How To Tell If A Motorcycle Helmet Is Too Small?

I. Introduction

A motorcycle rider purchases the helmet for his/her safety in the event of an unfortunate fall or crash. But, did you select a helmet that fits the shape and size of your head? Because the safety of your head is assured only by a helmet that matches the shape and size of the head. A helmet that is too small is not safe.

Can you tell if your motorcycle helmet is too small? The answer is yes, your motorcycle helmet is too small if any one of the following is true.

  • You require a big push and effort to insert it onto your head.
  • You are not comfortable wearing the helmet and feel the urge to remove it.
  • Feel painful pressure points when you wear the helmet and the pressure points can be on your forehead, cheeks, and behind the head.
  • Visible red marks or lines on your forehead (after wearing the helmet for half an hour).

This article discusses this issue in detail along with other subtopics viz. tips to overcome the problem of a helmet being too small, and answers a few frequently asked questions.

II. How to tell if my motorcycle helmet is too small?

A motorcycle helmet is meant to protect the head of the rider in case of an unfortunate fall or accident; however, this protection may not exist if the helmet is too small and does not fit your head correctly.

So, how to tell if the motorcycle helmet is too small? Let us discuss this in detail.

Before you decide whether your motorcycle helmet is too small or not, you have to wear it. Never insert a helmet on your head from the top. You can either start inserting it from the back of your head and move towards your face or start from your face and move towards the back.

Select the one comfortable for you. You can pull the chin straps apart when inserting the helmet, it is perfectly normal to do it.

Let us discuss what happened during or after wearing the helmet.

  • The first issue can be you are not able to insert the helmet at all. Obviously, this helmet is too small.
  • Wear the helmet for 30 minutes and spend this time on your regular indoor activities. Make observations. Do you feel any painful pressure points on your forehead, cheeks, or back of your head? A little pressure on the cheeks (from the internal pads) is acceptable in a new helmet because the cheek pads will get compressed by 15 to 20% after a few rides and the little pressure will vanish. However, unbearable pressure on the cheeks, and /or the forehead indicates that the helmet is too small.
  • After wearing the helmet for some time, do you feel uncomfortable? Do you feel the urge of taking out the helmet immediately? If the answer is yes, the helmet may be too small for you.
  • Remove the helmet after half an hour. Do you see any red marks or lines on your forehead? If yes, the helmet may be too small for you.

Then, how to select a helmet that is not too small, but fits your head perfectly? Yes, it is possible to select a helmet that snug fits your head by following the steps below:

Step 1:   Do you know the shape of your head? Do not raise your eyebrows, knowing your head shape will help you purchase a good-fitting helmet.

The shape of most people’s heads can be one of the following (i) round oval (nearly round) (ii) intermediate oval and (iii) long oval (elliptic shape). In the first case, the length and width of the head are nearly equal. In the second case, the length of the head is a bit longer than the width. In the third case, the length of the head is quite longer than the width.

Ask your friend to take a photo of your head from the top (compress your hair as much as possible) and decide the shape of your head.

Most of us have an intermediate oval shape head (or nearer to it), but the shape of your head can be a round oval or long oval. Helmet manufacturers consider the shape of the heads when they design helmets. Each helmet is designed to fit one of the three shapes of head.

Step 2: Take the help of your friend or family member to measure the circumference of your head using soft tape. The tape should wrap around your head tightly (¾ to 1 inch above your ears or eyebrows). If you do not have soft tape, you can use a thread and a scale to measure. Take care to pull the thread tight around your head. Note down the reading.

Step 3: It is always better to purchase the helmet at your local auto store. However, you can purchase it online also, but go for a brand that allows returning it if the size does not fit.

Compare the circumference reading of your head with the size chart of a helmet to decide which size is good for you. The helmet size chart can be like this.

Helmet sizeHead size (circumference of head) (inches)Hat size (inches)
S21 & 5/8ʺ to 22ʺ6 & 7/8ʺ to 7ʺ
M22 & 1/2ʺ to 22 & 7/8ʺ7 & 1/8ʺ to 7 & 1/4ʺ
L23 & 1/4ʺ to 23 & 5/8ʺ7 & 3/8ʺ to 7 & 1/2ʺ
XL24ʺ to 24 & 3/8ʺ7 & 5/8ʺ to 7 & 3/4ʺ

Suppose the circumference of your head is 21 & 7/8ʺ then size ‘M’ is suitable for you. However, you have to consider the shape of your head also.

Discuss with the shopkeeper and he/she will suggest helmet models suitable for the shape and size of your head. If you are buying online, use the messaging service to chat with the seller and take his/her recommendation to select a helmet suitable for the shape and size of your head.

