While wearing a bike helmet may seem like an inconvenient thing, it is a simple piece of cycling equipment that is vital to your safety when riding your bike.
A report released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in 2011 stated that 67% of those who died in cycling accidents were not wearing a helmet, showing just how important this small item really is.
However, a bike helmet does not come with an expiration date, which means you will need to inspect your helmet regularly and consider several different factors to determine when your helmet needs replacing.
Let’s take a look at when a helmet needs to be replaced and how long they last.
Old Helmets are a No-No
If you have a helmet that was made before the 1990s, you need to replace it immediately. You can keep it for the nostalgia, but it has no place on the road.
Older helmets were made with materials that do not meet current safety standards and do not have any shock protection.
Helmets that were made in the 1970s were made with a hard shell like todays helmets, but the foam liner was much thinner and did not offer sufficient protection in a crash. The foam became thicker in the 1980s, but the hard shell became weaker, meaning those helmets were the equivalent of cycling with a foam helmet that would offer little protection with even the smallest of impacts.
Replace After a Crash
If you have had a fall or crash and your helmet protected your head from the hard ground, you know just how protective your helmet really is. But, no matter how thankful you are to that helmet for saving your life, you have to replace it.
After an impact, no matter how small, the foam liner in your helmet weakens. Despite not being able to see any dents or cracks in your helmet, the impact can cause your helmet to break apart if you have another accident.
Meeting Safety Standards
All bike helmets have to meet certain safety standards before it can receive a stamp of safety from the American Society for Testing and Materials, the Snell Memorial Foundations, or the Consumer Product Safety Commission. If the helmet you have doesn’t have a stamp from at least one of these safety groups, replace it immediately.
So, How Long Do Bike Helmets Last?
If you have not had any impacts with your helmet, you still need to replace it once every three to five years unless your helmet manufacturer has stated otherwise. Some helmet manufacturers state that their helmets last up to eight years.
Inspect your Helmet
Inspecting your helmet regularly is important to ensure that your helmet is safe to be used.
Check the outside for any splits or cracks. Press on any cracks to see if the shell springs back into place. If it doesn’t pop back, you need to replace your helmet.
If the outside shell has faded due to UV exposure, you also need to replace it as the plastic may have become weak.
Check the foam liner for dents or cracks. Press the outside of the helmet to see if there is movement in the foam. A little bit of movement is okay as long as it is consistent throughout the helmet.
However, the movement should be minimal. If there is noticeable movement, the foam under the shell is damaged. Look for compressed foam.
If you find an area that appears thinner than the rest, compare it to the other side of the helmet. If you find any indentations or gouges, you need to replace the helmet.
Straps and buckles
Check thoroughly for wear and tear. Look for loose fraying and stitching. Check the buckles to ensure that they can withstand a forceful pull and twist without coming apart.
Consider how much force they will withstand if you have an impact. Mimic that force as best you can to ensure that you helmet will remain securely on your head in a fall or crash.
While a bike helmet cannot spoil like food, it does have a lifespan. Exceeding this lifespan could affect your lifespan in the event that you experience a fall or crash. Follow your manufacturer’s warning and advice with regards to replacement time.
If there has been no expiration date specified, replace your helmet at least every three to five years depending on how often you use it. If your helmet experiences an impact, it should be replaced immediately.