Best Cafe Racer Helmets – 2021 In-Depth Review

Troy
| Last Updated: May 19, 2021

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“How much is your head worth?”

That’s a thought-provoking statement commonly used by opinionated riders whenever a conversation on how much you should spend on a helmet comes up. Of course, they’re insinuating that your head is so precious, and you should be ready to spend a fortune to protect it.

Fortunately, you’ll not need to break a bank to acquire a comfortable, stylish, and strong café racer helmet. Many companies are designing modern-day technology helmets, which are affordable, durable, and elegant without compromising quality and safety standards.

This article compiles a list of the best café racer helmets that’ll keep you safe while still maintaining a stylish look. But first, let’s see what to look out for in a café racer helmet before making a purchase.

Comparison of the Best Cafe Racer Helmets

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Audio pockets in ear recesses
  • Expanded polystyrene inner shell
  • Comes with an included chin curtain
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  • Includes a chin ventilation system
  • Has an ergo padding system
  • Has a removable washable lining
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  • Best for the Money
  • Comes in 3 shell sizes
  • Features nappa leather accents
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  • Best Full Face Cafe Racer Helmet
  • Integrated speaker and boom mic pockets
  • Removable chin noise and air dam
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  • Best Cafe Racer Helmet with Goggles
  • Has a unique vintage style
  • Features protective and adjustable googles
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  • Best Bell Cafe Racer Helmet
  • Ultra low-profile fiber composite shell
  • Comes in 3 shell sizes
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  • Best Vintage Cafe Racer Helmet
  • Very easy to install and recharge
  • Has a very versatile fit
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What Makes a Café Racer Helmet Worth Buying?

Different types of motorcycles require specific helmets, although there is no hard and fast rule on this. However, to find a fitting café racer helmet, you’ll need to consider a few factors that I’ll explain below:

Helmet Weight

Although a little heavy helmet won’t overwhelm you as much since café racers are designed for short distances, finding a helmet with a comfortable weight is essential.

Most helmets will weigh between 3-4 pounds, which is not bad provided the design is good. A good café racer helmet should spread its weight around the head and your shoulder regions.

On the contrary, a poorly designed helmet with an imbalance of the center of gravity will feel heavier hence strain your neck.

According to Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, a good helmet will reduce head injury risk by up to 69 percent and death risk by 42 percent.

Helmet Shell

It’s a no-brainer that the material used in building a helmet corresponds to the level of safety it will offer. However, as you pay attention to the build material, you should consider how comfortable it will be on your head. You may look at its weight, design, and ventilation features.

Most helmets are made from Carbon fiber, Fiberglass composite, and Polycarbonate. Such helmets use expanded layers of polystyrene (EPS) form. An inner helmet shock-absorbent lining is usually created by compressing these forms tight.

The material used also determines safety levels. For instance, Carbon fiber is the most expensive but is lighter, comfortable, and will distribute energy in case of an impact. 

On the other hand, polycarbonate is less costly but will flex after absorbing energy. 

Fiberglass composite is a relatively expensive option and will absorb energy, flex, split and crush when an impact occurs.

Communication Provisions

Wireless communication devices for motorcycles are becoming popular; hence you need to pay special attention when selecting a helmet, especially if you intend to ride in a group.

There are helmets with in-built communication provisions. Other models also allow you to install Bluetooth systems to aid communication.

Additional Features

Other than the shell’s quality, some manufacturers go the extra mile to ensure your helmet is as safe and comfortable as possible.

Such helmets may include wind reduction features, integrated sunshade visors, advanced air vents, and communication provisions. All these are geared towards improving your riding experience.

Review of the Best Cafe Racer Helmets

Café racers are among the famous early bikes from the 1960s with so many helmet options. Below is a comprehensive review of some of the best helmets available on the market today.

