A motorcycle helmet is extremely important as it protects your head and the brain, especially in an accident. But a helmet that is too small or tight and too big or loose can lead to causing a crash instead of saving you in accidents. So, you must ensure that the helmet fits your head perfectly while riding a motorcycle. You can do this by choosing an appropriate helmet that is DOT certified and fits you appropriately. Remember, life is precious and motorcycle accidents are potentially hazardous up to killing you or causing injuries that can make you handicapped for the rest of your life.
As per the US Department of Transportation-National Highway Traffic Safety Administration-NHTSA, every year around 4800 people die due to motorcycle crashes which are 14% of the total fatality on US roads. The NHTSA further claims that 80% of motorcycle accident victims either die or get seriously injured in comparison to 20% in bus, truck, or car accidents. Another report published by CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) claims that 1859 people survived motorcycle accidents due to helmets in 2016 and an additional 802 victims could have survived if they wore helmets.
However, helmets are intended to provide protection but it is you who should ensure the protection by choosing the right helmet. So, you should essentially know how to ensure the right helmet and what are the necessary components your helmet should have. Know what are the things associated with a motorcycle helmet and how to make a helmet fit better especially while buying a helmet below.
Why Should a Motorcycle Helmet Fit Perfect?
Most riders often adjust or compromise with their helmets when it is smaller or big enough to the size of their head saying it is a small problem. Some even say that “a bit tight is good” or “a bit looser feels better”. But do you know that this small problem can potentially lead to big and life-threatening issues?
- A too big or too small helmet diverts attention from riding besides being uncomfortable and often painful leading to accidents.
- A too-tight helmet creates blurred vision due to the pressure on the forehead. Without a clear vision, it is potentially risky for you to ride a motorcycle.
- A loose helmet can move unsteadily on the head and can fall off in an accident leaving your head open for crashes. Often, a loose helmet moves around due to the wind and blinds the rider leading to accidents.
- A small helmet creates pressure around the cheek and forehead and you feel uneasy riding the bike. Tight helmets create red marks on the forehead leading to pain and inflammation.
- A too-tight helmet does not allow you to move your head comfortably which can be dangerous while riding. You may not also hear effectively as a small helmet folds your ear and blocks the hearing capacity.
- A small helmet is suffocating resulting in uneasy riding. You should never ride in uneasy and suffocating situations.
How to Know a Helmet Fits You Perfect?
As per a study by the National Institute of Health (NIH), motorcycle helmets reduce head injuries by 70%. However, not all the helmets you find in the market can reduce head injuries and save you from accidents. Helmets must be safety certified and fit your head snugly to provide your head maximum security in an accident. But how do you know that a certain helmet fits you perfectly?
You need to know certain things to determine an appropriate helmet for you. This includes fundamental things about helmets like components or parts of a helmet, types of helmets, your head size, etc. You need to choose the appropriate parts in a helmet along with the right type and right size of a helmet to fit perfectly.
Choose the Right Components or Parts in a Helmet to Fit Perfect
The parts that constitute a helmet are important as the damage or dysfunctionality of any one of the parts affects the entire helmet. As technology advances, new and emerging features are introduced to make the helmet more efficient to protect the rider. You need not go in search of the latest helmets to ensure newer features. What you necessarily need to ensure is the fundamental components of a helmet and their quality and size. Following are the primary components or parts of a helmet that constitute a helmet.
- The Outer Shell: The outer shell of the helmet is the external surface of the helmet which is rigid and hard. The outer shell of the helmet is usually made out of either-or molded plastic, Kevlar, polycarbonate, carbon fiber, or a combination of the materials. This part of the helmet protects your head from abrasion during impact.
