Buying Helmets Online – How To Avoid Returns

Online shopping has been with us for several years now with many people being regular online shoppers while others are still testing the water and not quite sure how to buy online.

Unlike buying many types of consumer goods, buying helmets online can often be fraught with disappointment when you have a helmet delivered that is too small or too big.

Just to be clear, this article is not about how to choose a helmet, what we are looking at here is what information you need to know to order and receive a helmet that will actually fit your head.

We want to help you to avoid the need to return your new oversized/undersized helmet by understanding and following some very simple steps that you should take prior to ordering the helmet of your dreams online.

online shopping word map

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Buying Helmets Online

It makes no difference if you want to buy bike helmets online, motorcycle helmets, horse riding helmets, or any other kind of helmet, the principles are exactly the same with the end result being that you receive the right-sized helmet every time.

You would be amazed at how many people order helmets online without really knowing what size helmet they need, let alone what their head shape is.

You can avoid disappointment by following the steps below before you place your order.

Tips for Buying a Helmet Online

Before you order a helmet online you need to be armed with the right information. Without this information, you may as well ask a blind person to order the helmet for you.

That information being:

  • the circumference of YOUR head
  • the size of the helmet you need to order for YOUR head size
  • YOUR head shape (sometimes needed)

That information needs to be 100% correct, not just a random guesstimate. Sounds obvious doesn’t it, but you would be surprised at just how many people bypass the obvious.

miniature cardboard box with mini shopping cart printed on the side

Measure Your Head

Some may think that measuring your head is an obvious thing to do, yet so many people actually skip this step assuming that they can just buy the same size as their old helmet, or worse, just guess what size they need.

Never assume that every Medium size helmet will fit your Medium size head. This is probably the main reason that people will need to return a helmet purchased online. Helmet manufacturers use different sizing so a Medium Giro helmet may be a completely different measurement to a Medium Abus helmet (the same goes for motorcycle helmets, equestrian helmets, etc.).

Never ask, “what size should I get for a ten-year-old?” The answer to that question is exactly the same as the answer to “how long is a piece of string?” (You can replace ‘ten’ in the above question with any age).

People come in all shapes and sizes, even 10-year-old kids. You need to measure your head each and every time you buy a new helmet. Just because your current helmet is a Medium size doesn’t mean you should just go ahead and order a Medium size helmet without measuring your head and checking the size chart (more on that shortly).


Get this information right and you’re halfway to being satisfied when your new helmet arrives.

You should read ‘How to Know your Helmet Size‘ to see how to measure your head correctly.

It is always a good idea to take your head measurement in inches and centimeters as you may not know what measurement will be required when you order. If ordering a horse riding helmet or a football helmet, they often want the measurement in hat size.

man with beard wearing a black shirt measuring his head circumference with a yellow tape measure

Buying online can often work out cheaper than buying from a store, so once you know your head size you should be good to buy online confidently and enjoy the savings. In fact, if there is a local helmet supplier you could always go and try some on so you can get a good idea of how different brands work for your head size and shape.

Check the Size Chart

Checking the size chart is the only way to match your head measurement with the helmet manufacturer’s sizing system. You may find that with this manufacturer you’re not a Medium after all, you’re an M/L.

But, you can’t just use any old size chart, it must be the size chart from the manufacturer of the helmet that you want to buy. Not only that but on the size chart there may be many different sections showing the names of various helmet models. You must find the name of the helmet that you intend to buy.

While looking at that chart you can see that there are several different measurements just from that one helmet manufacturer. That shows you just how easily you could order the wrong helmet size if you don’t check the right chart for your helmet.

If you take the wrong size chart reading, you will end up receiving a helmet that won’t fit your head.

Check Reviews and/or Buyer Comments

When you know which helmet you want to buy, you would be best advised to check online seller pages (e.g. Amazon) and/or online reviews to garner information about that particular helmet’s sizing idiosyncrasies. Huh! What is that?!

Most manufacturers fail to mention little things like ‘if you want a Medium, you should try the Large because our sizes run small’. That is actually a vital piece of information that if not known will likely mean that you’ll be returning your new helmet.

As mentioned, the best place to get this information is from online reviews or comments from purchasers. Personally, I would take many reviews with a pinch of salt as a lot of purchaser comments are fake, but if several people mention that the sizes run small then it’s worth taking notice of those comments.