Best Overall:
Biltwell Lane Splitter

PROS

  • Both DOT and ECE approved
  • Full-face helmet for added protection
  • Fog-free visor for clear vision in freezing climates
  • Removable visor and cheek pads for easy cleaning
  • Advanced ventilation features to keep your head safe, calm, and comfortable

CONS

  • It may be heavy for some riders
  • Can cause feelings of claustrophobia and isolation

Specs

Brand: Biltwell

Helmet Type: Full-face

Weight: 3.45 pounds

Safety Rating: DOT and ECE approved

Review

The Lane Splitter ranks top of Biltwells’ café racer helmet productions due to its outstanding features. A  close examination of its technical features confirms why this helmet takes the first spot on our list.

Built from a polycarbonate shell, also used in the Bonanza and Gringo helmets, the Lane Splitter also features a hard-edge, angular chin bar that will give you a professional and tough-guy/girl riders’ look.

The helmet has a removable interior liner, a hinged visor, and fabulous color options to choose from for variety. 

The Lane Splitter is made to be comfortable and comes with shock-absorbing EPS inner lining, cheek pads, and a tender cushion aligned in the chin bar for added comfort.

Designed around Biltwells’ exclusive ABS engineering, the Lane Splitter boasts its technical ventilation features with a chin bar vent to let in the fresh air and an outlet of hot air on the rear.

The helmet also has a hand-stitched inner padding, simple visor hinging for ease during replacement or cleaning, and mesh pockets around the ears suited for aftermarket communication systems.

The Lane Splitter has a hole configuration and a brass peg on its left side for secure closing and fast opening.

Bottom Line

If you’re looking to spot that 1970’s style famous with riders such as Rusty Butcher, then you can’t go wrong with a Lane Splitter. The Lane Splitter comes with most of the features you’d expect in an ideal helmet, such as:

  • Advanced ventilation features

  • Full head protection

  • Provision for communication systems installation (audio pockets)

  • Strong build from a polycarbonate shell

  • Removable and washable interior linings

  • Meets safety standards by ECE and DOT

  • Enlarged polystyrene interior shell

  • Stylish and with a chin curtain

  • A variety of colors to choose

Runner-up:
Nexx XG100 Racer Purist

PROS

  • Both ECE and DOT approved
  • Removable and washable liner
  • Durable build from carbon fiber
  • Available in a variety of colors and patterns
  • Features X-Mart Dry Technology for enhanced cooling and a soft touch

CONS

  • 60 percent smoke visor might be darker for night riding
  • Poor ventilation making it inappropriate for hot climates

Specs

Brand: X Nexx Helmets

Helmet Type: Full-face

Weight: 3.14 pounds

Safety Rating: ECE and DOT certified

Review

Nexx is a large shelled café racer helmet with a retro vibe and is both DOT and ECE approved, making it accepted almost globally.

Although it might not be the best helmet for summer due to its minimized ventilation features, Nexx's outer shell construction is a mixture of fiberglass, carbon, aramid, and organic fibers that’ll keep your head safe in case of a wreck.

Nexx may not be the lightest in this list but, with a carbon build and weighing just 3.14 pounds, the weight will feel comfortable enough even for distant rides.

The helmet also comes with a tinted visor to protect your eyes from the fatigue and glare of bright lights on sunny days. It has a  beautiful finish with classic gold pinstripes bordering the rear carbon fiber, further enhancing its retro aesthetic.

Nexx’s tinted visor can be used during sunny days and replaced with a clear visor for night rides.

Bottom Line

Apart from the less advanced ventilation that may make it unsuitable for warmer climates, Nexx has almost all other qualities a rider would look for in a helmet. Its carbon fiber infusion makes it lightweight and very comfortable on the head.

The helmet has a removable visor for easy cleaning and replacement in case you prefer to use goggles. Around the chin bar is a vent to let in cool air when temperatures rise. You’ll also be able to switch the visor to tinted on sunny days and clear during the night.

It has an anti-bacterial interior and removable cheek pads and other interiors. Due to its poor ventilations, you may consider pulling out some internal inclusions to allow for more air circulation.

The carbon construction coupled with the full-face helmet type can assure you enough protection during a crash.

