A motorcycle helmet shouldn’t be too tight or too loose. It should be just right. In other words, it should be tight enough that it doesn’t slide around on your head but not so tight that it causes pain or discomfort.
If you’re trying on a new helmet for the first time, there are a few ways to tell if it’s the right tightness for your head.
Basic Fit Check
A helmet that’s just right, not too tight but not too loose, should meet the following criteria:
- The inner lining should rest against your forehead, neck, and cheeks without pressing into them.
- The face shield should not touch your face.
- The helmet should not move around without moving your head and skin with it.
- You shouldn’t be able to take the helmet off when the chin strap is fastened.
- The helmet shouldn’t leave red marks and indentions on your skin.
How to Know If Your Helmet Is Too Loose
A helmet that’s too loose is a major safety hazard. It could shift position or even come off completely in an accident, meaning it wouldn’t protect your head.
Of course, you can’t very well test a helmet by getting in a crash and seeing if it moves. Instead, check for the following things.
First, rotate your head back and forth with the helmet on. It should move with your head but not on its own. When you stop moving your head, the helmet should stop. A loose helmet will keep moving and end up twisting back and forth on your head. A correctly fitting helmet will move the skin with it if you move forcefully.
Also, stick a finger between the forehead padding and your forehead. A correctly fitting helmet should be snug against your forehead, so it’s probably too loose if you can get your finger in there. Similarly, the cheek pads should touch your cheeks, and the neck roll the back of your neck.
While not always possible, another way is to try the motorcycle helmet on while going for a ride. When you get to highway speeds, a too-loose helmet will likely catch the wind and start moving around. This almost certainly means it will shift in an accident and is too loose.
How to Know If Your Helmet Is Too Tight
A helmet that’s too tight is uncomfortable and can ruin your riding experience. It’s more than that, though. It can also be a safety hazard because it may cause you to lose focus on the road or prevent full range of motion with your head.
A helmet that’s too tight is going to hurt. You’ll feel it pinching or irritating pressure points on your forehead above your eyes or temples. I’ve even tried helmets that have started hurting my jaw muscles.
In many cases, a helmet that’s too tight will leave red marks or indentions in these areas where it pinches the skin.
One thing to keep in mind, though, is that you may not feel immediate pain or even any noticeable pain at all. However, if the helmet is too tight, you’ll probably start to get a headache or lose concentration after 30 minutes or so.
As a result, I recommend wearing a new helmet for about half an hour before deciding if it’s a good fit.
Another dead giveaway that a helmet is too tight is if the face shield touches your face. Try pushing it in. It still shouldn’t touch your nose.
Solutions for Weird Heads
If you’re like me, helmet shopping can sometimes get frustrating because your head always seems right between two sizes. L is too tight, but XL shifts around.
Read our guide to motorcycle helmets for people with big heads.
One solution is to wait and see if the size that’s too tight will break in after a long enough period. You might try wearing it for an hour or two to see if the inner lining mashes down enough to be comfortable.
In my experience, if the helmet is causing pain when you first put it on, things aren’t going to get much better. This is only a solution if the helmet is only mildly uncomfortable.
Read our guide to making a motorcycle helmet fit better.
Alternatively, you can try changing out the inner lining of the helmet for a thicker one. This may make it tight enough that it doesn’t shift around. Just make sure you go through the checks like before.