A few months ago I was doing two of my favorite things – hanging out at Beach Moto and complaining about stuff.
This time around, I was complaining about the prohibitive cost of having a helmet custom painted. I’ve always wanted a helmet design that was unique to me, but I couldn’t spare the dough for someone to paint it up. A quick google search will show you a range of pricing options, but it’s rare to find anything below $600, plus most places will only paint on a brand new helmet.
Back in June 2017, I reached out to Nuno Henriques (better known as Hello Cousteau) about having him create something for me because I loved a lot of the designs he had shared on Instagram. I got a form email back saying, “unfortunately I’m too flooded in work to be able to accept new orders for custom helmets. Yet, I have good news: during this year my first mass produced helmets will be available in retail stores.”
I wasn’t interested in the mass-produced helmets he had designed, and when I reached out to him again in April of 2018 he apologetically said he was “super busy” so I got the hint and moved on.
Though I didn’t get into all of this with Kate at Beach Moto, she suggested that I reach out to a gentleman named Mark Jardiolin as he owns a company called Velocity Tape. Mark creates designs for helmets and motorcycles with vinyl tape, which is much cheaper. How much cheaper? I didn’t know yet, but I figured it was worth contacting him to find out.
There was another, bigger issue – I didn’t have a design in mind! Thankfully, Vy did, so I made her the guinea pig. Back in 2016, Jaguar featured the animated character Noodle from Gorillaz in an advertisement where they made her the global ambassador for the Panasonic Jaguar racing team. Noodle had a helmet that Vy loved, so we asked Mark if he could replicate it on her matte black Shoei RF-1200:
Mark created the first version very quickly, but it showed me the importance of clear directions. I had been very vague, just asking him to emulate the original design as best as possible. That’s what he did, but Vy didn’t like the result, finding the mouth that goes back to the ears to be creepy and not playful. It dawned on me that the original helmet was automotive, so the visor doesn’t go as far back towards the ears as it does on Vy’s Shoei.
No problem – with a little bit of feedback, Mark was able to adjust the mouth to a style that Vy liked, and he blacked out the Shoei logo. Note how a significant portion of the visor has been blacked out to give the mouth a friendlier shape. That blacked out portion is just the visor opening mechanism, so the vinyl has no effect on Vy’s peripheral vision.
Vy loves her helmet, and I’ve been surprised by how many people give her compliments on it when we’re on the road. I like that she has something unique, and I was more than happy with the price of $100. I gave Mark an extra $20 for having to make changes because of my vague original instructions.
A few weeks later, I still had no idea what I wanted to do for my helmet. So I asked Mark if he could lend a hand with the design, and he came up with something simple that featured the Bike-urious logo.
I didn’t realize it until later, but my friends like to joke that it looks like the bike is doing a wheelie when I have the visor open:
I wore the helmet to the Pirelli track day at Laguna Seca after WSBK, and my buddy Troy Siahaan over at Motorcycle.com liked the idea so much that he asked me to introduce him to Mark – expect to see Troy rocking something cool very soon!
Including Mark’s design time, my setup ran $140. My plan is to have an artist friend of mine create a completely new livery for a future helmet, but for now I’m very happy with my lid. I’ve learned that you have to be very conscious of frequently touched portions or sections that move on the helmet such as vents and visors as they will start to exhibit wear. In general, everything has held up well. Vy’s vinyl job is about 3 months old now, and the eyes on the top vents look great. It would have made more sense to not put the eye on a movable vent (it definitely looks odd if the vents are open), but the eyes would have been too close or too far apart.
If a vent is opened, like this chin vent, it does take away from the look a little bit.
My mid-wheelie bike also shows some wear from being rotated several times a day. But I’ve gone through dirt and rain with no ill effects, and I can’t see any fading from sunlight, either. For the money, I’m very happy with Velocity Tape. Just keep these things in mind when you design your next helmet!
Mark is a senior at Cal Poly Pomona where he’s majoring in Civil Engineering with a focus on Transportation Engineering. He hopes to one day work for CalTrans and fix the roads he currently enjoys on his bike – he once joked to me that “my dream as a kid was to build race tracks, so this is the closest I can get at the moment!” His main ride is an Aprilia RSV4 RR that he often tracks at Buttonwillow and Chuckwalla. No matter what happens as he joins the workforce, Mark plans on keeping Velocity Tape alive on the side. So, if you’d like something similar done with your helmet, you can contact Mark through his website. Or check out his Instagram to see other examples of his work!