Best retro motorcycle helmets for an old-school look with modern safety standards

Retro motorcycle helmets
Retro motorcycle helmets

The recent rise in popularity of retro-style motorcycles – machines with classic, old-fashioned looks but with bang-up-to-date mechanicals and performance, such as Triumph’s 1960s-influenced Bonneville, Kawasaki’s 1970s-inspired Z650RS and even 125s such as from MASH and Bullit – has also led to a rise in retro motorcycle kit.

After all, nothing spoils your classic image as much as riding in modern high-tech clobber. And that applies not just to helmets, but to leather jackets, gloves and bike boot as well. It’s a lifestyle look that’s just as relevant if you ride a café racer or cruiser.

And now there are more retro-style helmets available than ever. Legendary US brand Bell, who invented the first ‘full face’ helmet back in the 1960s, led the way when it introduced its retro Bullitt full face in 2014.

Since then, however, there has been a flood of retro offerings from all the leading manufacturers; some full face, some open (which obviously don’t offer as much protection) and some even motocross style.

Nor do you have to worry about retro helmets providing retro-standard protection, either. All are built to the same exacting manufacturing and ECE safety standards as any other, including modern structures, fastenings and visor openings and offer protection to match the best – just in more retro styles and colour schemes.

But what’s out there? What can you get for your money and what’s included? Here’s our pick of some of the best.

Tried and tested by Ben Clarke for two months

Look at it. It’s so good-looking that I’d still wear it if it crushed my head. I’d probably still wear it if I couldn’t see where I was going or it was made of immaculately finished papier-mâché. Maybe that makes me a dandy, but I don’t care… just look at it! Luckily for me and my disgusting vanity, the Shoei suffers none of those shortcomings. In fact, despite its lightweight design and jet-style dropdown visor, the Ex-Zero scores an impressive 4-star SHARP rating. So I can waft around trendy bike meets and coffee shops to my heart’s content safe in the knowledge that I’m also well-protected.

Read Ben's full review here


  • Classic 1980s styling
  • Modern safety features
  • Highly reputable brand


  • Among the most expensive
  • Quality
  • Value
Composite AIM Multi-Composite fibre layered shell
Chinstrap type Double-D
Type Retro full face
  • EPS liner system with multiple densities
  • E.Q.R.S (emergency quick release system) for easy helmet removal in case of accident
  • Integrated CJ-3 visor, adjustable in 3 positions
  • Removable and washable cheek pads and centre pad

Tried and tested by Ben Clarke for six months and 600 miles

If the looks are up your street and you’re looking for something to wear predominantly in spring through to autumn, the HJC V10 is a great option. It may not have the lustre and premium feel of more expensive helmets but for the asking price, it’s a really good quality option. I wouldn’t feel short changed if I spent my own money on one and when you add in the warranty and the fact the Pinlock is included, it seems an even sweeter deal. I do still have my reservations about using it in very hot weather and will report back later in the year on that front.

Read Ben's full review here


  • Looks great
  • Retro styling
  • Intercom ready
  • Good paint finish


  • visor changes takes time
  • Feels slightly budget
  • Tight to put on and off
  • Comfort
  • Visor
  • Ventilation
  • Noise
  • Looks
  • Quality
  • Value
  • Verdict
Construction Fibreglass shell construction
Type Modern with a retro feel
Chinstrap type Chinstrap type
CE Rating ECE 22.06
Warrranty 3 years
  • Emergency release cheek pads
  • Detachable and washable interior
  • Bluetooth compatible with Smart HJC (sold separately)
  • Pinlock included

Tried and tested by Saffron Wilson for four months and 4,400 miles

Before I tested this helmet, I’d never worn an open-face. But, since I was touring America in the middle of summer, I opted to give it a go. The lack of a chin bar meant I felt a little exposed, but this sensation quickly disappears when you’re on the ride. Plus, the J-O’s composite fibreglass shell is made from the same blend of fibres Shoei uses on its top-spec racing helmets and it features the same kind of multi-density EPS. I think it’s a classic and understated design, particularly its low-profile shell shape, as some other open-face helmets can give you a ‘lightbulb head’.