Best for the Money:
Scorpion EXO Belfast

PROS

  • DOT approved for safety
  • Comfortable removal cheek pads
  • Luxury hand-stitched interior lining
  • Generous 5-year warranty against factory defects
  • Durable fiberglass shell build for assured industry standards

CONS

  • Not ideal for cold climates
  • Will not protect your chin during a wreck

Specs

Brand: Scorpion

Helmet Type: Open-face

Weight: 2.62 pounds

Safety Rating: DOT approved

Review

Open-face helmets give you a broad view and plenty of fresh air while still keeping you safe from external elements such as stones.

Although open-face helmets leave a wide area of your face exposed, Scorpion EXO Belfast features a drop-down visor to protect you from excess wind and sunburn, plus other detritus.

You may choose to use goggles with this helmet if you’re uncomfortable with the integrated visor.

Scorpion EXO Belfast also features the latest technology in protecting your head while still maintaining the sleek retro style without infringing on its comfort and safety standards.

The interchangeable speed-view visor allows you to replace it with a clear visor at night or tinted during the day. On the interior is a Nappa leather that feels comfortable on the skin while keeping that classy new school look.

Apart from its durable build from fiberglass, the helmet also has a 5-year warranty.

Bottom Line

If you do short-distance rides, you’ll love an open-face Scorpion EXO Belfast café racer helmet.

At just 2.62 pounds, this helmet is light and comfortable on the head. It has a tender leather liner and removable cheek pads that also help keep it snug on the head.

A retractable visor allows you to use goggles or keep an open view when riding at low speed in favorable climates. You can easily unhinge and replace these visors in case of breakage. 

A Scorpion EXO Belfast café racer is also a stylish type of helmet available in multiple colors.

Best Full Face Cafe Racer Helmet:
Simpson Ghost Bandit

PROS

  • Two adjustable chin vents
  • Features anti-bacterial liner
  • Advanced ventilation system with vents on top and rear
  • Detachable shield for easy cleaning or replacement
  • Integrated speakers and microphone pockets for communication system installation

CONS

  • May be heavy for long-distance riding
  • Accessing open/close vent switches at the front is difficult with the helmet on (buttons located in the chin bar)

Specs

Brand: Bandit

Helmet Type: Full-face

Weight: 3.46 pounds

Safety Rating: DOT and ECE certified

Review

The Ghost Bandit is built to offer edgy styling while still keeping its top-notch comfort. The helmet works well for most riding requirements and features an aerodynamically tuned lightweight shell with ventilation on top and rear.

If you love spotting that classic tough-guy/girl Bandit look, then this is your go-to type of café racer helmet.

The Bandit also has a retractable sun visor, integrated microphone pockets, and speakers to install communication devices easily.

However, the helmet is available in slightly smaller sizes, so consider ordering a larger size if you have a medium head size.

Bottom Line

Some adorable features that make the Bandit a darling to many riders are:

  • Advanced ventilation suitable for any climate

  • Full-face for enhanced safety

  • Both speaker and microphone pockets for  communication systems installation

  • Detachable parts such as the anti-bacterial liner, shield, air dam, and chin noise

  • Sun visor

  • DOT and ECE certified

Best Cafe Racer Helmet with Goggles:
Fang Shan PU Leather

Fang Shan PU Leather Helmet 3/4 Motorcycle Chopper Bicycle Helmet Vintage Motorcycle Helmet and Goggles Mask

PROS

  • Accommodates adjustable goggles
  • Shock-absorbent ABS+EPS material
  • Unique vintage with a solid structure
  • Lightweight and comfortable for distant riding 
  • Ideal for motorcycle outbound training and climbing

CONS

  • Goggles are somewhat blurry and may bar vision in foggy climates
  • Offers less protection leaving some parts of the head exposed

Specs

Brand: Fang Shan

Helmet Type: Open-face

Weight: 2.9 pounds

Safety Rating: DOT approved

Review

Fang Shan PU Leather Helmet is a unique solid vintage-style café racer helmet suitable for cave exploration, climbing, and outward bound training.

The helmet features a shock-absorbent ABS+EPS build material. It’s very sturdy and stylish and comes in several colors, including brown-black, Black Bean, Brown, Brown Bean, Cool Black, and cool brown.

The helmet accommodates goggles without a hassle to protect your eyes on sunny days.

Although some riders report that the goggles are a little blurry, you can always replace them or remove them when riding in cool climates at low speed.

