Federal motorcycle-helmet laws have been in place in the United States for more than 50 years. In the past half-century, helmet design has evolved from simple leather caps to closed-face units with sophisticated air venting systems—with some even offering Bluetooth connectivity to the rider’s phone. The range in today’s helmet style is practically unlimited, including custom airbrushed helmet designs that combine flair with safety.
The first rudimentary helmets, dating back more than a century, were made from leather or canvas. Early concerns about safety resulted in the Isle of Man TT race mandating helmet use in 1914. Interest in safer helmet design picked up speed after T. E. Lawrence—better known as “Lawrence of Arabia”— died while riding without a helmet in 1935. The first helmets with two protective layers of padding were patented in 1953 by Dr. C. F. Lombard from the University of Southern California. While today’s helmets are high-tech creations that use advanced materials and multi-level structures to maximize protection, most of them are sedate in terms of style.
Safety and style can go hand in hand—with some safety advocates believing that colorful designs increase rider visibility. If you like a little to add a little pizzaz to your ride, start with well-chosen simple color—and then add pinstriping and tape. (Or maybe an adhesive Mohawk?) Take inspiration from NASCAR drivers, who for years have used custom helmets to promote their sponsors (and, in some cases, auction them off for charity after a race).
For truly unique motorcycle headgear, consider the offer by some eBay Motors vendors to airbrush a design on a new helmet. For an especially dramatic effect, the design can extend to the visor—but make sure that it doesn’t affect your visibility. The motifs range from flowers and football teams to movie characters and clowns.
When friends say that “some joker” passed them on a motorcycle, they could be referring to you.