Helmet Head Shapes

It’s pretty obvious that people have different-sized heads. What many people don’t realize is that there are also three different head shapes. And, as far as helmet head shapes are concerned, we need to be looking down from above to see the shape, not looking at the front or side.

You may have seen some bicycle helmets that are marked as being ‘Asia fit’. Although the term Asia fit is not an official head shape term, it is referring to ‘round oval’ head shapes.

The three head shapes that you need to know about are:

  • round oval
  • long oval
  • intermediate oval (the most common)

The round oval is almost circular, with the long oval being the extreme of the round oval. The long oval is sort of shaped like a football. The intermediate oval is in the middle of the round and the long and is the most common head shape of the three.

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Helmet head shapes showing three different head shapes

You can see in the image above that if the person with a round oval head shape were to try on a standard helmet, it would be too tight at the sides of the head and may even be painful to wear.

And a person with a long oval head shape would find a standard helmet too loose at the sides and too tight at the front and rear.

Knowing your head shape can be just as important as knowing your head measurement, though many manufacturers just stick to the shape that they can sell the most of or create a ‘one-size-fits-all’ helmet (more about that shortly).

Conversely, motorcycle helmet manufacturers have been on top of the head shape problem for many years and will usually have helmets to cater to all head shapes.

If the helmet you’re looking at doesn’t mention a head shape, you could be safe to assume that it’s going to be made for the most common head shape, intermediate oval.

Online reviews can be a good source of information about helmet head shapes, especially from verified purchasers.

So now that you know all about head shapes, you need someone to look down on your head from above to determine your head shape. There’s a very good chance that you have an intermediate head shape, but it’s worth checking to be sure.

Knowing your head shape will make finding the perfect fit much easier to track down helmets that cater to your head shape.

One-Size-Fits-All Helmets

You’ve no doubt heard of ‘one-size-fits-all’ helmets, the problem with them was that they didn’t. That is, they didn’t fit all. So, now they use the name ‘one-size-fits-most’.

One-Size-Fits-Most helmets are designed to fit all head shapes by basically having a larger-sized helmet that can be made to fit different shaped heads by way of extra padding.

If you buy a One-Size-Fits-Most helmet, there will be one or two different size foam pads that can be attached and removed to the inside of your helmet to create a near-perfect fit. Once you have sufficient padding applied, you then need to adjust the rear dial fitting system (if there is one) to make it a little tighter.

If there is no dial fit system, then you need to add more padding and tighten the chin strap, though that is not a great idea as the chin strap is not for adjusting the size, the chin strap is for securing the helmet to your head.

One-Size-Fits-Most helmets are only recommended as a last resort. For the right fit and a safer ride, you should try to find a helmet that is sized and shaped to fit your head properly.

woman courier delivering package to man

When Your New Helmet Arrives

For some people, adjusting helmet fitting systems and chin straps is as simple as tying shoe laces. But, I have heard of people who have received a new helmet but have not known how to adjust the fitting system, and then they have complained that it’s the wrong size.

After your new helmet arrives, you first need to ensure that your bike helmet fits your head properly and comfortably. You can then go through the process of adjusting dials and straps to ensure that your helmet will stay firmly in place to protect your head.

Summing Up

Buying helmets online needn’t be hit and miss so long as you are pre-armed with the right information.

Measure your head. Even if you just did it yesterday. Do it again just to be sure.
Check your head measurement with the size chart of the Make and Model of helmet you are buying.
Know your head shape. Check for helmets in your head shape.
Get it Right or brace yourself for disappointment when your new helmet is delivered!
Be 100% sure of what you are ordering!
Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance (and disappointments).

Key Takeaways from the main text:

  • MEASURE YOUR HEAD! Get this information right and you’re halfway to being satisfied when your new helmet arrives.
  • If you take the wrong size chart reading, you will end up receiving a helmet that won’t fit your head.
  • The best place to get this information is from online reviews or comments from purchasers.
  • Knowing your head shape will make finding the perfect fit much easier to track down helmets that cater to your head shape.

Depending on what kind of helmet you are buying online, when your new helmet arrives, you might find one of the following articles useful.

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