Should a motorcycle helmet be tight: safety and comfort tips

Riding faster than the wind, enjoying the overwhelming feeling of freedom and the exhilaration of challenge and adventure, isn’t it fantastic? Indeed, it is. However, any risk taken should be calculated and predictable. Then it’s fun. Otherwise — not so much. In our guide here, we’re focusing on a critical issue: your motorcycle helmet and its fit.

As a motorcycle helmet is literally our safety guarantee, we are to be responsible adults and secure a correctly fitting helmet that won’t be a liability but a lifesaver if need be.

Although seemingly non-complex, the issue of a motorcycle helmet fit is extremely significant and calls for a careful and responsible approach. If the helmet fits improperly, you’ll get a migraine or blisters if you’re lucky and a serious injury, if not.

should a motorcycle helmet be tight

That’s why we decided to help you sort out the issue of the helmet’s proper tightness and find a motorcycle helmet that will provide perfect protection.

In short, a proper motorcycle helmet fits your head as close as possible without causing discomfort or pain. The trick in selecting your motorcycle helmet is to adjust the helmet size so that you achieve that ideal fit. But fear not.

After years of roaming the endless roads, we learned a couple of tips and will be happy to share them.

As the most common type is a full-face motorcycle helmet, and it’s the type we’re used to wearing, we’ll focus on that and explain what exact level of tightness is the right one.

Size matters

To achieve a perfect helmet fit, start with the basics: your head size. Measuring your head contour in its widest part will provide you with a number that will correspond to a certain motorcycle helmet size in a size chart. It also helps that these charts also have corresponding hat sizes.

For example, my head contour is 21.65” (I wear hats of size 6), so I’m supposed to wear a motorcycle helmet in size S.

Unfortunately, if it was that easy, we wouldn’t bother writing this article.

It so happens that a head shape is not a universal thing. People have various head shapes: oval, round, triangle, etc. And as you already know, the motorcycle helmet must be tight, but in the right way.

The head shape of folks with size S cannot be the same. This is where trial and error comes in.

However, defining the size of your motorcycle helmet is the first step to making sure that your helmet fits.

Proper fitting

Now that you have narrowed down the search scope, it’s time to give those cool and stylish motorcycle helmets a try.

When doing so, besides assessing the level of awesomeness in the mirror, pay close attention to your sensations. There are 3 parts you should be most aware of.

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Upper face

When your head shape and a helmet are a match, your forehead will make contact with a helmet pad without extra pressure but will fit snugly at the same time.

Make certain that there is some distance between the face shield and your nose.

If you intend to wear glasses while riding, we recommend trying a new helmet with them on. A face shield isn’t supposed to touch them.

If a helmet fit is wrong, and the helmet is too tight, it will inevitably lead to the rider’s head being compressed, which can result in all kinds of disasters, from severe migraines to dizziness and slow response. And all motorcycle riders know that those are the things they want the least.


Cheek pads of the motorcycle helmet serve to secure a properly fitting helmet. The contact of your cheeks with the helmet pads provides a snug fit, but in no way is it painful.

With a loose helmet, there could be a distance between the pads and the skin, which will create unwanted mobility of the helmet.

Fitting a motorcycle helmet correctly means avoiding any independent movement of your helmet. It will fit snugly and move only together with the head of the rider.


A chin strap is a critical part of motorcycle helmets. It secures the gear in place and doesn’t let it dangle about. With a chin strap fastened, the helmet should fit tightly without stifling you. Adjust the chin strap in such a way that it prevents any undesired displacement. Traditionally, the chin strap should touch the bottom of the ear.

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Trial period

After you’ve conducted what we call ‘a motorcycle helmet fit test’, it’s time for a ‘test drive’. It’s not exactly a ‘drive’ per se, but if you intend to purchase a new motorcycle helmet, which will serve and protect you, put it on for at least 10-15 minutes or even longer if you are not sure. It’s usually enough to make an accurate assessment and decide on the purchase.

Beware of the pressure points. If you have pressure points, it can be a warning sign. At the same time, pressure points can subside after wearing the helmet a couple of times. Only you can evaluate the intensity of the pressure points and make the decision.

A new motorcycle helmet can be a substantial investment, especially if you go for brands and styles.

But most importantly, a motorcycle helmet should fit you because it will keep you safe and even save you in case of accidents.

Time for adjustment

As we’ve mentioned above, a new helmet may seem a little too snug to the extent of pressure points. But most motorcycle helmets loosen a little after you start wearing them.

That’s why it makes sense to allow a little extra tightness, anticipating its reduction.

After one whole day of riding, your motorcycle helmet break-in period will deem officially over, and if excessive tightness vanishes, you’ve made a wise choice, and your helmet fits properly.

You can generally anticipate a 10-15% loosening, so take that into account when selecting a helmet.

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Helmets in their diversity

The industry produces motorcycle helmets of different styles, shapes, and forms. Every rider has their preferences and favorites. But by and large, there are 3 major motorcycle helmet types. If you didn’t know that, you can find the information below useful.

