“Ground control to Major Tom
Ground control to Major Tom
Take your protein pills and put your helmet on…”
Every time I slip the Biltwell Gringo S on, the lyrics to “Space Oddity” by David Bowie fills my helmet.
With its retro styling, it’s hard not to compare the Gringo S to ‘60s astronaut helmets, especially with the Bubble Shield option. The simplicity of design harkens back to a time that seems like it must have been simpler. Biltwell’s most used hash tag is #ridemotorcycleshavefun. What could be simpler than that? After all, let’s not overcomplicate riding.
The stripped-down clean design is a breath of fresh air. It is nice to have an option that fits more appropriately to the type of riding you’re doing. It always feels uncomfortable to show up on a vintage bike with a super modern, high-tech race helmet or to wear a dirt bike helmet with a chopper. It’s like showing up to the gym wearing high heels with your Lycra. It just doesn’t work.
Biltwell fits that in-between space well. You want something that is protective, DOT-compliant, super hip and able to blend with more casual riding styles, but way better than a bean bucket. Oh yeah, and let’s throw in affordable while we’re at it.
Although the Gringo S mostly nods to vintage styles, there is a modern cleanness in the detailing. There are no superfluous do-dads. Everything is simple. How the shield opens and closes is simple, the hardware choice is simple, changing the shield is simple. It took me less than 10 minutes to swap out the clear UV-A/UV-B shield the Gringo S comes with and replace it with the aftermarket Bubble Shield in Chrome Mirror, which is pretty cool for photographs. All I needed was a Phillips screwdriver to make it happen. Biltwell offers some fun options for shields, which allow you to customize your helmet and give it a different fresh look. The combos are infinite for any given helmet.
I chose the Gloss Blood Red and it felt thrilling to get away from my typical choice of black. They offer ten colors and all of them are great. The bottom edge and eye port trim are lined in either full rubber or chrome. The hinge hardware is anodized aluminum.
The outer shell is injection-molded ABS and lightweight. The interior features a brushed fleece Lycra liner with quilted open-cell foam comfort padding. That’s a mouthful, but it actually looks pretty on the inside.
I found the Gringo S to run large. While I am usually a small in most helmets, I wish I had gotten the XS in the Gringo S. The crown fits pretty well, but there is a lot of room in the cheek area, which causes the helmet to bobble above 60 mph. Not ideal. The good thing is, Biltwell designed the helmet to have the cheek pads snap out for cleaning. That also means I can replace them with thicker cheek pads, which should take care of the bobble.
The chinstrap is a little long. Make sure to fold and snap it back along the chin line. If you don’t, you’ll have the strap flapping against the side of your helmet while you’re riding. To say it’s annoying would be an understatement. The sound is deafening and who wants to scratch their glossy new lid!
Overall, the Biltwell Gringo S fills a stylish void in the market at an excellent price point. The tested helmet retails at $199.95. You get a lot of bang for your buck. Often, below $200, you don’t get much in a helmet. The Gringo S makes you feel confident that you’re being protected. I got a ton of compliments on mine. And, I felt perfectly cool using it on my vintage ride and the cruiser I was currently testing.
To follow David Bowie’s lead, I’ll make like Biltwell and #ridemotorcycleshavefun in my Gringo S.
For more information, visit biltwellinc.com.
Do you own a Biltwell Gringo S? Please share below.
I would love to get to know you and meet you on the road!