Do you have a favorite pair of shoes or jeans? You know, the ones that fit just right no matter what, because you’ve spent hours breaking them in and they feel like they were made just for you.
Motorcycle helmets are the same way. It can be tricky to find the perfect one, but once you have, it’ll feel like that helmet was made just for your head.
If your motorcycle helmet is hurting your head, then read this article.
Why Do Some Motorcycle Helmets Hurt Your Head?
If your helmet is hurting your head, it’s not because it’s too small. It’s more likely that it’s the wrong helmet for your head and you need to let the helmet break-in. All helmets are not made the same, and each one has a unique fit. Your helmet should have a firm, snug fit.
How Do I Figure Out Which Model and Brand Are Right for Me?
Most riders don’t realize that every helmet fits differently. With so many brands and models on the market, it can feel overwhelming to find the perfect helmet.
You’ll need to think of the features you want your helmet to have and even go to a store and try different ones on. Once you know what kind of helmet you want and you’re ready to try on helmets, there’s one more thing you’ll need to be aware of when you’re picking out a new helmet, and that’s head shape.
There are three main head shapes that helmet companies use to mold their helmets. Those are round, intermediate, and long oval.
The head shape refers to the shape of the top of your head, or the crown. There’s not an easy way of telling what head shape you have other than to try on different helmets. Here are some helpful tips to help you determine what head shape you might be once you go to your local dealership to try on helmets.
I’m most familiar with this head shape from personal experience. Round oval shaped heads are just that, round. Those with more rounded heads may find it difficult to find a helmet that fits properly.
The most common problem is a helmet that pushes in too much in the temple area. You may also find the opposite problem of having a helmet that fits well on the sides but leaves too much space between your helmet and forehead.
The intermediate oval is the most common head shape. This head shape is for those whose head length (front to back of head) is slightly longer than their temple to temple width. Those blessed with the intermediate head shape probably don’t have issues fitting in helmets.
Since it is the most common, most manufacturers cater to this head shape, so it shouldn’t be hard to find a helmet that fits your head and budget.
Long ovals are the least common head shapes. This shape is more exaggerated than the intermediate. If you have this head shape, the most common fitting problem you’ll have is pressure points in the front and back of your head.
One of the best fitting helmets for the long oval head shape is the Signet-X from Arai Helmets. But I should warn that it’s not a helmet for small budgets. Regardless, if you think you have a long oval head shape, visit your local dealership to try one on so you have a frame of reference of how a helmet should fit.
My last tip for trying on helmets is to limit yourself to 3 helmets, 4 at most. If you limit yourself to 3 helmets, you can create a good, better, best system for yourself.
If you try on too many helmets, not only will you leave your face feeling raw, it will be hard to remember what you liked and didn’t like about each helmet. Limiting the number of helmets to 3 makes it easy to rank the helmets you liked most by fitment and features.
How Tight Should It Sit on My Head?
As you’re trying on helmets, you’ll notice that each helmet will fit a little differently than the last. This is why you’ll want to try on multiple (but not too many) helmets. You’ll also need to know how the helmet should fit.
The helmet should fit snug around your entire head.
There is a misconception, especially among new riders, that if the helmet feels uncomfortable in the store, then it’s too tight or too small. This isn’t the case, though.
If the helmet you choose feels tight and even a little uncomfortable in the store, know that it will loosen up and conform to your face and head over time.
It’s like the way your favorite shoes fit you now.
When you’re trying on helmets, aim for a fit that is as tight as you can stand it. There shouldn’t be gaps anywhere. If you can stick a finger between your forehead and the helmet, try going down a size or switching to a different helmet.
The helmet should also stay in place if you grab the chin bar and move it left to right. It shouldn’t move once it’s on. These things help to ensure the helmet is as close to your head as possible. If you test the helmet and it is close to your head, it will be able to better distribute energy away from your brain and decrease the chance of brain damage.
Think about when you receive a delicate item in the mail. The box was probably stuffed to the max with packing material, leaving no room for the item to move and break. Now think of a situation where that item was packed in soft material but could still move in the box. It would likely break if that was the case. The same applies to a poorly fitting helmet.
Last, if a helmet gives you chipmunk cheek syndrome, don’t worry about it. It’s ok if the helmet fits a little in the cheek area. After a few wears, your cheek pads will break-in and the chipmunk feeling should subside.
In the world of helmets and safety, tighter is always better.
How Different or Similar is the Fit Across Helmet Brands?
As we stated earlier, every helmet fits differently. This means that from brand to brand, each helmet will have a different head shape. Here’s a quick guide of head shapes for popular helmet brands:
Of course, there are dozens of other brands on the market with different head shapes. These are just some of the most common helmet brands you’re likely to find in any motorcycle shop.
Common Problems & Solutions
Below are common complaints about motorcycle helmets and their and solutions .
1. Sore Neck
Some riders complain about having a sore neck after a long ride.
If you’ve experienced a sore neck after riding, it could be because your helmet is too heavy. The muscles in your neck may not be accustomed to holding an extra 3 lbs on your head. This is most noticeable in newbies after a long ride.
Give yourself some time and eventually your neck will become stronger and get used to that added weight. You can also search for a lightweight helmet. However, lighter helmets usually mean a higher price. This is because helmet manufacturers have to find materials that are lightweight but just as strong, if not stronger, than the typical polycarbonates used in entry-level helmets.
My favorite lightweight helmet is HJCs RPHA 11 Pro. It uses a mixture of materials that creates a strong, yet lightweight shell, while also keeping the cost low compared to other helmets with similar styles.
Another reason for a sore neck could be from wind buffering. Wind buffering is felt most often when the helmet is too big or the aerodynamics don’t mesh with your bike. For example, wearing a sport adventure helmet with your sport bike…probably not the best choice.
More often than not, though, you’ll find yourself fighting the wind if your helmet is too big. If your helmet is too big, you leave space in your helmet for extra air and wind to travel through, thus creating more drag and resistance. This is yet another reason to make sure your helmet fits tight!
If your helmet is loud and you get a sore neck after almost every ride, head to your local motorcycle dealer; it’s time to get fitted for a helmet.
2. Forehead & Temples
For those who feel pressure points in the forehead and temples after wearing a helmet for a long time, it’s because you have the wrong head shape. Earlier in the article, we said your helmet should be snug and even a little uncomfortable, which is true. But it shouldn’t be painful. There’s a difference between uncomfortable and painful.
Pressure points are a sign of being in the wrong head shape. Scroll back up and review the different head shapes to figure out why your forehead or temples are hurting.
I also said earlier in the article that you shouldn’t worry about chipmunk cheek syndrome. This is true, but if you’ve worn your helmet for a while and you’re still not comfortable with your cheek situation, visit your local dealer and ask about ordering smaller cheek pads.
Many manufacturers sell additional cheek pads that are thinner or thicker. This helps to custom fit your helmet and make you feel more comfortable.
4. Ears & Jaws
I don’t usually say this, but if your ears and jaws are hurting, your helmet might be too small. It’s rare that a rider chooses a helmet that is too small, but it happens from time to time.
Your ears and jaws shouldn’t hurt when wearing your helmet and it could mean that the helmet is squeezing your head just a little too tight. Try on the same helmet model but one size larger. Make sure the helmet is still a proper fit, less the extra pressure on your ears and jaw.
If the larger size gives gaps or moves on your head, you may need to try a helmet that has a different head shape.
We know helmets are an important piece of gear, but many riders don’t want to wear helmets because they are too uncomfortable. To these people, I say, you’ve never worn the right helmet.
Finding the perfect helmet makes all the difference and will keep you safe when riding.