- The Impact Absorbing Liner: This component is placed under the outer shell which absorbs the shock in a crash by displacing the energy and minimizing the impact. The difference between the functionalities of the outer shell and the impact-absorbing liner are distinct. The outer shell prevents the head from hitting any object or surface whereas the liner prevents the energy from getting transmitted into the head. In fact, the liner plays a critical role without which the impact energy would cause serious brain injury. This part of the helmet is usually made out of EPS or expanded polystyrene foam. Some helmets have single-density foam whereas some have dual density foam or double layer of foam. The double-layer foam is more effective in preventing impact energy than the single-layer foam.
- Comfort Padding: This is the part that touches your head and is the innermost layer of a helmet. Most riders get confused thinking the comfort padding is the impact-absorbing layer. However, the functionality of the comfort padding is to fit the helmet snugly with the head and not absorb the impact energy. The comfort padding is usually made out of open-cell foam covered with soft fabric. It is the soft fabric that soaks the sweat and keeps the area ventilated and cool. The comfort padding is usually removable so that you can remove it for regular cleaning. You can also change or replace the comfort padding in the case of damage or if it does not fit you.
- Retention System or Chin Strap: The chin strap is the component that is placed underneath the chin meant for keeping the helmet secured in place. This has a fastener system incorporated with 2-D-rings and a snap. The retention system is usually made of woven materials partially covered with similar material of fabric used for comfort padding.
- Visor: The visor is placed in front of your face to protect your face and eyes from dust, debris, bugs, rain, and snow as well as the wind. Almost all visors come with a removable feature but a few varieties come attached. You can remove the visor that has removable features and clean them regularly.
- Cheek Pads: You can find cheek pads in ¾ or full-face helmets. This component is usually removable and somewhat similar to the comfort padding. However, a cheek pad protects the face from injuries in a crash. You can also adjust or replace a cheek pad in case the helmet is too tight or too loose.
- Vents: Vents are the ventilation mechanism of a helmet and they help the rider breathe comfortably while riding. You can close and open the vents as per your needs depending upon the weather conditions.
Choose the Right Type of a Helmet to Fit Better
Now that you know the different components of a helmet you need to know about the different types of helmets to determine the right type of helmet that fits perfectly. Below are the descriptions of different types of motorcycle helmets.
- Full-Face Helmets: Full-face helmets give full coverage of your head, face, and neck and are considered appropriate to give maximum protection in accidents. You can use full-face helmets on any road including off-roads. Sports riders also use full-face helmets with advanced features.
- ¾ Open-Face Helmets: These helmets cover the entire head including the back and top but not the face and neck. You usually do not get the chin bar in open-face helmets. Open-face helmets are popular among cruisers, tourers, scooters, etc. because it keeps the face open so that you feel the wind.
- Half-Head Helmets: Half-head helmets cover the top of the head and do not cover the bottom of the back of the head and the face. Some half-helmets cover the back and face up to eyebrows but keep the face and neck uncovered. Riders who are passionate about airflow love this helmet.
- Modular Helmets: Modular helmets also known as flip-up helmets look like a mix of a full-face helmet and a ¾ open-face helmet. In fact, when you lift the chin-bar and the visor it becomes an open-face helmet from a full-face helmet.
- Off-Road Helmets: As the name suggests, the off-road helmets are made for dirt and off-roads away from the streets. These helmets do not protect the eyes. So, you need to do your own arrangements like glasses or goggles if you ride an off-road helmet.
- Dual-Sport Helmets: This helmet is a mix of a full-face helmet and an off-road helmet. This helmet is incorporated with a large eye protection visor bigger than the full-face helmet. However, you can lift the visor and wear goggles for a more comfortable ride. The visor of the dual-sport helmet is aerodynamic for which it does not lift or move in the wind.
Choose the Right Size of a Helmet to Fit Appropriate
Motorcycle helmets do not come in the same sizes. They are made in different sizes to fit different sizes and shapes of human heads. Even if you have a certain size of a helmet, the same size of a helmet from a different brand can differ. Below is a list of different sizes of helmets.
