How to fit a cycle helmet

Good fit:

  • Tight straps

  • Helmet level

  • Straps on either side of ear

Poor fit:

  • Loose straps

  • Helmet pushed up

  • Straps over ear

LCC is in favour of people making informed choices about wearing helmets. Plenty of cyclists ride without one. In terms of being responsible for our own safety, there are lots of things cyclists need more than a helmet, starting with a well maintained bike and good road sense. Lower speeds, traffic reduction, courteous motorists and cycle-friendly road design are also important. For those who do choose to use a helmet, it is important to ensure that it is fitted properly. A poorly fitted helmet will not only be less effective, it can actually make injuries worse in certain conditions.

The following guidelines should help. Don't buy a helmet until you're sure it's the right size, comfortable, and properly fitted. If you're not sure how to adjust the helmet yourself, then make sure you buy it from a shop where the staff can help you get a good fit.

The helmet shouldn't be too small or too big. Minor adjustments can be made with straps and buckles and also with foam pads on the inside of the helmet. Get the right combination of helmet and pad thickness first (the helmet should come with several thicknesses of pad, attached by velcro).

Once it's snug on your head, you need to adjust the straps and buckles to keep it in place. You should only need to make these adjustments once, or at worst on the odd occasion when a buckle slips or a strap comes loose.

Different people have heads of different size and shape, so a friend's recommended helmet may not be the best one for you. Shop around and try on different makes until you find one that's comfortable. Sit the helmet level on your head. A common mistake is to push the helmet onto the back of the head, leaving the face and forehead exposed in any impact. If you find the helmet makes your hair itchy, the helmet may be too small or have too few air vents. Pushing it up off your forehead isn't the answer.

Adjust the straps so that one passes in front of your ear and one behind. If the strap goes over your ear (or any ear-rings), it will be uncomfortable and the helmet may end up being too loose. If both straps pass the ear on the same side, the straps won't hold the helmet on properly. The strap under your chin should be a snug fit. Make it good and tight, then gulp a couple of times. Slacken the strap slightly if it's too tight. A loose chin strap may lead to injuries from the strap itself, as the impact of a fall or collision can make the strap cut into your neck. An impact or fall will also push a loose helmet away, leaving your head to take the impact instead of the helmet.

Air vents are important for comfort. An unvented polystyrene helmet would be too hot for a person engaged in physical activity such as cycling. Some types of helmet have more vents than others, depending on the kind of riding they are designed for. BMX helmets have smaller and fewer holes (suited to stunt riding with a higher risk of falling off), while race helmets have lots of large vents (suited to extended periods of hard, hot riding). A helmet for commuters and other utility cyclists should be well vented, but doesn't need quite as many holes as a race helmet.