Getting a New Helmet Requires Proper Fitting

Although I have never been a beanie wearer, I did enjoy wearing a DOT open face helmet in my beginning days of cruiser riding. Witnessing the after effects of a helmet on a rider that had gone off the road was enough to change my mind to wearing a full face helmet. Transitioning was not easy, so I opted for a modular helmet. With the recent changes in the helmet law, I began canvassing riders for their helmet opinions.

Looking at the helmets of a over 500 riders, popular brands that stood out were Shoei, Arai and HJC, the same three brands that were standing out on the heads of riders on the MotoGP circuit.

If your wondering what to do with that old beanie which is now illegal on B.C. highways, here is a suggestion.

Answers varied from “There shouldn’t be a helmet law at all, it’s our choice” to “I would never wear anything but a full face”. At Okanagan Ride for Dad, Jay Naylor of Bentley Motorrad told me she thought my helmet was too big and asked if I had ever been properly fitted for a helmet. Properly fitted? Too big?

I recall as a child that when we had the opportunity to ride, whether in the dirt, over the farm fields on a quad, as a passenger in front of dad etc., any lid that went over your head gave you the right to ride.

Vancouver Sun motorcycle columnist Marissa Baecker (L) and The Province motorcycle columnist Alexandra Straub (R).

During a Triumph ride with Province motorcycle columnist, Alexandra Straub, we were all over the Valley on an extremely windy day. The wind slowed me down as I struggled with neck strain and wind resistance. Yet, Alexandra showed no signs of fatigue, or strain. Even changing rides didn’t make a difference. The only difference was on our heads. She was wearing a Shoei full face and I, a modular (that I had been told was too big).

Back to Bentley Motorrad in Kelowna and a visit to Jay Naylor and be ‘properly fit’ for a new lid where Kelowna motorcycle RCMP officer, Bob Charron would be on hand to answer questions about the new law.

“They just can’t put anything on your heads,” he says. “The old beanie style helmets are no longer acceptable on our highways. All motorcycle helmets, whether it be the half style, the three-quarter, the modular or full face helmets must all meet our minimum international standards.”

With a wall of helmets before me in varying colours, styles, brands etc., Charron advises, “The beanies have a very thin piece of foam inside.”

With three major motorcycle rallies in B.C. in July, Great Canadian Bike Rally, Salmon Arm Summer Stomp and Sturgis North, officers were checking for compliance. Helmets had to be DOT or Snell approved. Some riders have placed DOT stickers on their helmets but there are markings inside the padding of the helmets that police look for. Clasps on helmets would have to be metal as nothing in plastic would pass the test. While during the month of June, RCMP were taking an educational approach with riders, come July $138 fines were being delivered.

As I instinctually began looking for my new fashion accessory, Naylor reeled me in and advised that before we go looking for my personal taste, she needed to fit my head with the right brand first. Using a fabric measuring tape, she measured the widest circumference of my skull ‘about an inch’ above my eyebrows. With that measurement, she selected a variety of brands and removed the inside padding.

One by one I began putting them on until I found one that was right.

“We are looking to fit the crown of the head only,” says Naylor. “It should be even pressure all the way around the top of the helmet and we should not be able to fit a finger anywhere along the top inside the helmet.”

Once you find the correct crown fitting, the interior padding goes back in and the helmet goes back on. The space between the rider’s chin and the helmet should be about a finger and a half width.

Naylor continued testing to make sure that there were no visual impairments by pulling the helmet from side to side and then downward to ensure that the helmet remained secure. The first helmet fit my head perfectly until the downward test where it came down right over my eyes. We started over with another line.

photo by Garth Milan/MCG

With the Qwest on my head, I was required to keep it on and browse around the dealership for about 20 minutes to ensure that I wouldn’t have any pressure build up on my head.

Interestingly, the helmets that fit  my crown were the same size and both Shoei. However, one was an RF-1100 that did not pass the tests and the other was a Qwest that did pass the tests. Head shape determined the winner.

Be prepared to spend some money protecting your head as good helmets will start around $400 and depending on your style, and colour choices, can get quite pricey.

Riding now is a whole new experience for me. The wind resistance has been eliminated even on extremely windy days. I feel a difference in protection on my head. I do admit I am having some claustrophobic struggles changing from a modular to a full face but I am working through it as the security and safety I feel is more important. As for riding, my new helmet has a made a huge difference and apparently my head has swollen as I proudly sport my new lid.

“Are you sure you wear a large,” asked Bret Milan, Marketing Manager of Shoei Safety Helmet Corp. “I have never sent a large helmet to a woman.”

For the record, I am very smart and I have a lot of hair.



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