When it comes to buying a motorcycle helmet, first and foremost recognize that it’s just about the most technically complex piece of gear you can buy other than the bike itself.
Because it’s key to keeping your head safe, and it’s mandated in practically every state, getting the right one requires some serious thought.
But never fear, we’re going to do our best to keep the explanation as simple, short, and sweet as possible.
Now the first question you’ll want answered: What Size do I Need?
Well, there are lots of places to go that’ll tell you how to measure your head for a helmet size. Heck, some will say just wrap a tape measure around your skull, look at a size chart and there you go. WOW! That was easy. Nope. What they fail to consider is head shape. Helmets are built for three main head shapes.
|Round or Round Oval. This head shape’s almost the same measurement front to back as side to side. Think about looking down on a basketball, or soccer ball sitting on the ground.|
|Intermediate Oval. This head shape’s slightly longer front to back than it is side to side. Easiest way to think about this is shape is picturing an egg.|
|Long Oval. This head shape’s much longer front to back than side to side. Now we’re talking football or axe head.|
You might be thinking, “why does it matter?”
Well, all helmets are manufactured to specific measurements for consistency. But everybody’s head is different. Someone with a long oval will not fit comfortably into a helmet built with a round shape. They might get “Hot Spots” (pressure points) on the front and back of their head, while leaving a gap on the sides.
And take someone who’s got a round head shape and put them in a helmet designed for a long oval, their “Hot Spots” will be on the sides of their head, with space in the front and back.
So, getting an accurate measurement and knowing your head shape will help you identify if a helmet can be a good fit, but it this doesn’t address how the second-most question we get asked:
How should a motorcycle helmet fit?
First things first. Put it on. Good. So, how’s it feel?
Your head should contact the top of the helmet interior.
Next up, the helmet’s comfort lining should fit snugly around your head.
Now, how do you do know if a helmet is snug and not TIGHT? A snug helmet makes contact all the way around the crown of the head. It’s not wobbling around, instead if you move it up and down, or side to side, the skin on your forehead should move with it.
Now there’s an element of “feel” to this – because while it’ll be immediately obvious if it’s too loose, it won’t be so clear if it’s too tight and the only way to tell that is to wear it for about 15 minutes.
Why? Well, this allows the head to expand slightly as it warms up underneath the helmet. And if after 15 minutes, you can feel the helmet becoming more comfortable, it’s likely good. But if it becomes more uncomfortable, it’s not.
But we’re still not done in making sure your helmet fits just right. Don’t forget the cheek pads, make sure they live up to their name and actually come in contact with your cheeks. While this may not be mission critical safety-wise, it’s important in regard to comfort. People with narrow faces rarely have any issues with the cheek pads. But if you’ve got more of a broad facial structure, you may find when you open your mouth to speak or chew your cheeks are getting pushed into your teeth.
If this happens look for a helmet model that has flexibility in cheek pad sizes.
Great - now that we’ve covered the bases on getting you a helmet that fits great, here’s a complete punch list to help you remember how to test for a good fit.
To test the fit use this process:
- Put the helmet on.
- Does the helmet top pad press firmly onto your head?
- Do the cheek pads contact your cheeks?
- Open the visor and try to insert your fingers between your head and the helmet above the brow.
- Check your field of vision by looking left, right, up, and down.
- Hold your head still and grasp the side of the helmet. Try rotating the helmet side to side and back to forward. If you can feel the padding sliding on your head, it is too big.
- Fasten the retention system (chin strap) as snugly as possible without causing pain.
- Put your hands on the back of the helmet and try to get the helmet off by rotating it forward.
- Repeat until you find the right helmet size for you.
Congratulations, you’re now ready to find the BEST fitting helmet for you.
Now let’s get into a bit more detail about the parts of a helmet and helmet styles.