This article was written by Nick Berkeley, a freelance journalist and photographer based in England and a longtime friend of Hell For Leather.
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.
Mike Hailwood, Tommy Robb, Jim Adams. Hutchinson 100 Silverstone 1959. Photo: Nick Nicholls. Collection. Mortons Media Group Ltd
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 viable business.
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.