Step 4: If you are in the local helmet store, spend 30 minutes with the helmet on (fully strapped) and observe how it feels. In case of online purchases also, wear the helmet for 30 minutes and observe how it feels. Wear the helmet correctly as discussed earlier. But, stay indoors, and do not go riding. The seller may not take the helmet back if you ride with it.

When you wear a motorcycle helmet, it should not be very tight, or very loose, rather it should be a snug fit. Wearing a new helmet may need a little effort, but it is quite normal, and do not worry. When the helmet is on your head, make the observations.

Step 5: When the helmet is a snug fit for you, you will not feel pressure points on the forehead or the back head, but there can be a little pressure on your cheeks (cushions pressing your cheeks a bit), but the cheek pads will get compressed by 15 to 20% in a few rides and the pressure will be eased. However, the pressure should not be too much and uncomfortable.

On the other hand, if the helmet is too small, you will experience pain and discomfort at pressure points on your cheeks, forehead, or back head. Painful pressure points on the back head indicate that the helmet is shorter than your head. Uncomfortable pressure points indicate the helmet is not the correct fit for the shape and size of your head. If you experience any of these, the helmet is too small for you.

Step 6: Hold the back of the helmet and try to push the helmet up and do the same by holding the chin bar of the helmet. Do you have a feeling that the helmet can come off your head with a very little push? If so, the helmet size is big for you.

Try to rotate the helmet around your head, will it rotate? Try to take out the helmet in the strapped condition, do you feel the play is more and the helmet can fly off in case of a fall? If your answer is yes to the questions, then the helmet is big.

Step 7: Remove the helmet after 30 minutes. Was the helmet comfortable to wear and there was no discomfort? Did you feel pain at the pressure points? If there was no discomfort and no pain at the pressure points, you are good to go.

But, if you have felt uncomfortable and pain at the pressure points when the helmet was strapped to your head and noticed a red mark or line on your forehead after removing it, then the helmet is too small for you.

Step 8: The observations described in steps 5-7 will help you decide whether the helmet is too small or too big or a snug fit for you. If the helmet is not a snug fit, select the next size of the helmet and repeat the process once again. Take the help of the shopkeeper.

III. Tips to overcome the problem of a too-small helmet

Some tips to overcome the problem of a too-small helmet:

  • Purchase your helmet from your local auto store and the advantage is you can wear the chosen helmet for 30 minutes and observe how it feels before you pay for it. If the helmet is not a snug fit for your head, you can change it. Take the details of your head measurement and head shape with you and consult the shopkeeper to make the selection.
  • If you are buying online, go for a seller who offers a return policy in case you are not satisfied.
  • A new and snug-fit helmet may need a slight push when you insert it and you may feel a slight pressure on the cheeks from the cheek pad. If you do not feel uncomfortable after wearing it for half an hour, it should be okay, and the cheek pads will get compressed by 15 to 20% after a few rides and ease that little pressure.
  • Your forehead can become a bit red if the helmet is too small and does not match the shape and size of your head.
  • If size M of one brand of helmet snug fits your head perfectly a size M of another brand of the helmet doesn’t need to also give a snug fit to your head. Each manufacturer may follow different standard sizes. Keep this in mind when going for a new helmet.
  • Some brands of helmets may have the facility to peel off one or two layers from the cheek pad to adjust the clearance and make it comfortable.
  • If you feel one size of a branded helmet is too small and its immediate higher size is big for you, then it will be better to go for another brand. You may find a correctly fitting helmet there.
  • Apart from the fit, you have to ensure that the helmet you are purchasing is compliant with DOT (US Department of Transportation) guidelines.

IV.Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

1 How can I know if my helmet is a snug fit for my head or not?
A snug-fit helmet is:

  • Comfortable to wear.
  • There are no painful pressure points when you wear the helmet.

The helmet cannot be moved around your head in the strapped condition and it will not come off with pushing or pulling.

2 My ears are pushed down when I am wearing a new helmet? Is this okay?
This is okay as long as you can push back the ears to their normal position without feeling pain. Your comfort level after wearing the helmet is more important than what happens during wearing it.

If you are very uncomfortable after wearing the helmet or feel pressure points and pain, then the helmet is too small for you. Go for a higher size.

3 I am not able to wear the helmet with my eyeglasses on. Is it okay?
It is perfectly okay as long as you feel comfortable after wearing the helmet and there are no painful pressure points. Just remove your glasses while wearing the helmet and wear your glasses when the helmet is on.

V. Conclusion

Helmets are important for the safety of motorcycle riders, but, safety can be assured only by a helmet that correctly fits the size and shape of the head. After going through this article, hopefully, you are in a better position to decide whether a helmet is a comfortable fit for your head or it is too small.

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