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Ultimate Motorcycle Helmet Guide: Get a Proper Fit, Clean it, Replace it


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You helmet is one of the most important pieces of your motorcycle safety gear.

In most states, there is a mandatory motorcycle helmet law.

Knowing how to get the right fit and how to care for your helmet is important.

Even in minor accidents, a proper DOT-certified motorcycle helmet can be the difference between walking it off and long-term injury or death.

A good helmet is going to protect your head and neck in the event of a crash, it’s going to be comfortable to wear, and it’s always a plus if it looks good too.

It’s also important to know how long motorcycle helmets are designed to last and when it’s time for a replacement.

How to Choose the Right Motorcycle Helmet

Choosing the right helmet comes down to a matter of fit and function.

In the United States, motorcycle helmets must include a DOT sticker indicating that it meets safety standards set by the U.S. DOT.

The most important things to consider when choosing a motorcycle helmet are fit and level of protection.

Here’s how to try on a helmet to get the right fit:

  • Hold the helmet by the chin straps with your thumbs on the inside and spread the straps towards the outside of the helmet.
  • Place the helmet over your head and pull it down using the chin straps.
  • Fit the helmet square on your head.
  • It should feel snug, but not too tight.
  • If the helmet can move up and down or wiggle side-to-side too much, it’s too large.
  • The cheek pads should touch your cheeks without squishing your face.
  • There should be no space between your temple and the brow passing.
  • Any face shields or the chin portion of full-face helmets should not touch your nose or chin.
  • The helmet should not obstruct your vision and should provide you with adequate peripheral vision (at least 105 degrees to each side).

New helmets should be tight as they’ll wear in over time.

Types of Motorcycle Helmets

The main types of motorcycle helmets include:

  • Full-face helmets.
  • 3/4 open-face helmets.
  • Half-helmets.

Full-face helmets provide the most protection and often include built-in eye protection or face shields.

3/4 helmets typically require your to get a snap-on face shield.

Half-helmets do not offer adequate protection in the event of an impact and typically lack a place to add a face shield.

Whichever type of helmet you use, be sure to fasten the chin strap every time you ride.

How to Size a Motorcycle Helmet

Everyone’s head is shaped a little bit differently. Some people have rounder or narrower heads, and this will affect how a helmet will fit.

You may find that some brands will be better suited for general head shapes. This will have to come from a little testing and trial and error of your own.

Sizing a motorcycle helmet is the first step to getting the safest and most comfortable helmet for you.

Helmets that are too loose or too tight will not be as effective in keeping you safe in the event of a crash.

A properly fitting helmet will feel slightly tight without being uncomfortable or causing pain.

When you shake your head, the helmet should not move around.

How to Measure for a Motorcycle Helmet

The best way to measure your head for a motorcycle helmet is to use a tailor’s tape measure.

To measure your head for different helmet size wrap the tape measure around the widest part of your head – typically just above your brow line and above your ears.

Use the measurement you get and compare it with the helmet manufacturer’s sizing chart.

How to Tell if a Motorcycle Helmet is too Small

If your helmet hurts to wear, it may be too small or too tight for you.

It should feel snug, but not so tight that it is causing pain points on your head.

Some helmets will allow you to swap out the interior padding to customize the fit.

However, you should remember that helmets stretch and wear in with use.

How to Stretch a Motorcycle Helmet

If your helmet fits just about right, it’ll probably be okay. Like a new pair of shoes, it’ll break-in over time.

It’ll take a number of hours of wear to fully break it in, so the more you use it, the more comfortable it will get.

If you want to try to speed up the break-in process a bit, you can try to use a ball to stretch it out.

Find a ball that’s about the size of your head and put it in the helmet. Leave it for a few hours and test it out.

How to Strap On a Motorcycle Helmet

Helmet secure to your head using a D-rings and buttons. To strap on a motorcycle helmet:

  • Thread the end through both D-rings.
  • Take the same end and go over the first D-ring and back through the second.
  • Tighten the strap so you get no more than two fingers between your chin and the strap.
  • Snap the buttons shut.

How to Clean a Motorcycle Helmet

Cleaning a motorcycle helmet is good practice to keep it in good condition and to avoid any nasty odors from your sweaty head.

To clean your motorcycle helmet:

  • Use only mild soaps and warm water.
  • Use towels that won’t leave scratches when cleaning the helmet.
  • Avoid scrubbing too hard.
  • Use cotton swabs to get to the hard to reach places.
  • Air dry the helmet in front of a fan.

If you have removable liner pads in the helmet, you can wash them in the laundry on a delicate cycle or wash them by hand. These should still be air dried though.

When to Replace a Motorcycle Helmet

The industry recommendation from most motorcycle helmet manufacturers is to replace your helmet every 5 years.

Over time and use the helmet is going to naturally wear out and loose some of its protective capabilities.

If your helmet was dropped, involved in a crash, or had any other sort of impact, it’s time for a replacement right away. Helmets are designed to withstand one major impact and should not continue to be used.

Other reasons to replace a helmet include:

  • Worn-out padding.
  • Loose or frayed retention strap.
  • Scratches or other damage to the EPS liner.

If you’re in the market for a new helmet, check out our reviews and recommendations for the best full face and open face helmets out there.

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