Vintage styling is much more than mimicry. When we take the old and make it new, we reinvent our history. The Bell Star we see today evolved steadily over more than 45 years. The Bell Bullitt, however, was shot out of a 1960s cannon and crashed here, in 2014. With an aesthetic even the King of Cool would admire, the Bullitt doesn’t merely look old - it bleeds McQueen.
The Bullitt is Chad Hodge’s imagination made manifest. It’s a symbiosis of classic style with new tech in a nearly perfect mixture. By letting functionality drive form, Hodge has created a helmet that is both utilitarian and a work of art.
When he was 18, Chad Hodge bought his first motorcycle: a ‘75 Yamaha XS1100. He hid it from his parents all summer by leaving it at a friend’s house. It never quite ran well, but after poring over factory manuals, Hodge taught himself how to tinker and fell in love with vintage bikes. When asked why he liked motorcycles “that can’t go over 150 and that shake like crazy”, he explained that “nothing compares with tearing a machine down and giving it a new life.” He added, “you get to know the bike and form connections with it that you just can’t with something new.” And let’s face it - old bikes are usually cheap. What started out of necessity evolved into a love that jumpstarted his career.
After searching without success for a helmet that spoke to him, he ventured forth to create his own. What began as his senior industrial design thesis at the University of Cincinnati became what Hodge half-jokingly refers to as “his baby.” He contacted Bell with some preliminary ideas, but received no response. Undeterred, he sketched over 40 concepts, finally finding a design that he connected with. The Bullitt today is a near carbon copy of Hodge’s original hand-made prototype. He posted the helmet on Bubble Visor and waited. Despite positive feedback, Hodge couldn’t find anyone who wanted to get involved. Bell eventually approached him and asked if he wanted to make the Bullitt a reality. His answer? “Oh, hell yeah!”
Hodge continues to do freelance work out of his bike shop in Brooklyn. He also collaborates with Bell on various projects, one of which includes the new Custom 500. While he enjoys spending hours on CAD designing future projects, he’s happiest in his garage wrenching on bikes. And the Bell Bullitt? For Hodge and the rest of us, “March can’t come soon enough.”