ATV riding is an incredibly fun sport, I love going up and down the slopes at gut dropping speeds and taking tight turns around trees and other obstacles, but i’m no Evel Knievel and i’ll only ride like that with my helmet on and maybe a couple other pieces of safety gear. If you’re interested in other safety gear for ATV riding, I wrote a thorough post about the other gear I wear.
With the helmet being such a critical part of ATV riding, it’s important that you’ve picked the right one for your head. In this post i’ll share the ins and outs of picking the perfect helmet for you.
How To Measure Your Head For The Right ATV Helmet
Measuring your head is the first step to finding your next helmet, but it doesn’t stop there, there are two components you’ll need to take into consideration when trying on helmets.
- The first step is measuring the circumference of your head
- The second step is to classify the shape of your head
Step 1: Measuring the circumference of your head – to do this, you’ll want to get some soft tape, aka tailors tape, and measure your head by starting just above your eyebrow and traveling around the crown of your head. You’ll want to make sure to go around the widest part of the head and measuring until you get consistent measurements. You can measure in both inches or centimeters as helmet manufacturers will show sizes for both units of measurement.
Step 2: Classifying the shape of your head – this is important because some heads are wider than they are longer, and vice versa. You’ll find some helmets that have a better fitment for oval shaped heads, while others have a better fitment for those shaped with a round head, so knowing the circumference of your head is just half of the fitting process.
To do this, you’ll need a birds-eye view of the top of your head. The easiest way to do this is by taking a picture of your head with your camera phone and comparing it to the shapes below. Here are the three head shapes:
Oval – slightly longer front to back than it is side to side
Intermediate – longer front to back and narrower side to side
Round – head shape is rounder from side to side and less in length from front to back. This is the least common of the three head shapes
If you’re a visual person like me then the photo below will give you a better idea of what to look for. As you can see, there is a clear difference between an oval, intermediate and round head and although you may not think that your head is clearly one over the other, it still gives you a good starting point. You can always try on other helmets for different shaped heads after you try on the first one.
Helmet Size Chart
Now that you know the two main parts to getting your head fit for an ATV helmet (circumference and shape), you can use the chart below to pick the right size helmet for nearly any manufacturer based on the circumference of your head.
I know what you might be thinking, what about the shape of my head? How does that fit into things? Well, some manufacturers make more helmets for one shape over another so here are a few that tend to favor a particular shape:
LS2 has many helmets for those with an oval shaped head including some of their best models like MX437 Series and MX470 Series
Bell has great helmets for riders with a head that’s slightly oval but not overly round either. The MX-9 series is likely a great place to start
For heads that are predominantly round you can look into HJC helmets, specifically their CS-MX2 series which are competitively priced. As an alternative, you can also try Klim’s F3 series but is considerably higher priced.
At the end of the day, you’ll just have to try them on to see which one fits best.
How To Properly Put On A Helmet
By no means am I trying to overcomplicate this step, but it is actually a very important one. Intuitively you’d think that it’s just like putting on a baseball cap, right? That’s what I thought too when I tried on my very first helmet. The incorrect way is to start from the front, just above your eyebrow, then slide it over towards the back of the head until the entire helmet is on.
That’s the most common mistake when actually trying on an ATV helmet, and as I talk to more sales people when I try on my helmets, they say that they see it happen all the time.
The reason most riders do that is because it’s easier to put the helmet on, and if you think about it, you’re trying to put the widest part of your head (where you took the measurement) through the smallest part of the helmet (the base). Naturally, as soon as the helmet starts giving you some resistance you’re going to think that you need a bigger size. Not necessarily the case.
The right way to put on an ATV helmet is to grab both retention straps and spread the base of the helmet outwards. In doing that, you’ll slightly spread the cheek pads out as well making it a little easier to put on.
Now take the helmet and place it directly on the top of your head and pull it all the way down until the inside padding is making direct contact with the top of your head. You should also be able to feel that your eyebrows and cheeks are making contact with the padding as well.
Keep in mind that padding can always be changed out, so if it feels a bit too tight, especially in the cheek area, you can purchase thinner padding to give yourself some needed room.
How should the helmet fit?
So you were able to stuff your head into that helmet, huh? Well just because it’s on your head now doesn’t mean it fits well, or the way it’s supposed to. I know I had to try on several helmets before I found the one that’s most comfortable and protective for me, even though each one I tried on fit the measurement of my head.
You’re looking for a firm even pressure around the crown of your head where you measured the circumference. There also shouldn’t be any gaps, pressure points, or uncomfortable spots anywhere in the helmet.
In the beginning, the helmet should fit slightly snug around the crown of your head but shouldn’t hurt or pinch in any way. With time the fitment will mold to your head, it will loosen slightly and it will feel like it was custom made for you.
The first test to make sure it fits right is to take your fingers and put them between your brows and the padding. If you can actually fit your fingers between the padding and your brow, then right out of the gate it’s just too big for you. If the space between your eyebrows and the helmet padding is tight enough (but not too tight) that it won’t let your fingers slip in, then the size is just right.
The second way to tell if the helmet isn’t a perfect fit is to reach around to the rear base of the helmet (while the helmet is on) and try pulling up on it. If the helmet lifts up in a way where it almost feels like it’s going to come off, then the size is too large and you’ll want to try on a smaller size.
When doing this test, it should feel like your eyebrows and cheeks move in the same direction as the helmet does. It should feel snug all over and when this is the case then outside noise interference will be the least and you’ll be most protected by your helmet.
What’s the Difference Between DOT and Snell Ratings On My Helmet
You’re now looking at a few different helmets that you like, but you’re wondering what the ratings on the back of the helmets mean. It’s important to know the difference, and although there are three different ratings, the two that you’ll most want to know the difference between are the DOT and Snell ratings.
The DOT rating is the mandatory minimum standard in the United States and all helmets that are approved for use on public highways have achieved this standard, however, the helmets don’t get tested first and then manufactured and released for sale to the public, instead, they are designed and manufactured to meet the DOT standard and then are audited post manufacturing to make sure the standards have been met.
This might seem a little counter-intuitive, but the rating is achieved on a trust basis with the manufacturers. If for any reason the helmet were to not meet the standards during a test, they would get recalled from any further sales.
Snell ratings, on the other hand, are issued by the Snell Memorial Foundation which is a non-profit organization. To qualify and display a Snell rating on your helmet, the manufacturer must have applied for and earned the rating by passing the Snell tests. These standards must be granted prior to the helmet being released for sale to the public. In addition, the tests are more rigorous than the DOT tests as the helmets are passed through more severe impact testing from greater heights and larger forces.
You should now be armed with everything you need to know to measure your head for the right atv helmet!
Just remember, at the end of the day the best gauge for how well a helmet fits is not what the measuring tape says, or how you compare the shape of your head a photo, but instead by the way it feels.
You don’t want your head to feel like a bean in a tin jar, but you also don’t want to feel like it’s being squeezed in a vice. Your head should feel comfortably snug in place and it shouldn’t cause pain or discomfort within minutes of putting it on.
If you’re not experiencing any of these conditions you’ve probably chosen a helmet that will keep you well protected for many rides to come!