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Bikebiz | For every rider

How to fit a helmet properly and why

Until Science Fiction becomes reality and body swapping can occur, you only get one brain.

This is why it is so important that you have a proper fitting helmet in case you have an accident and hit your head.

On my way to my first day at Bikebiz many years ago, I had a motorcycle accident. Safe to say I deferred my first day by a week.

A guy with an over-piled trailer didn't check his blind spot as he changed lanes into mine. In an effort to avoid him, I hit the brakes and swerved, clipping his left tail light on the way. I ended up landing on my head and right shoulder, breaking my right collar bone. I also sustained a head injury causing me not to remember what actually happened (witness reports and the damage told me what happened).

I woke up in hospital about 3pm wondering what the heck I was doing there. The last thing I remembered was being at the local shops at mid afternoon the previous day, then all of a sudden I was in a hospital bed?!

I ended up with a concussion and 24 hours of amnesia.
My helmet was plastic, and too big for my head.

When my helmet hit the ground, my head wasn't in it properly, and my head hit the helmet once it was on the ground. This caused a double impact.
When the helmet hit the ground, the EPS lining absorbed the initial impact, but not the impact from my head hitting the helmet.

From that day on wards, I have always put money into a proper fitting, great quality helmet.

Thankfully I am fine. I have a bad ass scar on my collar bone and a story to tell, with no residual brain issues. I was lucky.

I hear you say "Yikes! How do I avoid that?!"

There are different ways to protect yourself from what happened to me, or worse.

Always buy a new helmet.
Rarely do you know the full history of a helmet if you purchase it 2nd hand. Has it been dropped? Has it been altered somehow? Is the EPS lining intact?

Purchasing a brand new helmet from a reputable retailer is the best was to ensure you have a brand new helmet that is in perfect condition. Even if it's been on the shelf, I would doubt that it has been dropped. Personally I always have an ear listening out for noises that could be a dropped or bashed helmet when customers are in the store. If a helmet is ever dropped in store, the person who dropped it has to buy it...we can no longer sell it to someone in good faith that it will complete it's task. It doesn't happen often, once every few years or so, but we are serious about our helmets.

Ensure you aren't buying a helmet that is 20 years old.
Helmet technology has changed over the years, and helmets do deteriorate over time. I go into a lot of detail on this topic in my article 'Do Helmets Expire and Why.

Make sure your helmet fits you properly.
The below steps will help guide you.

1. Measure your head size.
Pass a tape measure around the crown of your head, about an inch above your eyebrows. This should be the biggest part of your head.

2. Check the size against a sizing chart like the one below from Shoei Helmets.

3. Remember that measuring your head with a tape measure, doesn't always translate to the actual helmet.
All head shapes are different. Long heads, short heads, fat heads, all make us unique and different. This is why different brands, and even different models in the one brand fit differently. Some riders only fit one brand, some fit many! Personally, if it comes in XS or XXS, it'll fit me. Some people are a medium in one helmet, and a large in another. This is why it is easier to purchase helmets in store once you have tried them on. However that isn't always possible, so if you're buying a helmet online, check their returns policy.

4. Try the helmet on.
Keep in mind, helmets are designed for when they are on your head, not going on your head, so they can be a little difficult to get onto your head. Opening the chin straps wide will help the helmet go onto your head easier. If you open the visor before trying it on, then you can grab the front of the helmet to assist with getting it on.

5. Have a think about how the helmet is feeling.
*The helmet should feel firm and even across all the top and back of your head, and be snug. I like the word snug, as it shouldn't be tight and squeezing your brains out. It should be snug like a big hug. You shouldn't feel any specific pressure points anywhere on your head for example your forehead or top back corners.
*The helmet should give you chipmunk cheeks. Pushing your cheeks up is one of the ways that the helmet stays on your head in the event of an impact. *When you talk with the helmet on and your scrap the inside of your cheeks with your teeth, you know you're onto a good thing.
*Does the chin strap do up snug enough?
*Grab the front of the helmet, keep your head still and move the helmet up and down and side to side. The helmet shouldn't cover your eyes and preferably doesn't cover your eyebrows. In the event of an impact, you don't want the helmet pulling your head and neck forward. Does your eye move too close to the side of the helmet? Does the helmet spin on your head? Then it is too big or the wrong style for you.
*Can you fit a finger between the helmet and your temple? You shouldn't be able to.

6. Take the helmet off.
The helmet will be as difficult to get off as it was to get on. If it's easy to get n and off when it's new, it's too big and you should try down a size.
Opening the chin straps again and lifting the helmet up and back, will make it a little easier and keep your ears pushed into your head, as opposed to ripping them off!

Keep in mind that you may need to swap the lining for larger or smaller ones.
It's common to have to swap the cheek pads in a helmet for thicker or thinner ones depending on how narrow your face is. Inquire with the place you are purchasing the helmet from about getting different liners. If required, different crown liners are generally also available, however these are less often swapped.

Your helmet WILL get bigger the more you wear it.

Imagine wearing the same pair of shoes every day for 5 years. The shoes will stretch and the soles will compress, making the shoes bigger than they were when you first got them. The same occurs with helmets.
The more you wear your helmet, the faster it will break in. Wear it watching TV. Cutting onions? Wear your helmet to prevent crying. Wear it hanging out your laundry on the line. Go for a ride and wear it! Can't ride? Sit on your bike with the helmet on, pump the tunes and make broom-broom noises. (No judgement, I may have done it when I broke my collar bone...)

Take it from me, a proper fitting helmet is the MOST important piece of safety equipment you will ever have.

Ride safe and have a good one!

Got questions? Send me an email at