It may feel like health and safety has gone too far these days, especially where European regulations are concerned. But when it comes to your head, it’s nice to know that you’re being protected by something more substantial than a plastic turtle shell. (And yes, I used to wear one).
As for a definitive Cafe Racer helmet, the only type available in the ‘good old days’ were open face. Usually worn with trademark goggles and an oil smeared white scarf. Two types of visors were available, one that snapped on to fasteners and stayed permanently in place which became a pain in the butt when steamed up. And the other with a huge supporting frame that allowed it to be flipped up – gone were the condensation problems as long as you didn’t mind looking like your head was in a goldfish bowl.
Strangely enough, those very bubble visors which were once the epitome of un-cool are making a huge comeback in the Café Racer and retro market. Biltwell Inc. of Temecula, California started in 2005 making bike parts. The company has now branched out into a cool line of retro look helmets in both open and full-face designs. Their DOT approved Bonanza open face range come in 17 different colors, ranging from a matt finish olive to my personal fave, the Root Beer Megaflake. Add to that one of their bubble shields in chrome mirror ($25) and you can be seriously cool, retro and safe.
On the other side of the Atlantic the big name in Café Racer helmets is Davida. They’ve been producing top of the range helmets for over 30 years, and have always gone for safety and quality and although this is reflected in their price, you do get what you pay for.
The helmets undergo the most extensive testing programs and, with the exception of their Speedster range, pass all of the US and European safety regulations. The Jet series even carry an ACU gold sticker, meaning they’re passed for track use, not something you see on most open face lids. All of the helmets are leather lined and retail at between 300-400 Euro ($315-420).
This is obviously the wild card of the bunch. It’s as retro looking helmet as it gets and if you are just ambling along from one organic coffee boutique to the next it will probably do. For just as little as $85 you even get the goggles and mask! Just don’t drop it when you’re balancing your Mocha choca, decaf latte.
Every time you throw a leg over your bike you’re making the call on the suitability of the kit you wear and whether you were born to be wild or born to be mild, at least today you can be safe and look cool.