today for both reason. Although the shields today are made out of much better material and come in different shapes and sizes, with or without tints for extra protection from the sun for long rides, many riders still add them to their helmets because of the classic retro look it adds to the entire helmet. They can be paired up with many popular helmets of today and give them a vintage style look and many riders are actually getting them for this exact reason.
The bubble face shield is the one that gives a bit more of a retro and vintage look when they are both compared in different helmets but aside from the look, people also say that these shields allow them to ride longer on their bikes and even have fun when they are riding in the rain because there are no more «needles» hitting your face and on top of all that it provides the much necessary protection from the sun that might burn your face and lips from getting cracked from the heat.
Popular paint jobs for helmets
Throughout the years, there were a lot of different colors and styles of helmets but there are a few paint jobs that really stood out and made their mark in history that they are extremely popular even today.
Faded helmet colors are among those different styles of care racer helmets through the years that left their mark and are being produced today. They give a classic, old and vintage look to the helmet that when you look at it, it really takes you back to the days when they got like that from being worn constantly. Faded colors on helmets are definitely some of the all-time bests and deserve a mention here in our post.
These are similarly popular as the faded ones and many companies are producing deliberately discolored helmets that have that old school look because of the paint job that people very much love. The old, worn out look that it gives, reminds people of the old days where helmets were personal items that had sentiment to the riders.
Some of the helmets in the old days didn’t have the best paint job and after a while that same paint job would be gone and the rust would begin to cover the helmet. It gave such an old and cool look to the helmet that it became a very popular paint job today and many riders want their helmet to have that rusty look.
In the old days a lot of the helmets didn’t have the greatest paint job, as we mentioned above, and the paint would fall off even with a slight bump which after a while turned into a trendy look that became a classic and it’s a very popular paint job for many popular helmets today.
Following the many different styles of cafe racer helmets through the years we can come to the conclusion that a rider’s helmet isn’t just a piece of equipment that is there to protect him from a potential fall. For true riding enthusiasts, the helmet is a piece of them and their personality. The type of helmet they pick is a style choice among other things that allows them to truly express their personality and the way they feel when riding a motorcycle.
There are quite a lot of choices and options that riders can use to express themselves and personalize their helmets while still increasing their safety and security in case they crash. They can go for the oldest and one of the classic open face helmets that used to be used with goggles to protect the eyes and a scarf for the rest of the face back in the day. Companies have adapted their designs of these helmets with the latest materials and technologies available that offer the maximum protection and comfort for the rider while still retaining the same look they used to have when they first came out. They became much lighter in weight and much safer in the same time.
Aside from the open face helmets that were very popular helmets in the 1950’s the full face helmets with and without shields came next that took over and had a rise in popularity during the 1960’s. They provided a little more protection against frontal falls because they have padding on the chin too and you could buy them with a shield or without one. Either way, the look from back then became a classic today and there are many companies producing this type of helmets that are designed as the ones from the 1960’s with better materials that provide extra safety and comfort for the wearer. The looks however match the ones from long ago which is exactly what people who like old school style are looking for.
A lot of these helmets through the years got improved and some features were added but one thing that many companies made first is the possibility of adding a bubble shield or a flat shield to both open face helmets and full face helmets. The main purpose of them was to protect the rider from the elements such as wind, rain and sun but they also became quite popular for how they made the helmets look and how stylish the wearer was. Their primary use of replacing the goggles quickly became secondary because their popularity was based on the style it provided for riders.
The different styles of café racer helmets through the years also have us some unique paint jobs today. Many paint jobs back then weren’t as good as they are today and it often happened that the paint would fade or completely disappear or even become rusty which made the helmets look even cooler because of the antique style it gave them. This stuck through the years and companies today are making helmets with paint jobs that resemble those faded, discolored and rusty helmets to give them a classic style and a vintage look.