When You Really Need to Replace Your Bike Helmet?


You need to replace a helmet immediately after a crash, but this is not the only reason to change your bike helmet. There are several other vital factors why you must replace your old helmet.

You can take a bike ride for many reasons, whether it be a training ride for a race, trying to make the commute function better, or having a ride to enjoy some fresh air on the outskirts of the city area. No matter the reason for your riding, you must put on your helmet.

If your helmet has been kept in your house or the garage for a long time, you might wonder whether you should replace it and whether it is as healthy and protective as it was while purchasing it a long time back. The article will focus on the issue and discuss when to replace a helmet.

Importance of Wearing Helmets

Helmet-wearing has shown a 70% lower risk of severe head or brain injury in bicycle or bike crashes. Helmets are not indestructible, but the head shields absorb the powerful energy created from a collision and save the brain and skull from fatal injuries. According to experts, one must purchase a new bike helmet immediately if the older one has experienced a crash.

Another research project says a helmet might look fine even after a crash. The outer plastic shell on the helmet might bounce back to its normal state, but the interior foam remains damaged beyond imagination, and it cannot be detected from the outside. As Rich Handel, a test project leader at Consumer Reports, says, "Once the foam is compressed, you reduce the safety margin you have," and "That's not going to protect you."

Crashes aside, most bike helmet manufacturers suggest the buyers replace the helmets every three to five years, depending on the status and performance. There is no such standard or regulation for how frequently you should replace your bike helmet. Consumers sometimes opt for bike helmet repair rather than buying new helmets, which is a better option than taking no initiative. Good repair work can elongate the life span of the helmet for a few more months.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission says that unless model manufacturers recommend any specific suggestion, one needs to change the old helmet every five to ten years. Again, The Snell Foundation, a helmet-standard-setting firm, recommends helmet replacements every five years. There is no answer to how long bike helmets last.

Replacement of helmets every five years is not applicable for the ones that have been stored in the shops in sound condition.

If you are fond of your current helmet and it is in a healthy condition, it is not something essential to change it only out of an abundance of caution. Sometimes, the helmets serve for more years than you can expect. As said by Randy Swart, the Director of the non-profit Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute and Former Vice Chairman of the Helmet and Headgear Subcommittee for ASTM-International said that his personal helmet is much older. In addition he says there can be several reasons to change you helmets and buy new models equipped with upgraded technologies.

How Frequently Do You Need to Replace Your Bike Helmet?

As Rich Handel says, on average, it is safer to change your current helmet every five years due to the ways a helmet experiences many ups and downs. A regularly and randomly used helmet is not protected from the sun's ultraviolet rays, where the summer temperature may cross 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, a worn-out helmet can protect you only better than not wearing any. But, eventually, it is of no use, and you must replace it soon.

Depending on where and how the helmet has been used, you can understand how much and for how long the helmet has been exposed to multiple levels of wear and tear, various environments, temperatures, and humidity levels. These are the words of Barry Miller, Ph.D., Director of Outreach at the Helmet Lab at Virginia Tech, which examines the helmets used for various types of sports and runs research into how helmets can lessen the risk level for brain injury subsuming the destructive solid energy.

As time passes by, the performance gradually degrades by nature's law. But, in today's era, technological advancement has been the most crucial factor in upgrading the helmet models. New bike helmet models are likely to fit better and are more comfortable. With the latest technologies, helmets have been designed, reducing the risk of rotational forces, resulting in concussions in the brain.

In case your helmet has been through an examination, or you just want to use the latest and safest technology, you must look out for a new helmet.

When and Why Should You Replace My Bicycle Helmet?

Professionals often recommend that you must replace a worn-out bicycle helmet every three years. The reasons are pretty similar to those of the bike helmets, which include ultraviolet rays, heat, temperature, humidity, salty sweat, and several other environmental factors and the usual knocks experienced during regular cycling activities.

The external factors make the inside foam unable to protect you as it has been designed to save the rider from a head injury. A bicycle helmet needs to be changed immediately if it crashes or falls hard. According to some experts, as long as helmets remain undamaged, they offer protection, irrespective of their ages. For them, there is no age barrier.

We won't go into the further argument, but bicycle helmet replacement every three years will keep you confident and feel safe on the road. However, the newer helmets are lighter, perfect fit, and are equipped with ventilation technology. And, now MIPS and various concussion-mitigation helmet technology are available in the market.

The riders need to pay more to avail of a wide range of features, but there are many suitable choices in the lower and medium coverage.