The clear visor with its three-levels of closure meant I didn’t have to invest in goggles and gives that extra bit of protection from the wind – as well as being vital in the rain! I also like that the J-O has a double-D ring chin strap. There’s no drop-down sun visor but the fit is comfy enough for me to be able to pop on a pair of sunnies. It is fabulous in warm weather and would be great for city riding too.


  • Great for warm weather or city riding


  • No integral sun visor
  • Quality
  • Value
Construction Multi-composite
Chinstrap type Double-D
ECE Rating 22.05
Warranty 5 year
  • Removable and washable interior
  • Goggle belt
  • CJ-3 visor with 3 lockable positions
Arai are generally known as the safest helmets on the market. This retro feeling offering has all of the safety features and modern features you would hope for in such a helmet. It meets the latest ECE 22.06 safety certification and comes with a five year warranty. The emergency release system allows for quick removal of the pads in case of an incident. The liner is antimicrobial and removable so that it can be washed or replaced if needed. There are speaker pockets to allow for the addition of an intercom system if desired. The chin and brow vents allow airflow into the helmet and the neck and rear exhausts full the air through the helmet.

The fixed chin spoiler helps to reduce the wind noise and the VAS MAX Vision visor allows for better visibility in all weathers. The easy open visor can be opened in gloves and paired with the Pinlock insert that is provided, visor fog should be taken care of.


  • Simple retro look
  • Modern features


Construction  Belted e-Complex Laminate
Chinstrap type Double-D
ECE Rating 22.06
Warranty 5 years
  • Hidden multi-stage air channel within the EPS liner
  • Open and close the chin bar vents from the inside
  • Fixed chin spoiler minimises wind noise
  • Pinlock insert lens included to prevent the visor from fogging up
  • VAS MAX Vision visor provides better visibility in all seasons
  • Antimicrobial liner and cheek pad material used
  • Fully removable and washable cheek pads and interior
  • Integrated speaker pockets that accommodate most intercom systems
  • Emergency Release System (ERS) for quick removal
The LS2 Bob II is an open face helmet that is made from a lightweight fibre composite shell. It meets the new ECE 22.06 safety certification allowing you to have piece of mind. The hypoallergenic liner is removable and washable to keep it fresh use after use. The drop down sun visor is scratch and UV resistant and can be positioned in two places. The peak is included in the box and is removable if preferred.


  • Retro look
  • Affordable price


  • Not as well-known as some
Construction High performance fibre composite
Chinstrap type Double-D
Type Open face
ECE rating 22.06
Warranty 2 years
  • High quality, scratch resistant, two position sun visor with UV resistant treatment
  • Magnetic strap system
  • Removable and washable, hypoallergenic comfort liner
  • Peak included

Tried and tested by Simon Relph for three years and 2,500 miles

Price: £215.00 (was £299.99)
I bought the original back in 1983 and still have it today, even though the lining has begun to disintegrate, I just can’t bear to get rid of it. The modern-day Bell Moto 3 is almost an exact replica, with the exception of the long peak which is now opaque black, as opposed to the original which was a black tint allowing you to see through it.

A comfortable, nothrills helmet with a double D-ring chinstrap, it has a good-size aperture for pretty much any make of goggles. The eight vents in the chin piece give plenty of ventilation and the fine mesh stops any foreign bodies. The liner is soft and comfortable, but the best bit is that it’s removable and washable – perfect when you have been sweating your cobs off riding off-road all day. A thing of beauty.


  • Faithful replica but with modern updates


  • There's very little to not like about this lid
  • Quality
  • Value
Construction Composite fibreglass construction
Chinstrap type Double-D
Type Full face Retro
Warranty 5 years
  • Front chin vents with metal mesh intake
  • EPS-lined chin bar
  • Removable and washable liner
  • Secure five snap visor

How MCN tests products

At MCN, our team of expert journalists have decades of experience gained over hundreds of thousands of miles. We don’t test our kit to destruction; we use it exactly how you do, in the real world and in all conditions. That means we can deliver impartial buying advice you can rely on.

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