How To Fit a Bike Helmet

The great debate about cycling helmets is not likely to disappear. But, when cycling around Oxford, I am often surprised to see a lot of people who wear a helmet, fail to wear it properly. If you do make the effort to wear a helmet you might as well wear it properly.

Incorrect Fitting of Helmet


from: flickr

In particular the most common problem is to wear the helmet too far back on the head. If you were to land on your forehead the first thing to hit the ground would be your head rather than your helmet. It is important to fit a helmet so that if you did land on your forehead, the first thing to hit the ground is the helmet.

The other mistake is to wear the helmet too loose. It is suggested that badly fitting helmets can actually cause injury when you fall because they can twist your neck. Take time to tighten up the different straps so that it is a snug fit (but not too snug to restrict your breathing.

Tips for Correct fitting of Bike Helmet


photo by Zimpenfish

  • Measure circumference of head about 3 cm above eyebrows. Match your headsize to helmet. It doesn’t have to be exact fit as there will be some leeway with straps and padding.
  • Place your head squarely on your head so front protrudes above forehead. Then adjust inner padding and inner straps so the helmet is snug. Not loose, but not too tight. It should not be possible to have more than one finger’s width between strap and chin.
  • The front strap should be as vertical as possible.
  • The buckle should be under the chin on the back of the lower jaw against the throat. It should not be on the jaw.
    If you try to move the helmet, it should only give a slight movement on the head. If it is easy to roll the helmet around the head, it is not tight enough.
  • The helmet should sit level on the cyclist’s head with only a couple of finger-widths between eyebrow and the helmet brim.


Other tips for using a helmet.

  • If you crash, or have a heavy impact on helmet – get a new one.
  • Just because you are wearing a helmet doesn’t make you ‘safe’ on the roads. At the best it will minimise impact of head injuries. The most important safety feature is to ride with awareness and care.


  • Cheap cycle helmets - I can recommend the Specalized Align helmet. It is only £30, but has a very nice and simple system for fitting all head sizes. It feels very snug and is quite lightweight.
  • Cycle Helmets at Evans
  • Giro helmets

One Response to How To Fit a Bike Helmet

  1. Graham Wilkinson November 15, 2013 at 10:20 am #

    Thanks for the article.

    I have cycled for many years without a helmet and like most cyclists have also fallen off my bike several times. Perhaps I have been lucky but I have never seriously damaged my head. I have, however had scrapes and cuts to arms and legs.

    Additionally, I was an operational paramedic for many years. In my 25 years of ambulance experience I never encountered a serious head injury to a cyclist where there were no other vehicles involved. The serious head injuries to cyclists I did encounter occurred when cyclists and motor vehicles were involved. Where I attended cyclists who sustained serious head injuries following a collision with a motor vehicle, cycle helmets would not, I believe, have significantly helped reduce serious injury due to the forces involved.

    It is a known fact that the general health of our population can be improved by more exercise. Cycling is an excellent way of keeping fit. In my opinion, cycling is increasingly associated with the need to protect yourself from injury. Wearing a helmet is part of that culture. I believe that younger people will be deterred from cycling if they feel pressured to wear a helmet. Girls and boys are normally very image conscious and gelled and styled hair does not go with wearing a helmet. On that issue alone I believe it would deter many young people from using a bicycle. The corollary of that could be less fit young people whose general health would be poorer because of the aesthetic considerations.

    One last thought. The photographs show very young children with helmets. Regardless of my observations above, I think young children should be encouraged to wear them as they are, perhaps, more likely to be riding on paths/safer areas and at speeds (under 12 mph?) where a helmet could help in the event of a fall.

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