How Tight Should Motorcycle Helmets Be? (Beginners’ Guide)

Nothing quenches the human thirst for speed and adventure like riding a motorcycle. However, safety should always be a top priority.

So, wearing a motorcycle helmet is an essential part of riding gear for most of us.

But the effectiveness of helmet hinges on whether or not it’s worn correctly, leaving many beginner riders asking themselves just how tight should a motorcycle helmet fit?

Motorcycle helmet

Here’s the Short Answer To How Tight a Motorcycle Helmet Should Be:

A motorcycle helmet should be snug and fit comfortably on your head without irritating pressure points. It shouldn’t be tight enough to cause discomfort or pain, as this can lead to headaches or distractions while riding.

A properly fitting helmet fits securely and doesn’t move around on your head without feeling constricting.

Finding a motorcycle helmet that fits appropriately is critical to ensuring your ride is as enjoyable and comfortable as it is safe. It also ensures that your head is protected while you ride.

That said, the particulars of the fits and shapes vary from brand to brand, making it hard to find a size that works.

Is It Better To Size Up or Down in Helmets?

Some riders assume they need to size up or down because they can’t find the motorcycle helmet they like in a perfect fit.

Many riders assume that a helmet that’s a little too loose allows them to wear their hood or a beanie underneath it, or that a tight helmet will break in after a few weeks of riding.

If you’re in between two sizes, it’s easier to go down to a smaller size and replace the cheek pads with thinner pads.

Still, it’s best to find a helmet that fits your head the way it’s supposed to than to size it up or down. Besides, people’s heads vary in shape.

Different brands make helmets for different head shapes. If the helmet you like doesn’t fit you well, we suggest trying a different brand rather than sizing up or down.

A loose-fitting helmet compromises your riding experience, comfort, and safety by moving around, sliding over your eyes, catching the wind, and lifting on its chin strap, pulling against your neck. Check what to do when motorcycle helmet hurts your head here.

Furthermore, a loose helmet can slide around, causing a collision and failing to protect your head during impact.

Conversely, a helmet that fits too tight restricts blood and airflow and causes distracting discomfort, or even pain, while you’re riding.

Tight helmets can cause headaches that interfere with your attention span. They could cause collisions by distracting the rider.

We, therefore, suggest measuring your head size and shape before you buy, comparing it to the size chart of the brand you’re seeking to buy from.

We also prefer to try helmets in before we buy them in a store, even if you’re just going to turn around and buy the helmet online, anyway. We’ll cover these processes later in the article.

Do New Motorcycle Helmets Loosen Up Over Time?

The padding and lining inside your motorcycle helmet will lose shape over time due to temperature changes, friction, and wear and tear from typical use. On average, a motorcycle helmet loosens by 10-20% after 15-20 hours of use.

As indicated in the previous section, this doesn’t mean you should buy a motorcycle helmet that’s too tight to compensate for the break-in period.

A brand-new helmet should be tight enough to squeeze our cheeks together without leaving a mark or causing numbness, pain, or discomfort.

A motorcycle helmet that’s too tight can cause enough pain or numbness to cause headaches that might affect your attention span, blood flow, and vision. This could even result to an increase in fatigue while you’re riding.

Also, a new motorcycle helmet shouldn’t move around unless you shake your head hard. Even then, an appropriately fitting helmet will never slide down further than your forehead and risk covering your eyes.

  • If it’s a brand new full-faced helmet you’re trying on; it should cushion your cheeks tight enough to prevent them from making a gum-chewing motion with their jaw and mouth.
  • If a helmet isn’t tight enough, it can check the wind and shake around. Or, at the very least, it can let traffic sounds and wind rush in while you’re riding at highway speeds.

In short, while a motorcycle helmet padding will loosen up over the first week or so of regular riding, it should fit properly, albeit snug, from the first time you try it at the store. That said, make sure you also check if little-used motorcycle helmets expire.

How Do I Know if My Helmet Is Too Tight?

While a motorcycle helmet that fits too loose can fall off in a crash, impair visibility, and cause distractions while riding, a helmet that’s too tight can be just as dangerous and painful.

A properly fitting motorcycle should fit snugly around your cheeks without irritating the pressure points of your head, neck, and face.

And since a properly fitting helmet is a crucial part of safety gear and riding preparation, it’s essential to know how to tell if your motorcycle helmet is too tight.

One method you can use to determine if your motorcycle helmet is too tight is to look for red marks, irritations, or skin intentions caused by the helmet on your forehead and cheeks.

If you notice an increase in headaches, pressure, or fatigue while riding, or if it’s hard to breathe or talk, it’s likely because your helmet is too tight.

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.

Learn more about this by checking out our post on what to do when motorcycle helmets loosen up.

Another way to check if your motorcycle helmet is too tight is to observe how much force it requires to fit it on and off. If you’re struggling to remove your helmet, or if it leaves suction marks behind, the helmet might be too tight.

What Happens if the Helmet Is Too Tight or Loose?

If a motorcycle helmet is too tight, it can cause a harmful amount of pressure on your head, resulting in distracting fatigue, headaches, restricted breathing and blood flow, as well as blurred vision.

It also increases the risk of heat exhaustion. And riders who feel dizzy or tired are at higher risk of collision.

That said, a loose motorcycle helmet lets excessive wind in, which can lift the helmet strap, causing choking. A loose-fitting helmet can also fall over a rider’s forehead while riding, obstructing their vision and lessening their focus levels.

Additionally, if a motorcycle isn’t tight enough, it may slide forwards or backward during a crash, failing to protect the rider from impact with the ground or another vehicle.

Avoid these issues by measuring your head and comparing the results to the size chart of the specific make and model helmet you’re attempting to buy.

Since different brands and types of helmets have different sizing standards, it’s essential to check the chart for the helmet you want to purchase.

If your motorycle is slightly too tight or loose, you can try swapping out the pads for some that fit snugly against your cheeks without causing discomfort, numbness, or throbbing pressure.

You should be able to slip a single finger between your helmet and your forehead, but no more. A properly fitting motorcycle helmet shouldn’t slide forward or backward when you shake your head.

Note that a well-fitting motorcycle helmet is vital for a safe and comfortable motorcycling experience. While it protects you from severe injuries, it also preserves your visibility as you ride.

How To Measure Your Head for a Properly Fitting Motorcycle Helmet

The best way to ensure your motorcycle helmet fits properly is to measure your head’s circumference before you start shopping.

Here is a guide to follow:

  1. With soft measuring tape, measure your head’s circumference by wrapping the tape measure around the widest part of your head, typically an inch above your eyebrows.
  2. Ensure the measuring tape is level and snug against your forehead, using your finger to mark the precise place where the tape meets itself to end the circle.
  3. Compare your helmet measurement with the sizing chart of the brand and model helmet you want to buy.
  4. Even if you aim to purchase the helmet online, we suggest you go to a store that carries the helmet you want so you can try it on in-person first. Different brands and styles of helmets are intended for differently shaped heads.
  5. If you’re in between two sizes, it’s easier to go down to a smaller size and replace the cheek pads with thinner pads.
  6. That said, we recommend shopping for a brand, size, and style of helmet that fits appropriately right out of the box to achieve optimum head protection and injury prevention while you ride.
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