From downhill to MX and Daytona, Troy Lee casts a fond eye over his top-five all-time favourite custom-painted helmets.
Custom painting is at the heart of Troy Lee Designs. Troy himself learnt the art of sign painting from his dad Larry and went on to paint fellow riders’ helmets during his time racing motocross. Today, the TLD custom paint department will customise your helmet with any design you can imagine, taking inspiration from photos, your favourite cartoons or even just an abstract idea.
Over the years, Troy has painted helmets for some of the biggest names in mountain biking and motorsport – here are his top-five all-time favourite designs, spanning the gamut from DH star Steve Peat to MX and even NASCAR.
Max Lee – Orange/Blue/Green
“I did this one recently for my son Max – he qualified for Loretta Lynn’s (the biggest amateur MX race in the country) and I was really proud of him working so hard, so I wanted to do a cool helmet for him. Max has a lot of cool ideas of his own and I’d love for him to carry on the Lee family tradition, but I surprised him with this one, just did some gold leaf on top. Not too wild, just some bold colour blocking and even breaking the rules of which colours to mix together – sometimes just mixing certain colours can be considered wild.”
Jeremy McGrath – Tassels
“I’ve painted a lot for MC – probably painted for him the longest, and so many. This helmet was from when Jeremy was way into what he called ‘led sleds’, lowrider cars with the candy paints, hydraulic suspension and wild upholstery. Jeremy kept saying the term ‘led sled’, so I remember we checked the internet and just saw pics of Mexican low rider cars… later on, to carry on that theme, I added the big tail lights in the back of one of his helmets to look like a 60s Caddy, Pontiac kind of style. MC showing up to supercross with these was always a big deal.”
Scott Russell – Daytona 500
“Painting for Scott was always fun, because he let me just play around and go wild all the time. We started doing the feathers with him, but also made sticker kits for people to create their own custom helmets – back when helmets were all white. At some point, we put a fin on one of Scott’s helmets for Daytona. We hand made it just to have some fun, but it also helped the cueball look of a road racer helmet. Man, our phone rang off the hook that Monday after Scott won the race. We eventually made those fins as an add-on accessory and people loved them.”
Jeremy McGrath – $100 bill
“This was around the time Jeremy wanted to tattoo his ‘nac-nac’ trick on his leg. We had Guillaume, our artist (who is now back working for us) make a little character that we put on the back of this helmet. I always tell these racers, ‘If you want to put a tattoo on yourself, let’s try it on your helmet first and see if you get sick of it.’ The $100 bills I kinda stole from Evel Knievel who had $100 bills on his gas tank. So we put two real $100 bills on there, candy gold with some chrome and the always present ‘showtime’ across the back.”
Steve Peat – Graffiti mural
“Oh man, this helmet. I almost cringe a bit looking at it, pretty inappropriate looking back, but that’s mountain biking for you – just a bunch of guys having a good time racing bikes and breaking rules. This was just a hand sketch of life on the World Cup at the pubs, but a lot of it was one particular night at Interbike in Vegas… always a good time with Steve. We are painting a new one right now for a movie he’s working on that’s gonna be real cool. Like McGrath, I’ve painted and designed so many helmets with Peaty and a lot of signature models too that always sold well.”