Ride With Pride: It Pays to Keep a Level Head

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, March 1995

Ride With Pride: It Pays to Keep a Level Head

How to wear your helmet right
By Dana Sullivan

Wear a helmet whenever you're on your bike -- that's all there is to our lecture. But to help you find a lid that fits, we called upon Greg Shapleigh, a former road racer who now works for helmet-maker Giro.

The helmet should be snug without squeezing, says Shapleigh. Length is the most important dimension to start with; if you can slip a finger between your head and the front or back of the shell, the helmet's too big. You can take up any extra width with the adhesive-backed pads that come with most helmets. Even then, there shouldn't be more than one-eighth of an inch of space on the sides.

Next, work on the straps. "Make sure they're even on both sides," says Shapleigh. "Then adjust the buckles to rest right under your ears." Keep at it; it's harder than it sounds, and you won't be able to see what you're doing. When you've got it, tighten the chin strap. You should be able to open your mouth wide enough to sip from your water bottle, but not much more. Now try to pull the helmet off. "If you can tip it forward, you need to tighten the back straps," says Shapleigh. "If it tips back, adjust the straps in front."

A properly fitted helmet worn the wrong way is as protective as a baseball cap. The helmet should be level from front to back. If you wear it tipped up on your forehead -- a mistake that a lot of riders make -- then your noggin's vulnerable. At what price fashion, we ask.

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