Do Motorcycle Helmets Loosen Up Over Time? (Explained)

 You’ve got your eye on a stylish new full-face helmet.

It’s ventilated without letting in too much wind, and the color looks like a perfect pair for your bike’s finish.

You try it on, but it’s just a little too snug. But wait, do motorcycle helmets loosen over time? We answer that question and more in this article.

Here’s the Short Answer to Whether Motorcycle Helmets Loosen Over Time:

A helmet can loosen by up to 20% after just 15-20 hours of wear. As a motorcycle helmet is worn, its inner padding loses form from heat/cold, friction, and degradation. Over time, as the pads degrade thinner, the helmet loosens. Wear a new one around the house for an hour to break it in.

What’s the Best Way to Break in a Motorcycle Helmet?

The safest way to break in a motorcycle helmet is to wear it. Wearing your helmet for 15-20 hours is the best way to let the inner pads form on your face. The padding wears down as you wear your motorcycle helmet, and the degrading foam forms to your facial structure—the helmet breaks in.

If you’re a ripper in a rush, as motorcycle riders like to speed things up from time to time, wear your motorcycle helmet for a few days in a row around the house, while you watch TV, read, write articles about motorcycle helmets, or whatever it is you do; then take a test ride and see how it feels.

And it gives it a chance to lose that general, new-helmet stiffness as well. 

If the padding is too thick or rigid for your taste, pop the pads out of the helmet and squish them underneath a weighted object for a while to break them in faster. 

If they’re still too hard, you might look into buying some softer replacement pads, as it may just be the pads are designed to be a harder fit than you’re accustomed to.

How Tight Should a New Motorcycle Helmet Be?

A new motorcycle helmet should be close fitting to the point that it’s too tight to chew gum in. A brand new helmet should barely move as the rider shakes their head up and down, down, or left and right. That said, if a new helmet hurts the pressure points in your head or face, it’s too tight.

 A loose helmet moves around in a way that’s not only uncomfortable and invasive, but it’s also downright dangerous. 

Your helmet should be nicely snug without being tight enough to cause: 

  • discomfort, 
  • numbness, 
  • or pain. 

As we mention in more detail elsewhere in this article, a new helmet will break in over time and loosen up. 

A new helmet shouldn’t be able to move around unless you shake your head violently, and even then, a properly fitting helmet will never slide down your forehead and cover your eyes.

You’re looking for a helmet that won’t squeeze your cheeks together but that also won’t move around on its own. 

A loose helmet is dangerous for more than a few reasons, but here are three of the most important:

  1. A helmet that’s too loose can fly off your head during a collision.
  2. A loose helmet can allow too much wind to infiltrate its interior, causing headaches, loud noises and hurt or damage your hearing over time.
  3. A loose helmet can slide around, potentially blocking your vision during motorcycle operation.

A helmet can also be too tight, but be advised that the tightness of a new helmet will diminish after a little over a dozen hours of use. A helmet’s inner pads compress as it’s worn, and it’ll eventually form nice and cozy to your face.

Therefore, a new helmet should be nice and cozy tight without being painful, so it has some room to loosen up a little. 

A Few Tips to Keep in Mind While Trying on a New Motorcycle Helmet:

  • With the face shield closed on a full-face helmet, make sure your face shield isn’t touching your chin or nose by pressing on the chin piece. 
  • The cheek pads of a new helmet should gently squish your cheeks without causing discomfort or pain. 
  • The neck roll shouldn’t force the helmet away from your neck on a new helmet that comes with a neck roll. 
  • Fasten the chin strap and put your head in an upright position in a healthy spine posture. Try to lift your helmet straight up without jerking on your neck. The helmet should stay on your head with the chin strap engaged—if you can pull it off, the new helmet isn’t tight enough.
  • Walk around the store with the new helmet on for 10 minutes if you can, but even 5 is better than nothing. Take the helmet off and check for redness, numbness, or pain, especially around the pressure points of your face and head. If any or all of the above symptoms are present, the helmet you’re trying on is too tight, or else the shape of the helmet brand doesn’t agree with your head (different brands accommodate different head shapes).

Related: Do Motorcycle Helmets “Break In” And Loosen Up? (Explained)

How Do I Know If My Motorcycle Helmet Is Too Tight?

If you can’t fit a motorcycle helmet onto your head, or if you get it on and the helmet’s pressure causes pain, the helmet is too tight. A new helmet should be too close-fitting to chew gum in, as it will loosen by 15-20% after 15-20 hours of use. 

The obvious sign that a helmet is too tight is when it won’t fit over your head, but that’s not the only sign. Pain, numbness, and discomfort all indicate that it’s in your best interest to try on a different helmet. 