Indications You Might Need to Replace Your Safety Helmet

Since childhood, we have been conditioned and trained to check the expiration date printed on medicines, milk, bread, and other food items. We all know that some of these food items can rot even before the expiry date if not handled rightly.

Did you know safety helmets have expiration dates too?

Similarly, like food items, the lifespan of these items becomes shorter if not taken care of properly. Technically, there is no one-word answer to "how long do safety helmets last?

Almost all the manufacturers have strict recommendations on helmet and suspension lifespans. The safety helmets must be replaced at a minimum of 5 years, whereas the suspensions need to be replaced after one year. In both cases, the time frame is the maximum for replacement, and the calculation begins from the date of first use.

The safety helmets need to be replaced frequently every two years, depending on the environment, usage, and application. The visible signs like damage, cracks, holes, dents, etc., are the obvious reasons to replace the safety helmets. Even signs like scores or scuffs on the surface might be indications that the time has come for retirement. In case a helmet has been penetrated or crashed, remove the piece from the service immediately.

Dents affect the safety helmet material, causing weak spots that are not acceptable in the workplace. Scuffs and scores on the surface weaken the helmet by decaying the shell.

If the suspension straps are ripped apart or have faulty stitches, consider removing the webbing soon and replacing it with a new suspension assembly. Constantly check the plastic attachment clips to ensure they are not broken or weakened.

During the suspension replacement or any other attachment, use the parts produced by the manufacturers when it comes to model and size. Safety helmets are tested and certified with the manufacturer's suspension.

Damaged parts and accessories made from other sources do not get approval to be fitted to the safety helmets. In addition, an incorrect web and headband can reduce or eliminate the positive impact. The protection might be inadequate.

Fading, which is primarily seen in plastic shells and fiber glasses, signals that sunlight or ultraviolet rays weaken the shell from within. The result comes out to be brittle or chalky surface and discoloration.

Too much flexibility in the helmet can also be a sign of weakness.

Strong chemicals and other severe conditions can break down the shell material, resulting in fragility. Harsh chemicals can affect the suspension as well. It results in fading or discoloration of the shell.

Why Should One Not Hang On to a Helmet Longer?

You might want a new, more stylish helmet with more features than the existing model you have presently. Ventilation or upgraded technologies: any of these can be the reason behind your decision to replace your older helmet model and opt for a new one.

According to Swart, you don't need to replace a well-cared helmet only for safety reasons. The suggestion is based on research done by the Engineering Firm MEA Forensic, which runs tests on hundreds of helmets. The age of the helmets had not affected the protective foam's performance inside the helmets, up to 26 years after purchase. So, the question raised often, "do bike helmets expire?” does not carry such relevance.

While focusing on the inside foam, we cannot overlook the other aspects, including the straps, the adjusters that enable the riders to tighten the helmet around the head, or the plastic exterior shell. These features are also essential to ensure a safe and secure fit. In case the colors begin to fade out due to excessive sun exposure, it implies the exterior has been affected by the sun exposure over the years.

If your helmet is in a sound condition, you must be concerned about its durability. Researchers have pointed out that millions of bike helmets are sold every year, which means millions of riders opt for newer helmets after a specific period. Bike helmet repair is another option one can opt for if there are even minor issues with the helmet.

If you have a relevant reason to buy a new helmet, you may. In case you want to use your current helmet for a little longer and the helmet is in good shape and condition, it will offer you enough protection.

Do Bike Helmets Expire?

Another debate about the helmet topic is the expiration of bike helmets. 'No.' Bike helmets do not expire on papers. Unless your bike belongs to the 70s or 80s, there are chances that your helmet maintains the latest safety standards. There have been no such drastic changes in helmet technology in the last four decades. If you feel your bike helmet is outdated, there is no harm in purchasing a new bike helmet.

Reasons to Change Your Bike Helmet

  1. Visible Damage

Another prevalent question comes whether one should replace the helmet if it falls hard.

As bike helmets can ensure rough handling, you can replace them only if it shows signs of damage. We don't think of our helmets unless we are in the vehicle. You need to be careful and change the helmet immediately anytime you see visible damage that might prove fatal in the near future.

  1. Bad Fit

Another more prominent reason to change your bike helmet is fit issues. To be precise, the bike helmet must fit your head correctly. It can be neither too big nor too small. In such a case, the helmet won't be able to protect you during an accident.

To conclude,

As discussed in the article, there is no such approved timespan to use a helmet, whether it is a bike helmet, bicycle helmet, or safety helmet. The replacement time depends on various factors in the case of different models, as mentioned above. If you are a bike owner, you need to be very careful and keep a sharp eye on your current helmets. Opt for a new bike helmet if you notice the slightest of damage on your own.