- X-Small size for head circumference 20.87 to 21.26 inches or 53 to 54 cm.
- Small size for head circumference 21.65 to 22.05 inches or 55 to 56 cm.
- Medium size for head circumference 22.44 to 22.83 inches or 57 to 58 cm.
- Large size for head circumference 23.23 to 23.62 inches or 59 to 60 cm.
- X-Large size for head circumference 24.02 to 24.41 inches or 61.62 cm.
- 2X Large size for head circumference 24.8 to 25.2 inches or 63 to 64 cm.
- 3X Large size for head circumference 25.6 to 26 inches or 65 to 66 cm.
- 4X Large size for head circumference 26.4 to 26.8 inches or 67 to 68 cm.
- 5X Large size for head circumference 27 to 27.5 inches or 69 to 70 cm.
How to Choose a Perfectly Fit Helmet While Buying One?
You now know about the different parts or components of a helmet and their functionalities, different types of helmets, and different sizes of helmets. You need to next know the size of your head. However, it is good if you know the shape of your head as it will help accurately choose the right helmet for your head. There are broadly three different shapes of heads namely (1) round oval that is round in shape, (2) long oval that is long in shape, and (3) intermediate oval that is in between round and long in shape.
Take a measuring tape and call a friend to assist you to measure the size of your head. You can also measure your head yourself in front of a mirror. Note down the head size and do the following to get a helmet that fits perfectly for you.
- Determine the type, style, color, and brand of the helmet along with the components or parts you might prefer or good for you.
- Ask the salesman to show your preferred helmet and ask him or her to allow you to wear the helmet for a test. Ensure the following things when you wear the helmet.
- Check how comfortable you feel while wearing the helmet. A too-tight helmet is considered too small and a too loose helmet is too big for your head.
- Change the helmet and try another one if you do not feel comfortable while moving your head. You can also think of replacing the comfort padding if all other components, types, and sizes fit well.
- Try to insert your finger inside the helmet from the forehead towards your head. It should have no room for your finger. Similarly, an appropriately fastened and fitted chin strap should have space for two fingers in between your chin and the strap.
- Hold the helmet and try to move or rotate it. It should not rotate and your head should move when you try to move the helmet.
- Wear the helmet for at least half an hour before you buy it. Do not just sit while wearing the helmet but do things like watching TV, reading a newspaper, etc. New helmets initially feel a bit tighter but break over time.
- If after a while you start feeling discomfort or suffocation, then perhaps this helmet is not for you. Similarly, you should go for a different helmet if you notice red marks on your forehead. Red marks on the forehead indicate a too tight or too small helmet.
- If you like the helmet but it did not break within half an hour of the test, you can still think of buying this. A new helmet usually breaks up to 20% after riding for fifteen to twenty hours. Similarly, you can wear it around the house, watch TV, sit in the garden, etc. Your head will get accustomed to its size and shape over time.
- Some helmets come with the feature of swapping the inner lining and cheek pads. You can try this and swap the cheek pads and inner lining and try losing the helmet if you still feel a bit tight. However, you must not swap the inner lining and cheek pads more than the requirement leading to making the helmet too loose.
- Take care while wearing the new helmet and wear it in the right direction. Often people get mistaken saying a helmet is too small or tight when they feel tight while pulling out the helmet from the forehead direction. You can easily and comfortably pull it out from the back of your head instead of from the forehead. So, wear the helmet from the smallest part of your head and pull out the helmet from the bigger part of your head.
- You must never forget to check with the safety certification of the helmet. Ensure that the helmet has the DOT or SNELL sticker on the helmet. A helmet without a safety certification is useless and unworthy for you despite its brand and fitness. A non-certified helmet can drag you into legal complications.
A motorcycle helmet can save you from fatal injuries and death if it is safety-certified and fits you perfectly. On the other hand, a helmet that is too tight or small or too loose or big is extremely dangerous. So, choose a perfect fit helmet and ride confidently.