Looking good & staying safe aren't mutually exclusive
All motorcycle helmets are not created equal. The safety standards rating system introduced by the Snell Memorial Foundation is renowned for being one of the world’s most stringent. The SNELL system was developed as a more rigorous testing process for motorsports where the chances of high impact collisions are greater. Unlike DOT, SNELL is a not for profit organisation and acquiring a SNELL certification is optional. This means any helmet wearing a SNELL rating has been voluntarily submitted to undergo more rigorous testing in order to provide riders with the best protection possible.
During SNELL testing helmets are impacted by 5 different shaped anvils as opposed to the two used during DOT tests. SNELL also performs drop tests from a greater height than DOT and tests the chin bar and visor strength for 360 degrees of approved protection. So if you’re planning on buying a new helmet to suit your cafe racer and want the best protection, a SNELL certified lid is a big step in the right direction.
To help you on your helmet purchase journey here are 7 SNELL rated cafe racer helmets we’d recommend checking out…
Arai Defiant-X HA Helmet
Arai are a huge advocate of SNELL and as such many helmets in their range wear SNELL certification. Amongst them you’ll find their latest addition to the retro helmet market, the Defiant-X. Now available in a wide range of finishes the Arai Defiant-X HA colourway is our pick of the bunch. It comes in either blue, green or a highly visible yellow with bold retro Arai branding and a slick white racing stripe.
Along with achieving a SNELL safety rating Arai created a retro styled helmet that doesn’t scrimp on performance. The Defiant-X features a shell constructed using Arai’s Special Fibre Laminate that is designed to disperse impacts over the widest area possible. On the inside you’ll find a handmade, multi density EPS inner core created as a single piece for superior strength.
Multiple vents on the exterior of the helmet channel cool air through a Free Flow System which is designed to reduce wind noise while extracting warm air from inside the helmet. The soft liner is anti-microbial and can be removed and washed to extend the helmets lifetime. Additional features include internal pockets for comms speakers and a removable chin curtain for when the temperature drops.
While the Bell Star MIPS DLX isn’t what most would consider a cafe racer helmet, this ‘Lux Checkers’ variant adds a touch of ton up style. Featuring Bell Helmets revolutionary Multi-directional Impact Protection System (MIPS) it offers the latest in crash protection technology and is both DOT and SNELL certified.
As defined by its name the Bell Star MIPS DLX comes with both a clear and photochromatic visor which will tint or lighten according to the amount of ambient UV light. The helmets race-bred shell has been redesigned to have a smaller profile without sacrificing performance and offers exceptional aerodynamics in upright riding positions. This feature packed helmet has been specially designed to minimise wind noise, can accommodate prescription eyewear, offers a wide field of view and has integrated speaker pockets. The Bell Star MIPS DLX Lux Checkers also comes in 6 different shell sizes to ensure a perfect fit.
At a touch under $150 it’s hard to believe that the LS2 Street Fighter helmet is SNELL certified. Rest assured though this is no mistake. This tough looking helmet was created with aggressive riders in mind but will look right at home on a performance focused cafe racer or modern classic.
In 2020 LS2 drastically improved the Street Fighter by decreasing its weight by a whopping 20%. This helmet also features a multi density EPS liner, adjustable ventilation, and an advanced polymer alloy composite shell. If your budget is tight but you don’t want to scrimp on safety, the LS2 Street Fighter helmet has you (and your head) covered.
Yes, retro open face helmets can achieve a SNELL rating too. Of course it took the skilled engineers at Arai Helmets to make it happen. The Arai Classic Groovy Helmet features their Peripherally Belted Complex Laminate (PBcLc) shell to ensure optimum protection. Beneath the shell you’ll find a one piece, multi-density EPS core that’s covered in an antimicrobial liner with faux leather accents on the outer facing edges.
Ventilation in an open face helmet may sound pointless, but Arai didn’t think so. Keeping the inside of the Classic Groovy cool are a series of discrete vents that channel air over the head and out via exhaust holes at the rear of the helmet. Along with a great range of retro colour schemes the Arai Classic Groovy Helmet features snap button clasps which can be used to fit a range of different Arai visors.
If you want to look like a badass on your cafe racer the Simpson Outlaw Bandit helmet is just the ticket. Simpson Performance Products have been around since the late fifties specialising in products for the race track. These American made helmets became hugely popular after Top Gear’s Stig wore one during his high speed antics and as a result are homologated for use in most countries.
The Simpson Outlaw Bandit is one of the company’s motorcyclist specific styles. Designed with high speed riding in mind it features an aerodynamically optimised design that reduces wind turbulence and helmet lift. A wide field of view lets you keep a close eye on what’s going on around you and you can choose from an expansive selection of visor tints to complete your new look.
If you’re into chunky rubber and off-road antics you can bring that vibe to the street wearing the SNELL rated Bell Moto-9 MIPS Helmet. In many cases MX helmets are best suited to the dirt due to differing safety standards. However, thanks to its premium safety rating the Moto-9 blurs that line. Similar to the Bell Star the Moto-9 features Bell’s MIPS technology which utilises an internal ‘slip plane’ that disperses the energy from rotational and angular impacts. This feature along with its composite Tri-Matrix shell are responsible for the helmet’s excellent safety rating.
Other benefits of wearing this sleek MX helmet on your cafe racer include an exceptionally lightweight design, excellent ventilation and an emergency release cheek pad system for added safety. Combine the Bell Moto-9 with your favourite pair of riding goggles and one of Bell’s custom peaks to create a unique look of your own.
It’s one thing to claim a helmet is race-inspired, but to back it up with a race ready safety certification shows you mean business. The Scorpion EXO R420 helmet does exactly that.
Featuring a sleek clutter free design this modern helmet will look right at home on most styles of motorcycle from cafe racers to sports tourers. Keeping your melon safe is Scorpion’s LG polycarbonate shell design which is both DOT and SNELL approved. The EXO R420’s quick release visor is optically clear, 100% UV protective and scratch-proof so you’ll have no issue taking in your surroundings. A washable, antimicrobial liner will help you keep the helmet smelling sweet while a specially designed ventilation system helps to prevent sweat build up. Emergency release tabs on the liner offer additional peace of mind while internal speaker pockets allow you to stay connected while you’re on the go.