At just 2.9 pounds, this café racer helmet is very light and will feel super comfortable on your head when you’re out skiing.

Bottom Line  

Most riders prefer Fang Shan for skiing. The leather build does not warp easily, even in harsh climates. The helmet is lightweight and will not stress your neck even on long-distance rides.

Fang Shan also features a shock-absorbing ABS+EPS material. The build is super sturdy and available in various fancy colors to complement your cafe racer riding jacket.

Best Bell Cafe Racer Helmet:
Bell Bullitt

PROS

  • 5-year warranty
  • DOT and ECE approved
  • Very light and comfortable at just 3.24 pounds
  • Features a sleek design borrowed from the iconic Star
  • Full-face mask for enhanced protection for the entire head

CONS

  • Doesn’t come with a tinted shield
  • Tends to be warmer during summer

Specs

Brand: Bell

Helmet Type: Full-face

Weight: 3.24 pounds

Safety Rating: DOT and EC certified

Review

Built from the lightest and most robust carbon composite shell and originating with the iconic Star from the 1960s, Bell Bullitt features modern technology and safety standards.

The helmet also features removable and washable high-density EPS linings. For added comfort and a seamless ride, the helmet has contoured 3D cheek pads, integrated speaker pockets, and offers good ventilation.

The helmet weighs a paltry 3.24 pounds making it more comfortable on your melon. On top of all the benefits, this helmet also has a five-year warranty and is ECE and DOT-approved.

Bottom Line

Bell Bullitt comes with a clear face shield, five metal mesh vents, a removable and washable anti-bacterial interior, and weighs just 3.24 pounds. The full-face café racer helmet is an ideal choice for most riders other than the café racer crowd.

The helmet features excellent ventilation, has integrated speaker pockets and comes with contoured cheek pads to make your ride smooth and comfortable. The helmet is covered with a five-year warranty and is also ECE, and DOT approved.

Best Vintage Cafe Racer Helmet:
Arai Classic-V Groovy

PROS

  • Adjustable face shield
  • Removable cheek pads
  • Available in a variety of colors
  • Features anti-bacterial interior
  • Advanced ventilation with three forehead air intake vents and two exhausts at the rear

CONS

  • Face shield not included in the package
  • Exposes the chin to injuries when a crash occurs

Specs

Brand: Arai

Helmet Type: Open-face

Weight: 2.10 pounds

Safety Rating: DOT and SNELL M2020 certified

Review

Arai Classic-V Groovy helmet has advanced ventilation features that give it an edge over its competition. It has concealed interior vents, three air intakes on the forehead liner for drawing, and spreading cool air all over the head to three lower exhausts at the back. 

You’ll not sweat in the head even during summer.

Arai has a fine finish with its rigid shell nicely rounded with Faux leather, which can withstand scratches and does not contain moisture; hence, it will not warp or crack. The helmet is also very light at just 2.10 pounds.

Arai has a goggle strap holder to keep it safe, features an anti-bacterial interior, and is both DOT and Snell M2020 approved. The helmet also comes in several colors: Groovy Brown Frost, Groovy Tan Frost, and Groovy White.

With up to five snaps of face shields, you’ll adjust the face shield depending on the weather conditions. Additionally, this helmet allows you to use goggles if face shields are not for you.

Bottom Line

An open-face café racer helmet with Snell M2020 approval is enough assurance that Arai is no joke.

The helmet combines other features that make an ideal helmet, such as highly advanced ventilation, removable cheek pads, and a one-piece multi-density EPS liner to absorb hard knocks.

The helmet has a clasp at the back to hold your goggles in place. It also comes in various colors and features several face shield snaps of up to five.

What is a Cafe Racer Helmet? 

Any helmet labeled as retro or classic by the manufacturer could be suitable for a café’d ride. While some acquire designs straight from the makers’ history books, others claim to possess spirits of the grandfathers.

Thankfully, despite their looks of yesteryears, all these helmets still utilize modern safety technology to protect your melon. Going for the most stylish models means overlooking some features found on modern helmets by default.

Of course, café racers possess a more showy display rather than a bike on a mission. So, their helmets would lack some features but compensate for that with their stylish looks.

