How to Find the Right Fit When Trying on Motorcycle Helmets


Motorcyclists take pride in the gear they wear, from their helmets to their jackets. Beyond looking stylish, however, motorcycle helmets, because, they are essential for safe riding, should be chosen based on more than looks. You should select one that not only has passed a safety-certification test but is sized appropriately for your head circumference and shape. Here is how to ensure your helmet protects like a shield and fits like a good pair of riding gloves.

The Difference Between ECE & DOT Ratings on Motorcycle Helmets

Before taking the time to determine if a particular helmet fits as it should, confirm that it carries the appropriate safety rating. The Department of Transportation rating and the Economic Commission for Europe rating are two primary government-backed protection standards (along with a private-foundation rating, SNELL).

DOT certification is required for women’s and men’s motorcycle helmets worn on the road in the United States. It is based on three standards formulated by the National Highways Traffic Safety Administration. In the first, the impact attenuation test, a helmet is made to strike both a pointed and a flat anvil. For the second, the penetration test, a pointed shaft is dropped upon the helmet from 118 inches. The final test, focused on the helmet’s retention strap, stretches the fabric to determine if it can withstand significant pulling.

ECE 22.05 is the current measurement standard that motorcycle helmets are required to meet in many European countries and a few outside of Europe. Testing is performed independently, in contrast to DOT testing, which is performed by the manufacture. In addition to passing tests bearing similarity to those for DOT certification, helmets seeking ECE approval must pass tests involving solvents, ultraviolet light, moisture and temperature extremes.

How To Fit Helmets

Safety standards do not matter if your helmet does not fit correctly; choose your fit based on several criteria. First, using a mirror or camera, determine whether your head resembles a long, medium, or short oval shape as viewed from the top. Second, measure the circumference of your head from just above your eyebrows using a tape measure to determine a match based on printed sizes in the helmet. Third, try on the helmet. Though it should not feel prohibitively tight, it should be snug enough that you can see your cheeks move in unison with the moving helmet. You should not be able to fit fingers between the helmet and your head.

How Women’s Motorcycle Jackets Differ From Men’s

One other piece of heavy protection, the jacket, is often overlooked when gearing up. In this instance, style can have a bearing on your choice. If you are looking at women’s motorcycle jackets you will find them shaped to hug the upper chest, waist and hips; they are form-fitting. Men’s motorcycle jackets are cut straighter and they possess longer sleeves. Each may be colored to appeal to its target audience, though black is popular in both cases.

It is possible to hit the road wearing a nonstandard helmet and a t-shirt, of course. Sure, the outlaw look may appeal to some. On the other hand, wearing a certified, well-fitting helmet and a fashionable cycling jacket can look just as cool — while providing the protection to save your skin (and head) in the event of an accident.

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