When it comes to motorcycling history, almost all riders, enthusiasts and aficionados can invariably talk for hours on end about their favorite bikes, manufacturers, racers and even race tracks. I find motorcycle history is filled with incredible events and people which continue to amaze me to this day. Still, there is one segment of that history that is particularly interesting and what makes it even more intriguing is that it’s not about a particular bike or a famous racer – it’s about a helmet. One helmet, or helmet manufacturer, to be more specific, that wrote numerous pages of that segment is AGV.
AGV (an acronym for Amisano Gino Valenza) is an Italian helmet manufacturer with a long and rich history and whose helmets are highly regarded among motorcycle riders. Established by Gino Amisano in 1946 right after the Second World War in the Italian town of Valenza, in his basement, the company started making bicycle seat covers and light leather helmets before switching to scooters one year later, manufacturing saddles for Vespas and Lambrettas.
Since the only employee was Gino himself, the company could only produce five helmets a week at first. He began experimenting with various material and techniques which resulted in innovations which were unheard of at that time. Things really took off with the appearance of fiberglass, and AGV made its first vulcanized fiberglass helmet in 1954 and the first one that resembled a modern day motorcycle helmet. This marked the birth of the model known as the “160”, which was a great success, featuring an innovative inner harness system which secured the helmet to the rider’s head.
Speaking of AGV, it is impossible not to mention its impact on the world of motorcycle racing and all the racers who wore their helmets. Carlo Bandirola was the first racer ever to wear an AGV helmet while riding for MV Agusta and that was just the beginning. 1956 saw the production of their first jet helmets, used by jet fighter pilots, featuring a striking design that had the motorcycling community in awe. In 1958, AGV helmets also became the first company to use advertising as a source of revenue, placing the banners featuring the logo of the company on the most photographed bends on the track.
AGV rose to greater prominence in 1960s, signing a contract with the motorcycling world champion and argued greatest rider of all time, Giacomo Agostini. He had his helmet painted in the colors of the Italian flag – green, white and red, with a checkered band along the bottom edge of the helmet and the “MV logo” on the front. Each one of his victories cemented AGV as the top helmet manufacturer in the motorcycling world. It was at that time that Gino Amisano launched the production of full face helmets in Italy.
Reserved at first, many refused to even consider using full face helmets, but eventually Gino’s vision prevailed, and in September 1969, Alberto Pagani became the first rider to wear a full face helmet – an AGV at that, during the race at the legendary Imola race track during the Nations Grand Prix. From then on, full face helmets saw mass production, and the X-80 model was extremely successful, and was soon followed by the equally successful X-3000, which featured design input from Agostini himself.
It is nearly impossible to mention all the riders and drivers associated with AGV helmets, and the shortlist features a veritable who’s who of motorcycling and car racing, with names like Giacomo Agostini, Kenny Roberts, Barry Sheene, Johnny Cecotto, Angel Nieto, Marco Lucchinelli, Franco Uncini, Fausto Gresini, Nelson Piquet, Niki Lauda, Emerson Fittipaldi, Randy Mamola, Luca Cadalora, and more recently, Marco Simoncelli and Valentino Rossi. Together, they have won more than 130 titles for AGV, which earned its place in the pantheon of motorcycle racing.
Today, AGV is one of the most prestigious helmet brands, constantly coming up with innovative solutions and technologies which they implement in their helmets. Let’s take a quick at some of their flagship models:
For more information, click on the helmet name.
Part of the AGV STANDARDS project, the Pista GP continues AGV’s tradition of including motorcycle riders in the design process, with Valentino Rossi providing invaluable experience. Made fully out of carbon fiber, this beast’s natural habitat is the race track. This technological marvel is designed from the “inside out”, with “Human Engineering” concept in mind, which means that the design process begins with the parts that are directly in contact with the head, ensuring that none of vital requirements are compromised. It begins with the scanning of the rider’s head, and progresses from then on.
As a result, some of the numbers this helmet puts up are tremendous. The residual impact force transmitted to the head is reduced by 36 percent in comparison with ECE regulations, easily surpassing the requirements.
Compared to GP-Tech, the basic visor movement area is reduced by 71 percent, in order to save space, which in turn allows for greater safety, by using thicker absorption material. AGV’s attention to detail is visible in the fact that the material which is in direct contact with the riders head doesn’t feature any stitching, to ensure maximum comfort. As for the ventilation, the air intakes nearly tripled in size, which helps to remove heat and moisture. A worthy heir to its famous predecessors. Before you open your wallet, however, be prepared for the price tag which sits at a staggering $1,400 on average.
GP-Tech was designed and conceived with the intention of being the benchmark model for racing helmets, crammed full of latest technology and state-of-the-art materials. Using their rich experience acquired through decades of racing, it sets the standard for comfort, safety, ventilation, all the while featuring a new streamlined aerodynamic design, which isn’t there for purely cosmetic reasons, as every line, beginning with a chin guard, side lines, the top air vents and the back tail, serves a purpose.
Built around a 2-piece dual density Kevlar shell, it features IVS (Integrated Ventilation System) with channels hollowed directly into the shell of the helmet, anti-scratch and anti-fog Racer-X visor, fully removable and washable Cool Max Liner and both the DOT and ECE-2205 certifications. The GP-Tech is somewhat more affordable at around $500-$600 on average.
Thankfully, AGV has graced us with a super affordable model in the K3 Helmet which can be thought of as a lower budget version of the GP-Tech. At under $200 you’re still in for a treat with a boat load of features and excellent design providing a nice balance of safety and style in the entry level category.
Adjustable ventilation and improved comfort are a few of the desirable features of this helmet. There is a small visor movement area, super light composite fiber shell, integrated ventilation system to reduce fog, and a dry comfort fabric interior, to reduce sweat, and ensure comfort with each use. It also has fully removable and washable fabric interior.