Helmet Questions

Russ asked…

Hi there. I’d just send you an email, but I can’t find one, so I hope you don’t mind if I ask my question here in the comments.
I’m new to riding so I know almost nothing. After buying a helmet (full face, bright green Icon Alliance. Maybe you remember it from when from when I took your course in September) I started wondering if it actually fit me properly. See, it locks down tightly around the my skull, so that I can’t wedge my fingers between under the front and my forehead. However, there’s a bit of play between my cheek and the cheek pads so that they lose contact when I wobble the helmet back and forth. I’ve heard that is an indication of a problem with the fit. I have almost no fat in my cheeks, so maybe that’s a factor. In short, it seems to fit my skull perfectly, but not my face.
My question is this: would you, in your opinion, consider the above problem enough of a safety issue to justify getting an entirely new helmet, or is the fact that it fits very snugly around the skull the most important factor? Any input you might have would be appreciated.

Sorry about the lost “contact” button on the blog. I don’t know where it went, but I’ll try to get that fixed this week.

I have almost no visual skills, so I might be misinterpreting the helmet fit you’ve described. If so, someone else on this list may get it better. Helmet fit is a really personal thing and several manufacturers make a decent effort to shape helmets differently in size gradations. Arai, for example, narrows their helmet form with smaller sizes. The HelmetCheck.org website has a pretty good description of one method of inspecting the fit of a helmet: http://www.helmetcheck.org/thefit.aspx. Their list of inspection points are:

  • The cheek pads should touch your cheeks without pressing uncomfortably.
  • There should be no gaps between your temples and the brow pads.
  • If the helmet has a neck roll, it shouldn’t push the helmet away from the back of your neck.
  • On full-face helmets, press on the chin piece. The helmet or face shield should not touch your nose or chin. If it does, it will surely do so at speed from wind pressure.

    From your description, it sounds to me like your helmet is a pretty good fit. I guess it depends on how much force you are using when you “wobble the helmet back and forth,” though. The real question, in my mind, would be does it feel like the helmet would come off on impact due to the lack of contact on the side of your face? If not and it’s comfortable, it’s probably fine. If you can rotate the helmet enough to slip it over your head with the strap adjusted normally, it’s too loose. Remember, the helmet will loosen up with use. I always buy a helmet that is slightly uncomfortably tight (everywhere) and, 5,000 miles later, it will be perfect.

    One piece of gear I’d never recommend buying untried is a helmet. That said, I’ve done it before and been unhappy with the results. The reason stores like Bob’s in Little Canada have lots of helmets is because they know fit is everything. I think this YouTube video is about as good a presentation on helmet fit as I’ve ever seen. I especially like the concentration on visibility and fit.

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