As we mentioned earlier in the piece, the wrong size isn’t the only reason a helmet is ill-fitting; don’t automatically assume that the next size up is a good fit, or you might go buying a helmet that’s too big. 

Every helmet brand forges its helmets in a slightly different shape. 

Why do different brands of motorcycle helmets fit differently?

Helmets brands vary in shape and fit in an attempt at inclusivity towards riders. No two human heads are the same shape, and therefore some brands will fit a rider’s head shape better than others.

If your helmet feels too tight but a size up is too big or fits just as awkwardly, you might try a different shape, brand, or style helmet.

A good starting point would be to measure your head and use each brand’s size chart to get in the right ballpark. 

You should also be reading our article which talks about When Do Motorcycle Helmets Go On Sale?

A new full-faced helmet should be tight, mind you. It is tight enough to squish your cheeks with its pads, but it should be cozy, like cushions for your face. The squishing shouldn’t be painful, though. 

If you tug on the helmet’s chin piece, your cheeks should move, but the helmet should stay still.

If your cheeks don’t move, or if moving them causes face pain, your helmet is too tight. 

Ideally, to be sure your new helmet isn’t too tight, and to ensure you can return it if it is, hang out around your house for 15 to 30 minutes with the helmet on before you take it outside in the sun, dirt, and moisture. This also lets you make sure the helmet fits well before you jump in the saddle and roast out of the driveway with a poorly fitting dome protector.

Ok, so you’ve watched TV or read a book for 30 minutes or so with your helmet on. It should still fit nice and tight. Now pop it off. If you feel an uncomfortable pressure above your temple or on your forehead, the helmet is too tight, or the shape doesn’t work well with your particular shape of the head. 

Aren’t you glad you didn’t ride your bike in the thing? Now you can return your helmet!

Related: Can You Change The Size Of A Motorcycle Helmet? (Solved!)

Are Motorcycle Helmets Supposed To Be Tight?

A motorcycle helmet should fit so snug that it doesn’t slide down to cover your eyes when you shake your head back and forth. A brand new full-faced helmet should cushion a rider’s cheeks tight enough to prevent them from making a gum-chewing motion with their jaw and mouth. 

This means that a new helmet should be a little tighter than you want it to be long term. A motorcycle helmet should fit tight—square on your skull without tilting forward or back like a hat. And, as we’ve mentioned a few times now, a motorcycle helmet will break in and loosen over time.

If a helmet isn’t tight enough, it will let noise pollution and wind rush in while you’re riding, especially at high speeds.

Rushing wind noise is not only obnoxious, but it can damage your eardrums faster than that music you’re blasting from your Bluetooth riding speakers. A loose helmet can slide around your head while you’re riding, obstructing your field of vision, or even worse, fly off your head during a collision!

Fitting a motorcycle helmet is slightly more complex than measuring your hat size and translating it to small, medium, or large, but measuring your head is actually a good place to go before you start window shopping for a new hardshell lid.

Measure it at its widest point; on many of us that’s just above the eyebrows. Measure all the way around your head, from front to back, and do it a few times for the sake of accuracy. 

Now keep in mind that every motorcycle helmet brand varies in size, so use a size chart for the particular helmet brand you’ve been considering. Find the XS, S, M, L, or XL helmet that most closely aligns with your head size in that specific brand, and if your measurement is between two sizes, round up.

Again, this is only the first step to finding a helmet that fits as tightly as a motorcycle helmet is supposed to, but it saves you about an hour of trying on helmets that aren’t even close.

Related: Motorcycle Helmet Hurting Your Head? Here’s How To Fix It!

Do Motorcycle Helmets Stretch?

Motorcycle helmets stretch to fit your face on their own in time. Some impatient riders stretch motorcycle helmets by forcing a round object like a basketball into it or by stretching out the pads. Tampering with a helmet affects its integrity; the safest bet is to buy a helmet that fits appropriately.

To stretch out their helmets early, some riders will put a deflated basketball into their helmet. Once it’s in there, they pump up the basketball, and as it expands, the helmet stretches. 

There are myriad styles of helmets available, and not all helmets stretch out as easily. You’ll have better luck stretching out an open-faced or a three-quarters helmet with a basketball than you will with a full-face helmet.

Full-face helmets have rigid, 360-degree structures and extra foam pads, making them harder to force-stretch. 

These polypropylene foam pads can be reshaped, though. Some riders will dampen the pads with a few spritzes of water in an attempt to reform it to their face or to squish the pads down in depth. 

Still, the safest bet is to wear a helmet that fits you in size, shape, and style appropriately, leaving enough lightness to accommodate the fact that all motorcycle helmets loosen over time.

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