However, these helmets are not designed purely for the café racer crowd. They’ll look great on all other custom bikes such as Bobbers, Scramblers, as well as the occasional choppers. They’ll also pair well with a revived classic.

So, if your bike falls on that list, then you’ll probably not go wrong with a café racer helmet.

Full-Face Cafe Racer Helmet vs Open - Comparison Overview 

There are three main types of helmets; full-face, open-face, and flip-up/modular helmets.

Below, we’ll compare the two common types, full-face and open-face helmets. Let’s see why you’d choose one over the other and the benefits and disadvantages that come with each.

Full-face Helmet

Full-face helmets are the most famous types of brain buckets in the history of bike helmets. They feature full-face protection and a fixed chin bar. The only flexible part that you can open and close is the visor.

The ultimate goal of a helmet is to protect your head during a wreck. Since full-face helmets cover all parts of your head, they are always considered the safest.

However, they also have their limitations.

Advantages

  • Offers whole head protection
  • Protects against cold, wind, and rain

  • Easy to design in a way to reduce noise

  • Easy to transform to aerodynamic and lightweight

Disadvantages

  • Warm and uncomfortable during summer

  • Tends to be claustrophobic and may make you feel isolated

Photo credit: bikebound.com

Open-face Helmet

Just as the name suggests, this type of helmet is open at the front and bottom. It lacks a chin bar which differentiates it from full-face and flip-up models. 

However, that does not mean they are less robust than full-face helmets; the only downside is that they only cover a small portion of the head.

Open-face helmets are available in two categories: 

  1. Retro open-face helmets 
  2. Modern open-face helmets

The significant difference between the two is the visor and helmet design.

Retro open-face helmets have a small visor near the eyes or may not have one at all. On the other hand, modern open-face helmets have longer visors that stretch down to the chin.

Advantages

  • Wider view field

  • Sufficient fresh air

  • Offers the feeling of free motorcycling

Disadvantages

  • Lacks chin protection which exposes you to injuries during a crash

  • The helmet can be very cold during winter

  • Not the best to ride at high speeds

  • You may need a face mask for protection against sunburn, stones, windburn, and other on-road detritus

  • Quite noisy

  • You may need to wear goggles to protect your eyes

Scorpion EXO Belfast

Cafe Racer Helmet Laws 

Most motor riders put on helmets to keep safe during a crash. It is a mandatory requirement across many states in the US and globally. Surprisingly, some states in the US, such as Illinois, New Hampshire, and Iowa, have entirely no helmet laws.

Other states have helmet laws, which vary from state to state. However, there are some universal laws across all states. These laws state that:

  • Motor riders must use helmets certified by regulatory agencies such as the Department of Transport (DOT) for riders in the US.

  • Helmet laws apply to all motorized cycles. These include low-powered rides such as scooters or mopeds and all motorcycles.

Some laws may only apply to those meeting specific standards that may include horsepower, engine capacity, or rather the ability to go beyond certain speeds.

  • Specific penalties, usually monetary, apply to all violators.

Top Brands in the Café Racer Helmet Space

With so many different motorcycles available for riding enthusiasts, companies produce various helmets that suit specific needs. However, some brands are renowned for their quality productions compared to others.

Below are some top players in the café racer helmet space.

Arai

Arai Helmets has been around since 1937 when Hirotake Arai founded it as a hat manufacturing firm. 

In the late 1940s, the company started producing protective helmets. Inspired by the desire to meet his riding needs, Hiratoke started manufacturing motorcycle helmets in 1952. 

In 1976,  Mitch, Hirotakes’ son, set out to make Arai the worlds’ number one helmet. Arai has lived up to that dream and today produces some of the best helmets for riders worldwide. Arai’s great helmets available on the market are Arai Defiant-X, a top-class sports bike helmet.

Bell

Founded in 1923 in Bell, California, Bell Helmets Company was initially named Bell Auto Parts. Roy Richter, one of the employees, later acquired the company in 1945 but did not produce helmets until 1954.

