Buying a full face retro or vintage helmet to match your new retro café racer is harder than actually building the café racer in the first place. If you want the partial protection of a 3/4 helmet the world is your oyster, there are companies like Bell, Biltwell and a million others who build beautiful lids and you can even get them custom painted to match your delicate, snowflake-like uniqueness.
Retro full face helmets are a whole other ball game. Obscure helmet maker Tachibana out of Japan makes great looking full face lids based on the vintage Bell Star and after a few weeks of research, I’m here to tell you they might just be your best bet. The helmets are tough, safe and handmade. By all accounts these helmets would probably pass the DOT test, but no one has actually tried. This model, the Tachibana GT-750 retails for 29,400 Yen, that’s about $360 USD. It’s available in white, black or sunset orange and is available for international orders through motobike.jp here.
The other avenue, though slightly more labour intensive, is to buy an actual vintage helmet and have it refurbished. Online retailers like BellHelmets.com sell authentic 60s and 70s Bell helmets that are DOT and SNELL approved but that need to be re-lined (due to age). Helmet re-liners like HellMuttLiners.com step in here and re-line the helmet from scratch with prices starting from $85 USD per lid. Buying a vintage Bell helmet and having it re-lined will have a combined cost of about $250-$350 USD (including ground shipping).
There are a couple of other helmet options labelled as “retro” but they really aren’t, until a manufacturer steps up and creates a full face retro helmet with DOT approval, these two options are your best bet. If you disagree or know something I don’t, let us all know in the comments below.
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