Full-face helmets. Most riders, especially the ones traveling long distances, prefer these types of helmets. That’s the reason why we focused on this type of helmet, as well. A full-face helmet is the best protector for the rider, covering both the rider’s face and head.

It’s critical as head injuries are common among motorcyclists, and the helmet provides the only safety barrier between the head and the road.

With such a helmet, the head is covered with a shock-resistant material softening the blow in case of an accident. The face is shielded as well. Noise reduction is one of the significant features too. Motorcycles are loud beasts.

Half-helmet. Covering only the upper part of the head decreases the level of protection exponentially. A half-helmet is the choice of folks living in hot climates. Riding with a full-face helmet on sounds a bit torturous at 100° F even with a strong wind. Although modern helmets provide the best possible ventilation, it’s still not enough in the scorching heat.

Open-face helmet. A less costly solution than a full-face version, this one won’t create a sauna inside. At the same time, the safety it provides isn’t too impressive. This helmet doesn’t have a chin guard or proper protection for the face of the rider.

Any poorly fitting helmet, no matter the type, will present an additional hazard for the motorcyclist. So whichever type you choose, make sure you acquire a tight helmet just to the right extent.

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Motocross helmets: same or different?

We are often asked about the difference between a motorcycle and a motocross helmet. The question is absolutely legitimate: motocross is a kind of competition on motorcycles. Does it mean that the helmets are identical to the traditional ones?

When dealing with risky activities, there are two main aspects: safety and efficiency. As for safety, both motorcycle and motocross helmets are made of materials, that secure the rider’s head to the maximum.

Motocross riders are more at risk of falling from the motorcycle, so their head protection is higher than the one of the road motorcycle helmets.

A motocross helmet is better crash-proof than a road motorcycle helmet.

Motocross helmets don’t have the visor because the riders are supposed to wear special goggles. As the motocross routes imply rough terrain and often lots of mud, a visor isn’t feasible for the motocross helmet.

It will be covered in mud splashes in seconds and blind the rider, which can be extremely dangerous in such a sport as motocross.

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Taking good care of your tight helmet — securing your safety

We couldn’t end the article without the ‘helmet care tips’. Looking after your helmet is obviously critical. You would want it in top condition because first, it gets in contact with your face, so it should be clean, and second, your life depends on it, so proper maintenance is vital to make your motorcycle helmet safer.

Regular cleaning. For all the pads that can be taken out — a monthly cleaning. For all the interior — every 3 months. For the vents — a weekly cleaning. For the exterior and the visor — daily care.

No exposure. Avoid extreme temperatures, especially heat, and full sunlight. It’s often not possible during the ride, but you can secure it when storing the helmet.

Safekeeping. Make sure that you keep the helmet in a place where it won’t endure any mechanical damage.

Don’t throw the helmet whether on the ground or asphalt. It can cause irreparable damage to your gear. What’s with all this helmet-throwing in the movies? Riders are tough, they don’t have temper tantrums.

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Final thoughts

Like with other things in life, when choosing the right motorcycle helmet, we should strive for balance. The perfect helmet will be tight, but not too much, comfortable, but fit snugly. With our tips, you’ll hopefully find this balance, jump on your motorcycle, and head toward the next adventure.

Frequently asked questions

How snug should a motorcycle helmet fit?

A proper helmet provides a tight fit, but not to the extent of discomfort. All the pads have tight contact with your skin, but you don’t feel any pain or excessive pressure.

The chin guard strapped tightly doesn’t suffocate you. It gives you a chance to breathe freely, at the same time preventing the helmet from moving independently on your head. This can be dangerous as it can be disruptive to the rider’s coordination.

Is it normal for new helmet to be tight?

It’s normal, but you have to be careful here. Your task is to assess if this extra tightness will disappear after you break the helmet in (it will take about 20 hours of riding). Any helmet loosens a little, but whether it will be enough for you to wear the helmet comfortably is up to you to evaluate.

Is it bad if your helmet is a tight?

If your helmet is too tight, it can cause several problems. Feeling pressure will cause a headache that can be very uncomfortable. If you experience pain, it will distract you, slow down your response, and put you and other people in danger. That’s why it’s crucial to get a helmet that will be ideal for your head shape and size.

Are new motorcycle helmets tight?

Most helmets may feel a little too tight at the beginning, although being a proper size. And it’s not an issue. They will loosen after a while, and if you estimate correctly, they will provide you with a perfect fit.

The only tricky part is to guess how much the helmet will loosen. Usually, it’s about 10-15%. If you keep that in mind, you should be able to make the right decision, and the motorcycle helmet should fit you perfectly.

If you need to read about how tight should full-face helmet fit, please read our article.

Robert Miles

I have an immense love for fast motorcycling and a deep passion for motorcycles. With a decade-long involvement in motorsport, I have experienced thrilling adventures and have had the opportunity to explore various aspects of this exciting world.

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