Today, Bell produces some of the leading types of helmets, including racing sports and other safeguards for land speed racing and regular road travel. You can check out some of the best cafe racer helmets from the Bell Helmets page.

Biltwell

Biltwell has been making some of the top helmets on the market since 2005. Located in Temecula, California, Biltwell has been in the industry for barely two decades but has made a name as a trusted manufacturer of motorcycle helmets.

Some top-of-the-range helmets from Biltwell are Gringo full-face and Bonanza open-face helmets.

Price Points of Cafe Racer Helmets

Cafe racer helmets come in different types, including build material and safety levels. Some of the most expensive cafe racer helmets are the most stylish and offer maximum protection. However, the price is not the only determining factor of a good cafe racer helmet.

Below is an overview of cafe racer helmet prices:

$50 - $150

Cafe racer helmets in this price range are very simple and are mostly open-face helmet types, although full-face types are also available in this price range.

These helmets have less advanced protection features and may not be the best for high-speed riding. You may check out TORC T50 ROUTE 66 in this price range.

$150 - $300

These are full-face and open-face cafe racer helmets with advanced ventilation features built from solid and light carbon fiber. Some are constructed from fiberglass. You may check out Bell Riot Helmet from Bell company.

Photo credit: backyardrider.com

$300+

Cafe racer helmets in this price range are the most advanced and will guarantee you comfort and maximum protection in case of a crash. 

These helmets are built from durable light carbon fiber and feature more advanced ventilation standards. They are also famous for high-speed sports motorcycles. Shoei Glamster Retro Motorcycle Helmet falls within this price range.

Who Should Not Buy a Café Racer Helmet?

Most cafe racer helmets will work well with all other motorcycles. One prominent feature that sets cafe racers aside is its power and lightweight design. They are powerful and optimized for speed.

Most cafe racers have a forward-leaning posture making them ideal for short quick rides.

However, keep in mind that cafe racers are made for comfort; hence, most of the cafe racer helmets also feature the same luxurious designs and may lack other vital features required for long-distance rides and other standard motorcycles. 

Riders covering long distances at high speeds, for instance, sports racing riders, should avoid cafe racer helmets. These helmets may not offer you the protection needed in case of a crash.

Photo credit: motorcycleisland.com

Conclusion 

Your choice of a cafe racer helmet can impact your experience as a rider to a more significant extent. 

Since cafe racers are not suitable motorcycles for long-distance rides due to their uncomfortable forward-leaning design, you should look to compensate for that with one of the best cafe racer helmets available.

Keep in mind that cafe racers are powerful fast bikes that are suited for full-face helmet protection. However, if you enjoy your rides at moderate speed within short distances, you’ll not go wrong with a stylish open-face cafe racer helmet like a Scorpion EXO Belfast.

The choice boils down to your preference, but keep in mind that more cover means more protection.

People Also Ask

Many questions surround the impact the choice of your café racer helmet will have on your riding experience. Below we answer some common questions from riders.

Are Cafe Racer Helmets Safe?

Depending on the type of café racer helmet you choose to use, these helmets can be very safe. For the maximum protection of your head, go for a full-face café racer helmet instead of an open-face.

Are Cafe Racer Helmets DOT Certified?

DOT-certified helmets can protect the head up to 250 times the gravity force during a crash. DOT is the primary measurement for the safety standards for helmets.

Although DOT doesn’t test the helmets directly, most manufacturers of café racer helmets are keen to meet these requirements. Check on the rear of the helmet for a painted symbol or a ‘DOT’ sticker to confirm compliance.

Do Cafe Racer Helmets Have Snell Certifications?

Unlike DOT approval, Snell certifications are subject to more rigorous standards. Snell is a non-profit organization with the most stringent safety standard ratings in the world that initially targeted motorsports prone to crashes.

Therefore, not all helmets, including café racer helmets, wear SNELL ratings. It is optional, and those that possess the sticker do it by choice.

Troy

Hi, my name’s Troy. I started riding motorcycles with Clay mid-2020 and soaking up his vast knowledge of bikes. I have been writing for a few years and decided it was a good time to start writing about what I’m passionate about - motorcycles. No matter how bad your day is, a bike will always make you feel better, that’s my motto.