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Helmet Size Guide for Motorcycle and ATV Riders

Posted On: 03/19/2021

Motorcycle, dirt bike, ATV, and other motor vehicle crashes can be detrimental, but some damage may be preventable by wearing a helmet. According to a CDC study on motorcycle safety:

  • Wearing a helmet reduces the chance of death by 37%;
  • Wearing a helmet reduces the risk of head injury by 69%;
  • Just under 2,000 lives were saved in 2016 by helmets;
  • An additional 802 motorcyclists could have been saved if they had worn helmets.

Wearing a helmet is a preventative measure, and not just for riding. When you are loading your motorcycle into your truck or trailer and strapping it down, it is also important to wear your helmet, especially while guiding your motorcycle onto the motorcycle ramp, and if you are loading it on your own.

Types of Helmets

Different sports, jobs, and recreational activities require different types of helmets. What works for one, may not necessarily work for another. The same is true for motorcycle helmets. It ultimately comes down to how you ride (e.g. highway vs. off-road vs. around town), and what you feel comfortable wearing physically.

Use the information below to help you determine which type of helmet is right for you, and how they differ from one another. If you are just learning how to ride, think carefully about what type of vehicle and activities you are hoping to enjoy — it may even be necessary to purchase more than one helmet for different environments and rides.

Full Face Helmet

Full-Face Helmets

Full-face helmets are exactly what their title depicts: they cover the top, back, and front of your head with a visor for visibility and a full chin-bar. This type of helmet offers the most viable protection for laying down a bike, or collisions. They are great options for those who are going fast because they are more aerodynamic. The downside to a full-face helmet is generally lack of ventilation. If you are someone who likes to listen to music, or you want to utilize wearable Bluetooth tech for talking on the phone, a full-face helmet is also a good option.

Open-Face Helmet

Open-Face Helmets

Open-face helmets — also called “three-quarter helmets” — are similar to full-face helmets, but they do not have a fixed chin guard on the front. Instead, you can find open-face helmets with visors, and open-face helmets without any sort of structure in front of the face.

Open-face helmets extend down to just under the ears, offering less protection than full-face helmets, but more than half-helmets. Essentially, the open-face helmet will cover the top, back, and sides of your head, but not the front. This type of helmet is ideal for those who like to feel the air on their face, but not as ideal for riding in poor weather, or at high speeds. Many open-face helmets have goggle attachment options, or you can simply wear sunglasses or safety glasses instead.

Modular Helmet

Modular Helmets

Modular helmets — also called “flip-up helmets” — are extremely versatile helmets. You can easily switch between a full-face helmet and an open-face helmet since the chin bar can be flipped up temporarily, or removed entirely if needed. It should be noted that when the chin bar is flipped up, it is not secured, so many suggest that you should remove the chin bar if you want to utilize the open-face helmet feature.

This type of helmet is more protective than an open-face helmet, but less structurally sound because of the nature of the chin strap and the hinges/additional pieces required for function. This helmet type is ideal for someone who is a versatile rider.

Half Helmets

Half-Helmets

Half-helmets — also called “brain buckets” — are the most simple of the helmets. They have very few moving parts or features, and they also offer the least amount of protection. They cover the top of your head, partially cover your neck and ears, and they leave the rest of your face exposed. There are generally no visors or goggle attachments for half-helmets, so you may want to consider protective eyewear. This helmet is ideal for someone who loves to feel the wind on their face.

off-road Helmets

Off-Road Helmets

Off-road helmets — also called “dirt bike helmets,” “motocross helmets”, and “MX helmets” — are fairly self-explanatory in nature; they are meant to be used off the beaten path and are typically used in off-road motorsports. They look similar in design to open-face and full-face helmets, but they generally have a larger visor and an extended chin bar.

They are generally lighter than other options, and they are designed for airflow. They are often worn with goggles, and many suggest bringing your goggles when shopping to make sure you don’t pick a helmet that isn’t compatible with them. The same is true for neck braces. This type of helmet is ideal for casual dirt bike riders all the way to professional motocross racers.

Measuring Your Head for a Helmet

Measuring your head for a helmet is a rather simple process. You will need a seamstress or soft tape measure for the most accurate measurement. Take the measuring tape and measure the biggest part of the head — this is generally just above the eyebrows for most, but it can vary from person to person. Once you have the measurement, you should fit into one of the motorcycle helmet categories from X-Small to 5XL. Each manufacturer’s helmet will fit slightly differently, so it is important to go into a store to try on different styles for what fits best.

Head Shape

One of the most important things to consider when choosing a helmet is to get a helmet that fits your head shape. Once you have an understanding of the riders’ head shape, you can sift through the endless options a little more easily — these categories include:

Head Shapes
  • Long Oval Head: this is a head that is longer from the front of the head to the back of the head (front to back) than it is from one side of the head to the other side (side to side)
  • Intermediate Oval Head: this is a head that is slightly longer from front to back than it is from side to side;
  • Round Oval Head: this is a head shape that is almost symmetrical from front to back as it is side to side.

How a Helmet Should Fit

A helmet should be relatively tight at first, as it will relax over time. The interior padding should be in contact with the majority of your head without causing any pain or excessive discomfort. You should be able to look both right and left without your peripherals being blocked.

One of the most common ways to check if a helmet fits or not is the finger test. Place a finger between the helmet interior and the head — either through the face hole or from the bottom of the helmet. If your finger fits easily, you should try a smaller size. If you cannot fit your finger into the helmet at all, you may want to try a larger size.