For a helmet to be effective, it must feel comfortable on your head. Helmets should fit snuggly, but not painfully tight.
How Tight Is Too Tight?
- If you can pull the helmet on without having to spread the helmet, it is too big and will not fit right.
- A properly fitted helmet might seem tight as you pull it on, because the foam components that seal out the wind noise are made to conform to your head. If a helmet pulls on too easily without resistance of such padding, it will probably be noisy and uncomfortable in the long run.
- Basically, the helmet should fit snugly so that it is stable when you shake your head side-to-side, front-to-back or up and down. A full-face helmet should grip your cheeks and jaw as well as the top and sides of your head.
Try this test:
Wear the one that fits you best inside the store for several minutes (up to 15 minutes if possible). If you can see clearly in all directions, and you aren't physically fatigued by the weight of the helmet or by its looseness or tightness, AND the helmet manages to stay in place when you jump up and down and lean from side to side, then that helmet fits you properly.
How Easily Does It Come Off?
- Try to remove the helmet from your head without undoing the retention system closures. If the helmet comes off or shifts freely over your eyes, then you need to re-adjust and try again.
- If you can grab the rear lip of the helmet and roll it forward off your head (even with slight pressure), then you need a different helmet; it should not come off.
- Grab the helmet with both hands and try to move the helmet forward and backward and from side to side. The helmet fits right if your skin moves with the liner of the helmet.
In sum, there should be very little "play" in the way the helmet sits on your head. In fact, the helmet should not be able to move around on your head without it tugging on your skin a bit.
Bigger Isn't Always Better!
Most people make the mistake of buying a helmet that's too large. Remember this: A loose-fitting helmet is not only dangerous, but may also be noisy due to increased wind resistance, and it will physically tire you out trying to keep the helmet in place.
When it comes to youth-size helmets, many budget-minded parents tend to over-size their child helmet so as to get an extra year or two of use out of it. Proper fit is absolutely key to maximizing protection, and too large a helmet can defeat its purpose.
NOTE: People often have a tendency to wear a helmet too far back. A helmet is meant to be worn low on the forehead, just above your eyebrows. If you can't see the edge of the brim at the extreme upper range of your vision, the helmet is probably too far back.
Before You Leave The Store
Most retail stores will not exchange a helmet for another size after its been worn for any length of time. So be sure take your time, and try on at least 3 different helmets from at least 2 different manufacturers; not every brand of helmet can fit every head size and shape.
Be aware that a helmet may fit and feel one way in the store, yet fit and feel quite differently during riding. So ask if you can take a helmet for a test drive; if not, then try it out at home. Just be clear about the store's return policy.