As many as one in four riders may be wearing a badly fitting helmet, resulting in the helmet coming off in a crash.
A recent report from the UK Transport Research Laboratory says 25% of motorcyclists wear a helmet that is the wrong size.
More than half wore a helmet that was too big and in 20% of cases where those had an accident, the helmets almost came off.
Motorcycle Council of NSW helmet expert Guy Stanford says he is not surprised by the findings.
“In Australia, around 11% of helmets come off in a crash,” he says.
Both the TRL and Guy blame internet buying for many helmets fitting badly.
In the UK, 25% of motorcyclists now buy their helmets on the web and only 3% try a helmet before buying.
In 2017, the MCC of NSW launched three YouTube videos about helmets, one of which was a guide to figment.
One of the key recommendations was to never buy a helmet over the internet because it could be a fake, may not be correctly certified and may not fit.
“Never buy a helmet you haven’t had on your head,” Guy says.
“Many newcomers to motorcycling (and old hands) have absolutely no idea about why a helmet is useful, other than that you need one or you get a ticket,” Guy says.
“Fitting the wrong type of oil filter is as idiotic as wearing the wrong size helmet.
“Sometimes I despair at the stupidity and naivete shown by otherwise apparently sensible people.
“The same people would whinge if the replacement part they ordered online didn’t fit or caused poor performance or caused the engine to blow up.
“In many cases, they simply don’t know what they don’t know and make poor assumptions, too afraid to ask in case they look silly.”
Guy says buying from a shop means you can try the helmet on.
“The great thing about most good shops is that the staff are usually keen to share good information and a simple question can lead to revelations and confidence,” he says.
Yet the UK report found only 40% of riders had their heads measured at the time of sale.
“This suggests a serious failure at the point of sale, and a lack of understanding by both the sales staff and the purchasers,” the report found.
It also found 30% of riders have had issues with helmet fit, often because a particular brand or range is the wrong internal shape.
“The majority of riders have the chin straps slightly loose, and can pass either one or two fingers beneath the chinstrap and their chins,” the report says.
Too-small helmets can cause headaches, double vision and fatigue.
Too-big helmets can swivel and vibrate which can also give double vision or blurring through the visor. They also have less impact protection and can come off in a crash .
Learn about helmets
Guy says riders have a lot to learn about roads, traffic, riding skills, motorcycles and riding gear such as helmets.
“There’s always something new to learn,” he says.
“We love the most that which we understand the most.
“Helmets are not made as a fashion item, although they can be made fashionable with colours and stickers.
“But, like an oil filter, it firstly has to be the correct fit and flashy paint jobs/stickers come second.
“There are those individuals who are shallow in their character and only value appearance as important.
“These buy stickers and flashy paint jobs and have no regard for whether the item actually works. They just like to be seen.
“It’s a pretty immature approach when compared to those riders who love what they do and deeply understand the value of a helmet.
“I say ‘value’ because that is what you get. The price is what you pay.
“The value is in having a helmet that will work for you when it all goes pear shaped.
“Buying a helmet takes patience, to try them on and learn how your head shape simply doesn’t fit some of them.
“It is difficult to get the fit right by yourself, as you need someone else to push the helmet around on your head while you stand there.
“Get help for this. Professional training in this is provided by helmet manufacturers who train shop staff.
“Buying online is a perfect storm for getting it wrong.
“The price might look good, but there’s little real value.
“Never buy a helmet you haven’t had on your head.”