With the weather changing for the better in much of the US, and exciting new bikes like the Ducati Panigale, MV Agusta F3, Aprilia Tuono and Moto Guzzi V7 Racer scheduled to arrive in the next three months, lots of people will be looking to purchase a new helmet. And with the purchase of any new helmet, it's most important to make sure it is a high quality, full face helmet from a recognized manufacturer that fits properly (ok... and that it looks good as well). Fit is critical as recent studies by the Mayo Clinic have shown that a properly fit helmet will reduce the chance of a concussion by 42%. But how do you properly fit a helmet? (This isn't new information, but it's worth repeating.)
1. Determine Your Head and Helmet Size: Start by measuring your head at a point approximately one inch above the eyebrows in front and at a point in the back of the head that results in the largest possible measurement. Measure and check the size chart of the helmet manufacturer. Many experienced riders already have a predisposition to a particular brand and know their helmet size. Regardless, it still makes sense to go thought this procedure.
2. Determine the Proper Helmet Shape: Heads vary in shape. Heads that seem to be the same size when measured by a tape may not necessarily fit the same size motorcycle helmet. Most helmet manufacturers today offer a number of different shell shapes; typically oval/narrow (example, Arai Profile, Shoei X11), neutral/intermediate (Nexx Carbon, Shoei X-12) and round (Arai Quantum-2). You can determine your head shape by looking in the mirror. If your head is long from top to bottom and narrow from side to side, you are going to fit best in an oval shape. If you're not sure, try an intermediate shape.
3. Try It On: Tug the chin straps outward to widen the helmet and place it over your head. If the helmet goes on without pulling the straps, the helmet is too large. The helmet should fit snugly and comfortably on your head and tightly against your forehead. Grab the helmet in your hands, one on either side of the helmet, hold your head steady, and try to rotate the helmet from side-to-side. Note any movement of the forehead skin while doing this as well as the amount of resistance to movement. Next check movement up and down, again noting skin movement and resistance. If in either test there was little or no skin movement, and/or the helmet moved very easily, the helmet is too large. A properly fitted motorcycle helmet will cause the skin to move as the helmet moves. It will feel to the wearer as if evenly distributed pressure is being continuously exerted around the head. Pretend you are chewing gum your teeth should just scrape against your gums and not bite into them. Most good helmets have replaceable cheek pads of varying sizes - so swap out cheek pads to customize the fit. Make sure the helmet fits at the crown/forehead before adjusting cheek pads. Keep in mind that helmets, like shoes, will break in over time. For this reason, the best approach is to select a helmet that is as snug as possible.
4. Check Helmet Retention: Fasten the chin strap. After the strap has been tightly fastened, hold your head steady and reach over the top of the helmet, grabbing the bottom edge with your fingers. Try to roll the helmet off your head. If it comes off, it is too large. Go to the next smaller size and go back to step number three.
5. Walk Around: If you wear glasses while riding, put them on and make sure the helmet fits properly over and around them. Keep the helmet on for ten minutes as sometimes pressure points will show up once the helmet has been removed. Sit on a bike similar to yours and make sure the helmet is still comfortable and it's easy to rotate your head. Finally when you take the helmet off look at your face to see if you have any red spots, this will indicate excessive pressure. Again, keep in mind that a helmet will compress and break in with time. After four hours or so wearing your helmet it will begin adjusting to your head shape and feel more comfortable.
Your helmet should last for four or five years assuming you don't hit it during an accident or drop it on a hard surface from more than four feet. Good helmets aren't inexpensive but they are worthless if they don't fit correctly. Don't mess with your head.