Motorcycle crash helmets fitting guide

When you’re looking to buy a new helmet, it’s key to ensure it’s correctly fitting. Apart from badly-fitting motorcycle crash helmets making you grumpy and giving unseemly red marks across your forehead when you take them off, they’re also much less effective when Mr Nissan-driver does a U-turn in front of you outside Walmart.

So how do you go about making sure a helmet fits and what does a well-fitting helmet feel like? Here goes…

1. Measuring

You need to find the right size first. Get a tape measure (not the metal type, the tailor type!) and run it round your head – above the ears, across the forehead and around the back, over the bumpy bit of your head like in the picture above. That’ll give you the reading you need and we’ll mention in our reviews if a particular helmet is undersized or oversized so you can order the right one when you’ve decided.

2. What’s your Head Shape?

Most helmets these days tend to be a medium oval shape – that’s the shape most of our heads tend to be in the West so helmet manufactuers try and make their helmets to suit. However, some helmets are made to accommodate folks with longer, narrower heads as well as rounder head shapes (though there’s very VERY few of these).

We mention in most of our reviews which head shape each helmet works for but if you’re unsure which head shape you’ve got, it’s probably worth trying a few helmets out first to work out which brands suit your particular head shape.

3. The Squeeze Test

Helmets have polystyrene padding on the inside of the shell to absorb any impact and thereby protecting your bonce. This should be relatively snug fitting because if there’s a gap between it an your skull, it’s not going to stop the outside shell of the helmet accelerating towards your skull and causing an impact. So when you try a new helmet on, it needs to be snug fitting. Not tight so when you put it on it shoves your ears down towards your neck and squeezes the blood from your skull – but moderately tight. You should be able to feel the polystyrene (EPS) padding touching all of your head without and pressure points. Keep the helmet on your head for a few minutes to make sure it’s comfortable.

4. The Twist Test

If you watched the video on John Reynold’s post accident Arai, he talks about helmets not twisting around on the head. That’s important. Accidents tend to try and twist helmets around and if it’s too loose, that’s exactly what it’ll do. So with your head in a new helmet, try turning the helmet. It should stay (more or less) put.

5. The loosening

The lining of a new helmet will loosen over time as it slightly compresses through use. So when you get a new helmet, again, it should be tight enough to stop it moving about and being tight, but not too tight; knowing that it’ll loosen slightly over the first month or two.

6. Lining

If you’re interested in cleanliness, try making sure the linings can be removed – covering the crown and cheeks. Many of the more expensive helmets have removable linings that you can clean by shoving in the washing machine or washing by hand.

7. Fastening

Race helmets have double-D ring fasteners which are pretty much a standard fastening required by the various racing governing bodies. However they’re not necessarily the best and there are really simple and easier to operate alternatives available – such as micrometric-style fasteners which many riders like and are the most common type on non-race helmets. So have a look at the different fasteners before you buy to see which you get on with best.

Whichever fastener you choose, they need to be fastened and adjusted reasonably tightly to keep the helmet on the head during an accident. Tie up your helmet, push your chin down towards your chest and get someone to push up on the back of the helmet. It should stay on your head – if it doesn’t, it’s the wrong size.

8. Buying from Website

Obviously, there’s a certain amount of risk buying a helmet over a website as it’s important to try a helmet on to get the right fit. If you do buy online, you therefore need to make sure you can return it and get a replacement without any problems. At BillysCrashHelmets, we’ll only suggest suppliers who’ll allow this without giving you grief – and in some cases pay for the return.

If you’ve got any tips which worked for you, please let us know – we’d love to hear!


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