Photos: Ben Part
The sharpest looking lids come from the Birkenhead docks, across the Mersey from Liverpool. Davida's rocker heritage has been admired - and copied - by fashionistas and outlaws the world over. Check out the exquisite paint jobs on offer: the pudding basin classic race series resembles a sequence of objects d'art. Their promotional imagery is simply different class. Partly because of their style, partly because they're England's sole surviving helmet manufacturer, Davida justifiably hold a special place in Brit Bike Culture - augmented by Fid the Lid, their charismatic MD. Party animal of legend and resourceful culture vulture, Fid established Davida's incredible visual archive, and curated the motophoto exhibition, based on historic press material. It's exactly the kind of project you would associate with the Birkenhead crew.
Editor's note: this article was written by Nick Berkeley, a freelance journalist and photographer based in England and a longtime friend of Hell For Leather. All the photos come from Sideburn's Ben Part.
Less well known - but of increasing significance - is the extent of
Davida's relationship with safety. There's still an assumption that open
face helmets are little better than a chamber pot when it comes to
protection. These days the Davida style comes with safety: their Jet
(the top of the range model) has the same EEC accreditation as the most
expensive full face helmet out there, and the company comply with
national standards worldwide.
Like several other notable British companies, Davida's manufacturing
roots can be traced back to the '70s and the emergence of unwieldy
Japanese behemoths on our unsuspecting highways, laying the foundations
of the superbike technology that has dominated motorcycling ever since.
Stopping and turning 'em was quite another matter: enter Harris and
Spondon in the UK with bespoke frames to contain the Zeds and big CBs.
Plus one David Fiddaman. Fiddy and a couple of mates - including Alan
Davenport, currently head of design at Davida - started fabricating
swing arms in a shed next door to his mum's house in the Wirral, on the
other side of the tracks to the docks.
By the early '80s, Japan was experiencing domestic demand for
traditional pudding basin lids: it was one of those curious retro
fashions that the Japanese suddenly and inexplicably take to with
fanatical enthusiasm. There was no credible home grown product in the
land of the rising sun, but the market was there. Fiddy started
exporting another manufacturer's helmet to fill the gap. Before grasping
the real opportunity: manufacturing them himself. Davida was suddenly a
The same basic principals are followed to this day. The shells are
sub-contracted out to specialist GRP manufacturers; glass reinforced
plastic making is a tricky business requiring highly specialized plant.
The foam likewise; Davida add to the manufacturer's quality control
procedures by testing the materials themselves (finished helmets are
regularly submitted to the appropriate authorities for ongoing testing, a
requirement of the EEC standard). What happens in Birkenhead is that
the shell, the foam, the liner and the leather are put together to
create the product, which is completed by the artwork - all done by
hand, in-house. You can order your own bespoke paint job, or choose from
the thirty or so classy designs available for each product. The
resurgence of retro in Europe and the expanding cafe racer scene in the
States have cemented Davida's place in the pantheon of biker ware: the
lids are also very popular with riders of contemporary Italian nakeds.
Their range is complimented by an array of eye-ware: goggles, open face
visors, shades with interchangeable lenses.
The best bit is that you can contact Davida and send em your own design:
not only it cracking value, your lid will benefit from the very latest
paint technology, materials and a degree of quality control seldom found
in the world of custom spraying. It is impossible to imagine Arai or
Shoei offering the same service, or bettering the finish.
-- Nick Berkeley